Admit it: Riding dirtbikes on the street is fun. Problem is, it looks a bit awkward, like a dune buggy on asphalt. And there’s that whole no-license-plate thing. One solution? Convert your moto-cross bike into a chic café-style road-racer, which is precisely what Darrell Schneider, a well-known classic car restorer from Concord, California, has done with this head-turning GP250R.
Inspired by the work of noted builders Roland Sands, Richard Pollock and Ron Wood, Schneider spent 14 months crafting the GP250R, which is based on his personal 2004 Honda CRF250R. “Those three guys just have cool style,” says Schneider. “The café-racer look was something that attracted me.”
Schneider, known for his top-quality fiberglass work, started building the bike two years ago, using Race Tech’s Super Single suspension, which set the fork/shock length and swingarm angle of the bike. The package includes custom triple-clamps that move the fork tubes farther apart and 25mm closer to the engine, while increasing trail and allowing the use of a wider rim and tire.
On the aesthetic front, Schneider says he began by using cardboard templates to get a good side profile. “Then, once I got the 2-D I liked, I went 3-D,” he explains. “I made plugs and molds with wood, foam and body filler to get actual shapes. That allowed me to pull fiberglass parts that were really nice.” Along the way, whenever he had questions, Schneider would e-mail Sands and Pollock. “They wouldn’t tell me what to do,” he explained, “but they would point me in the right direction.”
The fairing, airbox, thin sidepanels and tailsection of the GP250R are all fiberglass, as is the fuel-tank cover, whose shape was inspired by the tank of a Honda Elsinore—the dirtbike to have when Schneider was a kid. For this application, though, the cover had to be stretched and widened, plus incorporate knee pockets to, as he says, blend old style with new.
Schneider incorporated lots of black into the bike to give it a “modern” look. And it’s black automotive paint on the fenders, subframe and swingarm, not powdercoating. “I’m a car painter. I like real finishes,” he explains. He also chose to not hide any fasteners, while making sure that the custom aluminum front fender attaches neatly to the guards for the shortened and revalved CRF fork.
The most prominent design elements are the slender sidepanels that extend down from the tank and then angle back up toward the tail, leaving open the window below the seat that Schneider feels is crucial to the look of a café racer. Look in that window and you’ll see the K&N air filter and what appears to be the bike’s single-pipe titanium Arrow exhaust. Look a little lower on the bike, though, and you’ll see a second pipe hidden beneath the swingarm pivot. Schneider says he chose the two-pipe design to keep the GP250R from looking too fat in the rear.
In addition to Race Tech’s shortened CRF fork and a Durell Racing height adjuster for the shock, the GP250R has 17-inch Sun rims with Talon hubs and stainless steel spokes. The front brake caliper, from a Honda CBR600RR, works with a BrakeTech rotor on a special carrier.
For reliability, the engine was rebuilt with mostly stock Honda parts but is fitted with a Crower camshaft, a better-flowing 2009 cylinder head and a stock carburetor modified by TokyoMods. Mounted in the red frame and plumbed with NASCAR-style AN fittings, the 249cc engine looks great, and it’s flanked on the bottom by painted aluminum panels that help smooth the bike’s profile while hiding that second exhaust. The GP250R’s fork, rims, hubs and shock body (with reservoir) are all hard-anodized gray, a special color in which no two batches ever come out alike, said Schneider.
By all accounts (okay, an informal poll of staffers here at CW), the GP250R is a cool take on a modern café racer, a bike that dovetails nicely with our coverage of small-displacement bikes in this issue. It’s also an impressive first effort for a guy who, despite having raced a Honda XR75 as a kid, has spent the vast majority of his life in the world of custom cars.
Schneider, though, is uncomfortable with that notion. “You can’t really call me a first-time builder. I have skills that cross over. With cars, I could move wheel wells to make the body look right. Proportions, flow, are important. So, I already had the skills that helped me make this bike look like it does.”
What next? Might Schneider take his GP250R, which weighs about 250 pounds, to some shows? Not a chance, says the 49-year-old. “I probably should, but I can’t stand shows. I don’t like anything that is judged. Art is art. If a car or bike makes a statement, that’s great. But my goal with this bike was to simply have fun and ride.”