Try as we might, we are largely a product of our environment and while some rebels manage to shake the confines of their ecosystem, most blend in like white on rice. Even in the subversive school of the custom motorcycle scene, we find that many stay true to their national identity, often heavily influenced by local manufacturers. But Russia’s Leonid Skakunov swims in an open ocean, his creations unscathed by any parochial attitudes. From his workshop in St Petersburg, his latest creation is a stunning Ducati S2R that combines technologies old and new for an unmistakably compelling result.
Last year Leonid shook things up with another Ducati, a Monster 796, that found success on the show circuit like many of the bikes he builds. Having spun the spanners in a range of shops, he’s picked up all the tricks of the trade and now with his own operation, Drive-In Workshop, he is free to let his creative spirit loose while having the skills to make his machines perform as good as they look. Which is just what his latest client needed, having approached him riding a Yamaha Royal Star.
Think near 700lbs of lumbering, American wannabe, cruiser and you soon get the idea of why a man who lives in a city wanted something else. And in the Ducati S2R, Leonid was able to offer him just the right ready made factory scalpel for destroying the St Petersburg streets. But of course, you don’t come to Drive-In Workshop looking for a trade-in on another stock bike, and Leonid was more than happy to oblige by going into this bag of tricks to create a Ducati like no other. To start the build he wanted to compliment the stunning alloy single-sided swingarm with a sweet new set of wheels.
So he got in contact with fellow Russian builder and friend of Pipeburn, Balamutti’s Vitaliy Selyukov, who races crazy contraptions on the ice. With a set of his wheels sent over, Leonid offered them up the S2R but as good as they were, they just weren’t right for this project. So instead he began to work on his own and took to the computer to design a set of 3D printed hubs to start the ball rolling. With multiple sets printed to iron out the engineering bugs the final set could be machined and laced with thick spokes to new rims that give them the old carriage look he was after.
Next on the list of things to do was the bodywork and as nice as the S2R is from the factory, not a single stock piece survives. To truly get a cohesive look with what he had planned, Leonid wanted to start with a blank canvas. The round flowing lines of the original tank are replaced with the fuller figure of early Ducati race bikes and to help balance out the bulky addition up top, an all new belly pan in a similar style was fabricated. Then to keep the theme flowing the LED headlight is encased in a hand made cowl, a signature of Leonid’s builds.
“In the process of metal shaping, I thought about decor from wood, my friend Dmitry Ledenev, has been engaged in furniture and carpentry for a long time.” So to shift things up from the ultra-modern 3D printed parts to a material that’s been in use for millennia, Leonid drew the designs and Dmitry got to shaping. First is the incredible tail section piece, the lines could come straight from a carbon fibre factory Ducati Hot Rod, but the grains beneath the surface show off the incredible talent. Both front and rear fenders are also handcrafted timber, while the side panels tie it all together.
To finish the tank, Leonid added a slick quick filler but the last piece of the wood on top fought them all the way, “The lining on the gas tank is very simple, but we made the top lining 7 times,” he says through gritted teeth. To paint it all up, the metal, timber and the custom badges were handed off to Octopus Art Aerografia where Anton worked his magic, even giving the frame and parts of the engine a patina effect. It helps to soften the transition between materials and also gives the perfect backdrop for pieces like the custom rearsets to pop.
The L-Twin engine is dressed up with a clear clutch cover from Balamutti and a set of carbon fibre belt guards. While a custom exhaust plays the soundtrack and ensures the rear wheel is completely left exposed. Then, “for 5 days I dealt with Italian pasta, I ate!” smiles Leonid, as he describes dealing with the Ducati wiring to splice in a new dash and switches. But he’s also a man who likes the challenge, opting for inverted levers that required more 3D printed parts to operate effectively. The end result is another showstopper from Drive-In Workshop, a bike to make you pause and think about whether you’re playing this custom game just a little too safe, the Russian’s certainly aren’t!