American muscle meets Czech passion…
The Buell XB12S Lightning has to be one of the most interesting modern motorcycles ever to come out of the USA, an American streetfighter developed by the two-wheeled visionary Eric Buell. The old-school engine, a 1203cc 45° pushrod V-twin with 103 horsepower on tap, was mounted inside a stubby, mass-centralized chassis decked out innovative technical features: fuel in frame, oil in swingarm, perimeter disc brake, and more.
The American-made naked bike would run the quarter-mile in 11.2 seconds and top out at 150 mph. Plus, it was more versatile than one might expect:
“Among the most successful Buell motorcycles, the Lightning XB12S made a name of itself by featuring the impressive 1203cc V-Twin engine fitted on a light and versatile chassis. It stands as a naked sports bike, a commuting machine, and a long haul transporter, but if you take it down the track it sure won’t disappoint.” –Top Speed
Enter David Zima of ROD Motorcycles, a workshop located just outside Třebíč, an hour west of Brno in the Czech Republic — longtime home of the Czech Gran Prix. David was always interested in motorcycles as a boy; he and his brother remembering waving at all the bikers passing on the road whenever MotoGP was in town. Soon a Jawa Mustang landed in the garage, along with the idea of building a chopper:
“The base was a Jawa 250 engine, a frame of his own design, the rear wheel of a car laced to a Jawa hub, a Triumph tank, and a two-meter-long front fork welded from several others. Zero experience, equipment lousy. Unfortunately, thanks to that, I never finished this project today, thank God.”
Still, David’s fire was well and truly lit. Years later, he would build a radical streetfighter that was a huge hit in both Czech and pan-European competitions, and ROD Motorcycles was born — a workshop he runs with his brother, Martin.
The ’06 Buell XB12S you see here — ROD #014 — landed in their workshop as a wreck. The owner, José, had seen another of their builds at the Bohemian Custom Show:
“And it was clear at that moment. He wouldn’t repair his motorcycle, but would entrust it to us for a complete reconstruction.”
David and Martin were given a great deal of creative freedom, and they used it to create the hot-rod Buell you see here. We love all of the aluminum bodywork, especially the “tank” that holds a small lithium battery, ECM, Motogadget m-Unit, and of course that big Kuryakyn Hypercharger so reminiscent of an American muscle car. The paint is another nod to the bike’s American roots:
“The inspiration was a photo of an American hot-rod in the shade of Black Cherry… The motorcycle looks black in the shade, but as soon as the sun shines on the fairing, it glows red.”
David and Martin were so pleased with the completed this V-twin muscle bike they’ve decided to build a few more, no more than five original and numbered motorcycles:
“We have scanned the existing fairings and created real 3D models for the production of carbon fairings on which we will soon be making molds. Another fairing would be a set of natural brushed aluminum and another made of titanium sheet, for example, it would be a huge challenge and I would like to try it.”
Below, we get the full story on the build directly from David himself, as well as more gorgeous shots from photographer Pavel Rybnicek.
About the Builder
Hi, my name is David Zima and I live in the Czech Republic, in a small town not far from Třebíč. Since a young age I was fascinated with motorbikes. My brother Martin and I used to go watch and wave at bikers when MotoGP was in town. I have been into bikes since I was twelve. When I started riding I also started customizing them, I just felt the urge to ride something distinct. My big break came when I built a streetfighter from a Honda CBR 900RR, which was a huge success throughout European shows. This was the impulse that led me to open my own shop. After I finished school I started working as a bike mechanic and spent all of my free time working on bikes both on my own and as collaborations with a local shop.
Even before this became my livelihood, my main source of income, I was contacted first customer, who loved my previous builds and he wanted me to work on his Honda CB500. This was another impulse to fulfill my childhood dream so I ended up finding an old building, which used to be a part of a brickyard, and started on my own shop. There was a lot to renovate and fix up but in the spring of 2016 I was able to open the door of my small but rather cozy shop to the public. It is my oasis of
I work with my brother Martin and we build custom motorcycles but also repair motorcycles and do maintenance service. This year we have started new project and we produce clothing and accessories under ROD Motorcycles brand. In this moment we work on new workshop and own showroom.
Buell XB12S Custom: In the Builder’s Words
The story of this motorcycle began to be written a long time ago. However, the turning point came one day when it was damaged in an accident. A few months later, at the Bohemian Custom Show, José saw our unfinished Buell XB-01 motorcycle concept. And it was clear at that moment. He wouldn’t repair his motorcycle, but would entrust it to us for a complete reconstruction. The original Buell had a damaged front end, including a cracked rim, bent forks, cracked fork clamps, a damaged frame, a torn engine, a cracked head and the like. However, one summer day in 2017, the Buell landed in our workshop and another chapter could begin to be written.
The first task was to identify all the damage and repair as many things as possible. So we straightened the rim, forks, and repaired the frame. Then we started working on the graphic design. Since the owner liked all our previous work, he fully trusted us and we had a completely free hand and the opportunity to create the whole bike as we wished. In the beginning, we only had a few pillars that we stuck to. The owner originally wanted a short, as I say “tractor saddle,” while I was inclined to a variant of a rear tail unit. Only after making graphic designs of both variants, when we could compare it side by side, the owner agreed to my recommendation.
