Is Chris Redpath for real? Born in Auckland, New Zealand, “Red” says he met and worked with John Britten in Christchurch while he, Red, was with the NZ Special Air Service, during which time he also drove Pope John Paul II around for a few weeks on a Papal tour of Australia and New Zealand. This was after he got shot in Africa (Red, not the Pope) while going about some sordid business or other. Meanwhile back in NZ, says Red, Britten left him a scholarship to the American Motorcycle Institute in Daytona Beach, Florida, upon his death in 1995. Which is where Red was working at the bar when Scott Russell got beat up the year he rode the Harley-Davidson VR1000. “Good luck!” some guys told Russell on his way out that night. “I hate ridin’ that pig,” Russell replied within earshot of some intolerant Hells Angels. Thence commenced the legendary whuppin’.
Years later, Redpath was working at another Daytona bar where the terrorists who flew into the World Trade Center liked to gather when they were students at a local flying school. “None of them seemed all that angry,” Red recalls, scratching his head among the sea of mostly perfect, not-quite-vintage motorcycles packed into his too-small shop, MotoGP Werks, on La Palma Avenue in Anaheim, California. Here’s Don Vesco’s first four-stroke Kawasaki racebike. There’s a rare RK GSX-R750 and a completely original Ninja 900 next to a perfect GPz750 Turbo next to a supermotard RM Suzuki built for Kevin Schwantz. Every one comes with a story.
Red knows everybody and claims Graeme Crosby as an uncle. He knows a guy in Costa Mesa with 15 RC30s (turns out, only nine), a bunch of A-list Hollywood celebs who aren’t supposed to have a fleet of collectible motorcycles in a certain bunch of airport hangars but do, and a guy in Milano who, in addition to owning one of every Ducati World Superbike since 1996, also owns a MiG29 and not one but two Harrier jump jets. Red showed me the photos.
It might be easier to jot down where Chris Redpath hasn’t been than where he has. When the GP team folded in 2002, he says, he banged on the door and got a job at Cosworth in England in the dyno room and will bend your ear for quite some time about ceramic exhausts and velocity stacks. And about how, in his day, tuners actually tuned 500 two-strokes instead of swapping parts like they do now.
If some of the tales seem tall, all you need do to have your faith restored is look at a few of the motorcycles Red’s built. Or drop off at his shop an R7, a OW-01 and an RC30 full of old gas (the ZX-7R was already there since Red owns it) that haven’t run in years but need to be ready for Freddie Spencer to ride in a few days. No worries, mate. Somebody left paper towels in the RC’s fuel tank and the petcock filter was broken off, meaning Red needed to overhaul its diabolical carburetors not once but two times. And the R7 and OW-01 were worse. When all was said and done, Red didn’t bring any tools to our Freddie track day and didn’t need any (except a 10mm spanner to adjust the throttle linkage on one of the bikes he hadn’t prepped), and all the old girls ran all day just like it really was 20 years ago. Amazing, really. I, I think I love this Redpath guy. In a completely manly way, of course.
Frankly, says Red, he didn’t do a lot to this one, except make it run right. Substituting a Motec control module for the stocker was the main thing, which involved programming all the injection, ignition, traction control and everything else. Worth it, though; this Desmosedici runs from idle way smoother and nicer than any one I’ve ridden, with excellent, hiccup-free fueling and a velvety rush of eardrum-rippling power in the midrange. In a quick spin around the block, I fear the top end and hope the anti-wheelie is working.
Marvic wheels allow much better tire choices than the Desmo’s stock 16.5-inchers, but Redpath detects a bit of oxidation already peering through the paint, about which he is not pleased. Probably because the A-list owner has a reputation for being a perfectionist. I’m not a fan of his chosen handlebar bend, but everything else is first-class, of course, from the pea-sized LED turnsignals to all the Rizoma and NCR details and custom exhaust, into which the two front cylinders exit low, stage right.
Honda CB750F Superbike
Mrs. Redpath was less than pleased one Sunday morning when Chris spotted an ad on Craigslist: “Old Honda racebike for sale.” He just had that feeling and was off to Lancaster, California, Willow Springs adjacent. There in the barn, under many layers of desert dust, sat this early Honda Superbike (top photo), possibly a B-bike for ex-GP rider Mike Baldwin, who raced at Willow in the early ’80s. Under the grime, the AMA tech-inspection stickers were still in place, along with the plasma-sprayed aluminum brake discs and a cheater frame welded up, sloppily on purpose, of chrome-moly steel. The woman selling the motorcycle had been married to a Dunlop tire executive. Chris also made off with most of a Katana (that he thinks was Wes Cooley’s) she was also selling, but the NS400R Triple was already spoken for.
Redpath is kind of a Katana freak; there are quite a few of them around the shop. But this one (top photo) is his calling card, the bike that won the Sportbike class at the Grand National Roadster show in 2011. Just your basic ’81 Katana with a full-on ’86 GSX-R750 LE Yoshimura Superbike motor, complete with FCR flatslides, an 836cc kit, Carrillo rods and all the rest of it, controlled by a Motec ECU tempered with traction control so you can’t fall off. Toward that same goal, the frame’s braced, and a WP fork from a Yamaha YZR500 GP machine (and brakes) leads the way. It’s the James Brown of superbikes with soul, I think.
This one only needed to be a movie prop, but when Redpath is on a roll, he keeps rolling. The TL had a great sportbike motor, and now it’s in a handbuilt chrome-moly frame with TZ250 chassis measurements. It’s tiny, and Red got carried away making titanium axles and assorted hardware. The radiator bodywork and fuel tank were all fabbed in aluminum just to keep Red in practice on his English wheel. What look like carbon-fiber engine covers are actually water-transfer decals applied by Embee Performance Coatings. The Michelin rain tires were on the rack and were the only ones that fit the 16.5-inch Marvic wheels. Coolest part: The bar ends are spent 30mm shells from an A-10 Warthog cannon.
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