Almost every motorcycle company in existence today was started by one man with a vision, with immense ambition to bring that idea to life and with the drive to make it happen against all the odds. From Michio Suzuki and Soichiro Honda in Japan to James Norton and Count Agusta in Europe, these men forged companies that would dominant the motorcycle landscape for decades. But for every commercial success there were hundreds of companies that failed and the dream of many a man shattered, some because of war, others tragedy and global economic decline. But amongst those that failed to survive are a handful of motorcycles whose importance to the technological advancement of our beloved machine is so vital the few examples that remain live on as reminders of where it all began. One of the greatest of these is the German built Windhoff 750 that broke new ground and initiated technology that lives on today.
Every Estate Agent has heard it, a request for a large beach front property in a high value suburb for the price of a small car but when confronted with the motorcycle equivalent, Japan’s Speedtractor Industries proved they’re one builder who can give their customer their cake and eat it too with this knock out 2001 Yamaha XJR400. The exact request was for a machine that was more “Kraftwerk than café racer” light but with the brawn of a 4 cylinder, low maintenance and air-cooled and it had to be capable of riding two up, would you like fries with that? But one of the reasons clients go to masters of their craft like the designers, mechanics and technicians at a workshop like Speedtractor is because they can deliver the type of “the client is always right” requests that not every shop can achieve.
As I’m sure you’ll agree, today’s custom motorcycle scene is a global phenomenon. But if you had to pinpoint the birth of it all, surely it started with returning servicemen in the post World War II period who bought up army surplus bikes on both sides of the Atlantic and bobbed and chopped their way to individuality. But what about the pre war machines? Or those that were built for the war effort with large sums of government money thrown at the manufacturers to get an advantage over what the adversary was creating? Enter Russia’s ‘Motorworld by V. Sheyanov’ – a collection of specially developed military motorcycles with engines over 800 cc, sidecar-wheel driven motorcycles, and the odd 4-cylinder. Today, Motorworld’s representative, Peter Moskovskikh, brings us one of the true prizes of his collection; the iconic German built Mars A20, which began production in 1920. With only 1000 units produced over a twelve-year run, this bike remains a certified classic of the period.
Many of us set out to build the bike of our dreams. It’s rare that someone literally builds the bike in their dreams. Donovan Muller of Cytech did just this in his latest build, a monochromatic masterpiece that was designed with his eyes closed, but built with his mind open. Taking design cues from a machine he envisioned while asleep, Donovan has put the Cytech touch on a BMW R50/5 of 1971 vintage. The end result proving it doesn’t matter which model Beemer that Cytech is working on, the end result is something out of this world.
It’s safe to say this is the biggest launch in Triumph’s illustrious 100 year history. Never before has this British born marque ever released so many new motorcycles on one day. It’s been a four-year project and from the looks of these bikes, they have spent that time getting the detail and performance just right. The bikes have been cloaked in more secrecy than a plot from a spy film – which is fitting, as the new Bond film ‘Spectre’ was also launched this week in London. Shaken and stirred? We were…
Kevil’s Speed Shop describe themselves as “The UK’s premier custom BMW builder, producing top quality, one-off commissioned BMWs.” It’s a bold statement, but with bikes as perfect as this 1981 BMW R100 just one example of what rolls out of their workshop they have plenty of evidence to back it up. Founded by Kevin Hill, a man with decades of experience, the team operate out of the seaside town of Paignton in Devon. Having seen one of their past builds Andrea, who is an IT consultant from Prague, knew exactly what he wanted. With that past build in mind he gave the team free rein to build him the ultimate BMW R Café Racer and boy, did they deliver.
The custom motorcycle business has a hierarchy that is more organic than most; it’s not about money or ego but sheer ability. At its most pure form it is simply about the quality, creativity and workmanship of the bikes you build. Australia’s Matt Machine is one of the builders at the top. Living an idyllic life in the bush, his creations are as real and honest as the environment around him and this Norton custom was deemed so good it won “Best British” at the Born Free 7 show.
Building a custom motorcycle usually takes time and a lot of knowledge. Jared Smith from El Cerrito, California, had the time but didn’t have much knowledge when it came to building his first bike. 12 months ago when Jared started building this 1960 XLCH Ironhead, he had never welded anything. After picking it up cheap as a non runner that had been completely spray painted black, he started the steep learning process of rebuilding the bike from the ground up. Jared had a clear vision of how he wanted the end product to look. “I was going for an ‘old but loved’ look to the build” he says, “and purposely used vintage components where I could that had not been refurbished, everything else I wanted to make by hand.” Over the next year he started a crash course in welding – mostly as a student at the prestigious ‘School of Youtube’. Meet the Ironhead aptly named the ‘The Bad Investment’…
High school graduations often end with parents giving their kids a special gift. I, for example, got a ball point pen with my name engraved on it. But when your Dad is friends with Greg Hageman, one lucky girl got this 1973 Yamaha TX650 retro racer. That my friends is some kind of gift!
A few months ago we featured a bad arse Harley from the young fellas at Young Guns Speed Shop built in their old school themed workshop in the picturesque Rapperswil Switzerland. But late model Hogs are definitely not all they do, from the best of British in old school Triumphs and BSAs, to Japanese mainstays like the Yamaha XS650 and vintage machinery in the form of a beautiful ’47 AJS; so it should come as no surprise that their first build was something a little left field, a bike so out of the ordinary I’d never even heard the name.