Saku Moto 890 Project



What you’re looking at is the result of my ability to fully embrace a project while simultaneously dismissing the amount of work involved. It’s one of my super powers. I needed a new motorcycle for the tour business I started this past year - something modern and reliable, fast and light, a long distance adventure bike for exploring Oregon’s backcountry. I chose the lightest, most powerful twin there is - the 890.


It’s a perfect bike - it thrills me every time I ride it but I’ve never found it… sexy. As an ex racer I value function, but as an artist I need to be thrilled when I open the garage door and see the bike. Each year when the 1 Show rolls around I use it as a way to complete a project bike, but the 890 is not a project.

I decide to break my golden rule - having at least one stock, unmodified motorcycle. 

KTM 890

With two months to go, I decide that the 890, the stock, unmodified bike I bought for my new business, should and could be an opportunity to make the 890 sexy. A visual calling card I can ride. If you look at the bikes I’ve built over the years, paint does not play a part, color is absent. I like to feature the materials, but how do you do that with a bike that is mostly covered in plastic?


I knew two things going in: I wanted a rally tower to give me better wind protection and lighting, also the look is fantastic - rally bikes are pure function and that’s beautiful. The other was to get rid of all the color.


Last fall, as I was packing for my first tour, I decided to pull the subframe covers off to make lashing the soft bags easier. The trellis subframe was beautiful and needed to be highlighted. Powder coating it white or silver seemed boring. I thought about the bikes in my garage that I find sexy - a Rickman Triumph and a Champion framed Penton. I knew that plating the frame in nickel, not chrome, was going to be the perfect way to set this bike apart. Nickel is slightly warmer than chrome and would match the soft gold anodizing of the WP forks. 


To simplify the subframe I needed to get rid of all the tabs and luggage mounts, which is okay as I’m not a fan of hard bags. Soft luggage doesn’t crush your leg if a dab off road goes wrong and is better suited to fast and light travel.


With less than two months to go, I strip the bike down until it’s just a sad collection of parts littering the shop floor. Looking at the wiring harness I’m terrified. I take a lot of photos.


Simultaneously I compile a comprehensive parts list: Rottweiler intake, WP XPLOR Pro suspension, SC Project titanium exhaust in a low mount to allow for soft luggage, Renazco seat, Highway Dirtbike handguards, narrower wheels (see issue 64) from Dubya so I can run my favorite Goldentyre 723R’s and finally, the thing I really wanted, a rally tower. The tower fixes four issues in one fell swoop: better wind protection, better lighting, more room for a giant tablet GPS and it looks cool as hell. 


As my idea of a blacked out 890 comes into shape I think about what parts I don’t want black, what I want to highlight. The clear tower screen is very cool but the complicated structure with all its folded angles and bends lifting up the instruments so they can be easily viewed while standing - that seemed like something you want to really see like a window into the brain of the bike. Remember those clear models you had as a kid?


The design of the Aurora tower impressed me but the owner, Dimitri, impressed me more so I reached out to explain my idea: I want to build a bike that shows off the tower’s structure - can you make me a tower in unpainted aluminum? Dimitri understood what I was going for and immediately said yes. 


Too much black and the bike would lose its structure and become an amorphous shape. Certain details needed to contrast.The skid plate, from Ian Chappell in GB, was attractive in its laser cut simplicity so I’d leave it raw to carry the structure of the tower into the body of the bike. The nickel frame would tie into the subframe which would then wrap the carbon fiber airbox.


My vision was taking shape. As I stripped the bike and gathered parts, Dimitri and I would exchange messages - he was really excited about the bike. When he shipped the tower, he sent quarter panels in carbon fiber because he had just started working with Papadakis Carbon and was excited about the part.


I now had two carbon fiber parts on the bike which got me looking for more. I found fenders, fork guards and the battery cover in twill weave by a company in Canada, Motocomposites. I mentioned to Dimitri that the only parts I couldn’t find were the side and inner fairings.


“How much time do we have now before the show?” Dimitri asked.


“Just two weeks,” I tell him.


“I think we can do it,” he says.


“Do what exactly?”


