I had a dream last night in which I was a gun bike builder. I was living and working in a small, picturesque American town where it snowed in winter and the streets were lined with beautiful old trees. In the surrounding mountains, there were great riding roads that seemed to go on forever. My shop was in an old stone mill; I had a real eye for great-looking bikes and a set of hands that were able to create pretty much whatever I wanted. Except that this wasn’t just a dream. It’s everyday life for New England’s Walt Siegl. Here’s his latest dream bike, this amazingly cool MV Agusta F3 endurance racer.
It all started in the last ten minutes of a Saturday afternoon showing of Little Fauss and big Halsy. The sound of a 2-stroke road bike and that bubbly vintage road race fairing. Then a quick glance at Airtech streamlining for some more inspiration. Yes. A well-timed search on Craigslist and there it was; a rough 1975 Suzuki T500. At first it was going to be a fun little bike build, and then I would sell it for a couple of bucks. But the deeper it got, the more I realized I was building my dream vintage road race bike. The Enginethusiast ‘No.7.’
It’s the mid 1950s in Russia. As the country sunk deeper into its Cold War with the West, Soviet military minds began to realise that if push ever came to shove, they would probably need a replacement for their current army motorcycle, the Ural (or more correctly, the Irbit) M-72. Based on a brash reproduction of the BMW R71, its 20-year-old days were numbered. The replacement? Well, if pinching ideas from Deutschland worked once… So they acquired themselves an R51/3 and got to work removing the pork knuckle and adding a little beef stroganoff of their own. And then they took it racing. The result? Meet the Ural M-52S from Motorworld by V. Sheyanov.
It’s one of the truly great inventions of the last 200 years. So global is its appeal, it has taken on cult status, put a country on the map and delivers more uses than one could ever possibly need. If the Offiziersmesser has one problem, it’s that nobody but German speakers can pronounce its bloody name; so G.I.’s came up with the moniker that has stuck ever since, the ‘Swiss Army knife.’ As a design it looks brilliant; it serves a purpose for every occasion and in the right hands it’s lethal. So it should come as no surprise that such a tool served as inspiration for this revolutionary retro streetfighter built by California’s Gasser Customs. And just like the little red knife this stunning ‘78 Honda CB750 comes with a much more user-friendly name, ‘Ol’ Red.’
You don’t have know Hageman MC to recognise their work. Seen those Virago cafe racers? Greg Hageman helped create that look. Oogled the Yamaha SCR950 Scrambler? That was a shameless riff on his builds. His work is clinically excellent and his influence on the scene is profound – he’s like a motorcycling Bono, but without being an insufferable dickhead. This time around he’s tackled his first BMW, a 1983 K100RS. And he wasn’t confident it would come out looking this good.
It will come as no surprise to Pipeburn readers, the general public or even your garden-variety buddhist hermit that there’s a real flood of ‘70s-era BMW customs at the moment. Hell, there might even be more of them than Kardashians; but I digress. It’s clearly a trend that has jumped the shark; more often than not we’re politely declining them en masse. And with so many floating around, it’s easy to get jaded. Or so we thought until we saw this, the latest BMW build from northern Chicago’s Analog Motorcycles. It’s a stark testament to the fact that no matter how loud the background noise is, quality work and classic looks never grow old.
Italian designs are regarded globally across many industries as things of beauty and their designer’s trendsetters around the world. Many companies might produce a product where labour is cheap but are sure to include “Designed in Italy” on the label. Asked about this phenomenon Italian Architect and designer Luigi Caccia Dominioni stated “Quite simply, we are the best” and that “We have more imagination, more culture, and are better mediators between the past and the future.” Ok then, but clearly Luigi didn’t ever see an early ’80s Moto Guzzi ride by, horrific then and even worse today. So when a lover of the marque bought a 1982 1000 SP he was quick to call on Macco Motors to let the Spanish lads turn out this beautiful cafe racer from the bones of a machine were the Italian’s had quite clearly dropped the ball.
Cleveland’s The GasBox have a distinctive style of build. They’re quiet and understated and usually built around a classic vintage motorcycle. They make simple, textured machines you not only want to look at but touch, like a fluffy cat or that type of redhead that doesn’t have freckles. This time around they’ve produced another veteran motorcycle, a 1974 Norton Commando that’s certain to please both the custom bike crowd and bed-wetting, rivet-counting British bike aficionados.
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