AKRAPOVIČ Full Moon custom: Full Moon rising – pneumatically!
Exclusive first ride on the dramatic looking and sensuously styled award-winning showbike from Slovenia’s leading custom shop Dreamachine
Igor Akrapovič is a remarkable man, who’s earned his eponymous exhaust company’s soaraway success and its A-1 Dun & Bradstreet business rating through a combination of hard work, commercial honesty, clever development, and an insistence on quality. All this in turn has made his name synonymous with excellence in exhausts both on and off-road, delivering added performance coupled with dependable durability.
His company celebrated its 25th birthday in 2016, and the more than 100 World Championship titles which Akrapovič - pronounced a-CROP-o-vitch, not acrow-poh-vick - exhausts have earned on the race tracks of the world in the past quarter-century say that simply the best is what they indeed are. That’s why Igor’s firm has now become a world leader in performance exhausts for cars as well as bikes. On four wheels this currently includes BMW, Audi, Renault, Alfa Romeo, Fiat Abarth, Lamborghini and Aston Martin - but with 70% of the company’s turnover still motorcycle-related, it’s on two wheels that the Akrapovič client roster is most varied and impressive.
Still, you wouldn’t really expect the Slovenian sultan of sound’s products to equip Harley-Davidson cruisers alongside the Yamaha YZR-M1 racers on which Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales are currently fighting to win the MotoGP World championship, or the Kawasaki ZX-10R on which Jonathan Rea has just captured a trio of World Superbike titles. But that’s indeed the case, for this serial success has been achieved without Akrapovič becoming distracted from serving its everyday retail customers – or from driving expansion in new market sectors where looks and above all sound are what attract customers to the sign of the Scorpion carried on each Slovenian-made exhaust – Akrapovič means ‘scorpion’ in Slovene,
So while added performance is still the USP that drives demand for the more than 100,000 complete exhaust systems and over three times as many slip-on silencers produced each year by the company’s 650 employees in its 25,000m² factory at Črnomelj, with another 200 workers employed in the R&D, Racing, and other specialist departments in the 8,000m² corporate HQ at Ivancna Gorica, 45min south of Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, there are different key factors at play in making Akrapovič products appealing to non-performance focused customers in the V-twin cruiser cult. So in order to promote his company’s wares to this quite different market sector when his new range of Harley custom exhausts was launched, Igor Akrapovič commissioned the creation of a unique custom bike doubling as a corporate statement that was built for him by Slovenia’s longest established and most expert custom bike specialist, Dreamachine Motorcycles in Ljubljana.
In the hands of its creator, Dreamachine boss Tomaž Capuder and a trio of helpers, this radical looking set of wheels named the Morsus – the Latin for ‘sting’ or ‘bite’, so very apt in view of the Akrapovič scorpion logo! – went from initial drawing to finished article in just two-and-a-half months before its debut in the spring of 2011. It went on to win Custom show titles in Croatia, Spain and France, culminating with an appearance at the AMD World Championship of custom bike building at the USA’s Sturgis Rally, as well as at Daytona Cycle Week. But the Morsus is practically conventional compared with what came next, the exotic Full Moon two-wheeled work of art unveiled at the Bad Salzuflen Custombike Show in Germany. This even more extravagant and technically exceptional promo bike was again created by Dreamachine’s Capuder on behalf of Akrapovič, and since its unveiling has crisscrossed the world as a missionary motorcycle for the Slovenian exhaust company’s custom bike catalogue. Designed as an evolution of the Morsus, the Full Moon has a personality and characteristics completely different than its predecessor’s, aimed at further exciting those impressed by Akrapovič’s first custom machine. Its name comes thanks to the huge thirty-inch aluminum and carbon front wheel, which when viewed from the side gives the lunar look that Capuder conceived before starting work on building his creation not long before it made its public debut. “Igor gave me a very short time to make it, less than three months,” says Tomaž. “It took four of us working 20-hour days to get it finished in time – but we made it!”
