“Performance straight from the World Superbike paddock and the dirtiest soundtrack that ever scraped through noise regulations.”
The Aprilia Tuono V4R is the naked version of the RSV4 superbike, sharing the same chassis with slightly more street-oriented geometry and a 65° V4 engine that makes a staggering 167-bhp at 11,500 rpm. Says MCN:
“The motor is soft and friendly at low revs, builds strongly in the midrange and explodes into an arm-wrenching frenzy at high rpm. It’s fabulous.”
The suspension, brakes, build quality, and electronic rider aids have received similarly rave reviews, as have the Tuono’s “MotoGP soundtrack” and “real-world, roomy riding position — enough to make MCN ask…
“Could this be the ultimate real-world superbike?”
Enter Michael Todd of Hobo Motorcycles, a proud Welshman who helped his father rebuild a ’70 CB125 at the age of 4 and “fell in love with all things mechanical.” He did his apprenticeship with a BMW bodyshop, learning metalwork, panel beating, and welding:
“I was an apprentice to two guys who could only be described as master craftsmen. Their time and knowledge coupled with my father’s drive for perfection and three years at college, moulded me into the guy that doesn’t think ‘that’ll be alright,’ but put me on the path to believe you can always do better.”
More recently, Michael built a 1967 Honda 305 Scrambler in honor of his father and the skills he passed down — a bike that earned one of 65 coveted invitations to the 2020 Bike Shed Show. Covid-19 caused the show to be cancelled, but Michael decided it was the perfect time to take his bike-building to the next level, building a new home workshop.
“The name Hobo Motorcycles came to me after one too many late nights working in my garage and a long look in the mirror, to my horror, a scruffy, hobo looked back at me!”
For his next build after the CL77 Scrambler, he wanted the challenge of customizing a modern hyperbike — a bike with an exclusive racing pedigree and staggering performance — and the Aprilia Tuono V4R seemed the perfect candidate.
“Something that could be ridden everyday, but would look, sound and out perform any of the carbon copy bikes available at the moment.”
Of course, customizing a modern sportbike comes with serious logistical challenges, such as miles and miles of wiring for the staggering array of electronic systems, making the final cleanness of the build that much more impressive. Michael brought his artisan metalwork skills to the Tuono, which showcases some fabulous metalwork, with hand-formed side air scoops, headlight brackets, side mounted number plate, fairing and dash housing.
“For me, the bike conjured up thoughts of a powerful Dragon with unbelievable speed and agility, fire in its belly and a deafening roar… This vision, coupled with the fact that I am a very proud Welshman, and tales of Dragons, battles and legends are woven into our culture (we even have a big red dragon on our flag), il Drago — The Dragon was conceived.”
Below, we get the full story on his Aprilia cafe racer, a race-bred superbike in a finely tailored suit.
About the Builder…
My name is Mike Todd and I’m a proud Welshman living in South Wales, famous for its historic castles, amazing scenery (and roads) and coal mining heritage. I have always had a passion for cars and, especially, bikes. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to have owned some fantastic bikes, ridden around fabulous tracks and even did a bit of enduro racing (which soon stopped after I realised — I don’t bounce so well now I’m getting older). An amazing series of events led me to start Hobo Motorcycles and, now, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
When I was 4, I helped my dad build a 1970 Honda CB125 twin. He brought it home in several old wooden tea chest boxes. I can remember the smell of old oil, forks sticking out of the box, the mudguards and tank, the wheels and loads of various bits. To a curious 4 year old boy, this was very interesting. Over the next few weeks we built and restored it into a fully functioning bike that he used daily. That’s when I fell in love with all things mechanical.
Throughout my childhood, I would help my dad repair (and sometimes rebuilding) the many cars and bikes he had, and then in my teens and twenties I restored, repaired and customised Minis, Triumphs and whatever car or bike I had at the time. Eventually, when it came time to look for a career, I managed to land a job in a BMW bodyshop and was then fortunate enough to get onto their apprenticeship program, finally specialising in metal work and panel beating. This was the mid 90‘s when BMW cars were fast and the traction control systems were poor, so there were plenty of damaged cars to hone my craft on. Also, the skill and craft of panel beating using hammers and dollies, metal folding and welding were still being taught by time served engineers and, luckily for me, I was an apprentice to two guys who could only be described as master craftsmen. Their time and knowledge coupled with my father’s drive for perfection and three years at college, moulded me into the guy that doesn’t think “that’ll be alright,” but put me on the path to believe you can always do better.
As time passed on and repairing cars became more focused on the bottom line. The bodyshop became more of a pit stop to change panels and my interest started to wander, to the point that I eventually handed in my notice and started a building company with my dad. I still applied the same level of attention to detail to any work I did and thoroughly enjoyed my work.
