As an avid velodrome racer and a professional welder, Pierre Robberecht was inspired to build a motor-bicycle in the style of a turn-of-the-century machine.
The Calgarian was fascinated by early inventors who chose to combine an internal combustion engine with a pedal bike to create rudimentary motorcycles.
“I’ve always loved two-wheelers and have been racing bicycles since I was 14,” Robberecht explains. “And, the idea those early enthusiasts had to take a bicycle and make it go faster without pedaling by adding a motor got me interested in making my own.”
On May 4 and 5, Robberecht’s creation will be on display at the fifth-annual Kickstart event. Hosted by Ill-Fated Kustoms at the Christine Klassen Art Gallery, this year’s show has been specially planned to be more intimate and exclusive while continuing to celebrate garage-based builders such as Robberecht.
“The last four years have been first-come first-served in terms of the bikes that were entered for Kickstart,” says Ill-Fated Kustoms proprietor Kenny Kwan. “This year, because it was our fifth show, we had a committee go over the entries to hand-pick 38 motorcycles – making the event a lot more exclusive without any repetition of machines.”
Robberecht’s one-of-a-kind creation is based on a vintage CCM bicycle frame and a small, 49cc two-stroke single-cylinder motor.
“When I started telling friends I was going to build this power bike, they’d ask me how I’d do it,” Robberecht says. “I just told them I ‘had a way’ to do it – and that ended up being what I called the project, the Hadaway Calgary 1913.”
By referring to books filled with photos and information about antique motorcycles, Robberecht learned that many of the early machines were fabricated in backyard sheds, essentially homebuilt power bikes.
To get started, Robberecht located a late 1930s CCM bicycle frame. That was an appropriate choice, as between 1910 and 1911 the Canada Cycle and Motor Co. (CCM) had actually built what it called ‘light weight’ motor bicycles. Those CCM machines weighed less than 90 pounds and were powered by a Swiss-made 2-horsepower single-cylinder engine.
Robberecht cut away the CCM’s front frame downtube and bent and welded in place one that would make up a cradle to hold the engine. He stiffened the front forks and fabricated all mounting tabs, cable guides and chain tensioner.
For the fuel tank, Robberecht studied photos of early motorcycles to gain an appreciation of how it should be designed. He mocked up a gas tank using cardboard, and then cut, shaped and welded together sheet metal to form the intricately shaped final version.
“I tried to stay true to original tank designs,” Robberecht says of his final result that is held between the top frame tubes using hand-crafted clips.
For simplicity, he opted to use flexible control cables, but says he would have liked to have made his own mechanical rod and clevis-style linkages – just as early machines would have been equipped.
White balloon-style 26 x 2.125-inch tires went on black finished rims and the frame, fork and tank were painted red. Robberecht designed the logo and Dave Dunbar of Edmonton applied the gold-leaf lettering and the final pin stripes.
As a less-than-49cc power bicycle, Robberecht’s creation can be legally ridden and he’s added a few miles touring his neighbourhood and going on some longer rides.
“I hope that people who see my garage-built creation on display at Kickstart might be inspired to create something in their own garage,” Robberecht says. “Even if they don’t have the skills, it might inspire someone to learn.”
And that’s exactly why Ill-Fated’s Kwan started promoting Kickstart in 2015.
“It’s rewarding to see the inspiration between builders and spectators,” Kwan says, and adds, “some of the spectators have gone away and created their own builds, and we’re witnessing the growth of the garage-based motorcycle building community.”
Kickstart 2019 is hosted by Ill-Fated Kustoms (www.illfatedkustoms.com) at the Christine Klassen Art Gallery at 321 50 Ave. S.E. in Calgary on Saturday May 4 and Sunday May 5 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Admission is $5.
Greg Williams is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Have a column tip? Contact him at 403-287-1067 or [email protected]