It's a fine looking beast. But style isn't the only objective for Performance Parts - unsurprisingly, their bikes have to perform too...
Just who are Performance Parts? The company was launched in 1999 by Gerald Edwards, Colin Peabody and Andy Wilkes. After intially selling Pirelli tyres, things changed when the Italian company wanted to bring everything inhouse. “We’d worked really hard to develop the accessory side of things so we started our own business,” says Colin. “We worked in my back bedroom and garage for a year.” Now PP have 18 staff and 12 different manufacturers under their wing as the biggest distributors of bike parts in the UK. “We sell high performance, high quality products for top end bikes. But because we’re still a family company, we’re often driven by our own personal preferences. And we love the custom scene. I’ve always built bikes like this – none of my bikes are ever standard. Our business is an extension of that really. If you like bespoke bikes, then you may not like what we do because it’s off the shelf, but not everyone has the ability to create something built from scratch. Modified bikes made to look better is our mantra.”
‘We love the custom scene. I’ve always built bikes like this – none of my bikes are ever standard’
Many of today’s custom bikes are not built for outright performance. Even the stripped to the bare bones cafe racers only have styling cues to mimic the 1960s bikes that the Rockers used to race around the North Circular. But the Rockers built Tritons to maximise performance – taking strongrunning engines out of weaker chassis and transplanting them into Featherbed frames that could take more horses than their original engines could produce. And then they’d tune the engines, increasing bore size and adding eight valve heads. It was all about light weight and horsepower – speed was everything. You could argue that modern retro bikes don’t need more performance – but performance doesn’t have to mean horsepower. At least that’s the ethos of Performance Parts, based in Daventry.
This is a company with a history steeped in aftermarket performance parts but as director Colin Peabody points out, the motorcycle market is changing and the need for speed, or at least sportsbikes, in decline. “We built the R nineT because we were keen to promote ourselves outside our performance parts business,” explains Colin. “The market is changing and we’re in a different place now. We wanted to say, ‘if you want to build something like this we are the place to come to’.” Performance Parts built the bike last November to gauge reaction to the changing market at the 2015 NEC.
“We built this how we thought the R nineT Scrambler should look. It was us having a go and saying this is our take on it. It’s very subjective. People always look at a bike and pick out things they would like to change. “Our guys had a lot of fun doing it. The key thing is how you want it to look – and we set out to use a lot of satin black to tone down the grey. We’ve learned over the years not to judge everything by your own taste but, even so, there does seem to be a lot of anodised satin silver on the stock bike which looks very unlike BMW quality.” The PP bike uses a lot of the top quality bolt-ons they specialise in: precision-made LSL adjustable bars and levers, plus their bar end mirror.
“We’ve taken on distribution of LSL products from Germany this year. It came at the right time to strengthen our place in the market but, ironically, our BMW R nineT predates our LSL involvement – though we bought LSL parts for this bike,” says Colin. There’s also Gilles adjustable footpegs, Ilmberger carbon front and rear mudguards, a Roland Sands seat, Kellerman rear tail tidy and LED indicators. It’s all top quality stuff. But that’s all for looks. Other components have been added to improve the ride, not, as Colin says, purely for out-and-out performance. Stock suspension has been replaced with Hyperpro fork internals, and shock – fully adjustable. There’s also a Hyperpro steering damper. Front and rear brakes have been upgraded with Galfer wave discs. Colin says: “We were initially unsure about fitting wave discs because they’re synonymous with 1990s bikes but the waves match the knobbles on the Continental TKC80 tyres and the package looks so well matched – they pick up the theme of the bike.”
There’s a full Akprovic titanium system, which decats the bike and saves considerable weight. The bonus is something like a 10bhp hike in horsepower but Colin plays this down, saying, “it’s not all about power.” It’s high level so the pillion pegs had to be ditched. Then there’s a Rapid Bike fuelling control module, made in Italy by a company called DimSport that does similar modules for cars, trucks and agricultural vehicles. They got into the bike market in 2004. The reason it’s needed is that to pass increasingly stringent Euro 5 legislation on emissions, motorcycle engines are required to run very lean at low rpm. To meet the anti pollution regulations, the fuel delivery is modulated by the bike’s ECU from readings taken at the lambda sensor in the exhaust system in a closed loop.
The result is that in slow-speed traffic conditions this restricted fuel supply creates inconsistentcy in power – ie, an unpleasant throttle response. The Rapid Bike module is incorporated into the closed loop system, taking information from the lambda and ECU and adding fuel, dependent on load, throttle position and the other readings. It then manipulates the signal and the ECU fuels according to the information the module is feeding it, effectively richening the mixture at low rpm to restore a smooth and consistent throttle response – perfect for urban riding. To show us how perfect, Colin handed over the keys for us to take it for a spin. Two things hit me as I encounter the first roundabout on the Performance Parts BMW R nineT: 1) The chunky Conti knobblies feel horribly weird. 2) The power delivery is beautifully smooth.
The knobblies are a fashion statement, which look great but I fear will take more getting used to than a quick spin from the workshop to a quiet back road for pictures. The power delivery is a visceral pleasure, feeling more like the delightful direct connection of my old single carb Tiger 750 than I’d expect from a modern fuel-injected motor. And Colin tells me it’s thanks to the Rapid Bike module. “It’s butter-smooth isn’t it?” he says with delight. I can only concur with the statement. Utterly butterly. Problem is, I’ve not ridden a stock R nineT so I can’t offer a comparison. However, Colin has brought along his own Ducati Scrambler, which also benefits a Rapid Bike module. I’ve ridden a stock Scrambler and, having ridden Colin’s bike too, I can definitely vouch for the way it transforms the power low down, eliminating any hint of hesitation or lag in around town that’s the bane of many a modern fuel injected bike.
There are three different versions of the Rapid Bike module. The base Rapid Bike Easy (from £139) modulates the lambda sensor signal to improve the fuel mixture and injection map. Rapid Bike Evo (from £355) is total injection control and can be upgraded with a quickshifter facility and engine braking management, while the Rapid Bike Racing (from £486) does all that Evo does with the addition of pit lane limiter, launch control, and traction control. Colin’s Ducati has a similar parts list: Akrapovic titanium pipes; Hyperpro suspension; Rapid Bike module. It’s also got a Gilles top yoke conversion to gives adjustability to the handlebars and their fully adjustable footpegs with a drop link to lower the pegs.
“The bar and peg mods give me more room as I’m quite lanky. I love the bike but struggle with the physical size of it. I can’t wait until Ducati come up with a 1000cc or 1200cc version. Not for the power, but it should be a bigger machine.” Having taken a spin on the Scrambler I can vouch that the mods are perfect for me too. “The parts contribute to the look, but it’s all part of enhancing the ride,” says Colin. “Both bikes ride very well with the changes we’ve made. Take the Akrapovic system – it adds to the look but also adds 10bhp and saves weight. What we’re striving to achieve is not an exercise in styling. It has to ride well – and go well.”