There’s a certain amount of irony in the fact that Boston’s Madhouse Motors is little more than a mile from Harvard University, as the contrast between the two couldn’t be more different. And while Harvard has a whole string of amazing medical firsts under its belt, we’ll take a bike like this over world-first kidney transplants and a cure for smallpox any day. Run by J. Shia along with an army of family and friends, they produce an esoteric range of customs and restorations, including choppers, Italian race bikes and this here BSA; a bike-meets-kinetic-art-piece they like to call ‘The Manipulated’.
All or nothing. It’s a phrase you’d probably take to mean ‘no middle ground’. But it seems more and more builders are using it as a yard stick to define new genres for custom bikes. All of the popular styles rolled into one, or maybe none of them at all. What would a cafe scrambler tracker look like? Or an enduro street fighter? Conversely, how would a bike built purely to suit personal needs rather than a pre-existing category or style look? It seems that the cafe racer’s rule might just be coming to an end, and builders like California’s Sam Kao and his ‘Cobalt Storm’ Harley look to be on the crest of something very new.
It’s the fourth month of 2017 and we’re calling it. Mash-ups. Hybrids. Cross genre. Call them what you will, but it’s pretty clear to us that less and less builders are interested in conforming to typical bike categories. Our case in point? When we interview builders, more and more are refusing to classify what they’ve built, or they’re telling us, ‘It’s whatever you want it to be.’ Well, tonight it looks like we wanted it to be an enduro Yamaharley brat with a bumblebee paint job and more fork travel than a 12 foot man on a spaghetti binge. Meet Kickstart Moto’s very random, very cool ‘Plan B’ Yamaha XT500.
If you’ve ever visited outback Australia, you’ll realise just how a movie like Mad Max could come about. With nature’s brutal extremes an always-present reality, and dusty old Australian cars the only real means of transport, things tend to get rather apocalyptic very quickly. Now Sicily may seem a world away from this brutality, but remember that Palermo, Sicily’s capital, is actually closer to African desert than it is to Rome, and that the island has been subjected to thousands of years of invasions from many unruly southern hordes. Add this to the fact that the last Mad Max movie was actually filmed in Africa, and the parallels between Australian and Sicily start to make real sense. Channelling this, and adding a large dose of wine, women and food for good measure is Delux Motorcycles. Here’s their latest, a BMW R65 they call ‘Mad Max’.
Maybe if JFK hadn’t kept his cool in those crucial thirteen days at the height of the Cold War and a nuclear holocaust had eventuated, this is the sort of post apocalyptic motorcycle the Russian police just might be riding today. Thankfully that scenario never did eventuate, but when a new client approached Los Angeles-based builders Thirteen and Company he had just such a bike in mind. The brief was for an end of the world Mad Max style and the team were happy to deliver. It’s not the type of bike the guys normally build but this 1972 Honda CB750 known as “The Russian” is proof their talent is not limited to just one style.
The real charm of a Rat bike is to pick up something cheap, get it up and going on the smell of an oily rag and retain all of that true mechanical character without a care in the world for high-end paints jobs and overpriced components. Sadly the concept has become a style and when anything becomes fashionable, large sums of money enter the mix with people spending big dollars to create the “Rat Bike” look. Point well and truly missed! Luckily for us there are builders out there like Parisian Arnaud Morel who has built himself this uber cool 1979 BMW R65 Ratty and done it all for just 500 Euros; an incredible achievement and completely in the true spirit of the rat concept.
Despite what the movies or books may have you believe about tortured artists, the one real killer of great creative ideas is more often than not the disease of over thinking. Forget writer’s block, drugs or a clichéd battle with sanity; we’d wager that getting caught up in the details to the point where you disappear up your own exhaust pipe is more often than not the cause of art that never sees daylight. And the cure is clear. You should always create without the constrains of self-imposed perfection and intricate planning. Just let things go where they take you. That’s what Germany’s Patrick Sauter did. And the result? It’s a bike worthy of Kerouac himself.
Most of us will start a custom bike build with a genre, fashion or style in mind. You might want something that oozes classic café racer. Or maybe you’re thinking of a creation in a brat style with a touch of tracker thrown in for good luck. Hell, if you’re anything like me you’re probably planning the colour of the brake leads before you’ve even got a bike. But few of us have the skills or courage to just trust in your love of metal, your passion for bikes and your creativity and simply let the build happen. Which is exactly what Gian from France’s Tredici Custom Castings did. Meet his very groovy ‘Black Smoker’ Triumph.
It seems fitting that for our first bike of 2014, we’ve chosen a matt black Harley with hand-painted artwork. Not only does the bike look amazing in its own right, but it also harks back to one of our all-time favourite posts – Jed DePyper’s infinetly badass ‘69 Sportster rat. Both bikes show scant regard for chrome, polish and delicate aesthetics. Instead, like a drunken sailor’s tattoed forearm, they display a brute artistic impulsiveness that screams rock ‘n’ roll from the rooftops. Meet The Drayton Porkchop; a bastard lovechild from an unholy union between Boneshaker Choppers and the Ilovedust design studio.
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A few weeks ago I received a phone call out of the blue from Mark Hawwa. For those of you that don’t know Mark, he is the guy behind Australian Cafe Racers, Throttle Roll and the Distinguished Gentlemans Ride, amongst other things. Mark begins to tell me he has a great build idea for the upcoming Deus Bike Build Off. I presumed he was talking about next years build off because this conversation took place 48 hours before the Deus Bike Build Off was kicking off. “It’s called the Nut Buster” he tells me proudly. “and we’re going to build this bike over a 24 hour period with a few mates”. At first I thought he was crazy, but then I thought if anyone could pull it off, it was Mark. Firstly, he has a lot of friends who are very handy with a wrench, and secondly, he is one determined son of a bitch. One of the main rules for the Bike Build Off is to ‘make the most with the least’. Not only does this bike tick that box, but it was also built in the least amount of time. Meet the ‘The Nut Buster’, the 24 hour build that nearly broke six grown men.
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