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Seen one too many café racers? Never fear, the trackers are here.

Since the start of this ‘new wave’ of custom bike building in the late nineties, it’s been the good old British café racers that have fuelled the scene’s appetite for inspiration. But in the last few years, another classic motorcycling genre has begun to challenge their dominance – that of the tracker.

Drawing its street cred from ‘King’ Kenny Roberts and his legendary dirt track exploits in the seventies along with the more modern machines of the AMA’s Grand National Championships, the scene has an edgy, more track-focused feel than its rockabilly Brit stablemate.

And this is exactly what attracted Darrell Schneider from DS Restorations in California. “I have loved customisation and racing all my life,” says Darrell.  “I began wrenching at the age of 10, when I would help with the family racecar. Then I became friends with Steve, a family friend who owned a fibreglass shop. He was an amazing craftsman.”

At 15, with the encouragement and coaching of both Steve and his father, Darrell took on a custom Mustang. “Following their guidance, I rebuilt it better than new.” And all this before Darrell was legally able to drive.

For this project, Darrell was inspired by Roland Sands’ Ducati Desmo Tracker was a huge inspiration. “I first saw the bike at SEMA. What really struck me, apart from its looks, was that it had been ridden hard before the show. They’d pressure washed it, but there was still dirt in the tires. That really earned my respect.”

What it’s based on?

The build started with DS Restorations acquiring a 2013 KTM 690 Duke. Well known for its single cylinder LC4 690cc powerplant, supermoto looks and oversquare geometry, the design harks back to KTM’s dirt-loving roots.

Tests had the factory bike putting out around 65 Austrian horses. Match that with a dry weight of 150kg and you’ve got yourself quite the little bundle of corner-loving joy.

The liquid-cooled four-valve engine is fuelled by a Keihin EFI system and is matched to a six speed ’box though a wet, anti-hopping clutch. Naturally, all this hardware is caged up in the signature KTM steel trellis framework.

The ‘R’ version of the bike saw the factory add an Akrapovič can that saves weight and ups power. There’s also Brembos and a ‘Supermoto’ ABS mode that lets you lock up the rear rubber without the Teutonic electronics having a conniption.

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What’s it got?

The mods started with a new chrome-moly subframe. This in turn required the repositioning of the battery, which was moved to a custom box that houses most of the electrics.

The fiberglass ‘bucks’ for the panelwork had almost been completed when it was decided to make them out of aluminium instead. And they’re absolutely flawless – the sort of bespoke quality you’d expect a professional coachbuilder to turn out.

Making sure he got the most out of the engine, Darrell used only the best of bits to conjure more get-up-and-go. The highlight is probably the exhaust: a custom modified FMF 4.1 dual muffler, dual mega bomb system. You don’t see too many singles with a set-up like this. Snap, crackle and pop anyone?

Then K&N came to the party with some top-shelf air and oil filters. A subsequent dyno run showed the need for more fuel, which was sorted with a Dynojet Power Commander V box that Darrell says added “the equivalent of three main jet sizes”.

The suspension consists entirely of Austrian WP items. The wheels have been sanded clean of casting marks before being matched to a set of Dunlop’s ultra sticky Q3s.

What was tricky?

Unlike a ‘normal’ custom build, Darrell’s plan for the KTM was to create something that looked like it had come right off of KTM’s Mattighofen factory floor, rather than the local ‘beards and beer’ bike shop. As with many custom builders, Darrell developed the ideas as the build progressed.

“I planned out the build at the start, but the initial concepts ended up in the bin. So I relied on knowing what I wanted and just trusting my freeform design skills to achieve what I was looking for.”

This meant that the look of the bike changed multiple times during the build. “I wanted a factory racebike look that retained KTM’s trademark angular, edgy design. So I had to make sure that we didn’t move too far away from something that was believably KTM and end up in ‘handbuilt’ territory.”

What’s next?

Darrell’s first custom build was a beautiful ‘GP 250R café racer’ that was based on a very un-café Honda CRF250R. It went down a treat online and proved to be one of the most popular custom bikes of 2012. But many thought he wouldn’t be able to deliver the goods twice in a row.

“The first build was to prove to myself I could do it. This build was to prove I could top it.” And top it he clearly did. Darrell is currently searching for sponsors to help out on his next project, although we’re not sure we can wait another four years. If anyone is up for a spot of dirt-flinging tomfoolery on a few SEMA show bikes to help him on his way, just drop us a line.

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Words Andrew Jones  Photography Jessica Rankin