Veteran racer/mechanic builds a 280-lb, 80-hp super single…
Veteran motorcycle racers tend to be some of our favorite custom builders. They have a deep understanding of the relationship between geometry and handling, and their builds are often meant to be ridden hard, at speed.
Recently, we got in touch with Alex Dicharry of Aspen Motoworx, who got his started racing enduro in Colorado, spent time with Doug Chandler and Keith Code of the famed California SuperBike School, and raced in the elite Formula Pacific Class:
“I still tell people who have never road raced, ‘It’s like heroin & ballet’ with zero room for error.”
After returning to Colorado, he worked for Moose Racing, opened a performance off-road shop, and continued to race motocross and the National Enduro series. Over a decade ago, he started Aspen Motoworx:
“We currently have over 1700 clients with everything from 1943 Indians to 2023 Ducati Panigales. Dirt bikes, scooters, and everything in between. For the past seven years I have been crew chief and lead mechanic for the RSR AMA Supermoto Team and have achieved six #1 AMA plates.”
Alex says that building custom café racers might not seem like the natural progression, but he loves it:
“Damn it’s fulfilling. Blending the raw heritage of early hooligan bikes with the technology and stance of a proper sport bike is liberating to the seat and to the eye. Art in motion.”
For his first such build, he chose a 1998 Honda XR650L as his donor, based on the assumption that a steel-frame, air-cooled big-single dual-sport would simplify the process. Simple the build is not, but it’s one hell of a super-single café racer. Designed and built with his son, it includes twin 17-inch wheels with KTM hubs and Michelin Road 5 rubber, a 2020 KTM 500 swingarm with revalved shock, Kawasaki 636 forks and yokes, Brembo supermoto brakes, and much more.
Then there’s the engine, bored to 680cc with a Wiseco 12:1 piston and ported head, upsized intake valves from Al Baker’s XR’s Only, and a customized Audi turbo intake. Dubbed the “Moto Mogg” (explanation below), this XR650 café racer not only made an impression at the 2022 Handbuilt Show, but it’s a beast to ride. Says Alex:
“Of course I am biased but I am also a hard critic. At 280 pounds and nearly 80 hp, it is impressively responsive. Each gear pulls quickly to 7800 rpm and just barely lofts the front wheel. Seating is sportbike-laxed, allowing neutral weighting and mobility under aggressive cornering.”
Below, we talk to Alex for the full details on this café-style supermono.
Honda XR650 Café Racer: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My journey with motorcycles really started in 1984 when I decided to race my first Enduro in Steamboat, CO. It was punishing and amazing to be atop the Continental Divide. Just me, my XR350R, and a strong will to finish. No matter what the obstacles. The challenges became technical stepping stones that taught me the art of dancing with chaos since you can’t control it.
My passion for machinery brought me to the Milwaukee School of Engineering where I majored in Mechanical Engineering. After two years I realized engineering was taking me closer to insanity and further from my passion. So I moved to San Jose, California to broaden my studies and road race at Sears Point and Laguna Seca. A cosmic hiccup blessed me with Doug Chandler and Keith Code from the California SuperBike School. They were incredible teachers and allowed me extra track time for helping out with the school. By the end of my first season, I went from the back row of the second grid of the spode class, to racing the elite Formula Pacific Class. I still tell people who have never road raced, “it’s like heroin & ballet” with zero room for error.
In 1994, I returned to Colorado to finish college and race the National Enduro Circuit. While traveling the circuit, I became friends with the original founders of Moose Racing and was soon hired on as sales manager. Somewhere in 1996, Moose was sold to Parts Unlimited and it was time to create my first shop. DNA RACING INC. DNA specialized in off-road products and performance engines and suspension. I continued to race National Enduros, Moto X and eventually morphed into ICC Shifter Karts.
In 2005 I enrolled in Aviation college and 18 months later I was an A&P Mechanic. I worked on Falcon private jets until 2010. Not as sexy as it sounds. An opportunity in Aspen, CO led me to move and after six months of property management, I started my current shop, Aspen Motoworx. We currently have over 1700 clients with everything from 1943 Indians to 2023 Ducati Panigales. Dirt bikes, scooters, and everything in between. For the past seven years I have been crew chief and lead mechanic for the RSR AMA Supermoto Team and have achieved six #1 AMA plates.
Building custom cafe racers might not be the natural progression, but damn it’s fulfilling. Blending the raw heritage of early hooligan bikes with the technology and stance of a proper sport bike is liberating to the seat and to the eye. Art in motion.
• What’s the year, make, and model of the donor bike?
1998 Honda XR650L.
• Why was this bike built?
I suppose it started out of the assumption that an air-cooled single with a steel frame would be less complicated for my “first cafe build.” But it really came together once I looked around my shop and saw 30 years of possibilities. Forks, swingarms, clip-ons, rear-sets, hubs, tanks, etc.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
I wanted raw elements: unpainted tank, leather seat, flat black rims, nickel-plated frame, and zero chrome. I wanted a minimal structure that still resembles the simplicity of a MX bike but felt planted flogging the canyons at 100 mph.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
From the road up…
- Sun 17″ rims custom drilled for KTM hubs. Buchanan SS spokes
- 2020 KTM 500 swing arm and shock. Revalved and spring rate doubled.
- Kawasaki ZX 636 forks and T clamps
- Brembo Supermoto front caliper and rotor
- Subframe with LED taillights.
- Completed frame was nickel-dipped
- Triumph Thruxton front fender mounted by custom braces
- Renthal clip-ons
- Arente’ grips
- Motion Pro throttle
- All cables are custom-made for proper length
- Old Honda tank. Early CX, I think
- Ebay China seat was reconstructed then locally upholstered two-tone with diamond stitch.
- Michelin Road 5 tires
- Custom gearing: Stock was 15/47. Now 16/43, still 520 gauge.
- GSX-R750 rear sets. Highly modified
- Kick stand is stock but cut in half and rotated 180 and moved forward 14″
- Headlight is 7″ Jeep
- Intake is a turbo coupling from my Audi with pantyhose held in with an aluminum ring
- Carb is stock with an FMF jet kit. Chose to keep CV style for altitude reasons. Runs perfectly just down a bit on power.
- Custom exhaust
- Wiseco 12:1 piston bored to 680cc
- Al Baker’s Big intake valves. 2mm larger
- Custom ported head by yours truly
- Motogadget M-unit Blue dash and bus with custom wire harness.
- Zeta Clutch lever
• What’s the story behind the Moto Mogg nickname?
There are several…
1. Mercedes Unimog has always perplexed me.
2. One day I thought…”My Other Girlfriend’s Girlfriend.”
3. The Urban dictionary states “to mogg” is to devour with such passion as to leave nothing on the table. Perfect.
• Can you tell us what the finished bike is like to ride?
Of course I am biased but I am also a hard critic. At 280 pounds and nearly 80 hp, it is impressively responsive. Each gear pulls quickly to 7800 rpm and just barely lofts the front wheel. Seating is sportbike-laxed, allowing neutral weighting and mobility under aggressive cornering.
The rear brake is 90% useless which is preferred since the front brake is 500% effective with only one finger. The Mogg has no horn because it’s plenty loud. The sound is deep and throaty on roll on and piercing when cracked abruptly.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Everything except my welds. I’m a machinist.