So over eight hundred hours went into creating this superbly finished machine, which features a 1,524 cc S&S ohv Knucklehead engine fitted with two custom-made Akrapovič exhausts connected by a link pipe. The hidden single-loop backbone frame with duplex engine cradle and integrated monocoque fuel tank, plus the single-sided swingarm and voluptuous bodywork, are all made entirely of 4130 chrome-moly steel, and incorporate the Akrapovič pipes, so that the bike itself is essentially an exhaust, says Igor Akrapovič. “We wanted to continue the successful promotion of our custom exhausts that began with the Morsus, by creating something even more shocking and extreme-looking,” says Igor with a smile. “In this market you have to keep coming up with something new and exceptional in appearance, plus I wanted to support our local Slovenian custom king Tomaž Capuder, who is really skillful and has great imagination. The Full Moon has more than delivered on expectations – quite often we’ve had it on our stand at a show alongside a Rossi MotoGP Yamaha and a factory Kawasaki or Ducati Superbike, and everybody clusters around the Full Moon, hardly sparing a look at the World champion racebikes we’re most associated with!”
For since its debut the Full Moon has been showcased at many exhibitions and fairs around the world, drawing customers’ attention to the Akrapovič range of complete exhaust systems for Harley-Davidson Sportster, Dyna, Touring, Softail, and V-Rod models, as well as the company’s Slip-On Line with optional silencer valve for the FLHRC Roadking Classic and XL1200X Forty-Eight, plus the FXDB Streetbob and FLTSFB Fatboy Special. Its new classically shaped Slip-On Line exhaust systems feature mufflers with specially developed noise inserts and chambers that enhance the trademark Harley-Davidson sound to give the bike an even greater growl factor that’s best described as resonant. Akrapovic claims its pipes not only sound good, but are lighter that stock and increase both torque and power while still meeting EPA requirements in the USA, and Euro 3 in Europe.
So it’s been a great marketing tool – but is that all? Is the Full Moon just a wacky-looking way out symphony of streamlining that’s only supposed to be a static display item? Or can this style-bike supreme actually be ridden in something approaching real-world conditions? With the bike’s sensuous styling unfortunately devoid of anywhere to stick a license plate, there was only one way to find out, and that was to head for Slovenia’s Driver Improvement Institute, a government-owned test centre where anyone from learner scooter riders to bus, truck and ambulance drivers can go to practice their skills in a real-world setting. There to meet me with the bike was its creator Tomaž Capuder – who promptly awoke it from its slumbers by reaching inside the bodywork behind his right leg as he straddled the low-slung seat, and pressing a button which activated the onboard battery-powered air compressor that set the Full Moon rising – pneumatically, that is. “First we built a normal twin-sided swingarm,” said Tomaž, “but then we saw we had no place for the compressor or an air reservoir. So instead we built a single-sided swingarm, and then we had space to put the pneumatic system on the other side of the rear wheel.” The integral footboards emblazoned with the Full Moon logo that’s illuminated when dark act as a sidestand to allow the bike to stand upright when parked, so there's no need to spoil that stunning bodywork with an ugly kickstand, courtesy of its pneumatic suspension. This immediately reminded me of the hydraulic system in my Dad’s Citroën DS21 which, like the Full Moon, hunkered down on its wheels when the engine stopped running – same as the Slovenian custom bike does before lifting itself 140mm to be primed and ready for action.
To fire up the Knucklehead engine – “The best looking American V-twin motor ever,” says Capuder – you must reach down again behind your right leg and press the hidden starter button, to be rewarded with the glorious and only slightly muffled roar delivered by the almost completely hidden Akrapovič exhaust – this is a marketing tool which requires being fired up ready for action to fulfil its purpose, since you can’t see anything of the exhaust apart from the massive but smoothed out exit pipes. Grope around for a gearshift lever with your left foot and you’ll end up disappointed – there isn’t one, any more than that’s a clutch lever on the gracefully raked-back left handlebar. It’s actually the brake lever that’s been transplanted from its usual place on the opposite ‘bar, because in opting to eliminate all unsightly external cables and lines, Capuder found there was insufficient space inside the handlebar tube for both the throttle cable and hydraulic brake line, so moved the singleton brake lever to the left, while mounting a matching lever on the right ‘bar that’s strictly for looks – it’s a nonfunctional dummy. How’s that for thinking outside the box of custom convention?
