When the Japanese custom car culture really began to boom in the early ’90s those heading to the land of the rising sun to witness it all were given a simple instruction. Don’t look for big showrooms with flashing lights, head to an industrial area of any of the country’s big cities and go down the smallest of alleys. Here in cramped garages, 1000hp beast were being turned out in spaces so small you could barely spin a spanner. Now Poland’s Ugly Motors is taking it to extremes, with a 1st floor workshop that sees bikes lifted into place by a homemade crane. It’s here that Jakub Beker has crafted Ugly #08, a power cruiser come cafe racer from a 1983 Yamaha XV920 Virago.
Mick Jagger gave us a pretty good life lesson when he said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you just might find, you get what you need.” Which is often the case for professional builders instructed by many clients to create machines that personally don’t blow the wind up their skirt, until one day that right build comes along. But when returning customer Ralph Klerekoper came to Sean Skinner of MotoRelic Custom Cycles in Hamilton, Virginia, he delivered a vision that inspired each man. They’d start with a later model 1992 Honda CB750 and allow Sean to create a killer custom with modern engineering and classic style that earns it the name The Gozen.
Sportsbikes are all but dead. After bikers realised that riding a litre bike on public roads was akin to straightening that crooked picture in your hallway with the USS Nimitz, the bottom fell out of the global market. And while the more switched-on manufacturers have shifted their eggs to other baskets, it seems that the custom builders are again one step ahead. The recent rise of seriously capable machines with cafe racer influences is undeniable. Finally we’ve realised that fast bikes don’t have to rev to 18 grand and look like a reject robot from a Michael Bay film. And here’s a perfect example, via Rob Chappell from Canada’s Origin8or Custom Cycles.
In the earliest days of the motorcycle the engine was everything. Many of the frames were indistinguishable from a bicycle, it was all about the power plant. Inventors tried steam, diesel, electricity and petrol to make their motors rev and experimented with a host of technologies to improve power and reliability. These days you can barely distinguish one new engine from another, apart from the number of cylinders and the cosmetic dress ups. But David Widmann and his crew from NCT Motorcycles in the Austrian Alps take the mechanical side of things very seriously. For one lucky customer they’ve turned a 1982 Moto Guzzi 850 T4 into a true classic motorcycle. Its looks are great, but it’s the engine that’s the centerfold.
Steampunk bikes. Usually, they’re much more steam than they are punk. And more’s the pity. If the thought of a 19th Century Sid Vicious on a bike tearing around the streets of London pushes your buttons as much as it does ours, then we’ve got just the bike for you. Fresh off the bench of Milan’s Rustom workshop, it’s ironically named ‘Just Another Punk’ as a tongue-in-cheek tilt at steampunk builds. And that’s because this Honda CB900 packs a punch that is anything but hot air.
In recent times it has become all too common a cliché to call a custom motorcycle of a certain quality, a rolling piece of art. It’s not that many of these machines don’t deserve the title and I’d personally take a Max Hazan over an Auguste Rodin any day. But where most art is enjoyed as the finished product, custom bikes are often built by or with considerable input from the prospective owner. From Picasso to Pink Floyd they didn’t sit around with their would be consumers of their work and take input, they simply created. But there was a time, many centuries ago, when the well to do would commission works from their favourite artists and wait for the surprise of the great unveiling. This is the story of such a creation, VITALIS 850 by Filippo Barbacane of Officine Rossopuro, using a Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans as the canvas.
The name Atelier has been floating around the custom bike scene for the last few years, usually in reference to our brilliant German friends from Diamond Atelier. But the word is French for a workshop or studio where a master craftsman plies his trade in private, away from the gazing eyes of the public. Le French Atelier is just such a place and where else could they be located than in the city of the Louvre, Paris. Now the three young artists behind the name are ready to unveil their latest chef-d’oeuvre. A radical cafe racer that’s back to the future, it’s a 1992 Suzuki DR650 more than capable of 88mph.
Almost a year ago to the day, Diamond Atelier sent us the images of their first ever BMW R nineT build, the ‘DA#4’. The Pipeburn exclusive quickly turned into magazine covers around the world and took out the top spot on this very site’s own 2016 Bike of the Year Awards. It’s been a hectic period for Munich locals Tom Konecny and Pablo Steigleder, releasing more incredible builds and a limited production series motorcycle all of their own. But you didn’t think they were going to give up their trophy that easily, did you? Hell no. They’re back and laying down the gauntlet for 2017 in a massive way. Here’s their ultimate Neo-Racer, the DA#9T BMW R nineT.
At a chaotic moment in history, it’s worth reflecting on the words of Bertrand Russell “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” Russell’s logic is born out in the back story to today’s incredible Cafe Racer. One look at the catalogue of builds by California’s Kott Motorcycles and you know they can spin a spanner. But brilliant builder Dustin Kott was apprehensive about taking on the project having never worked on a BMW before. He needn’t have had any doubt, as he’s turned a once bulky 1977 BMW R100/7 Tourer into a sleek and slick Cafe Racer.
I started my bike building journey in Croatia in 2002, when I had the urge to change something on my bike because I wanted it to be a little special and not just a boring, stock ride. Later, my first real custom build was shown in the European magazine ‘Custombike.’ For me, this was a real milestone in my life, and it pushed me to start my own custom bike company so I could do what I loved full-time.