“I have never had a motorcycle set my soul on fire like the Velos.”
These are the words of our friend and famed motorcycle designer Kar Lee, a veteran of Bike, Performance Bikes, and Practical Sportbikes who’s designed and ridden such machines as the 382-hp Superbusa. When Kar speaks, we listen, and such words from him are high praise indeed.
The Velos (Greek for arrow) is the creation of Tony Audette, a 32-year-old engineer and Marine Corps combat veteran who was part of the “Exiled 8” — an eight-man USMC squad who were lost on their company roster during the 2011 draw-down and spent weeks on their own in Afghanistan with no support, contending with sandstorms, dwindling supplies, IEDs, and insurgents.
Of the seven members who made it home safely, all volunteered to remain on active duty — however, they ended up being transitioned to the reserves. Says Tony:
“I didn’t know what to do. I’d been a Marine all my adult life, and wasn’t prepared for so suddenly being told to sit on the sidelines. So as four of the eight guys that I was with all came from Connecticut, I figured I’d head there for some future companionship.”
There, motorcycles helped Tony find his way. While fighting in the wilds of Afghanistan, he’d decided to get back to his two-wheeled roots upon his return stateside.
“I bought my first motorcycle, a 1972 Honda CL350, when I was 14 and rebuilt it with my dad over the next year until I could legally ride it. From there I fell in love with the engineering and mechanics of how motorcycles work.”
Working out of a former convent in CT, Tony rebuilt a 1975 Honda CB750 and went back to school, graduating from Central Connecticut with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He worked in the prototyping workshop of O.F. Mossberg & Sons, in Dynamic Components (swashplates, spindles, sleeves, everything that spins fast on the rotor head except the blades) at helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky, and went on to become the lead engineer on the Curtiss Motorcycles Zeus — the first all-electric model from the famed American manufacturer formerly known as Confederate Motorcycles.
However, he was itching to forge his own path in the motorcycle world:
“After a few years in the industry working for someone else, I decided to open my own shop so that I could design a motorcycle completely free of compromises. Our shop is based out of Canton, CT.”
A result of 3.5 years of development, that motorcycle is the Audette Velos, built around a highly modified 2147cc Indian Thunder Stroke V-twin with a proprietary chassis and 120+ proprietary CNC parts.
“Other than the engine and a few computers, the only other parts not specific to the Velos are the wheels, tires, and brakes.”
The Velos boasts 117 hp, a stump-pulling 156 ft-lbs of torque, and weighs just 464 lbs wet. The design is inspired by early American motorcycles like the 1915 Iver Johnson, and the geometry (61.5″ wheelbase, 26º rake, 4.31″ trail) was developed for back-road blasting, with 37º lean available in left-handers:
“I designed and engineered this motorcycle platform from the ground up to be the ultimate example of what a purpose-built, American Streetfighter should be.”
Tony sold many of his possessions to make the bike a reality. While the base price is a cool $89,000, each Velos is specially tailored to the owner, from physical therapist consultations to tweak the ergonomics to suspension settings, engine tuning, and paint scheme.
We’re hoping to line up a test ride on the demo bike, but for now, we’ll have to trust the words of Sir Alan Cathcart:
“Cliché it may be, if ever a motorcycle deserved to be called a two-wheeled equivalent of the legendary Shelby Cobra 427 land sled, it’s the Velos – a motorcycle whose qualities are redolent of a bygone age. This minimalist motorcycle with muscle is one super desirable set of wheels.”
Below, we talk to Tony himself for the full story on this all-American muscle bike.
Audette Velos: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Tony Audette. I bought my first motorcycle, a 1972 Honda CL350, when I was 14 and rebuilt it with my dad over the next year until I could legally ride it. From there I fell in love with the engineering and mechanics of how motorcycles work.