This lever alone operates the linked brake system derived from a rallycar setup – there’s no foot brake pedal - with a 70/30 split between the hidden 250mm Dreamachine steel rear disc with two-piston Brembo caliper, and the massive 26in/660 mm MS Production carbon fibre front disc gripped by a six-piston Nissin caliper. This was created by Miklavž Zornik, the man who pioneered the use of carbon fibre for motorcycle bodywork back in the late 1980s as a post-Communist peace dividend – the Yugoslav military were world leaders in CF technology, and Zornik was the man who adapted this to motorcycle use, starting with Ducati in 1988. However, making this enormous Buell-type rim brake was a massive – literally – undertaking, and the special tool needed to do so got broken in the act, so it’ll stay unique and can’t be repeated. The disc is attached to the MS-made carbon wheel flange which in turn is bolted to the specially made 3.50in rim machined from a solid 65kg aluminium billet, which carries a 140/40-30 tyre made in Thailand by Vee Rubber. The rear wheel is somewhat more normal, except you can’t see it, so just take my word for it that the 200/55-17 Dunlop D407 mounted on a 6.0in cast aluminium wheel gives all the grip you could possibly ever want on this remarkable device, on which a lean angle of more than about 20º will have you scraping the effete-looking footboards of a bike which – no getting away from it – has massive presence. It is indeed a two-wheeled work of art which somewhat improbably can indeed be ridden somewhere. Imagine turning up at your Sunday morning bikers rendezvous on the Full Moon….!
So once fired up and ready to roll, the Full Moon asks you to press the button in the right handlebar to select bottom gear via the automatic clutch, then twist – and go. There’s no speedo nor any revcounter – just a clock contained in the filler cap for the slender nine-litre monocoque fuel cell embodied in the chassis, then clad by the gorgeous, graceful sweep of silver-painted metal leading up to the steering head. So just use first gear out of the six available on the Jims transmission with two-inch Gates primary belt – four would be sufficient with such a meaty motor, and you can in fact use second gear to move off on level ground - to get ‘er going, then thumb the left-side powershifter button to grab a higher gear when it seems appropriate.
There’s no need to back off the throttle to do so, just keep it pinned open like on a racebike as you shift up through the ratios – although fifth was the highest I got, simply because we ran out of room with the very long-legged gearing the bike carries. See, that massive front carbon disc has zero braking effect until you get it warmed up, so you must remember to ride along with your finger on the brake lever in order to do just that – although with the linked brakes this means you’re also dragging the pads on the metal rear disc, which isn’t such a good idea. Compromise is king on a bike like this – it’s the looks that count.
And the ultra-distinctive view from the bridge of this beautiful piece of mechanical art is like no other, with the paradoxically comfortable stretched-out stance dictated by the massive two-metre wheelbase – that’s almost 80 inches in non-metric money! – encouraging you to lean forwards as you lope along, with no instruments to clutter the beautiful, flush-finished top yoke or block the view of the spinning front tyre. It seems your chin is practically rubbing against its tread that appears to be rotating so close to you. That’s in spite of the raked-out 36º angle at which the 39mm Air Ride pneumatic telescopic fork made by Dreamachine is set, with the penalty for this somewhat excessive steering geometry immediately apparent when it comes to rounding a bend.
The gyroscopic effect of the massive 30-inch front wheel’s rotational force makes it a battle to steer the bike through even a gentle curve. The term understeer was invented for a bike like this, so to say that you need to send an email to the Full Moon to get it to corner is way understating it – more like an old-style telegram delivered by Western Union’s pony express. Because you can’t lean it over very far in a turn without the footboards rubbing, you need to plan ahead as far as possible to give yourself as much room as can be, in which case the very ponderous steering will eventually deign to turn the bike, though not necessarily on the exact stretch of tarmac you were aiming for. But hey – you’re looking good and having fun as you do so, which is all that really matters on a bike like this….!
If ever a motorcycle was a triumph of form over function, it’s the latest in the lineup of Akrapovič calling cards for the custom market that’s the Slovenian company’s ideal attention-grabbing package for bike shows and trade fairs. Kudos to Dreamachine’s team of craftsmen for creating it – and to Igor Akrapovič for commissioning what is, somewhat improbably, quite a technically advanced motorcycle as well as a head-turning showpiece, full of unique design features that have been carefully chosen to make it exclusive. Its svelte shape hides new features used on a custom bike for the first time to create a rolling example of creative design that is also motorcycle art. The Full Moon is like no other bike on Earth – or the Moon! - and Tomaž Capuder well deserves to be so proud of having created it.