Designing a café racer around an air filter – the DCR-017
Long before custom-built motorcycles flourished as a market trend, many brands employed one-off designs as promotional platforms for their products. In the DCR-017's case, DNA Filters takes it one innovative step further by designing the whole project around its main produce, the air filter.
Founded in 2002 and based in the outskirts of Athens, Greece, DNA Filters has built itself a strong brand name by designing and producing air filters for motorcycles, cars, ATVs and RCs, and by supporting racing teams up to world championship level. Its palmarès includes a World Endurance Championship with the French GMT94 Yamaha team, as well as two reddot awards for its filters – the latest concerning the brand new Leather Top series.
Both coming from a strongly motorcycle-biased background, the company's founder and CEO, Dino Nikolaidis and his son Marios, DNA Motorsport Engineer, conceived the idea of a café racer custom build during the EICMA 2016. After witnessing the huge wave of customs filling the Italian floor, they decided to design their own one-off bike.
"I love older motorcycles; in fact, I was in the market for a new bike to move around the city, and I ended up buying a Honda CX500 turbo," Marios told New Atlas.
"After seeing all these retro styled motorcycles at the show last year, we instinctively decided to design our first-ever custom. You know it had to be a café racer."
The DCR017 started its life as a KTM RC8R superbike. It was bought last December and broken down to its bare parts, as the project took off with a May 2017 deadline and plans to unveil it at this year's EICMA show.
After removing all the parts of the steel trellis frame that were not needed, such as the supports for fitting KTM's plastic costumes, it was powder coated in black charcoal and finished with a sand blasting containing metal particles.
Then, the team moved on to fabricate the DCR's signature parts, the fuel tank, rear cowl and underseat unit. With a manufacturing facility fully stocked with CNC machines at their disposal and vast experience in 3D CAD design, the Nikolaidis family team set off to build the motorcycle's main body from expensive and hard to find aerospace-grade aluminum.
The fuel tank was fabricated after 400 hours of CNC machining of a 146-kg (322-lb) billet block of 5083 H112 aluminum alloy. The end result is a tank styled after the two-stroke racers of the 1970s, holding 11 l (2.9 gal) of fuel and weighing just 3.6 kg (7.9 lb).
The DCR-017 isn't only meant to look nice, but it has to be fast and light, hence the choice of an annealed and stress-relieved alloy that allows for the tank's walls to be as thin as 2 mm. It was finished with a clear anodizing to protect it from oxidation, leaving the tool paths in plain view.
In order to distinguish the object of DNA's main business, the design incorporates a central hollow section to house the air filter. It sits on a bottom plate that secures it on the frame tubes and incorporates the fuel pump housing.
In similar fashion, the tail and underseat units were machined from two solid blocks of the same 5083 H112 alloy, initially weighing 60 kg (132.3 lb) and 24 kg (53 lb) each.
A very interesting feature of the fuel tank is its tiny cap, machined from 6062 T651 aluminum alloy and which can be opened only with its own D-key, tailor-made by DNA from Delrin polymer. This key also doubles as the motorcycle's main switch, turning on the engine's electrical system wirelessly using NFC (Near Field Communication) connectivity technology.
DNA apparently dedicated a lot of passion to its project and, instead of fitting off-the-shelf parts on the bike, fabricated most of them in-house from several types of aluminum alloys. The long list includes the sub frame, footpegs and rearsets, steering damper brackets, instrument base, switches, headlight frame, both fenders, supports for the oil and water cooler, and the harness box. Even several bolts were created in-house, such as the ones supporting the external transparent tube that acts as fuel indicator.
As for the V-twin engine, it was tuned to World Superbike specs with KTM's official race kit and a custom mapping system developed by DNA, and was fitted with a special Akrapovic Evo 4 titanium exhaust system specifically tailored for the DCR-017.
The air filter itself is DNA's 2012 reddot-winning Stage 3 MK3 Air Box Kit for the KTM 990 series, modified for the specific bike's specs and adorned with a large carved DNA logo on the right side – the one and only manifestation of the company's insignia on the whole motorcycle.
For the most part, the bike runs on the original KTM brake and suspension kit, with the exception of the rear shock absorber which is another special part, custom-made by Hyperpro for this project. The fact that the Nikolaidis family business includes the Akrapovic and Hyperpro dealership in Greece certainly made things a bit easier in acquiring one-off gear for this unique café racer.
Once the DCR-017 was completed, it was mounted on a Dynojet for the final verdict, which amounts to 186 hp (138.7 kW) and 133 Nm (98 lb-ft). This power output may not sound extreme in a world where the average superbike declares at least 200 hp (149 kW) in stock form, but on a motorcycle whose total wet weight measures just 162 kg, it makes for an intriguing power-to-weight ratio and promises a thrilling ride.
"We have removed all the electronic safety systems, there's no ABS, no traction control, so you can imagine that this is quite hard to ride. Few people have ridden it, and all of them came back with a huge smile on their face. These reactions prompted us to name the bike as the Brain Eraser. It's what it does; it erases the concept you had in your mind about fast motorcycles," says Marios Nikolaidis.
So, what does the future hold for the Brain Eraser? Will it ever become anything more than a showbike?
"Look, so far many things have happened quite accidentally. We started designing air filters as a hobby, a side project if you like, but we couldn't have imagined back then that it would grow to become our main business. Similarly, the DCR-017 was decided in the spur of the moment, it was more the realization of a dream that was sitting in the back of our minds, rather than a planned move," Dino Nikolaidis told New Atlas.
"Actually, so far two people have asked us to build them a DCR-017. I explained to them that we have no such plans, that it would be extremely expensive, the amount of work, the parts, I hadn't really given it much thought. I don't think that it makes any sense for us to start building custom bikes, yet it's very flattering to have people asking us to make one for them regardless of price tag. And it's still just the second day after the unveiling," added Marios.
Take a look at the DCR-017 in action, filmed in Elefsina, Greece just before it was crated and shipped to Milan, Italy for its formal unveiling at the EICMA 2017.
Source: DNA Filters