It was the result of three great forces combining to build a beloved motorcycle that tugged at the heart-strings of the Ducatisti around the globe. The legendary feats of Mike “the Bike” Hailwood, the brilliance of head Ducati designer Pierre Terblanche and the global power of a relatively new communications tool for the masses, the internet. The result was the limited run Ducati MH900e of which only 2000 were built over a period of two years. Special edition Ducati’s have always held their value and leaving them standard is just what you’re meant to do. But Roland Sands got Italian blood boiling when he chopped up a Desmosedici and created a 200hp tracker. Now it’s Germany’s superstar builder Marcus Walz’s turn to improve on perfection, it’s the WalzWerk Racing MH900e.
The 80’s yielded more horrors than just Thatcher, the Iran-Iraq war and permed hair – it also introduced Yamaha’s Virago line of motorcycles. Porky, uninspiring to ride and with styling verging on the offensive, they’ve become a favourite of the custom scene over the last ten years. And now Arkansas’ One-Up Moto Garage have turned their hand to the most forgettable of the forgettable line up, the little known Virago 500.
There are roughly 6500 unique languages spoken around the globe today. More than a billion people speak Mandarin, while many others languages have just a thousand native speakers. But wherever you go in the world, the language of Moto Guzzi fans is universal. While Ducati might be the king of Italian bike makers these days, Guzzi is arguably more important to the nation’s two wheeled history. Just ask any Guzzi fan and whatever the language they speak, their hand gestures will leave you in no doubt. The V configured engine, the unique engineering and the mechanical beauty of indestructibility sings a sweet song to many an admirer. But for all those who love Guzzi’s, very few can build a custom from a Lake Como creation like Filippo Barbacane of Officine Rossopuro in Abruzzo. This, his latest masterpiece, is known simply as the Ritmo Veloce 850.
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.