Chasing 200mph with custom-bike builder and racer, Elliot Andrews
Whether it’s a hand-built drag bike with over 200 horsepower and capable of running an eightsecond pass, or a salt racer chasing a land world speed record, Elliot Andrews from Elliott Motorcycles is no stranger to speed.
He’s been building some of the wildest custom bikes we’ve laid eyes on and recently sat down with WTW to give an insight into some of his crazy creations.
WTW: How did you get into the world of bike building?
EA: My dad owed a multi franchise motorbike shop while I was growing up. I would always hang out there after school and on the weekends getting my hands dirty. I couldn’t wait for school to finish so I could go there. After finishing school, I worked there full time while I was doing my apprenticeship.
WTW: You build all kinds of bikes, but mostly Harley-Davidsons. What is it about Harleys that’s drawn you to them?
EA: I always admired Harleys, ever since I was young. They have a draw, a presence on the road. I think it’s the noise and the classic tough look. They looked more like a motorcycle than anything I’d seen before. Nowadays the thing that draws me to do a build on a Harley is it doesn’t take much to strip them down to the bones. From there you have a very good base to build from. You’re only limited by your imagination. Also, I like to make bikes that weren’t designed to go fast, go fast.
WTW: Is there a specific genre of bike you enjoy building the most?
EA: I guess my favourite builds have purpose. I like to build bikes that not only look good,but are built to do something – whether it be a race bike or just a cool road bike. If it’s getting used for the reason its built for, I’m happy.
WTW: Do you ride your creations? Or is it more about the build for you?
EA: Absolutely! There’s nothing better than throwing your leg over a bike you’ve poured so much brainpower, and hours and hours of work, into, and taking it for its maiden ride. Especially if it’s a race bike going down the track for the first time.
WTW: Do you ever think an idea is just too crazy? Or is part of the fun trying to make the impossible possible?
EA: It’s definitely part of the fun being able to make the impossible possible. I like a challenge and I like to be pushed to find new and innovative ways to tackle problems that arise during builds.
WTW: Is metal fabrication a bit of a lost art? It seems, along with a lot of other traditional trades, to be making a comeback.
EA: Yeah, I guess it is a bit of a lost art. It may have skipped a generation, but it’s definitely making a comeback now. It’s good to see more and more young people wanting to get into metalwork and other types of craftmanship. I think it’s important to pass on our skills to the next generation.
WTW: Has tooling been able to progress the profession over the years? Or are you still bound by the same fundamentals?
EA: Yes and no. Metalworking techniques haven’t really changed much, but as far as design goes, the tooling available has progressed hugely. For example, we have just purchased a composite 3D printer which will give us the ability to design our parts in CAD, then print them with reinforced carbon fibre, making the parts as strong as aluminium and 40% lighter. And all done within a few hours, in house. We also have the ability to print metal components if required.
WTW: How much does technology and computer power come into your builds and design?
EA: As far as overall bike design goes, not much at the minute. I tend to just imagine the finished bike in my head then build from there. But, for individual parts or when designing a chassis, computer power plays a huge part. The ability to design something in 3D to make sure everything will work okay before putting time and money into manufacturing is invaluable.
WTW: What are the three most important tools in your collection and why?
EA: Tough question. It’s hard to narrow it down to just three, but I would say:
1. TIG Welder – definitely the most important tool in the shop. Without the ability to weld metals it would be near impossible to build anything custom or unique
2. Spanners, Sockets & Screwdrivers – basic tools, but they’re a necessity. It would be pretty hard to work on any anything without them. They’re used every day, all day
3. Measuring Equipment – when making something from raw material it’s important to be able to measure out before making a cut. Like that old saying that gets drummed into you when you’re starting out, “Measure twice, cut once”.
WTW: What’s the wildest bike you’ve built and what was so special about it?
EA: I would have to say the wildest bike I’ve built so far would be the Land Speed Racer. Turning a bike that was designed to cruise around the streets into something capable of breaking a world land speed record is a huge task. It takes a lot of wild ideas to create a bike that gives us a good chance at breaking the record.
WTW: Was there a build you did that just didn’t end up anything like you’d planned?
EA: There’s a lot of thought and planning involved before starting a build, so I always have a good idea of what the bike will end up like.
I guess the only bike that I never really thought would turn out like it did is the Land Speed Racer. The design was governed by the aerodynamic testing we carried out. We wanted to build something that worked well aerodynamically, rather than just look pretty.
WTW: Tell us more about the drag-racing stuff. You’ve built a few absolute weapons, yeah?
