If you could place a value on a motorcycle there may not be another bike on the planet worth as much as this Seeley Norton Commando. Not just because it’s a Seeley Commando, the frame made on an original Colin Seeley jig in the traditional way with all the very best parts and materials used throughout the bike. But because the proceeds of the sale of this motorcycle go to supporting Worth Motorcycles, a not for profit organisation, based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn that teaches at risk youth the art of building custom motorcycles and mentors them towards a better life. Founded by Jeremy Malman a former club racer whose doctoral studies focussed on the various mechanisms underlying adolescent antisocial behaviour, he’s created a place that not only changes lives but turns out some of the coolest bikes in North America.
Growing up in the ’80s with a two-wheeled obsessed neighbour I’d often sit on his living room floor flipping through a giant book, the Encyclopaedia of Motorcycles. He’d encourage me to read up on BMW, ignore the “Jap Crap” and when I got to the Moto Guzzi section he’d wax lyrical as if talking about the most amazing thing on the planet. It’s easy to understand why, up until that point Guzzi had been the big daddy of the Italian Motorcycle world with production peaking in 1973 at some 50,000 units. But by the ’90s it was as low as 3,000, the mystique had been lost and most had never even heard of the marque. Now with Guzzi back in full flight many are taking the opportunity to restore the bikes of the dark days to the full glory they deserve and very few have done as good a job as Michael with this creamy smooth 1984 Moto Guzzi SPII.
The Eastern Alps of Austria must be one of the most picturesque places in the world, from the snow-covered alpine region, to the 200 crystal clear lakes and the many castles, museums and breweries to visit there is not shortage of things to do. Everywhere you go the food is as spectacular as the scenery and not only does the beer flow but there is an abundance of wineries and literally a “Cider Trail”. The only thing left to decide is how to get around the perfectly laid mountain roads and it’s hard to think of anything that suits more than two wheels. It’s here that David Widmann and his team Kurt and Manuel operate National Custom Tech (or NCT) and turn out the perfect machines for sweeping through the mountain passes or munching up the flower covered meadows. Although the young guns have built everything from a Ducati Streetfighter to a side-car equipped Moto Guzzi, their passion and pride is in slick old school BMW’s.
You don’t hear much about Gilera these days, but there was a time in the 1950s when they dominated GP racing winning six titles in eight years and also tasted success at the Isle of Man TT with the legendary Geoff Duke aboard. Their last major racing success came when the late great Marco Simoncelli won the 250cc World Championship in 2008, but now owned by the giant Piaggio group they largely focus on the European scooter market. It wasn’t always that way for their road going offerings, in the heyday of the Italian single cylinder one of the bikes to own was a Gilera four stroke. Having tasted so much racing success in the ’50s the company took their technology to the road in an effort to boost struggling sales and it was the character filled singles, particularly the Gilera Giubileo range that would give consumers an alternative to the plain functionality or clunky 2 strokes that made up the bulk of the world’s offerings.
For many decades it was a mythical creature, believed destroyed in a nuclear apocalypse that shocked the world and any documentation of it’s existence deliberately destroyed. Even the official historian of a very large American motorcycle manufacturer with a strong connection to the machine believed any trace had been lost forever. But of all places, the war time Kurogane Type 95 motorcycle by Japanese corporation Nihon Nainenki appeared on US television in a brief scene on the hit show “I Love Lucy” in the ’50s and ever since collectors and historians have been searching for a complete example. With only three remaining in the world and two in the collection of our friends at The Motorworld by V.Sheyanov, we can now present to you this 1939 Type 95, the only “Civilian” version of the sidecar equipped V-Twin beast anywhere in the world.
If you’ve been building motorcycles for a long time, you will start accumulating parts like a housewife collects Tupperware. My garage, for example, is full of old parts I have taken off, upgraded, bought cheap at swap meets or had thrown in when I’ve purchased a bike – it’s damn hard to say no to free spare parts, right? Like many builds featured on these pages, the Bavarian Knight began as a big pile of metal from a multitude of different bikes. The owner, John Yeosock, initially purchased a stash of old cast-offs from John Landstrom at Blue Moon Cycles. Then, not knowing what to make out of all the random parts, he contacted Bryan Fuller from Fuller Moto in Alanta to see if he could help. Together, they went back to John’s warehouse and rummaged through all his bits and pieces until they had picked up all the parts they felt they could build a modern, yet classic BMW cafe racer.
When it comes to the history of motorcycles, you’d have to admit that sometimes the more esoteric the bike is, the more interesting it becomes. For all the Yamahas, Ducatis and Hondas you have running round out there, there are untold thousands of Francis Barnetts, Fabrique Nationale d’Herstals, Rupps, NSUs and Flying Merkels that have fallen by the wayside. Hell, even Triumph Motorcycles almost went the same way. And for each of these ghosts of the civil dead, there lies story upon story of genius engineering, wild successes and miserable, business-ending failures. The partnership between Harley Davidson and Aermacchi in the ‘60s and ‘70s is one such story. The silver lining here is that both companies continued on and still exist today, in one form or another. So, like a phoenix from a engine foundry’s ashes, today’s bike is here to remind us of what once was, and what could have been. Here’s Scott Brown and his beautiful Aermacchi Harley 350SX.
To say that Adam Nestor got out of the blocks in his bike building career like Usain Bolt going for Olympic Gold is an understatement. With Adam’s Custom Shop’s first builds including Madame Guzzi and Sporganic this young Swedish bike builder showed at just 20 years of age he was capable of building the sort of bikes most mere mortals require decades of honing their craft to achieve. But for a custom motorcycle workshop to survive financially in the long-term a builder has to be capable of turning out lower cost builds while still retaining their signature quality and style. In these two customer builds, a 1974 Honda CB750 and a BMW R100RT the young Swede proves even his budget builds are brilliant!
It’s Friday. So what better way to end the week than a stroll (or maybe a brisk ride) down memory lane with our favourite Russian Bike Museum that actually lets you jump the cordons and ride their collection. The fools! Yes – it’s time for another killer classic from Mother Russia’s The Motorworld by V.Sheyanov. This time, it’s a Russian bike too – but with some good ol’ Milwaukee know-how and a dash of Deutschland delight thrown in for good measure. You’d think that such a messy mix of influences would result is something looking like a design-by-comittee nightmare, but behold one of the most beautiful vintage bikes we’ve ever seen. Please say a big ‘Здравствуйте’ to the wonderful ПМЗ-А-750, also known as the ‘Podolskian Mechanical Factory A Seven Fifty’.
Sit around a table, hang out in a workshop or share a beer with a group of custom bike fanatics and one question is guaranteed to come up every single time, “What if?”. What if we jammed a Triumph engine in a Norton frame, what if we stuck my Gixxer forks on your old CB Honda or what if we, follow me here guys, we turned a Hyosung into a race bike? Ok, so clearly some ideas are best forgotten, others have gone on to become legendary innovations and the vast bulk never see the light of day. But when Craig Marleau of Kick Start Garage in Northern California had such a moment he not only built his “What if” idea, The Taco Truck, he completed it in record time, pulled off a creation the likes of which has never been seen and won an award at the prestigious The One Moto Show.