We use billions of them each year around the world and yet rarely even once in our lifetime stop to pause and consider the genius of the aluminium beverage can. A tab with a shifting fulcrum, ultra-light and yet remarkably strong, and an ability to store all kinds of liquids. So why aren’t all motorcycle fuel tanks made out of alloy instead of steel? Because despite how clean and simple the lines of this motorcycle appear to be, they’re bloody hard to make! Which is exactly why this Suzuki Bandit 1200 by Alex Yiannopoullos is the perfect display of the kind of brilliant work he’s capable of. From his Moto Milo workshop in London, the Bandit now known as Sanzoku ditches its old rags and is gilded in only the finest.
Alex is both a designer and builder, providing a one-stop-shop for those wanting a truly unique motorcycle with expert fabrication. He’s got the qualifications to back him up too, graduating from Coventry University with a BA Hons in Transport Design, as well as being a coded and qualified TIG welder in aluminium and stainless steel. Both materials provide their challenges but when it comes to beautiful brushed aluminium fuel tanks, there is a reason you have to buy the top of the line Ducati Panigale before you get one. Difficult and costly to make, in addition to the obvious weight saving, there is a beauty to the raw product that is hard to go by.
The big Bandit was chosen for its sound structure that makes them almost impossible to kill and for the performance they offer out of the box. And for Alex there was extra incentive, “due to the rather uninspiring styling of the original bike by Suzuki and perhaps the perceptions of this model by some in the motorcycle community, it is a motorcycle that is often overlooked as a platform for a custom build.” So to earn the simple Suzuki back its respect he stripped the old girl down and got to work.
And you can’t go past that tank that dominates the landscape, the big shoulders the perfect match for the thumping four-cylinder engine below. Try as you might, it is impossible to find any imperfections; the welds have long since disappeared, the lines are bold, the long surfaces flow seamlessly from front to back and it sits on the hard to work with frame effortlessly. There is no single backbone to drape it over like the bikes of old, and from the neatly fabricated neck and filler cap to the purposeful knee dents, this is a masterclass in aluminium craftsmanship. Back at the English wheel there was more work to be done.
The front and rear mudguards are both made from the same alloy and each has its own unique touch. Upfront it is rare to see such a comprehensive unit made from the material with most going purely for the blade look. While the rear hugger is perfectly integrated into the custom made chain guard. The undertray and custom channel under the tank for the wiring and battery are all hand made aluminium. While Alex shows his skill in the detail work on the custom-built instrument mounts and surrounds.
To provide a touch of class and contrast Italian tan leather was used to cover the generous seat that makes time in the saddle a pleasure. While the natural material also finds its way onto the grips, frame covers and even the shielding for the instruments cabling. The rest of the colours used on the bike are all subtle tones and allow the tins and leather to really pop, with the soft hues applied in three different methods. From the modified frame to the brake calipers, wheels and suspension parts there is a mix of paint, powder, and Cerakote for a quality finish.
The functional components certainly haven’t been forgotten either and a set of Ducati USD forks have been adapted to fit. While the rear unit is the uber-cool Nitron NTR R1 shock that gives maximum performance for a street application. The brake package is just as impressive, Brembo calipers, Nissin master cylinders, Rizoma reservoirs, and all finished out with custom braided lines from Goodridge. A set of SES rearsets were also chosen for the task, but to mount them to the Bandit and give maximum adjustability, Alex decided to make his own brackets and they work a treat.
The engine hasn’t been forgotten either, the big twin cam is now supplied fuel by a full bank of Mikuni RS36 Carburettors. But rather than fit a bunch of pods, Alex set about shaping a two-piece airbox from aluminium that is a work of art. For the exhaust system, stainless steel was chosen as the material of choice and the twin GP muffler equipped pipes are stunning, with custom hangers utilising the old passenger peg mounts. The finished product is a beautifully cohesive design that adds traditional metal shaping skills to the meat and potatoes dependability of the Bandit. Crack the throttle as you would a can of your favourite drop and the results are just as satisfying.