Southern 73 Cycles builds a 9-second turbo drag bobber…
Introduced in 1996, the Suzuki Bandit 1200 offered a re-tuned version of the monstrous GSX-R1100 air/oil-cooled engine in a steel frame to create something akin to a two-wheeled muscle car — a bike that would come to define the muscle bike class for much of the 1990s and early 2000s.
“A bike ripe for modification, loads of Bandits were altered, drag raced, stunted, crashed etc etc while an equal number were left standard and just enjoyed for what they were – a monster motor in a decent chassis with a bargain price tag.” —MCN
Enter our new friend Matt Jones of the UK’s Southern 73 Cycle Co., who began turning wrenches on his 125 as a teenager:
“My mates and I were all apprentices at the time on apprentice wages, so whenever something needed to be done or fixed, we couldn’t afford to pay commercial garages, so we just had to figure out how to fix everything ourselves, from basic servicing to rebuilding gearboxes.”
Within a few years, Matt found his groove building and customizing metric cruisers. In January of 2020, he opened Southern 73 Cycle Co. on the Berks/Surrey/Hants borders, where he and his crew build custom bobbers and also work on all kinds of other bikes.
“We especially love bringing unloved bikes back from the dead, often belonging to relatives, which normally wouldn’t be cost-effective to restore paying commercial labour prices. We love bikes with a story!”
Matt says he’s always had a passion for racing, but his first visit to Santa Pod Raceway changed his life — he wanted to build a drag bike and go racing. The UK drag racing scene is dominated by stretched-out sportbikes, mainly Hayabusas and GSX-R1000’s, but Matt wanted to build something completely different, much more akin to the roadgoing rat / punk / DIY-style bobbers of the Southern 73 crew and customers:
“We wanted to build something that was like nothing else. It sticks out like a sore thumb, with a silhouette that can be identified from any vantage point at the track.”
“BeezleBob” is built on a custom version of a roadgoing hardtail frame, with the rear triangle stretched out to 68 inches and braced to handle the demands of a drag racing. Power comes from a Bandit 1200 engine with a SP Precision Engineering turbo setup, Dyna2000 ignition, Dyna DRL-300 rev limiter, MTC 2 stage lock up clutch, and Pingel air shifter.
“Producing around 200hp currently, but we’re working on a 1216cc low compression motor for next year, (Hayabusa pistons +2mm overbore), which should allow us to boost it up to 300hp.”
To put that power to the ground, BeezleBob is running a JKE Raceworks fully adjustable wheeliebar and Shinko 7-inch wrinkle wall slick. Secretly, Matt and the Southern 73 team had hoped to go sub-10 seconds in the bike’s first proper race weekend, and they did:
“Best time is 9.91 and fastest speed is 139.88 MPH (so far) without a two-step or shift light, so lots more potential (hopefully).”
Recently, we featured Thornton Hundred’s “WFB” — World’s Fastest (Triumph) Bobber — which ran a 10.49, so Matt and crew may be able to stake the claim themselves — though there may be other bobbers out there with heady E/T’s we don’t know about….As you can imagine, streaking down the quarter-mile on this turbocharged monster is quite an experience. Below, Matt gives us the full story on “BeezleBob” and what’s it like to ride this Bandit-powered weapon down the track!
BeezleBob Drag Bobber: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I (Matt) have been working on bikes since my little 125 when I was 17. My mates and I were all apprentices at the time on apprentice wages, so whenever something needed to be done or fixed, we couldn’t afford to pay commercial garages, so we just had to figure out how to fix everything ourselves, from basic servicing to rebuilding gearboxes. We messed around on all kinds of road bikes and off-road bikes over the years. But I eventually found my groove customizing metric cruisers into bobber-style bikes. It gives so much freedom vs modifying a sportbike, for example — it doesn’t matter what fancy parts you bolt to an R1, it’s still basically just an R1, with cutting up cruisers you can make them unrecognizable compared to the original bike.
Southern73 Cycles was started in January 2020 after my first bobber conversion caught the attention of various people online and everyone’s response was positive. My workshop was geared around personal projects, but with the tools and ramp available and not having the budget to be doing personal work day in and day out, we figured everything might as well start earning its keep.