The biggest issue was the fairings. The molds were hard polystyrene, from which the fairings were gradually shaped from aluminum. The whole production was one big process of discovering and learning the shaping of aluminum sheet, several failures and unsuccessful pieces of semi-finished products. But it was a very creative part of the whole reconstruction, which I enjoyed a lot. When you transfer shapes from a polystyrene mold through cardboard stencils to a piece of aluminum sheet, which you then tap, shape, roll for countless hours and finally weld into a whole unit forming the cover of the “fuel tank,” you have a huge feeling of self-fulfillment.
The top cover is not a real tank, as it is located inside the entire frame. However, it hides all electrical installations, including a small lithium battery, ECM race and mo.unit unit from Motogadget. The original intake, which was hidden under the original cover, has now moved up above the cover in the form of the Kuryakyn Hypercharger intake, which with its opening flaps is better known from American muscle cars or big twins. In addition, we embellished the intake with our own transparent lid, so it can be seen except for the throttle valve. The contactless digital mo.lock is also hidden in the intake.
The whole original rear section was replaced by a tail section, which hides two small LED lights. The entire rear frame and seat is as short and narrow as possible, mainly to make the dominant frame, the massive swing arm, and the characteristic 1203cc engine stand out. The saddle is covered with real alcantara and stitched with red thread. The front fender and the left air intake, which cools the rear cylinder, were then tapped from the aluminum sheet.
The chassis also underwent major changes. Completely front and rear shock absorbers were custom-made exactly according to the weight of the owner and motorcycle from top manufacturer Matris. A steering damper was ordered to calm the steering of the initially restless Buell.
In addition to a proper chassis, we also wanted to do a proper milled front clamp. So I then spent several nights designing them. From the beginning, the use of the Motoscope Classic gauge was taken into account, so I designed the upper clamp so that the gauge fit exactly there. The ordinary headlight would not be very suitable for milled clamps, so again within a few nights I designed my own headlight frame, including the attachment, which hides the LED dish. The milled fuel tank cap itself also corresponds to all this
As we move further to the handlebars, instead of the original high handlebars you will find low clip-on handlebars dominated by Brembo RCS radial pumps. The front brake on the Buell is untraditionally mounted, biting into a perimeter disc mounted around the circumference of the rim. However, it was more complicated with the clutch, the standard cable was replaced by a fully hydraulic system. Speaking of brake discs, both are custom made and were designed to match the headlight frame.
On the handlebars you will also find micro button controls with LED backlight, which also serve as indicators, or they can be set to permanent backlight. We have prototyped these drivers directly for this motorcycle for the last two years, but we liked them so much that we also use them on other projects and there are also sales for the general public.
The signals from these micro buttons travel to the already mentioned mo.unit and then to the end appliances, such as lights, turn signals, horn, and so on. When it came to turn signals, this function is held in the front by a pair of Motogadget mo.blaze disc turn signals and in the back by a pair of Kellermann Atto turn signals, which are located on their own holder, which also bears the registration plate.
The engine first had to undergo repair of a broken part of the head with several ribs. This was followed by painting and resealing. When assembling, we also sharpened the ribs of the cylinders and instead of the original tappet covers, we used Zipper’s Performance covers, similar to those used on Harley motorcycles. As the icing on the cake, we made short stainless steel headers consisting of small segments, which are finished with lattice ends bent outwards. The exhausts also hide the baffles, but despite this, a dense and booming rumble worthy of this machine emanates from them.
The footrests themselves were a major component of the build. We wanted to mount them unconventionally so that they would not come out of the frame, as it is from the factory. Thanks to the mounting on the engine, the frame itself stands out more and the footrests almost levitate. The biggest problem was the right side, where due to the relocation of the entire brake pump, several other complications arose, which were not taken into account. But nothing we couldn’t handle.
The big question mark was the final painting, there were several versions. But in the end, the desire to experiment and try something new that we haven’t done yet won out. The inspiration was a photo of an American hot-rod in the shade of Black Cherry. So a similar color was ordered and several samples were made. The base is a rough silver metallic and then about 10 layers of candy paint. The resulting effect is absolutely perfect. The motorcycle looks black in the shade, but as soon as the sun shines on the fairing, it glows red.
The motorcycle premiered at the Moto Circle Festival in Vienna, where it won the award for the best build of the exhibition, the same at the Prague All Ride Show a few weeks later. We received other awards from the Czech Custom Grand Prix and the Prague Harley Days.
Since we spent several hundred hours designing and manufacturing over three years and the bike is exactly to my liking, we decided to release a few more, but no more than five original and numbered motorcycles, one of which I would like to keep for myself. However, each motorcycle will be tailored to the potential applicant and completely original. There are no limits to imagination. We have scanned the existing fairings and created real 3D models for the production of carbon fairings on which we will soon be making molds. Another fairing would be a set of natural brushed aluminum and another made of titanium sheet, for example, it would be a huge challenge and I would like to try it.