EA: Yeah, I’ve built a few drag bikes over the years, from street bikes capable of doing 10-second passes to purpose-built bikes capable of eight-second quarter-miles. Right now, I’m in the middle of designing and building a couple of chromoly drag chassis for the upcoming season. I also crew for one of my mates, Corey Buttigieg, who runs a Pro Stock Buell and a Top Fuel Harley.
WTW: What is it about drag racing that really appeals to you?
EA: The thrill that hits you when you launch from a standing start, shooting yourself down the track, is like nothing else. It may seem straightforward, but it’s highly technical.
First of all, you need a bike that’s set up well, then getting a good launch off the line with a near perfect reaction time is crucial. Then, while you’re flying down the track, hitting every gear shift point on the nose is also very important to a fast, clean pass.
WTW: Most people think it’s just about who has the most money to make the bike with the most horsepower, but there’s a lot more to drag racing than just peak horsepower right?
Obviously, horsepower plays a big part in all types of racing. But you could have all the horsepower in the world and without a well-designed bike allowing the power and torque to be transferred to the track efficiently and effectively, you will just be spinning tyres and losing races.
And of course, you need someone brave and talented enough to ride it to its limit.
WTW: You’ve got a Land Speed Racer project in the works. Give us some more detail about that.
EA: I can’t release any final pictures of the MKII Land Speed Racer just yet, but it’s based on a 2018 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob.
Although it doesn’t look like a Fab Bob anymore, we still use the standard chassis. Built around that chassis is a carbon-fibe body which we have spent over 12 months developing and testing to ensure we go to the salt with the best aerodynamic bike we can. A 120 cubic inch engine powers the bike and we’re running an Emtron ECU, complete with a Mill-spec wiring harness, which runs the fuel injection system as well as some chassis sensors which help us collect data around the attempts.
Drag Bike: Elliott DR1
Engine: 143 cubic inch Milwau kie Eig ht
Horse Power: Es imat ed 200
Chassis: Elliott Motorcycles D R1 Chassis
Suspension: Trac Dynamics front forks
Top Speed: Estimated 180m PH in a quarter mile
Expected ET for quarter mile: 8 Seconds
Bodywork: Carbon-fibre body, 3D-prin ted carbon-fibre fender and fairing
Estimated Cost: TBA
People involved in build: Elliott Motor cycles, D an Les nock, IM Composite Technologies
WTW: What speed are you chasing with it?
EA: The goal is 200mph, but hopefully we’ll be faster.
WTW: How different is the land speed bike to the drag bike?
EA: Although land speed racing and drag racing are both straight-line sports, they’re completely different in terms of bike setup. Land speed racing is about achieving a top speed calculated over a flying mile with a minimum of two miles to build your speed. Drag racing is about running the fastest elapsed time (ET) over a quarter-mile track. So it’s all about acceleration. The drag bike runs a rigid, stretched-out frame, low to the ground, with a centre of gravity which is towards the front of the bike and as low as possible. It also runs wheelie bars to help keep the front wheel down and deliver more traction to the rear wheel. The land speed bike is set up more like a track bike. It has suspension to help keep traction over a more natural/bumpy surface, a center of gravity more toward the centre of the bike and a fairing that almost encapsulates the rider.
Also, both bikes have different chassis geometry to help achieve fast, consistent and stable runs.
Land Speed Racer: Elliott LSR1
Engine: 120 cubic inch Milwaukee Eight
Chassis: Harley-Davidson FXFBS
Suspension: Showa monoshock & Showa big-piston forks
Estimated top speed: Over 200mph
People Involved in Build: Harley-Davidson, IM Composite Technologies, Dynamic Aero Solutions, Shinko Tyres, VP Racing Fuels, LDV Australia, Rams Head Service, Unique Performance, Emtron Australia, Füsport Boots, Royal Purple, Sydney Custom Spray painting
WTW: Both bikes have some pretty special carbon-fibre work. How does that all come about?
EA: We’ve spent a lot of time working with carbon fibre lately.
It all started with the land speed bike. After our attempt in 2018 I realised that to go faster we’d need to work on the aerodynamics of the bike. We brought in an aerodynamic engineer to help us design bodywork that will help us achieve a higher top speed. Once the design and CFD simulation was completed we had the bodywork plugs machined out of a high-density foam. From there our composite engineer could create moulds and then finally the carbon-fibre parts. We opted for carbon fibre as the fairings are pretty big and we wanted something light and strong with no flex.
WTW: What does the future hold for you and building? Any big projects you really want to tick off?
EA: The future looks bright. We have some exciting race-bike projects in the pipeline as well as growing our own manufacturing capabilities. The next big projects for me to tick off are to finish the current drag-bike projects and win some races with them, as well as set a world land speed record with our salt bike.