MAAN builds a DR650 scrambler for an off-road rally across Sardinia!
Dust’n Sardinia is a three-day trek across 300+ miles of southern Sardinia, completely off-road, open to 15 lucky participants each year riding scrambler motorcycles. The event raises money for select charities. In 2020, the event raised enough proceeds to purchase a special floating chair for the Arbus municipality, allowing people with disabilities to access the beautiful beach and surf of the Costa Verde coastline.
The co-founder of Dust’n Sardinia and its sibling event, the asphalt-oriented Audax1000, is our friend Nicola Manca (@miciogattillo). Nicola works in aerospace but finds time to organize these charity events through his humanitarian association, Moto Taccuino, which began several years ago when his and his friend Alessio embarked on an inspired overland journey deep into the Sahara:
“We decided to build two scramblers in the garage, collect medicines and money, and leave for the desert. We were able to bring the medicine and buy 12 bicycles to allow nomadic children to go to school.”
They wrote a book about the trip — Moto Taccuino. Dall’Isola al Sahara (“Moto Notebook. From the Island to the Sahara”), — using the proceeds to fund a well in Vietnam and a motorcycle for a victim of sex trafficking.
Thenceforward, Nicola and friends began building more customs through Motocicli Audaci (MAAN), an “experimentation lab for daring motorcycles” — more a creative and socializing space than a regular workshop, though they build select customs mainly for themselves and a few friends:
“Generally we try to make beautiful but usable motorbikes to participate in our Dust’n Sardinia and Audax1000 events.”
This build began life as a 1991 Suzuki DR650, built for a friend to participate in Dust’n Sardinia.
“The owner has the typical English style, so for the design we were inspired by hunting trips on horseback or aboard an old Range Rover first series.”
The English style can be seen in the British racing green and yellow paint — reminiscent of an E-Type Jag or Lotus — as well as the brown leather saddle and details. Because the bike would have to survive 450+ km of off-road riding, the front and rear suspension was upgraded and the electrical system was stripped down to a minimalist loom. Meanwhile, the rear subframe was cut out and a new one fabricated to resemble that of a vintage enduro bike.
Nicola himself took care of the frame and assembly, while Matteo “Moor” Murgia (@m.o.o.r.72) did the paint, graphics, and leather. Stefano Minerba handled all of the electrical details, and the gorgeous shots are thanks to friend of the blog Andrea Caredda (@andrews_diary) — one of the best in the business.
Below, we get the full story on the “MaanDRake 650,” which the team completed in just three weeks!
Suzuki DR650 Scrambler: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I am Nicola Manca and I work in aerospace. In my spare time I build motorbikes together with some friends in our garage: it is not a workshop but a creative and socializing space, like an old club, and it is called MAAN – Motocicli Audaci. I took care of the frame and construction of this bike; Matteo “Moor” Murgia, painting, graphics and leather; Stefano Minerba, electrical system and details.
I’ve been riding motorbikes for 20 years now but the turning point was the first “overland” trips on board a scrambler built by me to carry out humanitarian projects: Honda NX650 “Alabama.”
From that moment on I made several customizations for myself and a few friends. Generally we try to make beautiful but usable motorbikes to participate in our Dust’n Sardinia and Audax1000 events: charity events that take place in Sardinia for only 15 participants among the hundreds of requests we receive.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
This project was based on a 1991 Suzuki DR650, with kickstart only: a motorbike for pure men.
• Why was this bike built?
The bike was built to take part in the 5th round of Dust’n Sardinia: a 3-day event, 500 km totally off-road. Then it was a friend’s bike, and you can’t say no to friends.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The owner has the typical English style, so for the design we were inspired by hunting trips on horseback or aboard an old Range Rover first series.
We wanted a bike that could take the owner to the countryside without losing style and elegance. So the choice of colour fell on legendary cars like the Jaguar E Type and Lotus Seven, with their typical English green and touches of pastel yellow. To give the whole thing that vintage flavour, it has been enhanced with genuine leather details and saddle.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The customization work has improved the bike in all respects: it is lighter, with better power delivery and significantly improved handling.
The bike has been completely disassembled, the frame cut and rebuilt at the rear to resemble the old enduro bikes.
A lot of work has been done, among which the reconstruction of the minimalist electrical system, the new front and rear suspensions, and the cleaning up of the lines, with great work on the welds.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
The bike has a name reminiscent of an old comic book by Lee Falk, which plays with the name of our workshop and the model of the bike: MaanDRake 650.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The bike is a lot of fun to ride, but no matter how well cared for, it’s a shame to get it dirty. However, it’s precisely because of the dust and mud that it was built, and in enduro riding, it behaves very well. But it certainly doesn’t look too bad parked outside the pub either.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The greatest difficulty was to obtain a proportionate and harmonious line due to a very long rear swingarm and a motorbike with a wide wheelbase.
To break the line and make the bike more compact, we therefore had the saddle finished before the rear frame curve, helping us to make it lighter and “shorter.”
It’s a solution that came after many tests, but the bike was completed in three weeks, and that’s another thing that made us proud.