At the end of the day any custom bike is the simple, physical manifestation of a dream. Deep Huh? Drop the words “custom ride” at your local café or bar and the audience will be picturing a chromed cruiser, a cut down café racer, street tracker or bobber. It’s great to see diversity returning to custom bike building, each of these machines tell so much of a person’s taste and style.
Yet, it is a quality these styles do not well convey that a Rooney Special exudes. The Rooney is a picture of pure intent. It is potential energy, it is both the dream and the path unto a dream. The very construct of the machine tells much more than a coat of pearl flake paint could ever illustrate. Ok, that’s as deep as I get, really.
Seriously though, each ‘Special’ is of course unique in whole or part. It might be an engine built for torque or touring, it might be suspension travel, pillion, luggage, or fuel capacity, lighting, instruments, frame ergonomics, wheel size; it might be for race, rally, or the Russian steppes. Then, there are subtle differences, the finishing touches, paint, plastics or paraphernalia.
But what makes this, Darren Craig’s bike, ever more unique lies beyond these ingredients coming together. In addition to the manifestation of his own dreams Darren’s bike represents the completion of the unrealised dreams of another. Let me explain.
With a background in dirt bikes Darren progressed to large dual sport machines, starting with a BMW F650gs and then to an F800gs that he still owns. While enjoying their touring capabilities, often with his wife as well, Darren began frequenting the online forum Adventure Rider where he was exposed to the world of BMW based, custom built dual sport rides and the work of Paul Rooney.
“I called Paul and was impressed with the way he spoke.” Darren is an auto electrician and so himself mechanically minded. “I wanted to complete some of the work myself but have Paul undertake his specialty areas including the engine, frame and swingarm. It was then Paul told me that he had a partially built machine that the previous owner had begun in a way similar to the outcome I was looking for”.
Tragically though, that owner had recently passed on through the scourge of cancer. Paul got in contact with the gentlemen’s daughter and asked if they would like the bike to be sold and finished as their loved one had intended.
“That’s how it came to me, the frame was mostly completed but the engine and gearbox were in pieces, and the rest was just a pile of parts”
Paul added a Siebenrock big bore kit to the engine, a nice cam and twin plugged it. Nothing over the top or that would erode from the Boxer twins infamous reliability. The Bing CV carbs remain for the same reason.
Paul set up the shock and swingarm for +50mm extension and paired the front forks to suit. Darren had the wheels built himself, wired it all up, fitted a long range tank, some pretty neat graphics and has proceeded as such to ride the wheels of it.
So, how does it go? “It handles amazingly” says Darren. “What surprised me is that I can lean it over much more easily than the F800 and pick it up again more easily too, it’s quite incredible. It’s got more than enough power for what I need, and is hugely confidence inspiring on gravel”
What about those “Rooney Special” graphics? I asked “Well, I told my story to the graphic designer and said go for it, that’s what he came up with” Well, it looks pretty cool. So, what’s in the future of this legacy machine? “I just want to get out and enjoy it, maybe a desert run or two. As far as the bike goes I might go to +100mm on the swingarm, one day, but for now I’m pretty happy as things are. Its’ still being run in, so it’s early days yet”
Looking at Darren’s fine machine it’s easy to see the potential. Darren’s already done a lot of touring around OZ and this bike illustrates his intent to do a lot more. Machines like his fill us full of ideas, not just of what the bike can do, but about what we are capable of. It is when we bring those two things together that pretty cool things can happen. What kind of cool things? “Maybe South America” says Darren. Now that would be a fine legacy for this machine indeed.