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Ducati Bevel – Merlin Engineers


Posted on July 13, 2016 by Andrew in Café Racer. 34 comments

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Written by Mark Turner.

In the sleepy town of Sandy in Bedfordshire in the UK, lives Chris Baglin, owner of Merlin Engineers Ltd. Merlin specialise in historic aviation and motorsport fabrication and repair. Around 8 years ago, one of Chris’ mates had an Egli Laverda. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Fritz Egli was a motorcycle racer turned custom frame builder. Amongst others, he built 25 Egli frames for the Laverda 750SF. Very rare and very beautiful and one of these bikes was the inspiration for what you see here.

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Chris’ mate had a spare Egli frame (as you do) which started cogs turning in Chris’s brain, thinking his spare Ducati Bevel engine might fit. Sadly, it was not to be, but the seed was well and truly sewn and Chris decided to utilise his extensive fabrication expertise and make his own frame. Based on the Egli frames of the 70’s, Chris’ frame is pure art, manufactured using 4130N aircraft grade chromalloy seamless tube.

The frame is flawless and Chris tells us fabricating the frame was quite straight forward but as always, the devil is in the detail. The spindles, headstock and swing arm pivot points were a challenge, sucking up a serious amount of fabrication time. There are around 60 bush’s, spacers and spindles in these 4 points alone which took longer to fabricate than the actual frame.

One of the many defining features of this bike are the exhausts. Chris wanted the exhaust up high but didn’t want the heat issues associated with running them this way. His solution was to route the exhausts inside the frame, best of both worlds.

There are a huge number of man hours invested in the exhaust, created from a series of bends and straights, welded, linished and finally nickel-plated. The silencers are manufactured by hand, rolled from flat sheets and fitted with machined end caps. You would be forgiven for thinking the exhausts were simply machine formed but Chris fabricated every inch by hand, from header to the tip of the silencer.

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While we’re talking about in-house and hand-made, machined components, take a minute to look at the quality of the rear sets, top yoke, disc carriers and engine frames. All hand-made and all beautiful.

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It will not surprise you to hear that the tank, based on the Imola style tanks raced in the 70’s, is also a hand-made item, skilfully crafted out of 1050A alloy making it light but soft and the seat unit is a bespoke glass fibre unit. To keep the clean lines, Chris has used a Motogadget system for the electronics, very neat, very clever.

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This beautiful bike is certainly not all show. Chris has made sure there’s plenty of go and it comes from a heavily modified 900GTS 863cc ‘bevel’ L-twin. The ‘square case’ short stroke engine gets its name from the overhead cams, driven by a set of bevel gears and uses valve springs for closing (non-desmo) it also has those ‘Ital’ designed outer engine covers by Giorgetto Guigiaro of Studio Italdesign.

This ‘bevel’ engine has received more that it’s share of Merlin Engineers attention. It’s fitted with a race crank, Carrillo rods, big valves and lumpy cams and runs on silent Hektik ignition. It’s ported and sucks air through a pair of big 40mm Dellorto’s so she goes quite well and sounds awesome.

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She rolls on classic lightweight Dymag CH3 wheels with upside down WP forks and there’s an Ohlins Shock holding things up at the rear.

Chris is happy to consider commissions if you fancy a beautiful piece of automotive art like this for yourself. And let’s face it, if you didn’t you’d have to be dead inside.

[Photos by Gareth Squance]








  • guvnor67

    This is niiiiiice!! A classy, well executed motorcycle. The frame’s a beauty, and the colour choices spot on. It’s a shame UK number plates have to be the size of aircraft carriers!! (I often ran illegal under size plates-. Anyway, very nice machine.

    • BobFalfa

      Well yes but at least you can read it as it’s not at 90 degree to the ground, and stuck on the side.
      Only Brits can build Cafe Racers,

    • Mark Blacktopmedia Turner

      True. The legal plates are huge here, really spoils the lines of a bike. I used to run a smaller one too, generally you’re ok with it.
      This bike is beautiful, such a lovely piece of work.
      Thanks for commenting.

      • BobFalfa

        I’m actually in Scotland. and know about the” less than legal” ones, and mudguards are a real requirement ,cos it’s not sunny everyday

        • the watcher

          No type approval, no pointless restrictions on what you can build and/or what parts you can build it with, and a yearly M.O.T when you fit your baffles, chain-guard and full-size number plate for 20 minutes. Now, if we could just get shot of the rain, diesel slops and myopic/incompetent cage-drivers, it’d be perfect. Bugger.

