The Super Hooligan bug has bitten. Hard. So much so that we have teamed up with Yamaha to build one of our own!
When I lay in the middle of the Costa Mesa Speedway track after highsiding myself to the moon and back a few weeks ago, one of the first thoughts going through my head was I needed to get my own bike.
Smashing up Roland Sands’ Super Hooligan Indian Scout was not in the cards, but thankfully, the damage was more to my pride than anything. Still, the thought of getting a Cycle News-specific racer wouldn’t go away, so I made a call to Marcus DeMichelle, Yamaha USA’s press manager and a thoroughbred racer himself—so he gets it.
Not only was Marcus in for the idea of building a Yamaha SCR950 Hooligan racer, he had the perfect man for the job in Jeff Palhegi, one of Southern California’s leading craftsmen for Yamaha customs and a man who has more than a slight obsession with the TZ750—a man of my own heart.
Photography by Sam Bendall and Rennie Scaysbrook
Click here to read this in the Cycle News Digital Edition Magazine.
The motorcycle industry is full to the brim of people who simply live and breathe motorcycles. Jeff is no exception. This is the guy who helped with the design of the gorgeous XSR900 and the one who built the prototype FZ-07 flat tracker that sent jaws dropping at AIMExpo a couple of years ago, so really, no one is better equipped to build a bike designed to have the nuts thrashed off it than he.
“I’ve wanted to build a Super Hooligan bike for a couple of years now,” Jeff said. “I even talked to Roland [Sands] about it in the very beginning and just never got around to it, so yeah, I’m stoked.”
The SCR950 was chosen as our donor bike because it’s much more race-able than the Bolt from which it is derived. Jeff actually built a Bolt flat tracker a little while back, stripping off absolutely everything necessary to create one of the sweetest little trackers I’ve ever seen.
“The SCR just works better,” Jeff says. “The spoked wheels were easy to have re-laced and have the 19-inch hoops put on them, and the SCR has the standard 7/8th handlebars so all the controls and everything went right on the Rental bar we used. The subframe is very dirt track-like anyway. Howard McKee made a seat for it, I fabricated a tail unit from fiberglass and we got it painted by my buddy, Benny Flores. That part was easy, really. The hardest thing we fabricated was just the new left side clip peg mount, and not much else.”
Flat trackers have got to turn left and we found, just in the garage, that SCR would dig its left peg into the ground, which is either going to wreck the track, cause a crash, or both. The solution thus came from Cameron Brewer at Roland Sands Design, who’d already encountered this problem with their Bolt they built a while back.
“Oddly enough we just took a WR450 shifter,” Jeff says. “It fits perfectly. Based on the WR450 shifter, we kind of worked out where the footpeg would like to be. Cameron sent us the information on the bike that Roland had built, and it was right there. We just modified it and now we have a folding left side peg and shifter. It’s really simple—if you break it, you just need another WR450 shifter.”
Jeff then went about ditching the belt drive and installing a conventional chain set up, but ran into an issue with the rear wheel, as the now 19-incher (standard is 17 inches) would foul up against the swingarm.
“The swingarm has a crossbrace in it,” Jeff says. “We just took an inch out of it to clear the 19-inch tire. The wheel clears if you run the chain way back, but I wanted to give the option of making it shorter.”
Next up was sorting the wheels by lacing the 19-inch Sun rims to the standard hubs and mating them to Dunlop DT3 130/80-19 and 140/90-19 front and rear tires.
“Sun Rims are super light,” Jeff says. “Everybody uses them because they’re about the lightest thing you can stick on a bike like this.”
The motor has been left stock save for a Power Commander 5 mated to a highflow K&N air filter and a super-hot looking Two Brothers exhaust, with some dyno work. That gave us a healthy 55 horsepower at the tire and 60 lb-ft of torque.
“We ran setting from Power Commander, and it was so close it was almost pointless to try to optimize it any further,” Jeff says. “It worked so well right out of the box that we messed around with it for another hour and only got about a quarter of a horsepower. We just add a little bit of fuel on the bottom of the rev range so that it doesn’t pop and sputter. It is a little cleaner. We always do that. It’s hard with a wide-open pipe like the Two Brothers item if it gets too much air in there.”
All up this build took about 40 hours from beginning to end, which includes all the handmade parts.
“It took two guys the better part of three days to do it all,” Jeff says. “That’s probably a little light on the hours considering we had to fabricate the back end. Now that I have a mold, if I did another SCR it would be faster.
Heading to Bolsa Chica
Getting to know the SCR at speed was an interesting prospect as regardless of the stuff stripped from the production bike, the SCR is still a big, heavy bike. The 950 engine is the main culprit here—that massive V-twin takes up a lot of real estate and govern how you need to ride the bike. In other words, grab it by the scruff and let it now who’s boss, before it does likewise to you.
Having already ridden Roland’s Indian, I had a rough idea of how to handle the SCR and after a shakedown at Milestone I was happy to report the SCR Hooligan handled rather well for its size. We kept the suspension stock save for some heavier fork oil and ratcheting the rear preload up to the max, but all in all I was happy with how the big girl behaved as we loaded up for Bolsa Chica that afternoon for the first running of the Moto Beach Classic by Roland Sands Design.
The tiny little track on the shores of Bolsa Chica State Beach could almost fit into the Cycle News office. At 20 seconds for one lap, it’s one of the most intense little tracks I’ve ever ridden but the SCR felt immediately comfortable on the slippery, hard pack surface—even if I wasn’t.
Despite its weight, you can be aggressive in your riding with the SCR and it’ll just sit there and take it. There’s a bucket load of torque, as you need to be gentle on the initial throttle not to break the backend loose and just spin everywhere, but as the afternoon wore on we started to get a feel for each other and make our way toward the front.
I qualified in 19th out of 34, only 0.6 seconds off the pole but a mile away in reality. A couple of heat races saw me take a third and two seconds, meaning I just missed out on qualifying for the A Main final. The B Main would have to do. Again.
I wanted to win that one, badly, and I lined up on the pole for the first of what would be three—yes, three—race starts. I got the holeshot in the first start that lasted all of five seconds when half the grid collided with each other, bikes and bodies flying all over the place.
The second start saw me slightly boxed in before some gentleman (still no idea of who it was), simply cut right across me and took my front wheel clean out, dumping me in the path of 10 oncoming bikes all weighing at least 450 pounds.
I felt four solid hits, but the big one was the last as someone used my hip as a launch pad. Initially I thought I felt crack, and my side hurt like all bloody hell. Cameron Brewer—the same Cameron who helped with the peg design—had picked up my bike as a souvenir, the right bar jammed onto the seat, and he dragged the SCR all the way down the back straight before kicking it off. It was a shit show par excellence.
The pain subsided quickly and I was determined to finish the event, so I rushed to the SCR, eventually got it going again and took off at the start for another holeshot. The race was only two laps due to the number of restarts, and I ran wide on the exit of turn two with a lap to go, ultimately finishing a close second. It was not ideal, and I felt like I’d been run over by a train, but there was no denying the SCR was a roaring hit with the crowd in what can only be described as a sensational event by the crew at Roland Sands Design.
We were the only red team/bike in a sea of black Harley-Davidsons, Indians and one yellow Ducati Scrambler (that took the overall win thanks to Frankie Garcia), so we stood out like a sore thumb.
The SCR was pretty bashed up after the crash, but this only gave us a bigger green light from Yamaha to throw some more bits on it! So, this won’t be the last installment of the SCR project, as we plan on doing quite a lot more racing next year. Stay tuned.CN
Click here to read more about the stock 2017 Yamaha SCR950.