“Make those parts in carbon fiber and match the weave of the other parts,” he answers. “It will look amazing!”


I don’t disagree but I have my doubts with the timeline. As I’m machining parts, fussing with the details and sorting the rats nest of a harness with my friend Ben, Dimitri and Papadakis Carbon are pulling molds of the 890 panels that don’t exist in carbon fiber. Yet.


This was never part of the plan. In fact, I’d ordered black bodywork and asked Chris and Brandon at Upshift if they could help with the graphics, as they know the panels of the 790/890 better than anyone. They created a subtle gray and black design with my logo. However, when carbon fiber became an option, I asked them to do a clear set so the carbon showed through.


There’s not enough space to list all the parts that were changed or modified but this bike is nothing like what I started with. The seat sits at 38” high, the result of full 300mm factory rally spec suspension, taller tires and a slightly taller but narrower Renazco seat. The exhaust has a deep snarl that barely drowns out the intake roar and the tower transforms the feel allowing you to see your front wheel and still be protected.


It’s beautiful but it’s a beast.


With only hours before the 1 Show opens its doors I get an overnight package from Greece containing the only 890 carbon fiber fairings in the world.The finished bike far exceeds my original vision and much of that is thanks to Dimitri and Aurora. Not only am I’m thrilled with the look, but the largest 1 Show crowd ever felt the same way as the bike was awarded both of the “People’s Choice” awards.


The show isn’t the end, of course. It needs to spend time on the dyno, the suspension will get adjusted, and the dash with its huge Tripltek tablet will be dialed in. It’s going to get new luggage and new camping gear and then it’s going to get dirty, scratched and abused.


I can’t wait.



  • Aurora Rally tower with carbon fiber quarter panels
  • Baja Designs Squadron Pro (high) Hella LED projector (low) with Can-Bus controller (Aurora Rally)
  • WP XPLOR Pro Factory Rally 300mm suspension
  • Rottweiler billet triple clamps with tapered roller bearing conversion in hard coat
  • Titanium bolts for triple clamp
  • Dubya Excel/Hahn wheels 1.85x21 front and 2.5x18 rear
  • Goldentyre 723R rally raid tires
  • Galfer wave rotors (not installed at time of shoot)
  • Brembo monobloc calipers
  • Brembo 19x20 radial Master cylinder
  • Scotts damper:  CLICK HERE  to see in the Upshift Store
  • Highway Dirt Bikes top clamp, handguards and mirrors
  • KTM factory heated grips
  • Carbon fiber tank shrouds and inner fairings by Papadakis carbon
  • Carbon fenders, fork guards and battery cover by Motocomposites
  • Tripltek 8 Pro 1200 nit waterproof android tablet
  • Drive Mode dashboard app
  • Thork Racing bluetooth remote map controller
  • Magura hydraulic clutch conversion
  • Power Commander V (Rottweiler)
  • Rottweiler carbon fiber high flow airbox
  • SC Project full titanium exhaust
  • Titanium low mount exhaust hanger (Saku-Moto)
  • Titanium rear luggage mount (not pictured) (Saku-Moto)
  • Raptor Titanium footpegs - with titanium axles (Saku-Moto)
  • Renazco Racing carbon/suede rally seat
  • Anti-Gravity restart battery:  CLICK HERE  to see in the Upshift Store
  • Custom graphics (clear/black) Upshift
  • Tekmo carbon fiber tank guards (Rottweiler)
  • Ian Chappel skid plate
  • Frame/subframe modified, braced with new mounts welded and nickel plated (Saku-Moto)
  • Remote seat release (Saku-Moto)
  • Cyclops sequential turn signals/running lights
  • Modified Rottweiler tail tidy with additional brake lights (Saku-Moto)
  • Aluminum frame shock mount caps (Saku-Moto)
  • Custom Tripltek tablet quick release tilt mount (Saku-Moto)
  • Lengthened side stand 2” (Saku-Moto)
  • Custom rear stand (Saku-Moto)
  • Dirt Tricks 48T rear sprocket
  • Fasteners shaved, custom turned washers (Saku-Moto)

For Gregor's BMW R100GS Project Bike:  CLICK HERE