        • guvnor67

          Add to that gravel, and god knows what other slop gets left on the roads!! Not much different in “sunny” Victoria, Australia, sad to say.

      • guvnor67

        No probs. Awesome bike.

  • Bultaco Metralla

    Love it. A really well done classic cafe racer with tons of exquisite, old fashioned, hand craft.

    • Mark Blacktopmedia Turner

      It really is isn’t it?! So much done in house too, hand made and built in house. Awesome.

  • rein skugler

    Really lovely looks! And the motor – the best!

  • JayJay

    One word: Stunning. Andrew I wish you waited until this post to block Hardley T Whipsnade III, would love to know what he has to say about this one ..

    • Davidabl2

      Maybe he’ll be back. With a new web address & a new pseudonym:-)

      • the watcher

        I think he already is! See below.

  • DevilsAdvocate

    So many builders . So little talent , creativity and originality . And such a complete waste of perfectly good motorcycles all in the vain pursuit of InstaFamous/ InstaBroke .All presented by an Antipode SnowFlake incapable of dealing with criticism while pursuing InstaFamous /InstaBroke himself

    • Mark Blacktopmedia Turner

      To be fair, it’s not a waste of a bike as it’s mostly scratch built bar the engine and a few chassis components.

    • Jim Roberts

      is there any way that you could share with the rest of us whatever it is that you’re smoking…any tracers or hallucinations…do you know where you’re at ? pretty much everyone else here is admiring an exceptional home build, you on the other hand are “on the banks of your own lagoon”. miss ya’ joe

    • Be careful gentlemen!
      -Troll Alert!-

      • motomick

        But, hark, where lurks our favorite troll of all, HTW III? Can’t he conjure up some snotty effete nonsense to sling at this largely pleasantly crafted Duicati?!

    • Racing Enthusiast

      …Brought to you by InstaTroll /InstaBanned.

  • Jim Roberts

    nice bike…i’d ride it

  • the watcher

    If you don’t like this, you’re on the wrong website.

    • Aakashdeep Kumar

      tell me about a website for me then… coz i feel this is boring… i appreciate the hours of handwork but its another one of those machines…

      • the watcher

        In what way does this not live up to your expectations of a Cafe-Racer (as per the tag-line at the top of the page)?

      • BobFalfa

        Actually it’s not , for the first time in ages this is exactly the Cafe Racer look , the rest have had no mudguards, seats that look as if they are stuck on ,open spaces where there should be stuff, essentially a modern version of how things were built in the owner’s back shed, either they were built that way or they were bought from a host of builders eg Cromerford (triton) Dunstall(various) Unity Equipe to name a few,
        I’d suggest that some bikes that have been featured have been put together by folk that have never seen a real C-R ,but have built something that is their idea of how they think it should look, and sticking a Number plate half way along the swinging arm ,is not the way to do it.
        A C-R should be about Balance,Symmetry
        Some featured are like OCC versions of C-Rs , heartless,bland
        And It’s got no pipewrap….what more do you need?

  • Jim Stuart

    Love the bike but if I were to commission one for myself I would go with a conventional style front fork.

    • Mark Blacktopmedia Turner

      Interesting point Jim. How about the wheels?

      • Jim Stuart

        The wheels are fine since they match the ones I had on my old bevel drive 900SS. My 1999 Ducati 900 Monster shares the same tone of blue paint as your bike so I’m fine with that too but my old 900SS was black with gold graphics. 40mm Dellortos and conti exhaust that would make your ears bleed. Nothing civilized about that beast.

        • the watcher

          They did sound well, didn’t they? Like a big old V8 on the prowl, But if you wanted really hairy-arsed you went with a 180-crank Jota (in orange, natch). Mind you, crazy values aside, I’d prefer to ride this honey home, any time.

        • Mark Blacktopmedia Turner

          That 900SS sounds lovely Jim.

    • JayJay

      Why? For the more classic look, I presume. That would make sence, but what a bike.. I can only dream of owning something like this. Let alone building one!

  • Wow! What an impressive build. Every detail is perfect.

  • Impressive in design and execution. No demerits on this beautiful bike.

  • Maurice Rissman

    Beautiful workmanship; it’s so nice to see genuine creativity and real fabrication instead of the usual matt-black pressure-pack scrap.

  • cornishman2

    Beautiful. Tones of the round case Ducatis with a twist of today. Could sit in my hall with aplomb….my garage would be far too austere.