There was a time when the only way to see the very best custom motorcycles from around the globe was to duck into your local newsagent hoping the latest edition of your favourite magazine was on the stands. But the internet has changed all that, the moment a new cool custom is completed anywhere on earth you can see it almost immediately online. With such an overload of brilliant bikes it’s easy to take a blasé attitude to just how amazing some of these builds are. But even if you look at bikes all day long the latest custom creation by Dirk Oehlerking of Germany’s Kingston Customs will leave you captivated. Strap yourself in, because this blown 1986 BMW R80RT known as White Phantom is like nothing you see every day and deserves your full attention.
Today we’ve got the second half of a matched pair of air-cooled Suzuki’s by French workshop Ed Turner. While the previous custom was a bare knuckled, stripped back brute of a GSX1100 for a gentleman client, this is the more feminine half the duo destined for his partner. It’s a little 80’s Suzuki GSX400 dubbed the ‘GS-XX’. Dressed in faux-alligator leather and upholstered to resemble a high-class evening shoe, this highly polished tribute to rolling Eurotrash sensibilities is guaranteed to start some conversations.
Karl Renoult heads the curiously named custom shop Ed Turner Motorcycles, in Nantes, France. We’ve been following his builds for the last few years but nothing has prepared us for his new project. And this only one half of the enterprise, a mid-eighties Suzuki GSX1100 forming the ‘masculine’ part of a matched ‘his and hers’ pair of custom rides. Designed to reflect their owners’ love of high fashion, clubbing, and possibly sadomasochism, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. After a close look, I’m not sure if it has a kill switch or a safe word.
The phrase “unfinished project, 95% complete” is one you often see when trawling the internet to find an old car or motorbike to buy. The machine in question often looks like it’s ready to roll, comes at a bargain price and ‘how hard can that last five percent really be to finish?’ you say to yourself. Ah the horror stories. Five percent often turns out to be closer to fifty and then there is the real zinger; those last few parts you need, they’re not available any more, or “only needs a new battery to start” proves to be a full engine rebuild, wiring nightmare or both. Even complete show bikes that appear in magazines are passed off this way – that’s where Kott Motorcycles is different. Dustin spends just as much time restoring his builds to perfection as he does customising them and this slick as black ice ‘75 CB550 is no different.
There is a symbiotic relationship with surfing and motorcycles that is hard to ignore, and it’s one that has existed for decades. When it’s just you and your board or bike, the rhythmic flow of the next corner becomes just like the turn at the bottom of a glassy wave. You’re alone, just you and a handcrafted creation doing your best to become one with nature. In areas around the world the two have become inextricably linked, from Bali, to the Bay of Biscay, Bondi Beach and the entire West Coast of the Americas. It’s here we find Mexico’s Catrina Motosurf, who build incredible machines, influenced by their environment and the ’70s surf culture. So what better way to get to the waves from their base in Guadalajara than on a brand new cafe’d BMW R nineT that shreds the sealed roads and the sand, too.
Race replicas have been around for decades now. From Repsol Hondas to Pepsi Suzukis, they’ve largely been a marketing gimmick to boost sales. Of course they’re not all show and no go; some manufacturers have commissioned special editions to add a little race to the replica. From the mild Phil Read TT Formula One Honda CB750s to the wild Ducati Desmosedici RR, it allows weekend warriors to imitate their heroes. The problem is the Seeley built Honda was barely faster than a stocker and the Desmo is so nuts it’s best suited to the track and an absolute pig on the road. So could this be the best race replica ever built, finally striking the right balance? DNA Custom Cycles’ Moriwaki ‘91 Kawasaki Zephyr has the go, the show and will hammer down Gardner Straight while still be being a pleasure on the street.
If motorcycles have earned the reputation as “widow-makers” then two motorcycles in particular can lay claim to being the most lethal assassins. Both are ’70s Japanese bikes from the golden age of two-strokes; the Kawasaki H2 750 is the Ivan Drago-style killer that will get right in your face and club you to death. But it’s the Yamaha RD400 that takes on the true Assassin’s creed, dispatching of its kill in a millisecond without the prey ever having seen what was coming. In Argentina, the land of bike builder extraordinaire and founder of Lucky Custom, Lucas Layum, the RD400 has been known since its birth as “la Mata Hombre”, quite literally “the Man Killer”. But such is the allure of the RD and its intoxicating two-stroke engine, that men will risk death to ride them and when they look this good it’s easy to see why.
NASCAR’s a funny old sport when you think about it. While the whole four wheels thing can be a little bit of a turn-off, I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t get a buzz out of all forms of motor racing – no matter how many wheels are involved. While any form of racing that involves a Toyota Camry painted with a rainbow M&M’s motif should ring alarm bells in any adult who’s not tripping balls, the whole gladiatorial angle really appeals. And clearly, I’m not alone. See, Spain’s Bottpower and their chief engineer David Sánchez have come out in support of the old ring o’ noise with a bike built for NASCAR driver and ex-World Superbike racer Eric De Doncker.
Some brands transcend their own industry and become part of a culture so linked that one simply goes hand in hand with the other. If you mention motorcycles and India everyone’s mind is instantly drawn to the name Royal Enfield and their classic designs that have been around for generations. Enfield’s have been the transport of choice for the motorcyclist in India doing it in style, from the Brit’s who stayed behind after Independence, to the Indian Army and Police, Guy Martin on his epic adventure and our own Scott Hopkin’s high into the Himalayas. For Charlie Hallam and the Mid Life Cycles team from Melbourne, Australia, the RE Classic just made perfect sense as the platform for their latest custom and a chance to build a bike that not only looked incredible but could be easily replicated in a cost-effective manner for a limited production run. The result is this brilliant Royal Enfield Classic 350 wearing just enough of India’s most famous alloy to earn the name ‘Brass Rajah.’
In many ways, It’s BMW’s eccentricities that make them so interesting. From the air cooling and boxer engines to shaft drive and weird headlights, there’s just something about all that awkward Germanic design that really sets them apart. But of all their unique outside-the-square thinking, there’s nothing more endearing than their flirtation with telelever front suspension. Also known as a Saxon-Motodd front fork, it aims to reduce or remove brake dive – a long-time bugbear of telescopic forks. Of course, nature had solved this problem a millennia ago by allowing the big cats to isolate their heads with near-perfect stillness while their bodies weave and dart beneath them. One such big cat is Thailand’s Black Panther, who’s clearly the inspiration for today’s BMW R1100RS by their country’s very own K-Speed Customs.