I was flicking through my old record collection over the Holiday break. I’ve been seriously thinking about getting my turntable working again and dusting off a few of the many pieces of vinyl I haven’t heard in over a decade. Going through the records that had convinced me to part with my hard-earned dollars, I had one very clear thought, “Gee, I was easily amused in my teens.” There we just so many bands that seemed amazing at the time that now seem really damn gimmicky. It’s funny how age and maturity bring such clarity. It made me wonder about Pipeburn, and what we’ll all think of the bikes we post in ten years. Now I may be wrong, but I’d happily bet a crisp new $50 on the fact that this one will still wow us… and then some. Meet the very mature, and very elegant ‘Amber’ CB550 from California’s Thirteen and Company.
In nature, coloured codes are pretty common. It’s how the planet’s livings thing communicate. Whether you’re trying to attract a mate, protect yourself or spread your DNA, it’s the colours you utilise that will mean the difference between success and failure. And there’s no prizes for guessing that when it comes to things that are red and black all over, it can only mean one thing. Danger. So be it bravery or just complete stupidity, we’ve ventured forth to bring you the story of today’s build, the ‘Just’ Honda Cx500 from Poland’s MichuMoto.
Customers come in all shapes and sizes. The easy ones. The difficult ones. The ones that trust you and the ones that want to tell you how it’s done. But when you’re building a custom bike, surely there could be not more difficult a client than a Director of Photography. Charged with making shots look great on big budget films or TV, there’s probably no one in the world more focused on the details, colours and structure of a creative job. So while the builder is talking to them about choosing a seat colour, the ‘DOP’ is probably playing cinematic images of the finished bike through his over-active head. Images that are probably very similar to the ones you see here. And that’s because the DOP in this instance is also the Untitled Motorcycles customer who ordered this BMW and the guy who shot it. Check out Chris Steven’s beautiful ‘79 ‘Mile Muncher’ R80/7
The phrase “unfinished project, 95% complete” is one you often see when trawling the internet to find an old car or motorbike to buy. The machine in question often looks like it’s ready to roll, comes at a bargain price and ‘how hard can that last five percent really be to finish?’ you say to yourself. Ah the horror stories. Five percent often turns out to be closer to fifty and then there is the real zinger; those last few parts you need, they’re not available any more, or “only needs a new battery to start” proves to be a full engine rebuild, wiring nightmare or both. Even complete show bikes that appear in magazines are passed off this way – that’s where Kott Motorcycles is different. Dustin spends just as much time restoring his builds to perfection as he does customising them and this slick as black ice ‘75 CB550 is no different.
There is a symbiotic relationship with surfing and motorcycles that is hard to ignore, and it’s one that has existed for decades. When it’s just you and your board or bike, the rhythmic flow of the next corner becomes just like the turn at the bottom of a glassy wave. You’re alone, just you and a handcrafted creation doing your best to become one with nature. In areas around the world the two have become inextricably linked, from Bali, to the Bay of Biscay, Bondi Beach and the entire West Coast of the Americas. It’s here we find Mexico’s Catrina Motosurf, who build incredible machines, influenced by their environment and the ’70s surf culture. So what better way to get to the waves from their base in Guadalajara than on a brand new cafe’d BMW R nineT that shreds the sealed roads and the sand, too.
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.”