With the corporate dollars rolling in, the celebrities coming on board and a global fascination with the custom motorcycle culture there has never been a better time to be a bike builder. But for any movement to survive, its indigenous roots must be well fed with a continuous supply of what sprouted that seed in the first place; and nothing serves that purpose like a classic motorcycle, with a timeless appeal, that’s built to a high standard and designed with a purpose. The Harley based chopper scene is dead for not watering those seeds but at Montreal’s Clockwork Motorcycles they make no such error, giving their customers machines that will stand the test of time and be just as good in ten years as they are today. Their latest offering is a perfect example, a 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 that does everything a motorcycle should, just better in every way.
There are literally millions of two-wheeled machines on the streets of Thailand, with the market dominated by a huge variety of scooters and low capacity commuter bikes. With 15 million people living in the Greater Bangkok area it makes for the perfect form of transport, if not more than a little dangerous for the uninitiated foreigner. But where the streets of LA and London have been home to vintage-tyred, old school styled Cafe Racers for decades, in Thailand it’s not just a case of what’s old is new again, it’s simply never been seen before. For the huge motorcycle megastore K-Speed, with branches across the country, custom bikes play a crucial role in their daily fun and promotion. But for founder of the brand Eak they are a way of life, a passion and on this build his chance to deliver to the Thai streets the rare sight of old school cool; it’s a 2015 Triumph Bonneville with his trademark sinister spin.
There’s a famous saying in Spain that goes something like this. ‘De una boda sale otra boda.’ Despite our initial guesses about it having something to do with selling your body, it turns out it literally means “from one wedding comes another wedding.” As you can imagine, we were a little confused when Spain’s Tamarit used it in reference to their new bike build. As we started to express our support for what we assumed was Spain’s progressive new human/bike marriage laws, they explained that the first ‘wedding’ was the party to reveal their ‘Superstar’ build, featured a few short months ago on these very pages. Happy to see the bike complete but keen to move on, fate and serendipity conspired to bring them their next wedding and/or customer at the very same event. With their best suits on and a spring in their step, here’s Spain’s Tamarit Motorcycles with their latest build – a 2006 Triumph Bonneville named ‘Pantera’, or as we say in English, ‘The Pather’.
There’s nothing better than getting an open brief from a client – especially when the brief is a challenge to do something different. So when a good customer, Dan Smith, came into MotoRelic with a completely stock ‘83 Virago XV500 and said “what can you do with this?”, Sean from MotoRelic’s mind immediately went into overdrive with the endless possibilities. Obviously the challenge was accepted. “Dan had only a few requests from me,” says Sean. “He wanted me to fabricate a small floating style seat and install the ‘05 GSX-R 1000 front end he scored off of Craigslist. With these two requests taken into account, Sean designed what has been given the name ‘Snubnosed Revolver’ – and never has a name fitted a bike so perfectly.
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.