Jack Fleming tests experimental helicopters for a living, not exactly a risk-free profession, but a lot more fun than piloting an office desk. So when he wanted something to commute to work on, he looked for a vehicle with a bit more flair, although it wouldn’t be taking to the air. Not finding anything he liked in the showrooms, and a fan of both sportscars and sportsbikes, he decided to blend up his own hybrid vision of earthbound transportation that would provide the thrills of flying but minus the propeller. He also thought he also build one for his significant other, Liz , so they could dice through L.A. traffic together as Liz had also grown up in an airplane family, so was ready for some freeway flying.
Already a fan of the legendary Yamaha V-Max, Jack set his sights on its 120 horsepower powerplant as the heart of the beast he would call the Roadstercycle. He had been around when the V-Max had first stirred up controversy in October of 1984, the product of Yamaha designers Mr. Araki; Project Manager; Mr. Ashihara; bodywork designer; Mr. Ed Burke, Senior Product Planner for Yamaha U. S. and very importantly its engine designer, Mr. Kurachi who came up with the “V –boost” power enhancer. Little did they know that more than 25 years later their “baby” would still be in production and grown to international cult status. Over the years Jack watched as upgrades were made to the V-Max brakes, forks, ignition, exhaust, even engine block as well as cosmetic changes. Now he was about to add his “tweak.”
By his way of thinking, the V-Max motor needed a new framework to bring it closer to earth as the current chassis didn’t fit Jack’s computations for go-kart low center of gravity and hi-G Force corner hugging performance. He needed at least three wheels for that and went to his drawing board and set about designing a unique chassis/suspension/steering system into which to cradle the V-Max powerplant and in the process found time to design his own fuel injection system.
Jack Fleming and Liz ride “his and her” Roadstercycles, both built in Jack’s home garage.
Says Jack, “My personal mantra is if you really, truly want to do something or build something, you going to get through it. You don’t need to go to school for years, you just need to focus on the specific elements needed to get the job done, whether it be welding or electrics or mapping fuel injection. Most importantly you need motivation.” He stuck to his plan and at 15, I worked all summer at a hotel so he could afford an arc welder. He also availed himself of some auto shop courses and read books on electronic circuits and over the years taught myself a variety of skills. It was a matter of passion and that extended early on to helicopters. Says Jack,” I learned how to fly them, studied for my license as an instructor, and then got myself hired as a test pilot for the Robinson company here in California. I’ve clocked 7000 hours as a test pilot and now work in experimental designs, finding out to make them safer. I’ve never had a mishap. Like they say, helicopters don’t fly; they just beat the air into submission. You really can’t afford a mistake or mechanical failure. Once the engine stops, you have Blue Blades…one blows this way, the other blows that way.”
Distinctive “steer head” chassis brace tells others to get out of the way.
Fortunately no such problems affect the Roadstercycle. The framework is constructed from heavy gauge rectangular tubing chosen for its shape over round tubing as it makes it easier to work with, for instance mounting brackets. The front axle is inch and half DOM (“drawn over mandrel”) tubing fashioned in seamless form. Jack fabricates his own frontends, all tig-welded while a machine shop builds his custom wheels based on his design because regular motorcycle wheels will not sustain the side loads experienced by a three-wheel configuration. Acceleration is more than brisk and the backrest is not there for comfort alone. U.S. made Wilwood disc brakes clamp down on all three wheels while the pivotal component of the chassis is the “steer head” front section, a structural member of the frame that allows for the rest of the chassis and suspension to be mounted effectively.
Jack fabbed the forward controls as well as the front end assembly which includes a torsion bar system that serves to stiffen up the suspension and prevent the bike from rolling in fast turns. (Jack has hit 110 mph and the Roadstercycle remains completely stable. He laughs and adds, “It’s the best barhopper ever, because it can’t fall over. And yes, that is a Simpson dragster parachute packed onto the backrest.)
Exceptional handling and pavement kissing adrenaline rush comes standard.
As for the V-Max engine, Jack buys complete motorcycles, then harvests the motors , the bikes seen here powered by a 2004 and a 1996 editions. He then sells what parts he doesn’t need but usually retains the control levers, the instruments and some other pieces. While the current factory V-Max features Yamaha fuel injection, the earlier engines such as Jack uses came with regular carburetion so
he designed and built his own FI system and “upgraded” his donor motors.
(He also sells the FI kit to owners of older V-Max bikes who wanted its smooth starting and fuel delivery benefits.)
Jack’s own FI system designed for V-Max applications
One of two Roadster seen here features the original instruments from a V-Max, the other custom digital instrumentation very much like a complete automobile display including temperature sensors for the special built radiator. One bike also features a complete monitoring computer for the fuel injection system. The gas tank on the bike Jack rode uses a custom Mustang gas tank, the company around since the 1960s. Instead of fuel, it contains all the electrical components as the custom gas tank, sourced from a Florida boat builder, is housed under the seat. He also creates his own fenders via a vacuum forming machine and fabricated the 4-into-1 custom oval exhaust on the Roadster he was riding while the other bike ridden by Liz features a NASCAR type rectangular exhaust, both making a distinctive growl, but not too loud to disturb the local authorities. (The Roadsters, which weighs about 750 lbs., meets all DOT and U.S. standards and safety requirements and are fully street legal. Because of three wheels, the CA law gets Twilight Zonish and says you still have to wear a helmet, but as it’s classified as a car you don’t need a motorcycle license, although probably a good idea to have one.)
Adjustable seat allows for comfortable two-up riding
Jack has been building Roadstercycles for customers, each requiring about 12 months to fabricate, although he tries to keep one available for someone who “wants it now.” The color choices are red, but if you want to add your own custom paint, you can have the bodywork in primer. Roadstercycles do not have a long shelf life and tend to get bought even before they are finished. While taking these photos and out in traffic, a car followed us, or tried to. When we stopped for lunch, the guy caught up with us, jumping out of his sportscar. Seems he wanted to buy not one, but both of the Roadstercycles. It’s typical reaction when it appears in public. In fact, the police have followed Jack home just to get a friendly look at his V-Maxified form of transportation.
Jack and Liz are very happy with their Roadstercycles
Liz sums it up when asked what it’s like hanging out with Jack. She smiles and says, “Exhilarating.”
While he focuses on V-Max powered Roadstercycles, he has built machines with Harley motors and will consider about any motor (including a V-Rod) that a customer might want to provide. For more info contact Jack Fleming in Torrance, CA at 310.766.5222, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.roadstercycle.com and see the bikes in action at www.youtube.com/roadstercycle.
A simple hex wrench disengages seat for transition to dual seating and also reveals integrated fuel tank caged within the frame
Design keeps V-Max bar controls while instrumentation is digital
This version incorporates stock V-Max gauges and FI computer monitoring and adjusting system
Simpson dragstrip parachute is standard equipment on all Roadstercycles
No Frills, All Thrills….
Encountering Roadstercycles on the road tends to attract attention
contact Jack Fleming in Torrance, CA at 310.766.5222
email him at email@example.com