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Introducing The Wolf, DrivingScene's Custom Cafe Racer - DrivingScene

Categorized | Reviews

Introducing The Wolf, DrivingScene’s Custom Cafe Racer

Posted on 02 December 2013 by Adam Kaslikowski

Wolf Cleveland Misfit Cafe

The motorcycle world is all about hierarchies. Scooter and mopeds are on the bottom, small displacement bikes are next up, followed by crotch rockets and finally big interstate cruisers on top. At least that’s the hierarchy by a majority of the population here in the states. And while a massive fully chromed Harley may not be for everyone, woe be to the rider who opts for any displacement below 500cc. You do that, and you’ve gotten yourself a “learner bike” or better yet, a child’s motorcycle.

But some of us riders are tired of the big is best attitude. We don’t need to tackle 200 miles at a time or have enough power to tow a small yacht. Those of us who see through the fog of displacement can attest to the nimbleness and ease of driving a smaller motor machine. The city is no friend to cruiser bikes. Amongst traffic and blind corners, you need a fully toss-able machine that will instantly respond to your inputs. And don’t think for a moment that these are the same engines as they were in the 80’s. Advancements in engine design now mean that even 250’s have plenty of getup to tear away at the lights and make it up any hill you feel like throwing it after.

Thus we arrive at Cleveland Cyclewerks, and their Misfit. And while the proper name of their bike is “Tha Misfit,” I steadfastly refuse to cooperate with the company’s assault on the English language, and thus “Tha” shall never again be repeated in this piece. I feel I can make this kind of stand because not only have I ridden this particular Misfit, I’m the owner.

Harleys and Vulcans have never held much sway with me, and my parents are still married so an overcompensating sport bike was out as well. Like many other young urbanites, however, I was drawn to the lightweight, minimalist, and do-it-yourself attitude of café racers. So much so that I bought an old Kawasaki KZ650 and stripped it down to its bare essentials and café’d it out.

Alas, The Bastard as it came to be known never spent much time on the road. A victim of both its advanced age and my own fat-fingered attempts at engine repair, she eventually moved off to a more competent owner. This left a café-shaped hole in my heart and life. After not too long I began searching for a not a replacement per se, for nothing could replace The Bastard, but a new bike. I diligently scoured through Craigslist cafes, but nothing was as good as what was envisioned in my mind. I tested out the requisite Triumph Thruxton and T100 and found them too heavy and ponderous. While the power on tap was excellent for straight point-and-squirt shots, it was overkill for the three-mile commute I wanted it for.
So I test-drove a Cleveland Cyclewerks Misfit. Now here was a machine for a city commute. Nimble, plenty of passing power, and narrow enough to navigate through tight situations. I was sold. I placed a call to Vegas Cyclewerks, arguably the best Cleveland dealer in the country, and placed my order for a 2014 Misfit.

Now as I said before, I had a vision. I knew the bike I wanted, and the stock Misfit was just a starting point.  233 Customs, which has extensive and well-received experience customizing Cleveland bikes was tipped to manifest my vision in metal and leather.
The build started with a veritable Christmas list of performance parts from the Cleveland SpeedShop: 38 tooth rear sprocket for a higher top speed, cone air filter, a Weaver Rides racing carburetor, EK chain, and best of all the Weaver Rides upgraded head with new valves and springs. All these were to be installed as soon as the bike was delivered and while the tins were across the country getting painted.

Old Skool Kustom Painting was ever the only choice considered for painting duties. This Ohio shop takes care of all of Cleveland Cyclewerks in-house custom builds, and no one is more qualified or experienced on these bikes. They received a care package of all the bike’s tins soon after it arrived at 233 Customs and immediately set to work stripping them down and marking the layout. For safety’s sake we picked up a now-out-of-production Nolan café helmet and had that painted to match the tins.

While Old Skool busied itself with color pallets, what remained of the bike was fitted with a spare fuel tank and carted off to Las Vegas DynoTech. Here the enlarged carbs were tuned and a custom trumpet exhaust was fitted. After the dyno experts were done the Misfit saw a 25% increase in horsepower and a 20% increase in torque, as well as flatter power curve.

To showcase the added oomph, 233 Customs fitted a slew of cosmetic upgrades including the requisite clubman bars, exhaust wrap, and a lithium-ion battery that is roughly one-quarter the size of a standard bike battery. This allowed us to relocate the battery and electronics into a small cubby directly below the seat and open up the center of the bike. Even without tins, this thing was starting to look true café now.

To finish off the look, Liberty Customs carved the original seat down to a flatter profile and Vegas Croc wrapped the whole affair in new upgraded black leather. Around the time the electronics were relocated and bike tuned, the tins were polished up and shipped back for final assembly. Once the bike was all within the same zip code again, it took a scant hour to reassemble the beast and fire her up.

The build was complete and the work was done.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to The Wolf

She is a fast, loud, and nimble café tailor made to carve up the LA concrete jungle. While it is still a small bike and I’d never wish a cross-state run with it upon my worst enemy, with the engine upgrades and tuning this one-cylinder is not wanting for power. I’m blowing off cars and even bigger bikes at the lights, and everyone left behind is generally quite deafened. This exhaust is seriously loud. Setting off car alarms, waking the neighbors, angering cyclists kind of loud. Enemies have already been made, and that makes me smile.

Beyond staying ahead of traffic, The Wolf really lives to blast through corners. This thing weighs less than a Chihuahua, so momentum or sway never disrupt your line. Look through the corner, lean the bike, and she goes right were you wanted. No extra input, no adjustments, just right the first time. Let the bigger bikes roar along the canyon straights then frantically paw at their brakes in anticipation of the corners. The Wolf doesn’t even need to brake. Let off the throttle, roll into the turn, then bring that engine back to life and pass the Triumph boys by.

The Wolf was built to cut and weave, to get me around LA as quickly and stylishly as possible. In all that, it performs with aplomb. I’d like to thank everyone who helped make this bike a reality, including Cleveland Cyclewerks, Vegas Cyclewerks, 233 Customs, Old Skool Kustom Painting, Vegas DynoTech, Liberty Customs, Vegas Croc, and Julie Bergonz.

See you all on the road.


– Adam Kaslikowski