Charley Charles: CYCLOMOTEUR 750

Text: Charley Charles
Photos: Siwer Ohlsson

Sweet Lord, what is this thing? Depends on which version you want to believe. Builder Petri Ruusunen has two alternate versions that he likes to tell people – one that he dreamed up himself and another that’s more down to Earth.

Version one: Sometime probably around 1904, a hole in the atmosphere opened up above the little city of Svopada, Finland, and allowed a cosmic gas from space to leak in and mess with the minds of the townsfolk. Some of them started creating bizarre inventions that had no function at all. Others became very skilled craftsmen, like Odd Olav Ogg who owned an absinthe distillery that he decided to turn into a motorcycle factory named Teknik Svopada. Mr Ogg and his successor, Sven-Stencil Björksocker, were very internationally oriented and decided to give their bikes the French model name Cyclomoteur. As Petri explains:

– I guess they didn’t know that Cyclomoteur means “moped” in French – but that’s not my problem!

Version two: After building up a huge collection of a dozen different bikes, Petri Ruusunen decided it was time for a bike with no paint or plating at all.

– I always thought my bikes looked more interesting before I painted them, when they were just naked metal. A lot of people are bragging, “My bike is only real steel, no plastic”. And then it’s covered in five liters of acrylic paint, which is basically plastic…

The bronze theme was to be carried out with only solid materials, absolutely no plating whatsoever.

– I don’t understand plating! Why use steel, and then plate it with some other metal? I tried to avoid that.

Being a self-employed goldsmith for the last 25 years, Petri knew where to order a 3 x 1 meter piece of 1,5 millimeter thick sheet brass.

– It’s a special alloy usually called “architect brass” with a little less zinc mixed in, it has a sunny bronze color and is easier to shape than the normal stuff. It cost me 750 euros but I still have a lot left in my workshop.

The first plan was to make a single copper gas tank, but Petri’s son Anton came up with a different suggestion.

– He told me, “Why don’t you make a cool pair of torpedoes?” So I did, out of the sheet brass. Making them 100% tight was difficult, especially since I didn’t have the right flux to begin with.

The detailing of the bike is totally incredible. The lettering on the gas tank was ordered from an Italian company that casts text for gravestones. The rear fender is from Indonesian rattan and the seat from very hard ash wood. There’s a rabbit’s foot for good luck. On the rear of the wooden seat is an antique Russian cameo made of mother-of-pearl, the fully functional odometer on top of the tank is from an old cash register, and of course there are the cymbal hubcaps. But why didn’t the builder get rid of that brand-name text on the cymbals?

– Naaah, I was hoping the companies would sponsor me one day!

The texting on the bike is easy to understand even if you don’t speak French: “La solution de carburant” on the gas tank, “Une solution lubricant” on the oil tank, “Le porteur de lumiere” on the headlight and so on.

– Some people tell me the bike has too much detailing. Which is true, of course. But this is the way I wanted it. Something that everyone could appreciate, from little children to old grandmothers.

sso_0024The Cyclomoteur fits right in with the rest of the stuff in Petri’s private museum of bikes and bizarre scientific instruments. He collects and creates stuff more weird than any normal brain could ever dream up. Among other things he owns an old electro-shock therapy machine from a mental institution that he claims to have tried on himself.

With a guy like this, it’s always interesting to ask what his next project will be.

– Well, I don’t have any plans right now. I don’t have to build more bikes if I don’t want to. Maybe I’ll just take a year off and just take it easy and play guitar, Petri says. But then he gets serious in his accented English:

– Some people think it’s luxus to just relax and do nothing at all in their free time, or watch TV or go out on some sailboat. Well, I don’t think that’s luxus. Doing things, trying to create stuff and learning new things, that’s really luxus! If you ask me, anyway…

Take a deep breath: www.petriruusunen.fi.

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TECH SHEET
Owner/builder: Petri Ruusunen, Turku, Finland

FRAME
Make: H-D
Rake: Stock
Stretch: None

ENGINE
Make and type: H-D flathead
Displacement: 750 cc
Cams: Stock
Carb: Linkert M88
Exhaust: Brass by owner
Ignition: Morris magneto

TRANSMISSION
Primary drive: Chain
Clutch: Stock
Gearbox: 3-speed

FORKS
Make: H-D
Extension: None

FRONT WHEEL
Make: Harley-Davidson
Brake: Harley-Davidson
Tire: Classic 5,10 x 16”

REAR WHEEL
Make: Harley-Davidson
Brake: Harley-Davidson
Tire: Classic 5,10 x 16”

ACCESSORIES
Gas tank: Brass by owner
Oil tank: Brass by owner
Bars: Wood by owner
Seat: Wood by owner
Hand controls: By owner, umbrella handle, K-Tech
Foot controls: H-D
Headlight: Gas accumulator, Prague, 1907
Taillight: Detect, made in France
Rear fender: Rattan from Indonesia

FINISH
Chrome: None
Paint: Hot blueing on cylinders

In the background are Petri’s sons, 16-year-old Anton and 14-year-old Aaron. They are working with an electro-mechanical device that collects energy from ether waves, according to the theories of scientist Nikola Tesla.

In the background are Petri’s sons, 16-year-old Anton and 14-year-old Aaron. They are working with an electro-mechanical device that collects energy from ether waves, according to the theories of scientist Nikola Tesla.