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Become a MemberMotorcycles Max Hazan’s Near-Impossible Project Velocette

Most custom motorcycle builders take years to define a signature style — but Max Hazan’s work has been distinguishable from Day One. His builds don’t conform to any particular genre, but always follow the same tenets; they’re elegant, hand-crafted, and often feature complex and intricate solutions to simple problems. And they ride the line between motorcycles and art so well that they defy clichéd arguments about function versus form.

But Hazan can play both sides of the coin equally well. The Los Angeles-based custom builder once built a KTM 950 supermotard purely for personal use, deliberately aiming for a pseudo-factory look and putting the emphasis squarely on rideability. Then a potential customer asked him to build one just like it…and things snowballed.

“He actually wanted to buy the 950,” says Hazan, “and was disappointed that I had sold it to someone else. I was going to build him a similar KTM, but he saw my Knucklehead sportbike and decided that he wanted something crazy now, and then something to ride later on.”

The brief eventually evolved from “something a little more custom” to “go wild, make whatever you want.” But it took Hazan a while to come up with the concept of the twin-engined, bicycle-inspired machine you’re looking at here. “I always like to think of something unique,” he explains. “If I’m going to spend six months working on something, I want it to be worth the effort in the end.” “This idea came when I found one of these Velocette MAC engines on eBay and it turned out the seller was down the street. I knew right away when I saw the shape of the engine cases that two of them would fit together perfectly, and I could make a twin-engine bike that didn’t look like the usual twin-engine drag bike.”

The post-war MAC motor is a 349cc air-cooled single that clocked a remarkable top speed of 75 mph in its day. It’s a beautiful motor, too — so seeing two lined up in the same motorcycle is a rare treat.

Hazan sourced the second unit in England, then added a four-speed Matchless transmission, mounted on its side. The two powerplants basically run independently, but are linked by a set of belts running on custom-machined aluminum pulleys that are attached to each main shaft. The final belt is double-sided, so it can simultaneously spin an Eaton TVS R410 supercharger, effectively killing two birds with one stone.

The motors also act as stressed members of the frame, which is a hand-crafted chromoly steel arrangement. Each engine’s crank breather is plumbed into the frame itself, at points where the tubes are angled downwards, so that the bulk of the oil mist runs back to the engines. Hazan built the front suspension from chromoly steel, too, with a unique take on a leading link system that uses a single, custom-built shock. It’s impressive enough on its own, but it’s almost overshadowed by the engineering that’s gone into the bicycle-style front wheel. “I like to come up with new ideas on each project,” says Hazan. “They usually have something unique…but this bike was wild from front to back.”

This project was also one of the hardest to complete. It spanned a pandemic, the shutdown in LA, the arrival of our son Jack, and the sale and purchase of our home. And I did almost everything you see twice, including the paint, to get it where I was happy.
Max Hazan

“The front wheel was something that I had wanted to make for years — I love bicycle design and a deep ‘V’ has been on my mind for some time. But the hard part about making the front wheel was that it was a clincher, which meant that we couldn’t do it in one piece on the CNC mill. No CNC shop wanted to mess with the idea — other than my friend Mark Atkinson, who ended up making the rear, too.” Atkinson machined the wheel as two interlocking aluminum halves, held together with stainless steel dowels that are secured by the spokes’ tension. The brake is a traditional bicycle V-brake design, built from scratch, and equipped with three cork pads on each side. Hazan puts their efficacy at “about a six out of 10 — about the same as a vintage drum brake.”

The rear wheel is also a custom aluminum part, but follows a more traditional design. At a glance it looks brakeless, but there’s actually a one-off 4-inch stainless steel rotor and a floating caliper mounted inboard of the rear sprocket. There’s also no axle or wheel nut to speak of; instead, the custom chromoly swingarm has been built as a two-piece design that threads through the wheel. Chain tension is adjustable via an eccentric cam at the swingarm’s pivot point.

For the rear suspension, Hazan side-mounted an air-sprung Fox mountain bike shock that’s been stripped and polished. “Air shocks are awesome,” he says. “No math, no spring changes — just adjust the pressure.”

As you’d expect from Hazan, all of the Velocette’s lithe, flowing bodywork is custom. It’s been hand-shaped from aluminum, with minimal paint and twelve layers of bonded leather for a seat. The bike’s lines are traced by the exhaust, which snakes up and under the tail section. Keen eyes will also spot two filler caps on the fuel tank, because there’s an oil reservoir hidden inside it, too. The fuel tank itself is pressurized by boost from the supercharger, so that the blow-through carb system can be fed without needing a fuel pump. “It makes about six psi with the current one-to-one drive ratio,” Hazan explains, “and as crazy as the setup sounds, it runs like a naturally aspirated bike.”

Hazan’s Velocette is both impossibly narrow and achingly beautiful — but also utterly unique. “Although it’s about eight feet long, it feels like a bicycle with two engines,” he says. “The power is not mind-blowing, but if I had to guess I’d say it makes around 50 horsepower between the two 70-year-old 350s. And after about 30 minutes of riding you need to give your ass a break — but practicality wasn’t a part of this project.”

“This project was also one of the hardest to complete,” says Hazan. “It spanned a pandemic, the shutdown in LA, the arrival of our son Jack, and the sale and purchase of our home. And I did almost everything you see twice, including the paint, to get it where I was happy. It was worth it!”

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