Roland Sands Design builds a 750cc two-stroke tracker for Travis Pastrana to race!
At the 1970 Tokyo Motor Show, Suzuki unveiled the GT750, a 750cc liquid-cooled two-stroke “super sporting roadster” that would become a cult classic, earning one of the widest assortments of nicknames known to a production bike: “Kettle” (UK), “Waterbottle” (AUS), and “Water Buffalo” (US).
Most of the names derive from the bike’s water-cooled engine, innovative for the era:
“The Suzuki GT750 was the first mass production Japanese motorcycle with a liquid-cooled engine, and Suzuki was the first motorcycle company to apply liquid cooling to a serial production bike since the Scott two-strokes of the 1920s and ‘30s.” –Motorcycle Classics
Although many expected the big GT750 triple to battle head-on with the Kawasaki H2 750 for two-stroke supremacy, it turned out to be a different animal altogether — a high-speed hauler available in an array of 70s candy colors, better for touring to the track than burning down it:
“Kawasaki had the radical and rare H2, aka the Widowmaker, and Suzuki had the Water Buffalo — a road-tuned, highway-hungry 750cc two-stroke triple built to do miles rather than loops of a race track.” –RSD
Enter our friends from Roland Sands Design, who need no introduction if you know the world of custom bikes or the RSD Super Hooligan racing series, “a beautiful mashup of custom bike building, flat-track, and outlaw street racing” where machines of 750cc / 400 pounds and above compete in grassroots-style flat-track racing:
“It harkens back to a time when any American could strip down a streetbike in the barn or a backyard shed, ride it to the track, race at a local track, and, if fortunate, ride it home again.” –Thunder Press
Most of today’s Super Hooligan machines are Harley-Davidson 883 or 1200 Sportsters, but Roland Sands and crew are never ones to take the well-worn path. They looked at this ’72 Water Buffalo and saw a racer beneath the bulk:
“In proper Super Hooligan fashion, we set about creating a flat tracker from the Stock Water Buffalo as it fits the rules, 750cc and up street bikes, which are legal for competition in the Super Hooligan Series.”
First off, they set about putting the Buff on a serious diet, aiming to shed a full 100 pounds from the 500-pound brute. Maintaining the stock geometry and swingarm, they trimmed all unnecessary tabs from the frame and modified a lighter Yamaha RD400 gas tank to fit.
Next they ditched the factory seat and rear fender, reworking the subframe to fit a Saddlemen Caballero tail section and custom seat. They removed the electric starter to save weight and swapped the original radiator for an aluminum Mishimoto unit.
“Our goal was to get below 400lbs, which we did easily.”
As far as the engine, they swapped out the standard three-carb setup for a trick trio of Lectron carburetors with K&N filters. The UK’s Swarbrick Racing supplied the parts for the RSD team to weld up a race-ready exhaust, capped with FMF silencers.
They used an HPI ignition with a BDK magnesium engine cover, which has since been destroyed and replaced. Both side and sprocket covers were made in-house, and a custom aluminum oil tank now feeds the oil injector — no premix.
The bike sits on RSD Traction flat track race wheels with Galfer floating rotors and Dunlop DTS flat track race tires. The team mounted a set of R6 forks tuned by GP Suspension with GPS Racing flat track yokes, Pro Taper bars, and ASV levers. The throttle is from a Kenny Roberts GP triple (!) and the front brake and master cylinder from the R6. Twelve-inch Progressive shocks were mounted to the standard swingarm and shock position.
“The final geometry was incredibly close to an FTR750, which shocked all of us but we were in the ballpark.”
As is so often the case, it’s the wild projects like these that attract the most attention. Not long after Roland fired up the GT750 for the first time on the RSD social channels, he received a call from his buddy Travis Pastrana:
“Travis was planning on heading to Daytona for a week of racing and good times and wondered if we might have a spare race bike. In particular, a certain two-stroke.”
The RSD crew had only a week to finish the bike and get it from California to Daytona, but these are the moments you never forget. They fashioned a special pedal to work with TP’s bum right ankle and got the bike ready to pass tech inspection and hit the dirt.
