With the circus that is the World Superbike Championship wrapping up for the weekend at the Imola circuit, Ducati asked a few select journalists to stay behind. After a superlative-laden speech by Ducati supremo Claudio Domenicali, they hit the track on the brand new 2016 Ducati Panigale R. To say that they were gobsmacked would be a gross understatement. So it’s probably for the best that a certain bunch of Swiss motorcycle fanatics weren’t on hand. Undoubtedly they would be thinking that there was even more to be had from the bike. Fortunately, their absence did nothing to quell their creativity. And the result is arguably the world’s fastest cafe racer; a unique collaboration of talents that has delivered a freakishly cool animal known simply as ‘The Blue Shark’.
Let’s just get it out of the way shall we? C’est magnifique. Because there was simply no way to write about this exquisite French crafted BMW without saying it. This machine is the answer to the question, “Can you build a motorcycle that has it all?” Many say it’s an impossible task; exquisite vintage looks, bulk horsepower with race-winning speed and capable of a reliable Sunday cruise with corners to kill. But Ludwig Ascher wanted everything and as an airhead specialist at his shop St Brooklyn Motorcycles in Saint-Brieuc, Brittany, he decided to build a BMW with the lot. It’s a 1955 BMW Sprint Racer with a hefty heart transplant they call “L’Etonnante”.
Good lord, you Northern Hemispherians have it tough. The lucky ones get to ride for six months of the year and spend the rest trying to wrench on their bikes while avoiding frostbite. And the not so lucky? Norwegian Axel Mustad gets his time to shine only three months of the year. So for his 2017 window of opportunity, he decided he was going to treat himself. Enter Richard Pollock and his trusty Mule Motorcycles with a Triumph street tracker that clearly made ol’ ‘Colonel’ Mustard feel like all his Christmases had come at once.
Figaro. You probably know of the word and its operatic connections, but have little or no idea where it’s from. But since you asked and since I’ve just spent 5 minutes on Wikipedia, let me enlighten you. Figaro is the lead character in Rossini’s ‘The Barber of Seville’. It’s the story of an old Spanish scissorman drawn into an romantic comedy of errors. Any good? Well, it’s been popular for 200 years, so it can’t be too bad – but it contains exactly zero motorcycles. Which is why this bike, made for Spanish Barber Rubén by Tamarit Motorcycles, is such a genius idea. Just think of how much better the old opera will be once we convince the Rossini family estate to include it in the official manuscript. Take a read of this while we draft the email.
For true drag racing fans, the two famous quotes from the original The Fast and the Furious Movie were enough to make the skin crawl. Dom of course is ‘living his life a quarter mile at a time’ and Brian’s ‘need for NOS’. Working in drag racing at the time and sitting in the cinema, I wanted to be sick into my popcorn. But little did we purist snobs know that those two lines would enter the global lexicon and give a new appreciation for the sport we love. For Stefan Bronold of Bavaria’s Radical Guzzi, drag racing has become both a passion and the place he proves that his company’s products work and win. So while his team campaigned their beautiful MGR Guzzi for the 2016 season, they were secretly building an insane machine for the years to come. And now NOSferatu is ready to rumble. Its name might mean Dracula, but this big bore Italian is more Stroker than Stoker.
Motorcycle builders often draw inspiration from unusual places. And sometimes it’s hard to keep a straight face as they wax lyrical. They might reference Cold-war era fighter jets, 80’s Formula One cars or the contents of the local pub’s toilet to explain the curves, colours and context of their latest build. But here’s a refreshingly straightforward one for you – an endurance race inspired 2003 Ducati Monster 1000 by Madrid’s XTR Pepo.
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.
“Three,” as a rather famous three-piece once said, “That’s the magic number.” You’ve heard it before, right? All this hoo-ha about how three has some inherent simplicity, perfection or symmetry. Maybe it has something to do with the Holy Trinity. Or maybe it’s a simple as groups of three looking so pleasing to the eye – a fact celebrated by the famous French term ‘Ménage à trois’ which, as we all know, refers to the joy French people experience upon seeing three pieces of cheese at once. But there’s no better expression of the simplicity of three than this – a bike built for a guy determined to lead a simpler life. Here’s Untitled Motorcycles with their latest creation – a Kawasaki
W300 W400 called ‘3-DOM’.
Whenever I think of big Honda tourers I think of the hulking modern ones. You’ve probably seen them – they’re hard to miss. They have stereos, airbags, a reverse gear, heated seats and air conditioning. Honda call it the ‘Gold Wing’ but I usually refer to it as ‘Just go buy a goddamn car’. But the earlier 70’s models are something else. They were still monstrous bikes for their time, but they were simpler, mile-munching naked cruisers. And that’s what Poland’s Cardsharper Customs have tackled – a 1975 Honda GL1000 dubbed ‘Cestus’.
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.