BMW R-series customs. Go on, say it. You’ve seen more of them than Trump’s seen golf courses. You’ve seen more beefed-up boxers than a New York gym. You’ve seen more loud R’s than an overloaded pirate ship. We get it. But when we saw this little R100RS from France’s JRM Motorcycle, we were intrigued. Knobby tires? Nope. Bobber seat? Nope again. Murdered out? Extra nopes. Contrary to all expectations, this one has a road-racer-meets-motard vibe that we might just be digging. A lot.
Last September a friend’s father contacted me about a commissioned build. He had a 1983 Yamaha XS 650 Special that a previous owner had already modified quite a bit. It needed a little mechanical work, so it hit the Retrowrench side of the shared space first. Chad Francis got the basics working properly. Then I met with the client and he informed me he only had a minimal budget. He just wanted to freshen the bike up and have it repainted with the Gulf color scheme, the number 64 (which his son races under) and the JC3 emblem, which is in memory of his daughter. So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.
Oh the ’80s. It was a decade when the planet got so many things really wrong, including the fashion. Unfortunately, that extended to motorcycle design and history has not been kind to the machines of the period. So despite Cycle Guide predicting that the Honda VF750S Sabre would be the bike of choice for the next ten years to come it proved to be more Video Killed the Radio Star than Jacko’s Thriller. But what those years of dodgy hair and shoulder pads really needed was just the skills of a master craftsman. Today, Thailand has such a man, Eak of K-Speed Customs, who’s taken this ’80s horror show and turned it into the most badass Honda “Sabre Racer” ever created. It’s literally fit for a movie star.
Think about American motor racing legend Eddie Lawson for a moment. You’re probably picturing him on the early 80s Kawasaki Z1000 he made famous. Or maybe it’s the mid 80s 500cc World Championship Marlboro Yamaha. Or, at a stretch, it could be his Rothman’s Honda of the late 80s. And unless you’d had one too many disco biscuits, a BMW boxer is probably the last bike that was on your mind. That’d never work. Or would it? Maybe we’ve all had one too many biscuits, because from the moment we laid eyes on this Eddie-inspired No. 21 R1200R, the latest build from Switzerland’s VTR Customs, we were smitten. Eddie on a Beemer? Human sacrifice? Dogs and cats living together? Count us in.
Indonesia has proved quite the powerhouse of late when it comes to custom bikes. With builders that are easily the best in the region and a beautifully original take on things, it’s a country that attracts the interest of the region’s bike fans over and above many of its contemporaries – Australia included. And the Indonesian crème de la crème would have to be Bandung’s White Collar Bikes. Their main man, Ram Ram Januar, has the metalworking skills of sword maker. And here’s very shiny, perfectly brushed proof. It’s his latest build, an all-metal Ducati 795 racer.
I had a dream last night in which I was a gun bike builder. I was living and working in a small, picturesque American town where it snowed in winter and the streets were lined with beautiful old trees. In the surrounding mountains, there were great riding roads that seemed to go on forever. My shop was in an old stone mill; I had a real eye for great-looking bikes and a set of hands that were able to create pretty much whatever I wanted. Except that this wasn’t just a dream. It’s everyday life for New England’s Walt Siegl. Here’s his latest dream bike, this amazingly cool MV Agusta F3 endurance racer.
In Terminator 2, Arnie sat astride a leather and chrome Harley that was the perfect fit for his T-800 role. But had the studio commissioned a machine for the liquid metal T-1000, even the most creative Hollywood minds couldn’t have envisioned a bike like this. In a 2014 Ducati 1199 S Panigale, you get the same sort of technological leap over the old Fat Boy that the new T-1000 offered up. But where the stock red Ducati gets it all wrong visually, this insane alloy bodywork with its liquid-like flow would have scored a Skynet tick of approval. It’s quite literally a killer custom, and it comes to us from the brilliant minds at France’s Ortolani Customs.
It all started in the last ten minutes of a Saturday afternoon showing of Little Fauss and big Halsy. The sound of a 2-stroke road bike and that bubbly vintage road race fairing. Then a quick glance at Airtech streamlining for some more inspiration. Yes. A well-timed search on Craigslist and there it was; a rough 1975 Suzuki T500. At first it was going to be a fun little bike build, and then I would sell it for a couple of bucks. But the deeper it got, the more I realized I was building my dream vintage road race bike. The Enginethusiast ‘No.7.’
When you think about it, there’s some strange parallels between drifting a car and flat tracking a bike. First and foremost, there’s the complete disregard for traction. Then there’s the loose rear end. Hell, we’ve been to drunken college parties with less swinging rears than these two genres. So it should come as zero surprise to you that there’s quite a few drift builders out there who are also trying trackers. Our mate Nigel Petrie from Engineered to Slide is one. And here’s another – New Zealand’s Adam Hedges. With his C’s Garage drift shop, he’s teamed up with his brother at Earnest Co. to try his hand at a custom tracker build. And what a build it is.
How do you tell a master bike builder? In my not-so-humble opinion, it’s their ability to transform a bike to the point where, magician-like, you are left scratching your head as how the hell they did it. Sow’s ear into silk purse? Try sow’s ear into deep space probe. Knowing this trick all too well, Spain’s XTR Pepo has clearly decided to see if they couldn’t outdo themselves. And I’ll be damned if they didn’t just go and actually do it, too. The bike you see here was once an embarrassingly uncool ‘97 Honda Shadow. Then abracadabra, it’s now one of the best-looking racers we’ve seen all year. Look out Siegfried & Roy, Pepo Rosell is in town.