Julian Farnam | Doctor Dirtbag

Julian Farnam's Master Class in Dirtbaggery

By Ed Milich, Photography by Rebecca Hinden

Mild-mannered Julian Farnam, a respected member of his Livermore, CA, community and an accomplished Industrial Designer at Dolby Labs, is definitely a Dirtbag. Farnam has been building unconventional motorcycles for decades, including a hub-center-steered RZ350 that's his daily driver. A decade or so ago, Farman also produced the AK-1 roadrace frames for Kawasaki EX500 engines, and he's been a Dirtbagger since 2010, when he entered the contest with a chopped VF700 Interceptor.

This year's design, which earned the coveted Coolest Bike title, began with a 1977 Yamaha RD400 frame and swingarm sourced off Craigslist for $75, combined with engine cases purchased for $45 off a two-stroke forum and engine internals from Farnam's own private stash.

"A Yamaha two-stroke twin was an obvious choice," Farnam says. "Because I love these motors, I wanted to do something cool with the suspension, though. Choppers traditionally use leading-link springer front ends, so I started there. I sketched on the BART train during my commute and filled up around 50 pages of my sketchbook before I finalized the design."

Farnam built the fork from scratch using tubing, steel plate, and parts-bin shocks. The raked frame was welded in his driveway, and the RD swingarm was extended at the back. The Daytona Special gas tank was acquired by trade, and stretched into a new shape using a hydraulic jack. Wheel hubs were rescued from the metal recycler, keeping the project well within the contest's $1000 budget limit, at $937 dollars. Farnam estimates he has about 170 hours invested in this build.

How does it handle? "The Mulholland front shocks are clapped out and a bit bouncy," Farnam reports. "And I need to move the foot pegs forward. It could also use a little more trail to eliminate some low-speed wobble, but at speed on an open road it's a pleasure to ride. Compared to racing or performance bikes, Dirtbag builds are a vacation," Farnam says. "I can just let my imagination loose and have some fun. It's okay if the bike doesn't ride perfectly."

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