Rémy Vivien builds motorcycles in his spare time out of his workshop in Alsace, France. In recent years he’s caught the trials bug and as a devotee of old machines, he squared up the pre-1965 class. ‘But I didn’t want to buy an existing motorcycle that I had to modify, or assemble any parts from the internet. I wanted to create it from scratch,’ he says. ‘I wanted to make something for me by me. Something different.’ And he certainly has, with this incredible custom trials moto, powered by a 1946 500cc RGAS Terrot engine.
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.
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.
I recently pulled my old turntable out of the garage and got it up and running again. A new needle and belt, some dust removal and a few solders here and there and suddenly I’m rediscovering a wall of vinyl that hasn’t been played in many, many years. It’s easy to forget just how much great music was recorded in the 70s and 80s. You could dismiss the era as wall-to-wall makeup and silly hair, but a closer inspection will reveal some amazingly inspired, and beautifully timeless work. Sam from Canada’s Clockwork Motorcycles has taken a similar approach with his latest build – a retro Harley Sportster with all the right influences.
The Royal Enfield motorcycle has long occupied the imagination of millions of Indian motorcyclists, and the company has earned a cult-like following around the world. The motorcycles earn their popularity because of their old school designs, the thumping engine, and a real hand built feel. But more than anything, it’s the bike’s ability to be customised that makes us love it so much. It has served as the chassis to build dream motorbikes for thousands of custom bike builders just like me. So here’s my story.
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.
Picture the Audi logo in your head. Hopefully, you’ll be seeing something along the lines of the Olympic rings. Being a company that was formed by a conglomeration of four different pre-existing entities, these circles were designed to indicate a union. And one of those circles was the German NSU Motorenwerke AG. While they produced cars for much of their life and helped to make the rotary engine famous, motorcycles were their stock-in-trade. And some would argue that the WWII 601 NSL was their finest hour. Here’s a mint example from Russia’s Mortorworld.
In his shop in downtown Los Angeles, Max Hazan works harder than your average prisoner of war. And his efforts show – he routinely fabricates some of the cleanest, most distinctive builds you’re ever likely to see. This time around he’s outdone himself with a turbocharged 1978 Ducati 860GT, a bike that got really interesting a few weeks into the build when he received a call from his client.