Jay Leno takes in a bike that’s pure form over function
At the intersection of modern and vintage sits a strange motorcycle—the ABC 500. Niki Smart created the single-cylinder bike after being captivated by the American board track racers of the past. After winning the design and style award at The Quail motorcycle gathering, both Smart and the bike made a trip to Jay Leno’s Garage to talk about the unique project.
The big-wheel-small-engine caught Smart’s eye, and he became enamored with the bikes’ proportions of being long and low with larger wheels and tires. From a small sketch on a napkin, this blacked-out beauty was born.
The design is classic, but the materials are all modern. Rather than learning the sheet metal skills needed to build the panels he wanted, Smart instead thought about how board track racers would have used advancement materials if they could. Therefore, he elected to create as much as he could from carbon fiber.
The engine is sourced from a 1981 Honda and displaces 500 cc with 33 horsepower. One of the touches Smart liked about this engine is the four-valve cylinder head which allows for twin exhaust pipes which balance the appearance of the bike. The brakes came from a Kawasaki ZX-10R.
When asked which piece of the bike he is most proud of, Smart points to the front forks. The girder-style front end hides the suspension when compared to a telescopic front end standard on most bikes. While the minimal suspension and large tires looks like it would beat up any rider, when Jay takes it for a spin he compliments it. It’s always nice when a piece of art has a function that takes it to the next level.