2014 Ivory Comet Café Racer | ME & MY BIKE

It was illegal to fabricate a custom bike from scratch where Sam Kao lived, so he moved to LA to build his dream.

  • NAME: Samuel Jungsan Kao
  • AGE: 32
  • HOME: La Puente, California
  • OCCUPATON: JSK Custom Design

I was born in Taiwan, and I have been living in the US for seven years. In Taiwan it’s against the law to build your own motorcycle from scrap parts, so I moved to Los Angeles to chase my bike-building dream.

I wanted to stay with the traditional look of a café racer, keeping the fairing, fuel tank, and rear cowl all on the same horizontal plane and the rear axle aligned with the tail, but I also wanted to introduce modern elements for a "modern retro" look. I decided to use a Harley-Davidson engine, and I believed it would be a shame to cover that up, so I chose a fairing design that left the engine completely exposed. I insisted on using traditional methods to fabricate the all-metal bodywork, which was hand-formed using wood molds I shaped myself.

For the chassis, I transplanted the fork, single-sided swingarm, and brakes from a Ducati 916. Finding spoke rims to use with the single-sided swingarm was a daunting task, but after several months I finally located a company in Europe that met my requirements—with a warranty to boot!

Regarding the name, “Ivory” was chosen to represent the pursuit of elegance. “Comet” refers to the feeling of overwhelming power and grace that comes from a speeding comet. This motorcycle has taken me more than a year to complete, overcoming many financial, mental, and physical obstacles along the way, to the point where many thought I was crazy to continue pursuing my dream. But I’m very pleased with the result, and others seem to feel the same. It was named Best Café Racer at this year’s Born Free rally, First Place Pro Builder at the Los Angeles Calendar Motorcycle Show, and Best Café Racer at the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Show.