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Indian FTR: Tokyo Connection

It has been a hectic few weeks: new magazine, new bike, video, Bike Shed show and some other non-Sideburn related stuff, but it all went well. One project in the middle of that period is our Indian FTR. This is the official press release (that came out last Friday, hence the reference to last weekend's Bike Shed Show), and a couple of photos. More to follow. Gary

Indian Motorcycle UK and Sideburn magazine have partnered with one of the most current and creative customisers, Toshiyuki “CHEETAH” Osawa, to create a custom-built Indian FTR that blends the moto cultures of America, Britain, and Japan. ‘Tokyo Connection’ celebrates the American flat track heritage of the FTR and the burgeoning UK and Japanese dirt track scenes and will remain on display to the public throughout the weekend show, May 26-28.

Gary Inman, founder of Sideburn, commented “‘Tokyo Connection’ is the most ambitious custom build we have attempted in our 15-year history for a few reasons. The first being that the FTR is a great looking, 21st century muscle bike straight from the factory, so it isn’t an easy job to improve on it. The other difficulty was choosing a creative partner located on the other side of the planet. Luckily, Cheetah is a complete pro. He explained his workload was huge and the only way he could hit our deadline was to finish the bike very close to the planned Bike Shed Moto show debut by flying over with the bodywork.

“We already had a few parts from him, like the custom underseat fuel tank and new subframe, but we had to wait for the handmade bodywork. We also had great support from old friends of the magazine including S&S Cycle, Hagon Wheels, Dunlop Tyres and, of course, Indian Motorcycle who supplied parts from their Gilles Performance range. We couldn’t be happier with the result. Cheetah is the master, and we think we’ve enhanced the FTR without diminishing any of its dynamic ability or eyelid-peeling performance.”

Toshiyuki “CHEETAH” Osawa, based out of Tokyo, is one of the most respected custom builders anywhere in the world and one of the driving forces behind the grassroots resurgence of dirt track in Japan. With great demand for his work, Cheetah was initially concerned that he might not be able to participate in the build due to his schedule, but the globe-spanning nature of the project, its themes and a chance to visit the UK for Europe’s best independent annual motorcycle show saw Cheetah pull out all the stops to be a part of the project.

“First of all, I’m honoured to be part of this prestigious project. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Indian Motorcycle and Sideburn magazine. I’m really intrigued by the UK right now. It is overflowing with craftsmanship and various new and traditional technologies that I’m interested in. That’s why I’m so happy to be standing on UK ground for the first time and to be on such a glamorous stage as the Bike Shed Moto Show. Thank you so much for this opportunity,” said Cheetah.

The Concept

With his expertise in aluminium exterior fabrication, a signature element of many of his builds, Cheetah designed the bike around the premise of a one-piece petrol tank and seat cowl structure seen in many flat trackers, but with a larger tank than normally seen on the race machines.

“In terms of design, I deliberately ignored the definition of custom bikes or racing bikes, which call for small petrol tanks. Instead, for the FTR, I created a larger petrol tank cover and crafted a line that narrows from the cover to the tail cowl. A simple, yet beautiful body line that can be appreciated not only from a side silhouette but also from directly behind or at a diagonal angle. A body line that anyone would find beautiful and enjoyable to behold,” said Cheetah.

With the project moniker of ‘Tokyo Connection,’ Cheetah wanted to incorporate graphics that would leave an impression of Tokyo and Japan by designing a logo and lettering resembling Japanese calligraphy, hand-applied by artist and fellow motorcycle fabricator, Tomomi “Shakin’ ” Shimizu.

“I also incorporated my own image of the United Kingdom into the exterior. To me, the UK is a crazy country, and I mean that as a compliment. I expressed this through the surface decoration on the exterior parts using a technique called “Spinning”. Of course, I also included elements that reflect the identity of Indian Motorcycle and on the tank cover’s upper surface, I engraved a panel that represents this identity. I did not want to create a biased design. Rather, I wanted to mix together all the elements that were involved in this project, Indian Motorcycle, Sideburn Magazine, America, the United Kingdom, Japan, and myself. I feel that I was able to achieve this with the design I created.”

As part of the build, a series of videos follows the project from the build to its unveiling and beyond. The second video in the series features Cheetah in the starring role adding another string to his bow in his first acting performance.

Cheetah said, “I am grateful for the chance to bring out a new side of me playing the role of ‘Super Cheetah.’ The shoot was incredibly exhilarating, and I was able to discover that I have the potential to be an actor as well, something I’ve never done before.”

'Tokyo Connection’ Custom Indian FTR

• Handmade aluminium tank cover and seat cowl bodywork by Cheetah Custom Cycles ( • Centre panel on the tank cover fabricated and engraved by Cheetah • Air scoop for front disc brake by Cheetah • Chromoly subframe designed by Cheetah, fabricated by Garage Ducktail (@ducktail_watanabe) • Aluminium petrol tank designed by Cheetah, fabricated by Garage Ducktail • Leather seat by Atelier Tee (@ateliertee) • Paint by S Paint Works (@spaintworks_aki @spaintworks) • Signwriting by Shakin @grindandbrush • S&S Grand National exhaust system, Cerakoted Stormtrooper White • Indian Motorcycle x Gilles Tooling rearsets • Indian Motorcycle x Gilles Tooling brake & clutch levers • Indian Motorcycle x Gilles Tooling radiator cap • Indian Motorcycle x Gilles Tooling oil cap • 19in FTR Rally front wheel, powder-coated black & rebuilt by Hagon • 19in rear rim, laced to FTR Rally hub by Hagon • Dunlop DT4 dirt track tyres • Neken dirt track handlebars • Rizoma mini indicators

Photos: Sam Christmas


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