I have no idea what I’m doing. As I reach over and adjust the mirrors on the brand new T100 I catch a glimpse of an ex-superbike world champion riding behind me. He blips the throttle and with a tug of his arms has the nose of the Bonneville pointing towards the sky. In front of me, a seasoned motorcycle journalist and part-time racer weaves from side to side, scraping his pegs at nearly a walking pace.
In between them is me. Bolt upright, hands gripped tight on the bars and riding dead straight. Marlon Slack from Pipeburn – commuter, tourer, sometime weekend scratcher. I’m not a racer. I’m not thinking about stoppies or wheelies or burnouts. What am I thinking? Don’t Drop The Bike.
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
Kengo Kimura fronts up Heiwa Motorcycles, a workshop established in Hiroshima in 2005. They specialise in some of the most beautiful chopped, bobbed and slammed customs found anywhere in the world. This time around they’ve turned out this stunning TR6 Trophy dubbed ‘MasterPeace’. Dear readers, I think we have a late contender for bike of the year.
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.
We’re guessing you all know what a custom bike is, right? They’re the ones with all the wild and unique modifications. The bright colours and the racing numbers. The flames and chrome skulls with the glowing eyes. And the ones that develop a gazillion horsepowers from their superchargers, nitrous oxide and turbos. But what if you wanted a custom bike that didn’t look like, well, a custom bike? What if your aim was a customised yet classic machine that would look good today and in 2116? If that thought puts a lightbulb above your kopf then you best check out today’s feature bike, a wildly mild Kawasaki W800 from Germany’s very talented Schlachtwerk.
Race replicas have been around for decades now. From Repsol Hondas to Pepsi Suzukis, they’ve largely been a marketing gimmick to boost sales. Of course they’re not all show and no go; some manufacturers have commissioned special editions to add a little race to the replica. From the mild Phil Read TT Formula One Honda CB750s to the wild Ducati Desmosedici RR, it allows weekend warriors to imitate their heroes. The problem is the Seeley built Honda was barely faster than a stocker and the Desmo is so nuts it’s best suited to the track and an absolute pig on the road. So could this be the best race replica ever built, finally striking the right balance? DNA Custom Cycles’ Moriwaki ‘91 Kawasaki Zephyr has the go, the show and will hammer down Gardner Straight while still be being a pleasure on the street.
For decades, British bikes dominated the market and played the biggest role of all in fuelling the original Cafe Racer revolution. But when the Japanese hit full swing, it wasn’t long before once great companies that were household names went bust. Triumph and Norton are now back in full swing, creating modern machines and retro remakes that pay homage to their most beloved models. So with news Indian giant Mahindra have acquired the license to start producing BSA’s once again, only time will tell if they too will join the modern retro market. Should they need any further convincing that classic BSA’s have stood the test of time, they need only to take a look at this picture perfect example. Hot on the heels of their Triumph build from last week The GasBox of Ohio deliver this stunning 1968 BSA Royal Star, built for an owner who, like us, decided one GasBox bike just wasn’t enough.
In Italian they call it ‘Monte Vesuvio’, but English speakers may be more familiar with its nome Inglese, ‘Mount Vesuvius’. Responsible for the deaths of thousands of Pompeii inhabitants in ancient times, modern Naples has clearly forgiven the mountain of its past crimes. So much so, the 3,000,000 Naples residents that currently live around the base of the mountain seem to be perfectly comfortable with the fact that their city is now the most densely populated volcanic region in the world. And what could be more Italian than celebrating this great conundrum by riding a beautiful motorcycle up and down the dormant beast? Nothing, that’s what. So don your fireproof suit and buts out your best pyroclastic wheelies as we take a ride on the latest build from Italy’s Officine Rossopuro, a Moto Guzzi SP1000 fittingly titled ‘MagmaMille’.
As far back as the time of Babylon and Ancient Rome, public auctions have been held to sell off the spoils of war, great art and some of the world’s most valuable items. In recent years auction houses like Bonhams and Mecum have seen motorcycles sold for insane amounts of money with vintage Brough Superiors, Harleys and Board Trackers fetching up to and over a million dollars. But an auction can also be a great place to buy a much cheaper custom bike with bargains to be had and rare gems offered up. It was at one such auction in Las Vegas where Jesse Basset of The GasBox met Kirk, a future client and owner of this incredible 1960 pre-unit Triumph TR6 sprung bobber. Kirk was there to buy; in fact he was bidding on another of Jesse’s creations, a perfectly timeless Indian. But auctions can be cruel and the excitement can end in sudden disappointment – and that’s just what happened here. And although Kirk missed out on the Indian, his meeting with Jesse would soon yield some delicious spoils all his own.
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.