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BBC Autos

Evolution of Design

B-Rocket is a Harley fit for Chuck Yeager

About the author

Editor of BBC Autos, Matthew is a former editor at Automobile Magazine and the creator of the digital-only Roadtrip Magazine. His automotive and travel writing has appeared in such magazines as Wired, Popular Science, The Robb Report and Caribbean Travel + Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wonderful wife and four-year-old daughter.

 

HIDE CAPTION

Aficionados of fine timepieces and devotees of Harley-Davidson motorbikes do not, generally speaking, occupy the same social circles. But their planets collided on 28 March at the Baselworld 2014 watch and jewellry show in Basel, Switzerland. Bell & Ross, a French watchmaker, unveiled the mighty B-Rocket, a rumbling, log-slung hog that, to quote the company’s exuberant media release, “could have been ridden by a classic superhero, a NASA test pilot or a young gun thirsty for glory”.

Bell & Ross, known for its aircraft-inspired timepieces, spent more than a year collaborating with UK-based Shaw Harley-Davidson Speed & Custom to design and construct the B-Rocket. The bike’s swept style takes inspiration from 1960s experimental military aviation, so aerodynamic efficiency was the top priority in its creation. Domed aluminium covers conceal 10in disc brakes on the front and rear wheels, and a pair of adjustable winglets behind the front forks can be adjusted to increase front-wheel contact with the pavement. The large rear fender structure, hand-crafted of steel and complete with a flag-emblazoned fin, incorporates Plexiglass sections over the rear-wheel reveals. Alas, the nacelles below the Harley-Davidson V-twin engine do not contain jet turbines, but they are functional air intakes: the right side feeds the engine and the left cools the oil.

Like a vintage Bonneville speed-record bike, the B-Rocket features a chest-against-the-fuel-tank riding position for reduced drag, a posture eased by leather pads on the tank and turbine housings where knees rest. The rider hunkers behind a jet-like nosecone fairing, which contains only one gauge, a Bell & Ross-designed rev-counter – just enough to keep the pilot “attuned to his machine’s heartbeat”. (The B-Rocket also rolls without a headlamp, brakelamp, turn indicators or mirrors.)

The B-Rocket is a one-off fantasy, but the bike does inspire a pair of Bell & Ross drivers’ wristwatches. The BR 01 and BR 03 B-Rocket watches feature satin-brushed steel cases – 46mm for the former and 42mm for the latter – and padded leather straps modelled on the seat of the B-Rocket bike. The company has not yet released pricing for the watches.

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