From the outside looking in the custom motorcycle culture must appear to be quite confusing for those who don’t have petrol running through their veins. Why do builders the world over take old bikes, that may not have even been that great at the time of their release, and then spend thousands of dollars and hours building crazy contraptions when you could just go into a dealership and buy a brand new superbike for the same price. The reasoning is just not something the average punter will ever understand, the thrill of an old 2-stroke, the character of the best of British or buzz that comes from hearing a 50-year-old engine fire to life again for the first time in decades, it has to be lived. But amongst us is a rare breed that make much more logical decisions, like first time builder Krystian Bednarek from Bull Cafe Racers who chose a 1992 Honda CB750 as his project over the much more fancied early models.
We all come to this obsession with motorcycles in different ways, for Matthew Ortiz of Swerve Customs out of Albuquerque, New Mexico it was the realisation that less is more. Two less wheels in fact and Matthew discovered his abilities to heavily customise and modify cars translated perfectly to bikes and the result is this stunning 1980 Kawasaki Kz750 LTD all built in his single car garage. “It wasn’t until my first “vintage bike” that I realised that what I had been doing to cars all these years (restoring, modifying, lifting, fabricating) I could be doing to motorcycles. It was a 1978 Honda cb400 Hawk that I got for $500. The first time I brought it back to life, I did everything in my apartment parking lot. When I was done I was so stoked!! Something had changed in me, I wanted to build another one” Enthuses Matthew.
It’s safe to say this is the biggest launch in Triumph’s illustrious 100 year history. Never before has this British born marque ever released so many new motorcycles on one day. It’s been a four-year project and from the looks of these bikes, they have spent that time getting the detail and performance just right. The bikes have been cloaked in more secrecy than a plot from a spy film – which is fitting, as the new Bond film ‘Spectre’ was also launched this week in London. Shaken and stirred? We were…
The ever-useful Wikipedia notes that the ‘Ripon’, or ‘Blackburn T.5 Ripon’ to use its correct name, was a ‘British carrier-based torpedo bomber and reconnaissance biplane which first flew in 1926.’ Naming their creations after Britain’s rich aviation history has become quite the thing with Norfolk’s Old Empire Motorcycles, as has creating bloody amazing custom bikes, and drinking cups of tea. And rest assured, this one is no exception to the rule. You may know it as a Honda CB550, but they know it by another name…
When Fred and Hugo from Blitz Motorcycles in Paris fielded a call from Jacques in Luxembourg asking them to breathe life into an old Moto Guzzi 1000SP they jumped at the chance to work on a marque they’d not before laid their hands on. But when the machine in question finally arrived they started to have second thoughts, rust had left the foot rests, master cylinder and other assorted pieces literally hanging on by a thread of steel. But with their love of creating industrial-styled flat trackers, a copy of Moto Guzzi’s service manual in their hands and the bike named in honour of a beautiful Italian visitor named Monica they started to craft the Guzzi in their own style, and it’s more than just a set of Firestones.
Hand built in Colombia by a pair of craftsman who were on a tight deadline to make a big show in the USA, this 1974 Kawasaki KZ400 is anything but rushed and far from factory. Esteban Pasquale and Gustavo Pasquale are the co-owners of Garaje 57 based in Bogotá that specialises in hand-built motorcycles with no discrimination between vintage Vespa’s all the way through to Modern Ducati sports bikes. But give them a 70s Kawasaki and… well, just take a look for yourself.
The back alleys of cities all over Japan have delivered some of the coolest custom cars and bikes from small workshops that punch well above their weight. From the Hyper Lemon tuner cars of JUN to the retro-tech bikes produced by AC Sanctuary – you don’t need millions and a huge facility to produce incredible machines in the land of the rising sun. And nobody exemplifies that spirit more than custom bike building genius Fujita Koichi and his one man operation AN-BU Custom Motors.
There’s not many things in the custom bike scene that instantly prove a builder has big cojones. So it’s hard to argue with someone who picks to build up a renown ugly duckling, combines five different styles in the design and then rolls out a gorgeous all-purpose machine with no front brake to speak of. Welcome to the world of Vida Bandida Motocicletas from the picturesque city of Córdoba, Argentina, in the foothills of the Sierras Chicas and on the banks of the majestic Suquía River. This is where they tossed aside the idea of a Honda CB, detoured around the fabled Kawasaki Z’s and picked the late to the party 4 stroke of the decade, a 1978 Suzuki GS400 from which they’d fashion something truly special.
In the last few years news articles beginning with the words ‘Florida man’ have become a running joke. There’s even internet forums devoted to headlines that depict some of the most wonderfully bizarre acts to come out of the Sunshine State. If you get a moment, they’re worth checking out; ‘Florida Man Breaks into House, Poops on Floor and Drinks Contents of Vacuum Cleaner’ is my personal favourite. For me, that best sums up some of the drunken, insane characters that make up the unwashed social fabric of much of the South. Against such inebriated anarchy and swirling head noise stands Florida’s Steel Bent Customs, one of the most professional and consistently clean builders around, who have turned their capable hands to this 1978 Honda CB750 Super Sport.
It sounds like an outtake from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, or an idea for a Karate Kid road movie. It goes like this – you muster everything you’ve learnt to build your dream bike and enter it in one of the world’s biggest custom bike shows. Then you crash and destroy it after two weeks. You are injured, but you pick yourself up and completely rebuild the bike just in time to enter it into the show, where’s it’s a great success. Along the way you learn about the futility of material possessions and the value of perseverance. Is it a script we’ve been working on around the office while drunk? Or maybe the fevered dream of a bike-obsessed lunatic? Nope. In fact, it’s all in a day’s work for Hugo and the boys from France’s Blitz Motorcycles.