When I returned home from Afghanistan, I purchased a 1975 CB750 and completely tore it apart and rebuilt it as a re-acclimation to life again. After working as a manufacturing engineer in the aerospace and firearms industry, I moved career paths to coincide with my love of motorcycles. After a few years in the industry working for someone else, I decided to open my own shop so that I could design a motorcycle completely free of compromises. Our shop is based out of Canton, CT.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
I always start off with the same bike, or motor, an Indian Thunderstroke engine. By the time I am through with motorwork the only aspects I haven’t touched is the two engine casings and the transmission.
Our frame is a completely proprietary design, developed from the ground up to be a purpose-built streetfighter to tear up your favorite back roads. Other than the engine and a few computers, the only other parts not specific to the Velos are the wheels, tires, and brakes.
• Any idea of horsepower, weight, and/or performance numbers?
I designed and engineered this motorcycle platform from the ground up to be the ultimate example of what a purpose-built, American Streetfighter should be. The total engineering time was 3.5 years. I started with an Indian Thunderstroke engine, took it apart, 3D scanned it, and reverse-engineered it to a CAD model. After 2.5 years of development, I 3D-printed a 1:1 scale model. This led to an additional year of design to get every aspect perfect. Each Velos has over 120 proprietary CNC machined parts.
The Velos platform was designed to be purpose-built for each individual owner. Each Velos owner has an ergonomic consultation with a physical therapist where their custom seating, hand, and foot controls are specified. The consultation includes customer specific color pallet and paint scheme along with personalized engine performance, suspension set up, and other aesthetic finishes. Once finalized each Velos gets built with a 3–4-month turnaround time.
The Velos has a wet weight of 467lbs with a 2,147cc (131CI) engine producing 156 ft-lbs of torque and 117 hp. The 49º V-twin is connected to the rear wheel through a 6-speed gearbox. A 4 US Gal fuel tank is suspended in the proprietary twin-spar, internally braced C-Channel that is CNC machined from aircraft grade aluminum.
Giving the rider confidence while handling the bike through the bends of their favorite back roads is the result of the 61.5″ wheelbase with a 26º rake and 4.31″ trail. The design ethos of the Velos was to distill down the essence of what a motorcycle should be, void of excess electronic aids, refined fundamentals, stripped of any non-essentials, and with a comfortable riding position. Aesthetically inspired by early era American Motorcycles (ex: 1915 Iver Johnson).
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The Velos is an unbelievable motorcycle. Because of the priority put on ergonomics during the design process, you can ride the Velos all day long. The monstrous amount of torque and flat torque curve means that the power is instantly delivered to the rear wheel. The weight and geometry of the bike makes for an incredibly stable yet highly “flickable” motorcycle.
The fun of riding this bike has been second to none; it really is the best motorcycle I have ever ridden. I purposely stripped the motorcycle of all non-essential computers and screens to give the rider a detachment from the connected world and to enjoy a pure analog experience.
Sir Allan Cathcart said this from his ride review in Motokari and Australian MCN:
- “A super desirable set of wheels.”
- “Light steering, easy handling, streetfighter on steroids, so downright thrilling to ride.”
- “It steers and stops so impeccably well, and he’s got the steering geometry spot on.”
Kar Lee of MotoKandi has said, “I have never had a motorcycle set my soul on fire like the Velos.”
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The kickstand, and the seat. I always hated the idea of carrying around a kickstand puck, so I made the kickstand have a large surface area to negate the need for the puck — everyone comments on it.
The seat I pulled inspiration from a 1920s tractor seat where farmers needed to sit in the saddle day in and day out. This was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
• Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
My family and in particular my wife, Jackie Oates, for always being by my side.
Ryan Coligan at C3 V-twin for welding the exhausts.
Craig Rogers at B&C Powder Coating.
Guin Simpson at Black Stitch Label.
Kar Lee at MotoKandi for helping with rendering during the design and continued support.
The team at RaceTech Suspension and Rotobox wheels.
More shots of various details.
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