Bike Review catches up with Si from ASF – Aussie Streetfighters

Q: What’s your background?
A: Currently a cupboard and a framed photo of Jonny Cash giving the finger. ….Oh, you mean who am I and what do I do? Well, I was a smelly, long-haired, bike-mad Pom who emigrated to Australia 20 years ago, hankering for a life where I could ride my bike safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t get stuck at the far end of a ride, trapped by snow, or have to run my hands under a cold tap just to defrost them. Some years previous to making the big move (1992 to be exact) I discovered a magazine that seemed to be shouting at me from the auto mag shelf in my local newsagent which ultimately changed my life. The magazine I refer to was the first real edition of the sadly now defunct “Streetfighters” magazine (then just a fledgling offshoot of ‘Back Street Heroes’). It had a photo of a bloke called “Dodge” riding his black GS1000 with white paint drips, wearing a ratty leather jacket and a helmet painted as a Werewolf on the cover. I didn’t know what this shit was, but I wanted some! The shed door was swung open and my Z650 at the time was duly stripped, hacked, modified, sprayed matt black and ridden everywhere, and then it was me who was getting the question “what’s this?”

Streetfighters magazine cover Spring 1992

The magazine cover that started it all

Fast forward 22 years and now I’m a smelly, grey haired, bike-mad Aussie, still modifying bikes, making far too much noise, who somehow picked up website designing along the way.

Q: What motivated you to start Aussie Streetfighters?
A: If you made it through the “This is your life” bullshit in the last answer, then you’ll know that I lived for the Streetfighter culture. It was predominantly a British / German thing in the mid-90s and picking up momentum all the time. So you can understand that when I moved to Australia it was like hitting a brick wall. “What the fuck’s a Streetfighter?” was my usual response from people. I couldn’t find a single group or website that catered for Streetfighter builders, so I decided I had to do something about it. Now, ….how do you build a website?

Q: And how did you get started?
A: Like that nerd at school with one finger pointing to a line of text in a book and the other clicking aimlessly at a computer mouse, I somehow fumbled my way through a book about building websites and strung together the first rendition of ASF. It was pretty arse to be honest. I tried going to the then popular RSS Group feeds (which was a bit like the original blog system) to announce a display my work. I posted about the website and Streetfighters in general and got a mix of responses. From: “A what? Huh?” to “Stick your cardboard cereal box bike shit up your arse” (if you’re the bloke that did that latter post, you’re still a dick). But then something weird happened; I started getting emails from guys saying how stoked they were that somebody knew what a Streetfighter was, as they thought they were the only bloke in Australia that did! Things were starting to happen.

ASF Aussie Streetfighters

Q: Was it difficult?
A: Not half as much as I thought it would be. “Cardboard-cereal-box” guy and his mates made me think it was a lost cause, but it turned out that the site had a life of its own and didn’t need my wittering-crap-sales-pitch to make it happen. Before long the ASF website visitors wanted more. They wanted to talk to each other, meet the other builders, have a beer, compare bikes etc. So I then worked out how to make a forum, …..and then it went ballistic!

Q: At the end of 2006 you implemented a paid membership system to help support the site, how has it gone since?
A: Yea, from the original 10 blokes a week at the start of ASF we were then hitting well over a million hits worldwide each month! The server would go into meltdown and then the bills started coming, and coming, …and then some more came. There was no way I could maintain the running of ASF with these bills any longer as it was all out of my pocket. I hadn’t minded before, but as soon as they were eating into everything I had it was time to ask for help. I humbly introduced the idea of asking for donations to help run the site so we didn’t have to close down like so many good sites were at the time, all the time expected a torrent of abuse and exodus, but to my amazement loads of guys jumped at the chance to help and asked “how much?” This then prompted a membership structure which has stayed the same and kept ASF running ever since. Memberships have stayed steady ever since and we introduced member patches and monthly competitions to say thanks.

Q: What kind of community have you brought together?
A: A bunch of nutters. Yea, you may have noticed there’s a lot of namby-pamby motorcycle website forums out there where they all hold hands and get excited about having the exact same bike as somebody else and how they all clap because somebody put new dust caps on at the weekend to make their bike “Custom”, well, ASF houses the blokes that don’t fit into this demographic. The ASF community is one that likes to get their hands dirty, try something different, do something stupid – regularly, and most importantly, have the freedom to say whatever they like without being censored or banned etc. There is geniuses like Ben Shaw, Brad Wiseman, Steve Burns and Greg Watters hanging around or showing us stuff, then there’s the guys you never hear about, some of the most talented home builders in Australia showing us their shed built turbo bikes, or crazy Mud racers like Scott Belshaw, and then there’s just the general funny-bugger-piss-takers who, after many years, are still along for the ride. The community is one that I am proud of, and at any ASF group meeting, wherever in the country, the members that meet for the first time ALWAYS get along and have a good time. If they make it past the initial barrage when they first get on the website, then you know they are the sort that will fit in. I’m not saying that they get attacked, but if your mum still makes your sandwiches each day, then you might find it a bit daunting.