Whilst bobbers are our forte, we undertake all bike work and are far cheaper than other garages in our area. We want everyone to be able to afford awesome bikes, and since we all have day jobs, we don’t need to get every last penny out of our customers. We especially love bringing unloved bikes back from the dead, often belonging to relatives, which normally wouldn’t be cost-effective to restore paying commercial labour prices. We love bikes with a story!
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
We bought a complete Bandit 1200s for a donor, but in the end we only used the front end, motor, and rear wheel. The drag bike is based a custom-made version of a roadgoing hardtail frame, with the rear triangle stretched out to make it a 68-inch wheelbase.
• Why was this bike built?
I’ve always had a passion for racing, but my first trip to Santa Pod was a life-changing day — from then on I knew I wanted to go drag racing. So this bike now exists because we love drag racing, and we love motorbikes — it seemed quite a natural progression to decide to build a brag bike. As a bonus it promotes the business, which in itself, helps fund the racing. The bike sticks out like a sore thumb!
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The bike was built to look similar to our own roadgoing bikes. It’s become a trademark that our own bikes, and any customer builds (depending on customer tastes, of course), get a chrome headlight with a yellow lens and a peak, Biltwell Frisco bars, brown seat and grips, and a peanut tank.
We love the ratbike / punk / DIY-style bikes — something you can’t just go and buy from a showroom. So we usually opt for bare metal (either lacqured or just oiled depending on the application) and a pure function-over-form ethos, just the necessary parts.
It just made sense for people who loved bobbers to go and drag race a bobber, with our trademarks included. Yes, it would be faster if it had no light and flat bars, but it would also probably be faster if we built a sportbike too and where’s the fun in that!?
The drag bike scene in the UK is DOMINATED by Hayabusas, GXS-R1000’s, and the old-school GSX / KZ style drag bikes. Once you’ve seen one stretch Busa, you’ve kind of seen them all — there are some genius ideas being applied under the skin, and some great skills in building them, but they do all look much of a muchness.
We wanted to build something that was like nothing else. It sticks out like a sore thumb, with a silhouette that can be identified from any vantage point at the track.
• Can you tell us about the major custom work done to the bike?
It’s a custom-made hardtail bobber frame, stretched out to a 68-inch wheelbase, with extra triangulated bracing in the rear to handle the demands of drag racing with a wheeliebar.
Turbo setup was made by SP Precision Engineering in the UK. Producing around 200hp currently, but we’re working on a 1216cc low compression motor for next year, (Hayabusa pistons +2mm overbore), which should allow us to boost it up to 300hp.
It has a Dyna2000 ignition with a clutch switched DRL300 handling the two-step duties complete with Dyna Coils.
MTC Engineering 2 stage lock up clutch. Pingel air shifter, fuel tap, fuel filter, and 360 degree killswitch,
And a JKE Raceworks bespoke chromoly fully adjustable wheeliebar.
We run a Shinko 7-inch wrinkle wall slick on the rear, as they’re easier to get in the UK compared to some other brands.
• Does it have a nickname?
• What’s your best ¼-mile on it?
Best time is 9.91 and fastest speed is 139.88 MPH (so far) without a two-step or shift light, so lots more potential (hopefully).
• Can you tell us what it’s like to take it down the strip?
It’s like nothing else. The riding position is so wrong, after the burnout there’s a button on the left to activate the two-step, once the stage lights are lit I pin the throttle. It starts popping and banging as the ignition cuts and the boost starts building, once the last yellow light comes on I dump the clutch and get ready for what’s always a wild ride — the force of the acceleration with the slick and turbo is quite incredible, Santa Pod prep the track so well it’s almost like limitless traction.
Surprisingly, the high bar riding position isn’t as challenging as you’d think, by the time the wind resistance starts to become awkward you’re through the finish line and working down the gears to get it shut down for the turnout.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
As arrogant as it sounds, the whole bike. When you start building from scratch you have an idea/template in your head of how you want it. Sometimes things work out well; other times you stand back and think “I wish x, y, z was different.” But this turned out exactly how it was envisioned. We’re also proud to go sub-10 on its first proper race weekend. We secretly hoped that maybe we would manage that this year — to do it on the first event took us by surprise if we’re honest! We backed up our 9.91 with a 9.94 the next morning, just to prove it wasn’t a fluke.
@SP_Precision_Engineering for the Turbo components and continued technical support!
And thanks to Pingel, Dynatek, and Shinko for their awesome products.