Zeel Design burst out of the Quebec building scene in 2005 with the introduction of a double-hubless Harley-powered machine, the “Phenom” that simply overwhelmed the international custom community. Now, Zeel returns with something completely unexpected. From out of the past, designer Michael Long says he was inspired by memories of tall-wheeled tricycles from his youth in the production of this Sportster-powered three-wheeler. He then rode the machine 1,100 miles, from Memphis to Austin, to enter competition at the ROT rally.
There’s an Old World flavour to the Bobster, one of Quebec builder Zeel Design’s latest creations. It beckons images you can’t quite recall—a favourite tricycle that didn’t belong to you in your childhood, or perhaps a Penny Farthing you saw hooping down the street in a long-forgotten daguerreotype.
Zeel Design principal Mike Long says the Bobster was first designed in a software program, then built over the course of 10 days for the 2006 season of the Discovery Channel Biker Build-Off series. Its unveiling came during last summer’s massive Republic of Texas Rally in Austin where it grabbed top honours in the rather obscure but completely fascinating Antique Trike category. Awards are nothing new for Long and Zeel Design—the Ste-Cesaire builder has been a staple on the international custom scene since 2005, when he introduced the world to his double-hubless “Phenom,” featured in our June 2005 issue (“Built with Zeel”).
That year, at the legendary Rats Hole show in Daytona, Long’s Phenom was singled out as the Best in Show, and last year he finished just 49 votes out of top spot at the International Biker Build-Off, also in Daytona.
The Zeel Design Bobster is a remarkable treatment that begins with a looping tube-style frame exposing virtually every element of the machine, including the stressed-member 1200cc Sportster motor that’s been bolstered by the inclusion of Screamin’ pistons, cams and ignition module. Final drive is a limited-slip rear end transmitting power to a pair of Vee Rubber 200/70/15s, mounted on Zeel-built 20-spoke wheels.
Complementing the rear set is a 26-inch front tire fitted to an unconventional Zeel Design wheel reminiscent in appearance to vintage era broad-spokes. Straddling the front wheel are girder-style forks with a single tube running through the head stock. Controlling the forks are sweptback handlebars, and the whole assemblage echos strong Indian V-Twin themes, circa 1914. Indeed, just like Oscar Hedstrom’s 42-degree Twins of that era, even the fuel tank is mounted beneath the top frame rail.
The frame is actually comprised of three separate geometrical equations that see the top rail sweep back to create a platform for the sprung solo seat, while the middle rail greets the rear end assembly, and the bottom member bends back on itself to mount powertrain components.
There are obscure elements of the build that obviously don’t immediately leap out at the viewer but nonetheless contribute to the overall flavour. The Zeel Design oil tank containing electronic components, the final drive pulley that picks up the styling cues laid down by the rear wheels, the clutch and throttle cabling that is internalized by the Zeel bars, these are just a few of the elegant pieces that drive this custom into the USD $97,000 range. But the Discovery Channel champion, trimmed in red with fine-line graphics
and copper plating, is a guaranteed one-of-a-kind machine from an unconventional Canadian builder who is now on the cusp of being universally recognized among the world’s custom elite.
That in itself may not make it worth the better part of a hundred grand to you, but it needs to be recorded that the Bobster is for sale.
- Canadian Biker May 2007