In just a few weeks, I will be crossing off an item on my bucket list I’ve been wanting do for a long time – riding Royal Enfields through the Himalayas. Fittingly, the ride starts in New Delhi, India, where the builders of today’s Enfield café racer are based. Bull City Customs have been building bikes in one of the most populous cities in the world for around three years now. Obviously the locals love their Royal Enfields – they’re pretty much a national treasure there and a company they are very proud of. So when a customer approached them to build a café racer with a touch of brat using an Enfield engine they couldn’t wait to get started. As luck would have it, the guys at Bull City had a ‘Brat Café’ design that had been floating around in their heads for quite a while. “It was like a divine intervention” says Reginald from Bull City.
Father and son duos can be a hit and miss combination, Jerry and Ben Stiller have made millions making the world laugh and even with Jerry at 89 they’re still working together. On the other hand Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great not only became bitter rivals, the folks they encountered along their journeys hardly had smiles on their faces. Luckily for the father and son team behind FrenchMonkeys, Lionel and Florian, they not only get on like a house on fire but their love for customising motorcycles has become a very successful business venture. Based in Lyon, France, their builds have become so popular there is now a waiting list for their services and their parts business is doing a roaring trade. But after fifteen straight client builds it was time to create a bike for themselves and the BMW specialists have turned this 1978 R60/7 into a long and lean custom with plenty of classic style.
There was a point in time when the bike before you could have been a Yamaha XS650, but this 1974 Honda CB750 had a destiny with Analog Motorcycles from Gurnee, Illinois that couldn’t be broken. When owner Arne Dinse brought his partially customised CB750 to Analog he had an idea for what he was after but was worried about some creepy noises coming from the engine. Proprietor Tony Prust explained they had an XS650 they could do in a similar theme to that Arne was after and with a handshake and a deposit laid down it was set. With Analog Motorcycles churning out brilliant streetable customs there is understandably a wait for their services so by the time it was Arne’s turn in the schedule he’d decided he wanted to stick with the CB, but it wasn’t just the engine that was not quite right, beware the dodgy mod.
When it comes time to give credit to which Japanese bikes began the rise and reign of the machines from the Land of the Rising Sun the countries first superbikes, the Honda CB750 and the Kawasaki Z1, often receive the praise. But before they arrived on the scene the first strike in the four-stroke wars was delivered by a motorcycle known simply as the Black Bomber. Released in 1965 the Honda CB450 came packed with technology that defied its very classic chrome and black aesthetic. The first full production bike to feature dual overhead cams, it produced more than 100hp/litre, enjoyed reliable electrics and was described at the time as “engineered with passion and styled with restraint, an embodiment of all the qualities a motorcycle should posses”. It’s with exactly that in mind that KickMoto pay homage to the original with their own take on a classic icon, a 1972 CB450 done just right.
As a professional bike builder you have all sorts of people walk through your door, from the serious customer, to the young lad that wants a custom Ducati for no more than five grand. For Krish Rajan of KR Customs there was a different client to please, his “Lady Love” Loopy who had seen the bikes he’d created and while impressed with the quality wanted something, with “beauty and elegance”. Oh and Krish not one of those “adrenaline filled, tough, macho machines!” you usually build. Many a mere mortal would be losing their hair at the thought of such a demand but with a Masters in Applied Math, an IT expert by day and the owner of Chennai’s premier custom bike shop in his spare time, Krish is a man who gets it done and keeping his partner happy is always a challenge he is willing to accept. This Royal Enfield Continental GT Cafe Racer might have been the star of the main stage at India’s 2016 Bike Week, but the real prize was winning Loopy’s heart.
A good custom bike build is a big ask from just about anybody. The time, effort, thought and skills required are a challenge that has bettered the best of us. Starting custom shop is another step above that. Suddenly there are things like rent and customers to think about, let alone building cool bikes. Adding restorations into the mix means you’ll have to have an understanding of just how the bikes came out of the factory. Add cars to the mix and you’ve now got vast expanses of metal bodywork to consider. Seems like your climbing Everest already, yes? Well what if, just for good measure, we now make the shop both a clothing store and a brewery? Mission completely freakin’ impossible? Not for the keen proprietors of Italy’s Apache Custom Motorcycles. And as if to boast, here’s their out-of-the-box take on a Honda CB350F brat.
In the automotive world the basic aesthetics of a motorcycle and car could hardly be more different but they have always followed many of the same trends throughout the decades. What else could explain the sheer number of squared off boxes in the ’80s or the silhouettes of sex appeal that were ’60s cars and bikes. But the inspiration of a beautiful woman has been a constant throughout, we’ll have to blame 1980’s fairings on shoulder pads, so when Arjan van den Boom describes wanting the look of his 1986 BMW R80 to be a “Robust gas tank, big shock, small ass and fat rear tire” it’s fair to say the female form was on his mind.
To say that Adam Nestor got out of the blocks in his bike building career like Usain Bolt going for Olympic Gold is an understatement. With Adam’s Custom Shop’s first builds including Madame Guzzi and Sporganic this young Swedish bike builder showed at just 20 years of age he was capable of building the sort of bikes most mere mortals require decades of honing their craft to achieve. But for a custom motorcycle workshop to survive financially in the long-term a builder has to be capable of turning out lower cost builds while still retaining their signature quality and style. In these two customer builds, a 1974 Honda CB750 and a BMW R100RT the young Swede proves even his budget builds are brilliant!
Ah those Northern European winters; bringer of sub zero temperatures, cabin fever, and now it seems, custom motorcycles. Coming out of Minsk in Belarus, this Brat tracker is the result of the Recast Moto collective finding a way to pass the time, rebuilding a crashed Honda UJM during the colder months to ensure the warmer months are not wasted. Taking a busted ass 1976 Honda CB550F Super sport, Matiz Lemark and the Recast Moto crew finished the build just in time for the snow to thaw, and to allow the gold paint job to compliment the gold of the first bit of Spring sun after the cold.
In the space of less than a year in the late 1960s two Japanese heavyweights released motorcycles that would go on to be hugely popular in the modern custom bike scene. First Yamaha with its XS650 and then Honda with the CB750; while the Honda is considered the first Superbike and was designed to seek and destroy its British rivals, the Yamaha was based on classic styling and an engine as Brit as Big Ben. Whereas the evolution of the CB range has progressed to the most modern of motorcycles, the XS650 remained true to its classic styling for its entire production run. One man who truly understands classic design and builds a mean Yamaha is Christian Condo of Melbourne’s Modern Motor Cycle Company and this 1981 XS650 Heritage Special is his latest masterpiece.