Since 1992, Jean-Francois Robert has been designing ultra-lightweight race machinery, first under the brand name ’Tucson’ with the slogan “Light is Right.” The boutique French race house’s aim is to compete with other prestigious shops such as NCR and Pierobon. Robert would partner with Yann Bakonyi and together the pair of designers and engineers would churn out some seriously impressive machinery. Around 2008, Robert and “Bako” delivered the BT 550 Superleggera, a 220 lb racer powered by a 550cc Aprilia four-stroke twin. More recently, the two chassis gurus have produced the Ducati-powered ‘1078R’, a model with success on the racetrack that speaks for itself.
The name Roadson came about after a 5-year legal battle with Hyundai over the name of Tucson. Although Jean-Francois Robert registering his trademark in 1994 and Hyundai’s Tucson not being released until 2003, the latter’s legal team argued “A registered trademark is only valid if it is exploited in a real and serious way.” The ruling would eventually go in favor of the Korean auto giant, and Tucson would be forced to change its name and to pay two thousand euros plus legal fees.
Robert and Bako begrudgingly accepted the ruling and trudged onward, determined to not let this legal naming snafu get in the way of their mission to deliver high-performance race-winning bikes. Under the new company name of Roadson, the 1078R model was unveiled. The 1078R uses a lightweight frame and swing-arm made of Reynolds 631 tubing, a chassis incredibly similar if not nearly identical to the one found on the previous BT 550 Superleggera model. Powering the high-end French racer is an air-cooled Ducati 1100 Evo engine married to a slipper clutch. An EMC sportshock IV, (single) Beringer front-brake, aluminum and titanium hardware, BST carbon fiber rims, and a one-off titanium exhaust made in-house all come standard on the French Twin racer weighing in at 302 lbs dry. The 1078R was recently piloted by Vincent Houssin in the 2017 SportTwin Cup where he had a perfect season, winning twelve out of twelve races.
The 1078R is something of a testament to the dedication and passion of Robert and Bako. Roadson’s philosophy is that there are two ways to make a bike faster, making the engine more powerful or making the overall bike lighter. The small French company has opted to focus almost entirely on the latter. In 2010 Robert explained to the French motorcycle site Moto-net.com, how producing world-class lightweight racers requires ample R&D which can’t be done without some seriously deep pockets, something Roadson objectively doesn’t have. The 1078R had to be created through a successful crowd-funding campaign, collecting money from investors who were interested in owning a Roadson machine and were willing to fork over cash far in advance before the final product was anywhere near ready. Robert and Bako also had to volunteer a decent amount of their own personal time to keep within the budget.
As the donations came in, Roadson was able to make more and more improvements to the 1078R, replacing the set of forged aluminum rims with carbon fiber units, as well as the addition of a steel spindle with a titanium pin, a lightened crankshaft and clutch bell, a titanium exhaust, and more weight saving upgrades. The number of carbon parts on the 1078R is pretty ridiculous, the bodywork, air-intakes, front and rear fenders, engine covers, heat-guards, brackets, air-box, rims, the display’s housing, chain-guard, and many, many more. The 1078R was first introduced around 2012 and even half-a-decade later the French micro-production model remains objectively world-class. Through the use of various titanium and other lightweight engine parts and a heap of carbon fiber Roadson was able to focus on its area of expertise and deliver a lightweight machine that’s arguably on par with the vastly more expensive Pierobon F042 and other NCR Millona S.
Over the years, Roadson has managed to garner support from some reputable sponsors such as Dunlop Tires, Facom Tools, Beringer Brakes, Airbus, Village Motos, and Ducati of Grenoble – a dealership in a city at the foot of the French Alps. Thanks to Vincent Houssin’s recent perfect season, it should be markedly easier to drum-up future support for R&D as well as funds for competing. While Roadson hasn’t achieved NCR’s level of notoriety, Robert and Bako are showing no signs of slowing down and continue to offer built-to-order 1078R machines. As Houssin’s flawless dozen races in 2017 suggests, the 1078R is a reliable racer in addition to being incredibly high-performance. While it is obviously a track-only bike, I think it’s really cool that – thanks to Roadson – anyone can own an objectively world-class racer for less than the cost of a new Panigale S. Not bad.
You can find this Roadson 1078R example for sale here on RaceBikeMart.com in France with a price of $23,000.