The TW Steel ‘Oil In The Blood’ collaboration electric special built by deBolex Engineering was realised to celebrate the launch of the documentary feature film on contemporary custom motorcycle culture ‘Oil In The Blood’.
‘Oil In The Blood’ is a celebration of custom motorcycling. It’s about people, their motives for building, their struggles, their failures and triumphs. The film champions analogue values and traditional skills; and examines their place in a globalised digital world. It traces the history of custom culture, and its uneasy relationship with the corporate OEMs. The film is both nostalgic and forward facing.
Director Gareth Maxwell Roberts concludes the film by looking to the future of both custom motorcycles and motorcycling as a whole, exploring the possibilities of alternative power-sources. It felt fitting to build a bike that addressed some of the questions asked. He discussed this with friend and previous collaborator Calum Pryce-Tidd at deBolex Engineering, who relished the challenge. The latter part of the film also examines collaborations between brands and builders, so Gareth considered partnering with an appropriate brand.
Gareth approached Auke Possel of TW Steel, who he has known for some years, and who has commissioned a number of notable builds as part of TW Steel’s Son Of Time, an initiative that brings together the worlds of watchmaking and custom bike building. He proposed the idea of building a collaboration electric special, and almost immediately Auke said yes.
Auke reflects “These projects are very close to my heart. It was obvious we all spoke the same language and had the same objective in mind: create something special.”
Gareth and Calum had extensively researched electric motorcycles and one manufacturer stood out - Energica Motor Company.
Energica Motor Company is an Italian manufacturer based in Modena, the heart of The Motor Valley, committed to high-performing electric motorcycles. As with so many Italians, racing is in their blood; their parent company, CRP Group, is involved in F1 and motorsport for almost fifty years. Energica will provide the machines for the MotoGP debutant MotoE class this season. Currently the line-up of Energica Motor Company includes three models homologated for road use: the Ego Sportbike (the bike that will be used by MotoE teams in a tuned version, the Ego Corsa), the Eva Streetfighter, and the Eva EsseEsse9 Retro Naked bike.
The Eva is an out-and-out muscle bike; it’s fast, aggressive and nimble. The sustained performance and technology of Energica motorcycles exceeds that of any other electric bike on the road; but more to the point, the torque generated by an Energica high-capacity battery and oil-cooled electric motor also puts any ICE sportsbike to shame.
Calum wanted a quality starting bike, so he could focus on reinterpreting the aesthetics and stance of the machine, and not having to retrospectively improve the basics. The Energica is manufactured to the highest standards, unlike many electric motorcycles on the market, who in attempt to keep cost down are constructed with cheap components.
Paul D’Orleans of The Vintagent introduced Gareth to Stefano Benatti of Energica Motor Company Inc., who instantly recognised the potential of the project. Calum and Gareth visited the factory in Modena, were briefed by Giampiero Testoni, Energica’s CTO, and the bike was delivered a week later.
Calum confirmed “The chance to put our design into an electric bike made this project really exciting for us, and the Energica Eva as the base motorcycle made it even better.”
As Stefano states “By using the Energica Eva as the base for their build, deBolex Engineering intends to prove the sceptics wrong. Electric and custom culture can stand out”.
The only issue was time.
Gareth describes with a guilty smile “Calum took delivery of the bike in early December, and we only had one stipulation, the bike needed to be finished by February 3rd for the launch screening of ‘Oil In The Blood’. I figured I’d be working 24/7 to finish the film, so why couldn’t he share the pain to finish the bike?”
Calum explains “The deadline was tight and we knew from day one that every second counted if we were to complete in time for the launch. As with any of our builds we don’t really know what we are up against until the bike is on the ramp and the panels have been stripped off to leave a bare rolling chassis. We were pleasantly surprised with the Eva as after some inspection we only had the job of relocating the ABS, water pump and some adjustment to the rear subframe before we had a clean rolling chassis ready for our new body work.”
Calum and his right hand man Des Francis spent the next few days sketching and prototyping different body lines before settling on a design and direction for the build.
“As with all our 1/1 builds, aluminium is the material we choose to work with when creating our panels. We ordered in some fresh sheets and set to work with no time to waste.”
The Design focuses on lines that flow from front to back with slimming being one of the prime objectives. As with any electric motorcycle the battery tends to dominate the area below the frame. Calum and Des worked the design to cover up the squareness of the battery but expose the more interesting electric motor.
“Energica have done a really nice job of encasing the motor and battery in cast aluminium, which we feel helps the bike look and feel closer to a more traditional combustion engine.”
The power controller sits snugly behind the new tank skin, this is water cooled incorporating an electric water pump and water cooler. The cooler was a starting point for the design, working lines away from this that led into the tank knee holes and the tail. The rear subframe houses the onboard charging unit, this presented a new challenge for Calum as most of his designs feature fairly slim and minimalist tail units, but as with other areas of the build this threw him down a new path of design.
“One of the most testing areas of the build was the lower fairing, this incorporated lots of detail around the water cooler and also the vents into the battery housing which is air cooled via a central vein that runs through the centre of the battery.”
With only a week till the launch of the bike Calum and Des completed fabrication and started preparing for paint.
“We spent the next few hours discussing the final colour choice which landed on this mix of greys, silver and white.”
The seat pan incorporates deBolex’s quick release mechanism and is trimmed in house by Des and finished in Alcantara. The bike was finally finished at 6am on the morning of the launch.
The project is not just about the bike. It’s also about the watch.
Auke explains “We are thrilled to be part of the Oil in the Blood story. We’ve always pushed to make big statements and tell a story for the bold. The Oil in the Blood’ project continues this theme and really takes it up a notch. We have taken the spirit of the documentary and designed 350 limited edition timepieces alongside the custom bike, its spiritual brother.”
The watch is a steel cased chronograph with a layered face, that employs TW Steel’s signature interpretation of the historical canteen design.
The project stands as a testament to how collaborations between builders and brands can work to create interesting and ground-breaking machines.
Gareth explained “The entire process knitted together perfectly. All our interests were aligned, which was to give Calum the support and resources to create a great custom bike for the future. It captures the spirit of ‘Oil In The Blood’, the possibilities of an electric power-train, the potential of an Energica motorcycle, and the ethos of TW Steel”
Auke confirms “The entire process has been a pleasure.”
Calum and Des can now get some sleep.
Gareth has shot a short film documenting the build process which will be finished once the weather is warm enough to get the bike out on track and filmed being ridden in anger.
Energica Eva - 1/1 deBolex Special
Maxton RT10 Rear shock
Magura HC3 Master cylinder
Brembo Serie oro discs
Pro bolt Fixings
Venhill brakes lines
Dymag UP7X Wheels
Pirelli Diablo Super Corsa tyres
Rizoma rear sets
Rizoma Brake Resevoir pot
Rizoma bar ends