On the way to a showroom* in London, we pass garage after garage filled with cars that would make most of us economy-car drivers jealous. Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Mercedes so plentiful they actually bore you, Rolls Royce by the factory full, and an untold number of weekend luxury custom vehicles line our path. Yet, we scarcely notice them in our excitement to see the vehicle which set us off on our journey from America and Wales via Knightsbridge, London.
Invited by Shami Kalra, a marketing mastermind with roots spanning a quarter of a century in the manufacturing world, we at The Guy Society are there for a private showing of the Bienville Legacy.
“This bike is the perfect blend of art, ingenuity, and American muscle,” Shami says.
The bike rests behind us in a perfectly waxed showroom with a floor to ceiling mirror. The bike is what we came to see, but it is impossible to not notice the palpable excitement with which Shami speaks about the vehicle. We want to turn around and stare at it, but Shami’s passion is sufficiently distracting as he regales The Guy Society with the genesis of the project and his involvement with the Bienville Legacy.
“When I first saw the Bienville Legacy, I immediately loved the project. I told Scott (Miller) that I loved what he was doing and asked if there was anything I could do to help, if there was any way to use my background and my network to move the project forward. It just so happened they were looking for someone in the UK.”
The project was founded by the team of Jacoby and Miller. JT Nesbitt, a master designer, was commissioned by the ADMCi Foundation whose focus is on the blending of art and engineering… what they see as ‘master-craftsmanship.’ By bringing the two worlds together, ADMCi (American Design and Master-Craft Initiative) is providing a sustainable boost to master-craftsmanship as well as providing a model for growth and value within the motorcycle industry.
“I’m firstly a car guy,” Shami says almost apologetically. “I got involved actually when I was looking at the super-cars at the Festival of Speed. On my way out, I took a shortcut through the bike area. The Bienville Legacy caught my eye and I went up to Scott, who was there showing the bike, and I had to shake his hand. ‘The world is a better place when people make things like this,’ I said. Cars are great. V8 engines are great. We all need that. I love my car. But art like this bike, if we didn’t push the boundaries of engineering and design, the world would be a mundane place.”
Finally, he turns and brings us over to the bike. It rests on its kickstand like any bike would, but somehow it reminds you of an American Western and a car from the movie Grease all at once.
“It all starts with the materials,” Shami explains. “It is all hand-picked from the finest quality items and spans several countries. The bike itself has multiple patents because of the ingenuity involved…they wanted to create something more than just a product. They wanted to create a legacy, hence the name of the bike.”
Immediately you understand his meaning. The seat itself resembles more of a saddle, a leather throne with unique stitching that looks like John Wayne could have thrown it over all 300hp if horses were made out of titanium and carbon fiber. The mahogany grips on the handlebar, while almost decadent, shy away from the decorative elements of your father’s study and more towards the grip of a 1920’s police officer’s nightstick. The elegant contours somehow conform well alongside a bike that is very masculine in its detail.
“The bike hints at the four cylinder heritage of the 1910’s and 1920’s but catapults past. In fact, many bike purists don’t like it because of all of the parts that pay homage to the American muscle cars that defined an era of guys tinkering in their own garage, those do-it-yourself guys that souped-up their own engines. They did it because solutions didn’t exist yet. They pushed the boundaries of ingenuity and innovation out of personal passion, yes, but also necessity.”
Every time we glance at the bike there are nuances and detail in the design that raise questions, bear a second look, and invite the viewer to stare as if trying to reassemble a Picasso by refusing to blink at a hidden 3D photo.
Even the gearshift has intricate detail that has personal significance to the designer, detail that elevates the vehicle from a master design to actual art. The artistic component lays in the personal touch put into each of the three bikes that currently exist. Only 12 more will be produced.
“The gearshift pedal has the same design as the manhole covers in New Orleans, where the designer is from. He lost a lot in Hurricane Katrina and in the floods there. So even that small component, which you can only see with a close visual inspection, is unique and significant,” Shami says quietly. “But it isn’t just the artistic bits that raise this bike up, it truly is everything about the design itself.”
He goes on to show us everything from hand brushed aerospace-grade aluminum and copious use of titanium that has only the perfect imperfections that can exist in a handcrafted creation. Barely pausing for a breath, Shami’s passion again seeps into his explanation of a bike that “very truly has an independent suspension.”
What appears to be the carbon fiber “spine” of the bike isn’t in anyway connected to the rigid carbon fiber blades connecting the wheels to the suspended chassis. With an engine strategically placed in the center of this red leaf spring, the design results in a ride that eliminates jostle from the contours of the road and vastly improves configurability.
Beyond simply allowing a smooth ride, the unique eccentrics anchored in worm-gear adjustments allow the user to adjust the rake and trail for any riding situation. Slung low for straight-line speed or more upright for flicking through twisties, the bike can be adjusted in seconds. Maneuverability and stability are hallmarks of this collector’s piece, proving that while a piece of art, the bike can also be depended upon to be a more than able performer on the road.
Shami isn’t misspeaking when he declares it “the most powerful luxury motorcycle ever put into production.”
Engine – Motus V4 – 185hp, naturally aspirated / 300hp+ super-charge
Chassis – 4130 Chromoly tubing – 23lbs, non-traditional frame
Fuel System – Split-tank design – 4+ gallon capacity, E15 compliant
Brakes – ISR Radial System – 250mm rotors front and rear. Interchangeable 4-piston calipers
Wheel-base – High-speed stability optimized- 62.5”
Wheels – Carbon Composite – Custom options front and rear
*Special thanks to Pagani for allowing the bike to be showcased, independently, from their showroom as well as to Francis Falconer, Pagani’s Head of European Sales.
Photo Credit: Bienville Legacy