Image: Cycle World

In 2014, a Californian engineer named Robert Steffano envisioned making a motorcycle without a shell, tastefully exposing all the elements required to run a high-quality two-wheeled vehicle. This Ducati would be called the 969 Cafe Roadster, paying homage to the racer bikes used in the fifties and sixties.

Although Steffano had all the parts he needed, he lacked the skills required to complete specialized details on the bike’s frame. Fortunately, he teamed up with Evan Wilcox, an experienced jeweler who knew the ins and outs of working with aluminum, the primary metal used in making vehicles.

Wilcox had previously attended the LA Art Center College of Design for photography, but he soon found he preferred more physical creative tasks. He turned away from photography and used his newfound knowledge of shapes and shadows to shape aluminum, a flexible metal that works with rather than against the artist.

Because aluminum cannot be easily made geometric, fighting being molded into corners and straight edges, the results are mainly curved and cohesive. This sort of structure can be seen in older Ferraris and certain motorcycle gas tanks.

With a bit of convincing, Wilcox agreed to work with Steffano on the Ducati. The model needed aluminum styling, as any other metal would have been too difficult and wouldn’t have produced the desired outcome. The gentle twists and turns of aluminum would perfectly showcase the bike’s build. While the two communicated during their collaboration, they knew when to step back and let their partner do what he was good at.

In the end, Wilcox made nine parts, including the fuel tank, pipes, engine, and chassis required to power the bike. Both he and Steffano were able to effectively apply their skills to meet the bike’s needs. They even made sure all motorcycle road rules were followed so the 969 Cafe Roadster could be ridden without risk of legal repercussions.

The two craftsmen are considering future projects similar to this one, but nothing is certain. They’ll continue to use their hands and minds to build, disregarding digital design. It’s evident that their creations come from the heart.



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