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Custom Cool – Braaap ST-250 | Columns | Gassit Garage

In the shed of his Launceston home, motorcycle enthusiast Mal Innes-Wayling has been concocting one very dark and neat shot of café-racer cool: the Mad Merc. The build started as a standard 2015 Braaap ST-250 Shadow before being transformed through a few key changes.

An old-school rustic petrol tank was fitted, and then complimented by a matching front guard which has been shortened and given the same patina finish as the tank. To make the bike sit lower and appear more compact, Mal cut four inches from the front fork length. He then adjusted the headlight bracket, moving it 20mm closer to the fork and also modified the speedo bracket to lower the gauges by 15mm. The result is a clean and compact finish to the front end, keeping everything in proportion with the shorter fork legs. The list of modifications includes the now obligatory customisation: the battery eliminator. This is usually achieved by removing the standard battery mount and airbox, and fitting a compact aftermarket battery under the seat. Mal decided to stick with the standard battery, remounting it just above the swingarm pivot. He then removed the airbox and installed an aftermarket paper-based air filter in its place.

The stock muffler was binned, replaced with an aftermarket unit to provides a richer and meatier note.

Clip-on handlebars and rearset footpegs were added for a racey look. and to increase lean angle. The Mad Merc is a traditional lighter is faster café racer build. 

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What was tricky?

“The acid etching on the tank,” Mal says straight away. And fair enough – it’s not the kind of thing you get to retry if things go horribly wrong.

“It’s simple enough to strip the paint back, but when you’re working with rust you’re usually trying to discourage it. In this case I was encouraging it, and I wanted it to rust in a certain way otherwise it just looks like plain old scrap metal.

As well as working on the top end, Mal gave the air-cooled single-cylinder mill a facelift.

“I made some changes to the engine casing too. To begin with, the stock engine was just a plain black, so I sprayed the block silver to highlight some of the details. The engine was dismantled, I machined the cylinder head to increase the compression ratio, rejetted the carburettor and added pod air filters to increase the gas flow. Oh, and I fitted braided stainless steel brake lines to improve the braking. It was tricky at times, but everything went really smoothly.”

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What’s it based on?

“It’s really just the current café style,” says Mal at first. But when prompted he reveals there has been some cultural fusion going on. “I collect motorcycles, mostly the Japanese roadbikes from the 70s and 80s, so I guess I took some inspiration from that brat era where it was all polished chrome and no plastic.

“As far as this build was concerned, it was all based around the fuel tank. It was the only one I could find that would fit the frame! Once that was decided, the rest of the project just fell into place. As the build went on, my plans changed a little bit – now I wish I’d taken some progress pics.”

It’s worth noting that Mal has made judicious changes rather than just splashing the cash. “I wanted to keep as many original parts as possible, so most of the frame, suspension brakes and so on are mostly stock parts.”

What’s it got?

This project goes to show that you can get great results starting from a simple stock bike.

“The bike started as a 2015 Braaap Shadow. The fork, brake lights and suspension are all standard. The front mudguard has been shaved back and the fuel tank is from a Honda CB160, with a vinyl carbon fibre print. The metal surfaces have been etched in acid, allowed to rust and then covered with a clear coat.”

Mal has done a bit of work inside the top end of the 250cc single-cylinder engine, match-porting and smoothing out the flow of the head. As a result, midrange performance has improved markedly – enough for even an ‘average’ rider to notice.

“The engine has some good extra grunt now too,” Mal confirms. “I removed the battery box and airbox to lighten the load and machined the engine to improve the compression ratio. I’ve increased power output by about 10 per cent.

“There’s also clip-ons, rearset footpegs and a custom exhaust with the same acid etched finish as the fuel tank. The fork modification was for looks and to put the rider into the classic café racer position.”

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What’s next?

While Mal says he wants to spend some time just enjoying the work he’s done on the Mad Merc, more shed plans are already brewing. “Next on my list is one of the Braaap ST-450s when that model arrives. They’re a really good base to work from, and the fact that I can source most of the accessories I want over the counter will be very helpful. Honestly, the ST-250 was a great blank canvas, and I enjoyed the build. Now I’m going to try something with slightly more grunt in it – I’m looking forward to seeing where that goes.”

So are we, Mal.

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