Unfortunately, my father passed away some years back but I decided to build a motorbike as a tribute to the skills he passed to me during those early years. I sourced a 1967 Honda CL-77 305 Scrambler and set about restoring and modifying it. It was during this process that I rekindled my love of working on vehicles, not only that, but I developed a passion for modifying and exploring the story of a bike. After it was finished (eventually known as Eric the Rusty Racer), I entered for one of the 65 places as a shed builder to this year’s “The Bike Shed Show” in London’s Tobacco Dock (they are just finishing their new premises in L.A.). A few weeks later I had an email back, saying thanks for your entry, as you can imagine, we have thousands of entrants and we only have 65 spaces but…..we are pleased to say that we want your bike! I couldn’t believe it, my humble shed build, completed as a tribute to my dad, alongside world renowned bike builders creations, it was validation that all of those years perfecting those dying arts of metal working were well spent. Now I truly had the bug.
As I’ve got older, and a builder’s back doesn’t last forever, I have been thinking of what to do and venturing into the underworld of bike building seemed the obvious route. The name Hobo Motorcycles came to me after one too many late nights working in my garage and a long look in the mirror, to my horror, a scruffy, hobo looked back at me! Hobo Motorcycles was christened. Over the next few weeks, I built a new workshop at my home and found homes for all of the tools and equipment I have accumulated over the years whilst looking for a suitable bike to build. That bike turned out to be the amazing Italian creation: The Aprilia Tuono V4R that later became “il Drago” — The Dragon in Italian.
Then the coronavirus hit the world, causing heartache for many and slowing the pace of the world to a crawl. The Bike shed Show, that my previous build was due to be displayed at, was cancelled and my building work pretty much came to a stop. This presented the perfect opportunity to go full time into Hobo Motorcycles, I had time on my hands, I couldn’t leave my home and I had a bike ready in the newly finished workshop. My stars were aligned.
During the “il Drago” build, my brother decided that he was going to sell his pampered 1999 BMW R1150GS, a bike he has owned for the last 5 years and it has been kept in the sort of condition that would put a museum to shame. It was too good an opportunity to pass by and my next build was lined up: Ms.Behave.
At Hobo Motorcycles I like to play to the strengths of a particular bike, explore its DNA and personality, letting that unfold to create the bike it wants to be. I love to build the bikes that I want to ride, display and keep in my garage. The sort of bikes that you will not be able to help yourself from popping into the garage to have a cheeky look at every opportunity.
About the Bike…
I love the single-minded performance and focus of the new breed of hyper sports bike. They have so much power that if you lined up the current cream of the crop side by side and set off in the right direction, they could almost reverse the earth’s rotation. Then there’s the chassis, suspension and brakes which enable the rider, or pilot as they are having to become, to out manoeuvre a water boatmen. The main downside to this mind-bending performance is that mere mortals like you or I break out in a cold sweat when we slide a leg over one of these demonic creations and press the starter. We have a resurgence in faith and begin a silent prayer to watch over us and guide us safely home in one piece.
I wanted to build a bike that is already exclusive and has pedigree. Something that could be ridden everyday, but would look, sound and out perform any of the carbon copy bikes available at the moment. The problem came with, which bike?
Most of the Japanese variants are wrapped in a slippery, smooth shell of plastic which acts as a mask, covering all of the amazing but frankly ugly components below. My focus turned to Italy and, in particular, the amazing builds that have already been completed using various Ducatis. The one bike I have been drawn to since its launch is the Aprilia RSV4. Not only from a performance stance but also for its looks. From the substantial polished alloy frame and swing arm to the distinctive fins on the tail, it had potential to be something special.
As I started to research the possibility of converting such a race-focused bike, I came across the icon that is the Tuono. The good thing about the “naked” variants is they offer a much less focused (or cramped) riding position. Although they do generally have a lower peak performance figure, this is made up for in a much stronger midrange, making the use of the massive torque available. Every bike journalist agrees that the Aprilia V4R is an amazing standard bike with a brutally powerful engine, world-class balanced chassis and suspension, strong Brembo brakes and electronic rider aids that rewrote the book on how traction control systems should be. Prompting MCN to question: “could this be the ultimate real-world superbike?”
The decision was made and I started the search for the most well-looked after, cosseted example I could find. The trail led me a a great owner of a fabulously well-kept example that had been ridden and paraded around but not tracked, raced or abused in any way. The bike was in amazing condition and came with a paperwork file that backed up its showroom condition. The deal was struck and my new project was transported back to the workshop.