ASF guys

A small ASF gathering for some drag racing

Q: And how many members do you have?
A: According to today’s count, we have over 7000. If we want to get real and state how many ‘full-time-always-there’ members we have, I’d say it’d be closer to 500. The rest just pop in every now and again.

Q: Who from the custom motorcycle industry are involved and what are the benefits for them and for members?
A: As mentioned before, we have a fair few well-known names from the custom motorcycle industry. What they bring to the table is a wealth of knowledge, plus an insight into what they are up to currently. A firm favourite is Ben Shaw (get back to work Ben, I know you’re reading this). He, and the world of Extreme Creations, are an integral part of ASF. As for the benefits for the members and the builders themselves, well they are obvious. The ASF members can get the best advice on any given subject on motorcycle customising / restoration / performance enhancing straight from the guys that do it every day for a living. This works for both parties as the pro builders give them answers in their own time from their home computers, rather than you wandering into their workshop and pissing them off while they are trying to work. For the pro builders themselves, they in turn usually get the work from the guys that have tried and failed, are too scared, or just want the best possible job done on their motorcycle. The forum is like a showroom for a lot of their work.

Q: What kind of events and competitions do you run?
A: There are 2 (well 3 now) set-in-stone events that ASF hold each year. One is the AFR (April Fools Run – held on the weekend closest to 1st April at an annually chosen location), the second is the NFR (No Fools Run – held around October time and usually in The Snowies – I didn’t name either by the way) and the new 3rd one is the Heathcote Xmas Drags in VIC. NFR came about to relieve the pressure of AFR, plus give the whole East coast a chance to attend an event due to the location, and Heathcote drags is pretty self-explanatory! The AFR used to be a massive event that was featured in these pages but eventually collapsed in 2009 (for varied reasons) and has now become more of a weekend ride and piss-up, just like it used to be (which is also the premise of the NFR). The AFR also made it across to the UK and the Brits have the event on the same weekend each year as well. NZ also did for a while, not sure what happened there?

As for competitions, we try and run a competition each month for the guys that have paid memberships to try and give them something back as a thank you. We have a lot of supporters who donate prizes and in turn get a great advertising spot for their product. We’ve had everything from sets of tyres and custom artwork to Home Brew kits and buckets of hand wash! You never know what comes up next.

Q: What makes a real streetfighter?
A: Ahhhh, the age old fight starter. You know what, in the last 13 years no other topic has caused more of a shit storm than that question. It is completely impossible to define a Streetfighter. You either get it or you don’t. Smashing the front fairing off your bike and replacing it with a set of twin lights does not make a Streetfighter, ….that just makes a sports bike with a cheap, shit repair. I think to understand what a Streetfighter is, you need to be of a certain motorcycle mind set. I don’t know anybody that is truly into Streetfighters who can’t name the frame from almost any bike just by seeing a photo of it, or a tank shape, or tail piece. Their knowledge of motorcycles, past and present, is astounding. They draw on this knowledge to build their own creations. They know what forks work better, which brakes will improve the stopping power, which shocks will work better. It’s about improving what the factory put out (very hard these days!) and individualising it yourself, to your taste. So to answer, “What makes a real Streetfighter?”, I would say the guy who built it.

Q: What are some of the best streetfighters you’ve seen?
A: Man, I have seen and ridden some amazing bikes in my time! I guess, just like your wallpaper as a kid, styles change all the time, so it would be a chronological answer from me. The one that really started it all as far as I’m concerned was Steve Burn’s “Monster” in the late-80s, a GSX, Spondon framed beauty. It’s still a classic even today. Then, the first one that I pined after was a 1972 Z9 with a GSXR1100 motor grafted into it around the mid-90s. It had upside down forks and GSXR1100 running gear. It was immaculate and I wanted it so bad. Some purist Kawasaki fans were not impressed, but I didn’t care, this thing was awesome. Around the same time a Nitrous injected Kawasaki 750 turbo called “NOSferatu” blew my mind. Then it was Dodge’s slabby GSXR with a tail piece designed only to be sat on correctly when the front wheel was at head height. Who designs bikes that are only built for the perfect wheelie? Dodge, that’s who. I won’t bore you with any more, but two that have to be spoken about are Ben Shaw’s Judge (which you should be ashamed about if you don’t know it) and Pete’s T-713 (a turbo Hayabusa engine shoved into a GSXR 750 frame). My current favourite would have to be Mad Mike Aho’s “Destroyer” matt black drift ‘Busa (search “Mad Kuusaa” in Youtube and look for the 6 minute video if you want to see that bad boy in action).

