The most interesting custom builders may be those who don’t care at all about the “du jour” designing trends, and you can put Ken Nagai in this category. None of his creations can fit in any specific motorcycle category. This new project is a perfect illustration of his state of mind: “I don’t care what others are building.” Some will see a cruiser, others a bagger or a dressed FXR or…. Ken never follows any typical guideline, just building his ideas as a pure styling exercise, but never forgetting that he belongs to the motorcycle business, turning his one-off 2-wheelers into true road performers.
Ken Nagai owns his style, without any doubt influenced by the Wabi Sabi aesthetics of his native Japan, but re-examined with Western values. The Yugen (the not obvious) and the Datsuzoku (unbounded by convention) Japanese ideals combined with very refined details inspired by European automotive designs. Faithful to his philosophy “Details Create Style” Ken Nagai’s creations mix the old, the new and the unexpected. So much that when he completes a new custom, Ken has somewhat difficulties too name it. It explains that this one is simply called “Hard Call”…
Foundation is a Ken’s Factory rubber mount frame with no stretch and a 44-degree rake. In it ,a 2008 106 cubic inch Harley engine fully rebuilt with Wiseco forged pistons, S&S cam and pushrods. Special features are of course the supercharger setup with M62 Eaton Blower and Greddy Blow Off and the one-off exhaust system inspired by the C3 Corvette Stingray side pipes.
Primary drive was sourced at NH Power, with a belt final drive. In front, a superb Ken’s Factory 3D Girder style front end working with an Ohlins shock. It holds a Ken’s proprietary 23 x 3.75” El Mirage polished wheel wrapped with a 130/23 Metzeler tire. In the rear, a pair of Ohlins shocks is trusted again for smooth and progressive suspension. Between the bags, a 18 x 5.5” El Mirage polished wheel in 180/18” Metzeler rubber. Both wheels are slowed by Brembo brakes
Of course, all bodywork in hand made. Front, rear fender, gas tank and fairing (in which is recessed a V-Rod headlight) and the superb saddlebags were massaged and formed out of aluminum sheets. These bags open like gull-wing car doors. Maybe not functional when parked very close to other bikes, but an absolutely beautiful system either closed or with bags wide open. Most of the other custom parts, when not one-off creations to be marketed later, have been picked from Ken’s Factory catalog.
A family of parts with the same neo-retro DNA and a rare attention to details. It includes the bars (on which were installed Beringer hand controls), the foot controls and ribbed pegs, the air cleaner, the gas cap, all engine covers from rocker boxes to pushrods to cam, the taillight, the turn signals, etc. 2-up seat was created and upholstered by Back Drop “Ace”. Molding and candy red with gold flames paint job was handled by Nomad Concept. All polishing by Long Beach Parts Supply. Ken’s Factory. (photos courtesy Ken Nagai)