Nehmesis, the Yamaha Road Star Chopper Dripping in Gold and Shamelessness
23 July 2020 - autoevolution
The field of custom choppers is a highly divisive one, but throw some gold and a whole lot of shamelessness in the equation, and you’re bound to get a really polarizing build.
Sam Nehme knew that when, in 2007, he set out to build a chopper that would stand out from the crowd. It was the time of chrome and he'd grown tired of seeing it everywhere, so for a televised build-off he had signed on for ESPN, he decided to go the potentially-gaudy way of gold.
"With Nehmesis, I saw myself as making the Frankenstein monster of motorcycles," he told Ultimate Motorcycling in an interview the following year. "I wanted to be different. And do all that it was possible to do in one bike; to push myself further than ever – as if this was my last build."
Nehmesis is just that: a ferocious, superbly crafted and truly outrageous build that remains, to this day, Nehme's most daring project. It is named after him and, unlike his other custom builds, this one was a gift to himself.
Nehme is the owner of Ford Lauderdale's Broward Motorsports, and he set up the creative division BMS Choppers in 2003. They do tons of stuff for regular folks, from custom bikes and choppers, to cars and trucks, but they also count on a celebrity clientele that includes the likes of Flo Rida, Diddy and Ice T.
Nehme is unapologetic about the work BMS Choppers does (celebrities want what they want, and they do get it with them, he says), but he is even more so as regards Nehmesis, perhaps one of the most famous Yamaha choppers in the world. Look through any "most expensive bikes" list available online, and you will find Nehmesis there, usually with estimates of up to $3 million.
The bike hardly cost that much: Nehme himself would estimate they put in some $250,000 in man-hours alone (6 full months of 18-hour working days), some $25,000 in 24-karat gold plating, and another $25,000 for the custom deep 3D rims. Depending on who you believe, the total cost of the bike would go up to $500,000 but, ultimately, how much it costs doesn't even matter. The bike is not for sale.
Nehmesis started out as a Yamaha Road Star 1700, of which only the 1.7-liter V-twin engine, engine cradle and steering head (for the original VIN) were kept. It was built from the ground up by Nehme himself, head machinist Ron Tilson and fabricator Jonesy, from Nehme's sketches.
Best described as the point of collision of two contrasting worlds, that of H.R. Giger and of flamboyant fashion designer Gianni Versace, Nehmesis is a lot to take in, even without considering the fact that it's literally dripping in gold. The single-sided front "fork" is crafted from aluminum billet and stretches over three feet (91.4 cm). The rear arm is also single-sided, with running lights incorporated into the fenders and the body, to illuminate the mismatched Vee Rubber wheels at night.
The absence of the kickstand is immediately apparent. Nehme decided to forgo it, replacing it with tricked air suspension that allows the bike to rest on the custom frame when it's time to park. The same air suspension system can lift the bike up to 10 inches (25.4 cm) even when in motion.
Everything on the bike, aside from the elements kept from the Road Star, was built in-house at BMS Choppers. Nehme's goal was to achieve fluidity while packing the design with over-engineered parts – a task that, at times, proved daunting even for him.
The rider sits on a saddle of red velvet with gold studs, not unlike a king's throne. Look away from the technical specs and all that gold, and you will be amazed at the detailed airbrush work on the bike, which includes a skeleton motif and a strange creature's head on the front fender.
"I've never been a 'skull-and-bones' builder. I wanted something inspired by the Alien theme, and the bike does have that same quality – sexy, and at the same time, a little scary," Nehme says in the same interview.
There is something deeply intimidating, if not altogether menacing, about this bike. Its aggressive stance makes it look as if it's in motion even when it stands still, and the intricate work adds a touch of sophistication and mystery. It is also completely shameless in its excess. Sure, gold is gaudy, but you know what they say about beauty being in the eye of the beholder.
Of course, Nehmesis is not a bike for long rides. It's been tested duly at the time it was introduced to the world, but Nehme himself compares it to women's preference for sky-high stilettos. They look amazing, but no one wants to run marathons in them.
"Like most choppers, it does redefine your riding style," he says. "This is a bike for someone who wants to look good rather than look fast."