Q: What are common approaches to a streetfighter project?
A: The first approach normally is to remove the front fairing, add risers and a set of motocross/drag bars to your beloved sportsbike. After riding it around like that for the first time, this inane grin appears that you can’t wipe off. It’s hard to explain. We like to call it “The bug”. Now you’ve been bitten you want to do something else. It’s a bit like Tattoos (apparently). Some people get to this point via a recent stack, or the dedicated do it to their bike that they lost in a car park full of the identical same bike recently while bleating like a sheep.

Q: Is Aussie Streetfighters a good place to get help and support in starting a streetfighter project?
A: Now, this is a good question. I say that because ASF has turned into a community over the years, and like any community of close knit friends, their time and knowledge can be very valuable to those starting out with a project. If you are a genuine builder with genuine Streetfighter aspirations, then you will be willing to participate in our little world and welcomed and helped along by the members, but just like any group sat in a pub, if some bloke walks up and says “I’ve just crashed my CBR600, can you guys fix it for me for free” then you can imagine the response you’ll get. ASF has a reputation for being harsh on the unwitting, but it’s just general manners and decency. The internet isn’t just full of faceless wankers, there is actual people there as well.

Q: How does the streetfighter scene compare in Australia to elsewhere in the world?
A: You used to be able to categorise this about a decade ago. The UK had the classic Streetfighter style, the Germans had the crazy kicked up tail pieces that people loved to hate, the Yanks had the smaller 600s with no front guard and extreme chopped at the back (or some ridiculously unrideable slammed and stretched “Flintstone” tyred ‘Busa) and then the Aussie had a fresh look, picking pieces from all the above and strongly lead by Ben Shaw and his creations. I know a lot of guys around the world in the scene, and all of them say that the stuff coming out of Australia is top shelf.

Q: What are popular bikes for Streetfightering?
A: The basic premise for any Streetfighter is having a bike that is aesthetically pleasing with the fairing removed, AND, has a motor that makes you smile when you twist your right hand. Because of this, the most popular bikes over the last two decades are easy to list. The undisputed winner would be the Suzuki GSXR, from the ’85 slabby right up the latest model, they have all been used (with the oil cooled Slingshot being the king). Next would be the Suzuki Bandit as it was pretty much naked off the shelf. After that you would have the CBR900 Fireblade, and then it goes in one of two directions: old school or new school. In the old corner we have the GSX/GS Katana and original Z series Kwakas, and in the new school we have Hayabusa and R1. (I understand that there are many newer bikes than that, but people generally tend to buy and modify bikes over 10 years as their project). After saying all of that, I reckon I have seen almost every bike turned into a Streetfighter at some point, even a Goldwing!

Q: Any advice for anyone thinking about going the streetfighter route?
A: My personal advice would be to work out if you REALLY want to do it. If you like the bike too much (or need it as an asset to sell on later), don’t fuck with it. Too many people try and do a Streetfighter conversion which they “can swap back later when I sell it”. This is the classic “Half-arsed” approach and always looks like shite. If you really want to go for it, be prepared to get right in there. You are going to make irreversible changes (hacking off sub-frames, grinding off swingarm pivot points to fit different model single siders or wider arms etc etc). Buy a bike that you are dedicating to being a Streetfighter. You will never EVER make money from a Streetfighter sale (unless you are extremely lucky), but you’ll have a hell of a ride building it and the pride and feeling of accomplishment is rarely matched. A lot of guys I know that build Streetfighters sell them off at a loss, just so they can start a new project. The build process is 75% of the fun!

Q: What’s your current ride and why?
A: Dare I say it? A 1990 GSXR1100 Slingshot – the most cliche and classic of Streetfighters. Why? Well, because it is a classic for a reason. The motor has taken so much punishment from me over the last 17 years and yet still fires first time, every time. It can keep up with the best of them when pushed and it bites back when you get it wrong. It’s from an era when the rider was in full control (or at least tried) and it was all about shear balls-out rawness. I’ve had, and ridden, many newer bikes, but this thing will stay with me forever.

Si's Bike - GSXR 1100

Si’s GSXR 1100

Q: What do you like best about running Aussie Streetfighters?
A: Meeting and talking to some of the most honest and talented men and women you could wish to meet. If you are reading this article, you know as well as I do that bike riders are a breed apart, add to that a underlying passion to be different and take things to extremes and you can start to understand the type of people I get to meet.

Q: Anything you would do differently?
A: Yea, get a proper education with degrees, working all hours, listen to pop music and have a garage full of the latest and greatest toys straight off the showroom floor. …or am I talking shit?

Heathcote burnout

Expect this kind of thing

Share this article
Share this article