At Hobo Motorcycles I like to play to the strengths of a particular bike, explore its DNA and let that unfold to create the bike it wants to be. Aprilia’s “Tuono” is very appropriately named, translating as “Thunder”. A violent, loud storm that some people find intimidating and others gaze in awe at its sheer power. For me, the bike conjured up thoughts of a powerful Dragon with unbelievable speed and agility, fire in its belly and a deafening roar. With its amazingly crafted, polished frame and swing arm, its muscular, bulging lines and red, pointed tail light, it is sleek and powerful and ready to carve its way through anything in its path with ridiculous ease. Then you press the starter, the engine literally “roars” into life, warning anything in the surrounding area to beware because the beast has awoken. This vision, coupled with the fact that I am a very proud Welshman, and tales of Dragons, battles and legends are woven into our culture (we even have a big red dragon on our flag), il Drago — The Dragon was conceived.
After a few weeks, the build could get underway. The first major challenge I was struck with was there were simply wires everywhere. I expected a fair amount of electronic re-routing owing to the sophisticated and advanced systems of such a technologically advanced bike has, but this was on another level. The fuel injection ECU, recifier regulator and Italian espresso machine were all housed behind the fairing. These, along with the dash, lights and kilometres of wiring, created a logistical problem that called for a tactical cup of tea and a welshcake.
I wanted a classic, round headlight at the front with the impressive gold forks and Öhlins steering damper on show. This meant, finding a new home for the other comments. The rectifier couldn’t be hidden away as it needs airflow to dissipate heat. Same for the fuel injection ECU, I didn’t want to hide it away in case it got too hot. They needed to be exposed to ambient air but not on show. My solution was to make air scoop’s to be mounted on the sides of the bike. This would not only work practically but and a new, aggressive dimension to the bike, creating “wings” that widen the bikes profile.
This build blends the pinnacle of bike performance, handling and electronics with artisan, traditional skills honed over decades of working in their chosen field. It showcases some fabulous metalwork, with hand-formed side air scoops, headlight brackets, side mounted number plate, fairing and dash housing. Then there is the seat and speed hump both covered in ox-blood red leather and finished with contrasting thick black quilt stitching. Finally, the paint is the deepest gloss black which is partnered with the traditional sign writing skills of a true artist painting and lettering in ox-blood red and gold which brings “il Drago” to life.
In addition, many top quality parts from the best designers and manufacturers were sourced and integrated to upgrade the looks and performance of the bike. Rizoma provided the black drag style handlebars, complimented by ox-blood red Biltwell grips. They are topped with gorgeous Rizoma mirrors with integrated indicators and the Shin-yo headlight with LED halo ring shows the way ahead. The front is finished with levers from ASV, infinitely adjustable and guaranteed for life. At the rear, genuine Aprilia parts, panels and fittings were used to convert to the RSV4’s unmistakable rear and Motogadget’s black M-Blaze Pin indicators are hidden into the undertray to give a very clean, pointed tail but indicate your intentions with brilliant clarity. R&G not only provide the protection with front and rear axle sliders, by using their resistors, they correct the flash rate for the indicators and light up the side mounted number plate. These all compliment the standard bike equipment from Brembo, Sachs and Öhlins to allow the rider to tailor the position, feel and ride to suit them perfectly.
In answer to the age old question — “Mister, what’ll it do?” — just engage launch control, feed in a handful of revs, let out the clutch and you will be propelled forward like you’ve been shot from a cannon, safe in the knowledge that you will not wheel-spin or point to the sky. Then click the astonishingly smooth quick shifter up through the gearbox with the throttle pinned wide open and you’ll soon be a speck on the horizon to everything you just left behind, all accompanied by a fabulous MotoGP soundtrack.
If the itch takes you to the track, it has fully adjustable suspension, a slipper clutch, switchable race dash with lap timer, Metzeler Sportec M7 RR tyres, adjustable anti wheelie, slide control and quick shifter.
If, like me, your last name isn’t Marquez or Rossi, the rider aids enable safe access to the bike and its power. It has 3 power maps to choose from T (track), S (Sport) and R (Road), which dial up or down the power delivery plus the anti wheelie and slide control are adjustable from off to help me please.
I started out wanting to make my perfect bike, the bike I would like to buy but no manufacturer has built. Underneath, it is one of the best hyper bikes around with performance and handling straight from the World Superbike paddock and the dirtiest soundtrack that ever scraped through noise regulations. Now, it is wearing a tailored, black suit that perfectly fits and complements the amazing physique below. I can’t help myself from popping into the workshop just to lay my eyes on this build. The amount of care and attention to detail invested in this built is unbelievable. Building on the bikes aggressive stance, “il Drago” represents the raw power and presence that a dragon commands.
Follow the Builder @hobomotorcycles