In 2014, Harley Davidson introduced the world to the Street 500. The water-cooled 500cc, US & Indian built, learner approved cruiser was a completely new approach for the iconic manufacturer. Aimed at attracting an untapped sector of the market to the Harley brand, namely new and younger riders, the Street 500 was and continues to be, a huge success.
Harley Davidson is one of the most customised motorcycle brands in the world. Yet, despite the success of the Harley Davidson Street 500, we’ve seen relatively few of them customised beyond simple bolt-on solutions. So, when we discovered that lying beneath the other-worldly bodywork of this bike lurked a custom Street 500 we had to know more.
The creator of this custom Street 500 is Ajus Mulyawarman of Bali’s AMS Garage. Long term readers of Return of the Cafe Racers will be familiar with the work of AMS Garage. We met Ajus some years ago at Indonesia’s premier custom culture event Kustomfest and have been keeping a close eye on him ever since. Over the years the work coming out of AMS Garage has evolved from basic customisation to full-blown ground-up builds. Along the way, he’s also developed a penchant for hand-formed aluminium bodywork and this custom Street 500 is an archetypal example.
Named Nagabunda after a Snake-like creature from Hindu culture, Ajus categorises this build as a “neo-cafe racer”. Along with being his workshops latest creation, Nagabanda holds the record for being one of their longest projects to date. Around 70% of the motorcycle is all new and it took Ajus and his team 8 months to complete – and it’s easy to see why.
The project began with the complete disassembly of the Street 500 and dissection of its frame. All that remains of the Harley built chassis is the neck and front cradle. Replacing the removed section of the frame is an entirely bespoke set-up that features a levelled out, suspended subframe and a single-sided swingarm rear wheel. Ajus also completely redesigned the bike’s suspension to set up a cafe racer style stance.
Although the front end of the bike has the look of modern USD forks, it actually functions similar to a girder system. It’s a peculiar choice of suspension for a bike of this age but is a hat tip to the girder systems used on early model Harleys. The system works using an array of 304 stainless steel linkages and springs which are nestled behind the front cowl. The entire system, including the triple clamps and integrated clip-on handlebars, has been custom made from raw material and polished to a brilliant mirror finish.
In the rear is an equally irregular set up for a Street 500.
Using the single-sided swingarm from a Ducati Panigale Ajus has created a mono-shock linkage system. Mounted almost perpendicular to the subframe is an Ohlins piggyback shock, stripped, plated and polished to match the bikes startling theme. During the conversion, the Street 500s lacklustre rims were also replaced using Ducati Panigale alternatives and are wrapped in purposeful Pirelli Diablo Rosso 3 rubber.
Although technically complex, the work done to create the new suspension pales in comparison to the bike’s bodywork.
Taking inspiration from the snake-like deity Nagabanda, Ajus created bodywork made up of organic flowing forms. It is, without question, a work of art, and like all works of art, it took more than just technical ability to realise it.
“Almost the entire bodywork got changed 3 times and it really drained my energy, time and mind,” he admits. “It crossed my mind to just finish it and be done, but my heart told me no.” Thankfully, all his hard work wasn’t without its rewards. “This is the most difficult and longest curves I have ever made for a project. But the level of satisfaction in my work this time is far above the satisfaction in the previous motorcycles I have made.”
All of the Nagabanda’s bodywork is formed from aluminium sheet, shaped using traditional coachbuilding techniques and tools. To give the panels more visual heft Ajus added inlay details and finished it using a mix of polished and brushed finishes. In the end, he and his team spent around 14 days polishing the bike to achieve this incredible result.
Ajus has also installed a handful of bolt-on components to round things out. The finishing touches to his custom Street 500 include a Daymaker Cyclops LED headlight, bar-end turn signals and an LED tail lamp. And although the engine remains untouched, the exhaust is a bespoke snaking stainless steel design well suited to the theme of the bike.
If it wasn’t for the Harley Davidson badge located on the engine cases you’d never pick the origin of this bikes donor. Add to that the fact the AMS Garage has turned a Street 500 cruiser into a cafe racer and it’s easy to see why they’re quickly establishing themselves as one of the emerald isles top builders.