For the tiny percentage of road-going vehicles that motorcycles make up, it’s kind of cool just how many different types there are to choose from. You can take your pick of v-twins, singles, flat twos, flat fours, triples and, if classic Japanese bikes float your moto-boats, inline transverse fours. While they all have their own unique feels, between-the-knees width is the dominant vibe that these Nippon beasts impart. Like riding a racehorse or taking a tumble in the hay with a larger lover, these bikes are all about their bountiful girth. And while Tommy from Germany’s Schlachtwerk is kind of new to Japanese fours, he’s liking them more and more. Here’s his ‘Dicke Berta’ or ‘Big Bertha’ Kawasaki Zephyr 750.
Dreams can’t be forced, they evolve and as much as we might hope that the object of our desire appears instantly before us it rarely if ever eventuates. Instead dreams take a series of twists and turns and only time reveals if they will live up to all we had hoped for; too often we awake disappointed. So to ensure total satisfaction Gregg Miner, Co-Founder of Speed Craft Co, decided to control his subconscious trance and lay his hands on mechanical metal. From the bare bones of a 1974 Ducati 860 GT comes this Bologna beautiful cafe racer crafted in Southern California.
The Northern Italians are nothing if not industrious. With a veritable army of famous brands to their name, there’s nary a person on the planet that wouldn’t have heard of them. But while names life Ferrari and Ducati steal the limelight, there’s also plenty of smaller companies that you may not have heard of. One such operation is Milan’s Vertemati. Started in 1993 by brothers Alvaro and Guido, they quickly gained mythical status in Motocross circles. OMT’s Marco Troiano, who raced the bikes in the ‘99 Italian Supermoto Championships, decided to pay tribute to the brand with a Vertemati custom bike he calls ‘Super Light’.
If you’ve been flicking through Pipeburn over the last few years you’ll have noticed a change – everyone is shifting away from traditional retro-styled builds. Tight, fast, water-cooled, turn-and-stop on a dime bikes are becoming more popular as more people are actually riding their custom machines and the zeitgeist finds it’s niche in everyday life. Thankfully for grumpy old bastards like me people are still building traditional, honest-to-god specials. And damn well, as Gasser Custom’s 1974 Ironhead Sportster shows.
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.