Italian motorcyclists are discovering the subtle art of cruising, courtesy of Giorgio Sandi, who brought his version of custom-bike building back from a trip to California along with an importer/distributor contract with Big Bear Choppers. Aside from his personal passion for "choppers," Sandi has never been involved with the motorcycle industry. He recently retired from his position as manager of the Italian National Lottery and decided to invest his substantial "farewell bonus" in the creation of a small outfit devoted to the production of custom bikes in the classic American chopper tradition. "Headbangers" are custom-made and sold solely at Good Vibrations, an exquisite boutique located in the artists' quarter of downtown Milan. The best-selling Hollister model that I rode is built around a 42mm Mikuni-fed RevTech V-Twin teamed with a five-speed BDL gearbox and dropped into an Italian-fabricated frame with 34 degrees of rake and a 41mm fork (a springer front end is optional). The bike sits low on spoked wheels shod with Avon Venom-X radials in 130/80-16 and 180/70-16 sizes. Accurately assembled, stark as a bobber should be, the Hollister weighs a claimed 517 pounds ready to roll.
First rule of cruising: relax, buddy. No great lean angles are required to put on a good show. The "heels in the wind" riding posture is not excessively stretched out, and the 25-inch-high glossy leather sprung seat is a lot more comfortable than it looks. The engine coughed for a couple of minutes until it was fully warm, but it ran more smoothly than expected for a rigid-mount 88-incher. Once adjusted to the lack of cornering clearance, I had a blast thundering around the ancient walls of the Castle of Milan, accelerating hard down the straights and taking it easy around the corners to preserve the heels of my boots.
All three Headbanger models are fully homologated and legal throughout Europe, which is unusual for custom bikes, let alone choppers. —Bruno dePrato
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