If motorcycles have earned the reputation as “widow-makers” then two motorcycles in particular can lay claim to being the most lethal assassins. Both are ’70s Japanese bikes from the golden age of two-strokes; the Kawasaki H2 750 is the Ivan Drago-style killer that will get right in your face and club you to death. But it’s the Yamaha RD400 that takes on the true Assassin’s creed, dispatching of its kill in a millisecond without the prey ever having seen what was coming. In Argentina, the land of bike builder extraordinaire and founder of Lucky Custom, Lucas Layum, the RD400 has been known since its birth as “la Mata Hombre”, quite literally “the Man Killer”. But such is the allure of the RD and its intoxicating two-stroke engine, that men will risk death to ride them and when they look this good it’s easy to see why.
Ed Burke and “Hap” Ueno. There’s two names that I’m pretty sure mean absolutely nothing to you, despite them being responsible for creating this, the Yamaha Virago. It’s because in the world of automotive design, most never get to see the limelight. Besides, the original Yamaha Virago range was not exactly the Brough Superior of it’s time. But over the 40-odd years that the bike has been in existence, it’s never been more popular than it is right now. And it’s all thanks to the insight and talent of Ed, Yamaha America’s Manager of Motorcycle Product Planning and Yamaha Japan Engine Designer, Hap. The engine-as-stressed-member design, the box frame as airbox, the single rear shock and the shaft drive – it’s all theirs. And this? This is what their vision, and that of Colorado’s 485 Designs owner Nick, has created. Meet an XV920 that ups the bar for Virago customisers everywhere.
For all of the custom motorcycle shops that litter the globe there are but a few whose brand recognition truly is industry wide. While some rely on their logo for that acknowledgement others create machines so distinct you instantly know who crafted them. But for Dustin Kott of California’s Kott Motorcycles there is a rare subtlety and artistic vision that is hard to readily define and yet instantly recognisable. It is the work of a man who plies many a trade and expresses his creative side in rolling metal masterpieces. Often from Honda’s CB range they are infused with vintage British styling and customised with pure class. His latest work is based on the short-lived Honda CB400F from the ’70s and it delivers a level of sophistication you’d never expect from the old commuter classic.
In many ways, It’s BMW’s eccentricities that make them so interesting. From the air cooling and boxer engines to shaft drive and weird headlights, there’s just something about all that awkward Germanic design that really sets them apart. But of all their unique outside-the-square thinking, there’s nothing more endearing than their flirtation with telelever front suspension. Also known as a Saxon-Motodd front fork, it aims to reduce or remove brake dive – a long-time bugbear of telescopic forks. Of course, nature had solved this problem a millennia ago by allowing the big cats to isolate their heads with near-perfect stillness while their bodies weave and dart beneath them. One such big cat is Thailand’s Black Panther, who’s clearly the inspiration for today’s BMW R1100RS by their country’s very own K-Speed Customs.
“Roughly seven years ago my two sons turned sixteen, and not only had they far outgrown their XR-50’s, but they had reached the legal age where they could begin riding the backroads of Maine with me. I’m partial to newer Triumphs (I ride a Scrambler), but I wanted this step in their lives to be a learning experience. I hoped to teach them how to find a decent used bike, what to look for in terms of wear and tear, and ultimately how to take a Craigslist cast-off and turn it into a labor of love. Both boys seemed on-board with the idea, and we settled on early 70’s Honda twins due to cost, simplicity and availability.”
Black is white. Dogs are cats. Bike dealer are customisers. If there was ever a gauge of just how far the custom bike scene has come on its decade-long world domination tour, it’s this. Bike dealers busting top customising chops. And there’s no accessories catalogue or wallet-driven pretence here. This is an honest-to-goodness home run by a shop that’s so trad they even sell BMW cars. Colour us impressed, and colour our feature bike purple(ish) for a second night in row. Here’s Brighton’s Chandlers Bikes and their retail masterpiece, the ‘One.Sixteen’ RnineT.
Marcus Walz has dedicated his life to racing, designing and building motorcycles from his base in Hockenheim Germany and it’s fair to say he hasn’t gone unnoticed. He’s been featured on TV, in Magazines around the globe, won both the European and US Biker Build Offs and raced both on track and on the dirt. So good are his custom creations that men who know a little something about going fast, Sebastian Vettel and David Coulthard own his bikes and Kimi Raikkonen owns two. Brad Pitt has been a fan for more than a decade, there is a restaurant and bar sporting his name and the likes of Yamaha and Ducati have had him build custom bikes for them. So it should come as no surprise that Triumph has joined the crew and the result is this stunning new WalzWerk 2016 Triumph Thruxton 1200 custom.
If there’s one thing in life that’s more prone to emotional obsession than a cool motorcycle, it’s an honest to goodness Hollywood star. Exhibit A – pretty much any teenager’s room. Show me a kid with hormones raging and I’ll show you enough posters of famous faces and cool vehicles to sink the Titanic – James Cameron’s balsa wood recreation or otherwise. So when Spain’s Macco Motors took one of their dreamy creations and added Hollywood dreamboat Antonio Banderas, the results were predictably amorous. So be still your beating corazóns and check out this, the Triumph Bonneville that made Spain’s biggest movie star fall in love.
I watched the latest film about Steve Jobs the other week. Directed by Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire fame, it was unfortunately a fairly average flick. Despite this, it did have a few memorable moments. The one that sticks in my head is the scene where Jobs is asked what he actually does by Steve ‘Woz’ Wozniak. “I play the orchestra,” he somewhat pretentiously exclaims. The idea is a simply one. Some of us are good at playing an instrument, but unless someone is taking care of the whole she-bang, all you end up with is a big cacophony. And while it might be a bit of a stretch to compare today’s builder to Jobs, it’s clear he approached building the Bonneville you see here in the same way. Some creators use their hands, while others use their head. Poland’s Wojtek Borecki is clearly all about the latter.
You’re a fly on the wall of a BMW Motorrad meeting in Germany in 1977. Much to your horror, you witness what looks to be the end of the company happening right before your very eyes. Faced with the massive challenges of Japanese dominance, the ‘death’ of the boxer twin and big new emissions regulations, the company’s Kaisers are about to sign off what looks to be a train wreck on two wheels. They are all in agreement; they will put a four-cylinder Peugeot engine sideways into a new BMW bike. Surely this idea is so comical and misguided, it’s the last bike the company will ever make. Fast forward 40 years to the present day and somehow we’re in the middle of a BMW K-series resurgence. Up is down. Black is white. Square is cool. There are bricks everywhere and here’s the latest one to be thrown; it’s the Wrench Kings’ very black, very cool BMW K100.