“The bike and Travis could have benefited greatly from prior track time, but as with many of our projects, the first rides are on a race track.”
In fact, TP’s first laps on the Water Buffalo actually counted for qualifying:
“With a manufacturer claimed 70HP at 6500 RPM, it was actually in the ballpark with many of the race bikes in the hooligan class. As any good dirt tracker understands, it’s not about horsepower, but getting that power to hook up. In the case of a two-stroke triple, getting that powerband under control was a lot to ask, even for Travis Pastrana.”
Here at BikeBound HQ, we’d been closely following the GT750 story and had a live stream going of the Daytona hooligan heat races, anxious to see how Travis would fare aback the brutish three-cylinder smoker.
The track was quite short and rough, forcing the hooligan riders to hustle and muscle their 400-pound machines around the oval like wild broncos. Travis, wearing a #partyinplaid flannel cutoff over his race suit, didn’t back down from the challenge, riding the Water Buffalo right to the edge of control:
“In true TP style, he hung it out on a fresh machine damn near qualifying for the main in a field of incredibly hungry and talented Super Hooligan racers missing the main by one spot in his heat race.”
While Travis and the RSD Water Buffalo didn’t take home the trophy from Daytona, they showed the grit, creativity, and pure damn fun that’s at the heart of Super Hooligan racing. And what’s more, the end of this two-stroke fairy tale has yet to be written:
“The triple will have its revenge…one day.”
RSD Water Buffalo: Video!
RSD Water Buffalo: Build Sheet
1972 Suzuki GT750 Water Buffalo
Gas Tank: Yamaha RD400
Tail Section: Saddlemen Caballero fiberglass tail section
Seat: Saddlemen seat
Make: Suzuki GT750 Two Stroke
Carburetors: Lectron carburetors (3 of them)
Intake: K&N Air Filters
Exhaust: Swarbrick Racing (UK) TR750 spec chambers. Welded by RSD with FMF silencers.
Ignition: HPI (Belgium) Inner Rotor Ignition conversion
Ignition: BDK Race Engineering (UK) magnesium ignition cover.
Side Cover: RSD hand fabricated aluminum right side engine cover
Sprocket Cover: RSD hand fabricated aluminum countershaft sprocket cover
Starter: Kick start only. Electric starter removed for weight savings.
Oil Tank: Custom aluminum oil tank
Radiator: Mishimoto aluminum radiator
Wheels and Components
Front Wheel: RSD Traction flat track wheel
Size (front): 19×2.75″
Front Hubs: RSD R6 TT hub kit
Front Disc(s): Galfer floating rotor – Yamaha R6
Front Tire: Dunlop DT3 flat track race tire
Rear Wheel: RSD Traction flat track wheel
Size (rear): 19×3.00″
Rear Hubs: Quickchange flat track hubs
Rear Disc: Galfer floating rotor – Yamaha R6
Rear Tire: Dunlop DT3 flat track race tire
Sprocket: Superlite quick-change flat track sprockets
Front Caliper(s): Yamaha R6
Rear Caliper: Brembo P34 w/ RSD custom hanger
Brake Lines: Spiegler USA
Handlebars: Pro Taper Dirt Track handlebars
Grips: Pro Taper grips
Throttle: Motion Pro 1/4-turn throttle housing
Front Master Cylinder: Yamaha R6
Clutch Lever: ASV unbreakable clutch perch & lever
Rear Master Cylinder: Brembo PS13
Foot Controls: RSD custom fabricated foot controls
Forks: Yamaha R6 conventional forks
Forks: GP Suspension fork cartridge kit
Triple Trees: GPS Racing billet flat track adjustable offset triple clamps
Make: Progressive Suspension fully adjustable 990 series shocks — 12.5″ long
Swingarm: Stock GT750
Color(s): Red, Yellow, White “Barry Sheene” style
Cables: Barnett Cables
Throttle: Team Kenny Roberts — 500 GP Triple
Petcock: Pingel racing fuel petcock