Veterans have for generations been at the forefront of customising bikes, from the bobbers built following WWII to the wild ’70s choppers of the Vietnam era. But Tony Audette, a machine gunner in the US Marine Corps, had the sort of experience on deployment in Afghanistan that will quite literally make or break a man. He became a member of the “Exiled Eight” who were ‘lost’ on the front line by their company and left to battle their way home with no support. Out there in those hellish conditions, he promised himself a custom bike when he got home. But having returned and learned his trade, he upped the stakes and formed Audette Motorcycles. And this is their first model, the VELOS, an American Superbike worth every cent of its $125,000 price tag.

Having survived a test only his brothers in arms will ever understand, Tony returned home to the US and found himself on the reserve list due to large bureaucratic decisions far beyond his control. He’d always been a Marine, so now what was he supposed to do? He started by buying a Honda CB750 for a thousand bucks, the bike he’d promised himself if he made it home. He tore it down and built it back up in his apartment and knew from that process that motorcycles were going to be a big part of his life. He enrolled in a mechanical engineering course at Central Connecticut State University and took a job at the helicopter giant Sikorsky. There he learned how to run CNC machines, manual mills, and lathes, and designed his own parts on the side.

But working for someone else was never going to allow him both the creative freedom to bring his vision to life and do it to his high standards. So, with the support of his wife Jackie, he formed Audette in 2019 and now their first production model the VELOS is ready to rock the world! At the heart of his beast, he knew he wanted to use an Indian Thunder Stoke 111 engine. He wisely selected that fitted to the 2016 Chief, as it features quality Bosch fuel injection, but none of the other complex electronics of later models. The engine was disassembled so that it could be entirely 3D scanned and then reverse-engineered into a CAD model. “That way I knew exactly where the four mounting points were,” Tony says.

These are then incorporated into the chassis design and what an incredible piece of kit it is. Using the geometry of large cruisers like the XJR1300, for their excellent balance of steering and stability, the weight distribution could be set to 52/48 fully fuelled. The frame itself is a twin-spar ‘C-Channel’ with internal bracing to improve the structural integrity, but keep the weight down. The frame spars are then CNC machined from solid chunks of aerospace grade 6061-T6 aluminium, with the lower member starting as a block weighing 84kg and ending up at just 900 grams. Amazingly, the beautiful WSBK-like rear swingarm is fashioned in exactly the same way, and the CNC didn’t stop spinning there.

The 15-litre fuel tank is manufactured in the same exacting way, giving repeatable and perfect results every single time. Also coming out of the CNC machine are the electronic wing covers, the controls and the levers. In fact so concerned is Tony about quality, that a host of the nuts and bolts are also made in-house as nothing else was up to his standard. Incredible suspension, however, he was able to find, and Race Tech comes to the party with a full package that includes their 43mm G6 inverted forks and a G3S mono-lever rear shock. To get the VELOS to stop you have all the best bits, with massive 310mm twin discs from Galfer and four-piston radial calipers from Beringer.

And let me tell you, you’re going to need those brakes because this Chief engine has had a serious makeover. Cubic capacity is now up from 111 to 126 (2064cc) and this is made possible thanks to a stroker crank, Carrillo rods and high-compression Wiseco pistons that get things up to a stout 11:1. Baisley Hi-Performance then joined the party and have completely reworked the heads, fitted new cam and rocker gear, and reseated a set of stainless Kibblewhite valves. All of this work was performed to ensure that the powerband is right in that sweet spot for the engine of 3000-3500rpm. The stock six-speed gearbox is kept, but there is now a chain conversion and a Rekluse clutch that prevents stalling.

The Bosch fuel injection and the stock ECU and VCM have all been retained, Polaris created a quality closed-loop system for smooth fuelling, so there is no need to mess with it now. The Toce 2 into 1 exhaust lets you hear the boom of this beast, and the end figures are 117bhp, an insane 212nm of torque and the whole thing tips the scales at just 190kg before you add the go juice. This means that no matter what gear you’re in, you simply wind on some throttle and the VELOS sets off like a freight train. But putting the power down and keeping the weight low also came with some more clever techniques. Take the wheel package, carbon BST rims look spectacular, weigh next to nothing and get wrapped in super-grippy Pirelli tyres.

But Tony built a Superbike, not a poser and the rear is a very sensible 180-section piece of rubber. Saving even more weight is what goes over the top, with the fenders CNC machined from ABS polymer for an incredible result. Then there are the little details, the engine sits on a 2.8degree forward lean to act as a mechanical wheelie control and the bars went through nearly ten sets before the right ones were selected. The paint and panel package can all be optioned and that seat is simply a work of art.

Famed scribe Alan Cathcart has called it the Shelby Cobra of motorcycles and having ridden every bike out there, it’s big praise from the best. In the VELOS, Audette Motorcycles have themselves something truly special and even at the price, they’re already being snapped up.

[ Audette Motorcycles ]