Red Clouds Collective is the very personification of everything that makes Portland, well, Portland. It’s a small workshop that produces bespoke leather goods like hats, tool rolls and aprons. And a glance through their social media feed features lots of desaturated black and white photos of bearded men in the woods staring into the middle distance. But they also turn their hands to the occasional custom bike. And they do a really neat job of it too, as this paired-back 1989 XR250 shows.
Ever met a genuinely creative person? I’m luck enough to say that I have, and there’s one thing that struck me about them. They were clearly a little bit nuts. Not in a dangerous way, but it was clear to me that they were operating in much more interesting reality than most. They were happy to generate and embrace ideas that many would have dismissed as ridiculous. And then they made them work, too. The moral of the story is that most of us hold ourselves back by thinking that the right way to do something is also the most sensible way. Kbuilt’s Gilles Kergadallan has no such concerns. He embraced the crazy for this ‘Brap One’ Honda Dominator Tracker, and the results speak for themselves. Just like the voices in his head.
You can always tell when a shop reaches the next level. It starts with the outside-the-square thinking and the inspired bike builds that you totally weren’t expecting. Just when you’re thinking they will do ‘X’, they’ll come at you with ‘Y’. And a bloody good ‘Y’ at that. Almost like a guitarist coming back from a midnight meeting with a mysterious stranger at a crossroads on the edge of town, you’ll find that they’re suddenly playing on a whole new level. But the last and most telling trait is their through-put. A shop that’s perfected their skills seemingly has no problems sending you a killer bike every other week. And right now, that shop is Austria’s NCT Motorcycles. Here’s their latest deal with the devil, an amazing BMW R100RS scrambler they call the ‘Buffalo’.
The journey through adult life we’re told is a relatively straight forward process. Work, breed, sleep – there’s even a rough guide to follow. Family and society steer many of us into careers we’re not really sure we want to follow, but before you know it the show’s over and the pension cheques start to arrive. But some restless souls are meant for more than one path and despite walking the same road for many decades, they decide it’s never too late to change. For Spain’s Carlos Ormazabal, a near lifetime’s career at camera giant Nikon would come to an end when a thirst for something new took hold. It’s been quenched by the opening of his own custom bike shop called The Foundry MC. And with just his second drink, he’s ready to serve a barnstorming 1991 BMW K75 street tracker inspired by one of the industry’s best.
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.
The last time we visited Dopz & Schizzo from Italy’s Emporio Elaborazioni Meccaniche, they’d just finished up their Daft Punk tribute bike for Sky TV’s “Lord of the Bikes” show. And while their names might sound more like incidental characters from an episode of Happy Days, they clearly have a little more rebelliousness in them than we may have previously realised. How so? Well, from punks of a musical kind, they have now shifted their focus to some punks of a more mobile nature. Specifically, a Roman skater who’s clearly feeling he has two too many wheels. Here’s the bike they build for him – a Honda Dominator they call ‘Dardo IV’.
Peanut butter and jelly. Moustaches and cops. Nine Inch Nails and Johnny Cash. When it comes to weird combinations that somehow manage to kick arse, it seems the world has a never-ending supply. Avocado and Vegemite on toast, anyone? No, seriously. It’s amazing. But it’s not often you see the same sort of unexpected genius happening in the world of custom motorcycles. Hell, we can’t think of a new bike genre since Go Takamine invented Brat style. That is until now. So here is Perth’s James Alkins and his revelatory cafe scrambler cross pollination. Genius? Madness? We’ve made up our minds, now you be the judge.
When Filippo Barbacane of Officine Rossopuro in Abruzzo, Italy, built a Harley chopper it was a radical departure from his usual creations. Filippo has made a name for himself building some of the most beautifully styled custom Moto Guzzi’s you’re ever likely to see. So when he went down the path of a chopper, based on an Ironhead no less, it sure got tongues wagging. But so good was the uniquely Italian build, it was soon gracing the pages of global magazines. That was until Filippo had an idea. He’d take the fresh chopper known as “Troublehead”, rip it apart and transform his 1977 Harley Davidson Ironhead into an all new breed of bike. From the remains of a perfect custom cruiser comes this go anywhere ’70s scrambler that has a new persona, “SCRhead.”
Ah, the K-series BMWs. What can we say that hasn’t already been said before? Their unique engines. Their incredible second-hand affordability. And then there’s all that get up and go! Even a very tired example of a K100 will deliver you 85hp and 80Nm of torques – and for little more cash than a boozy weekend away with friends. Of course, this isn’t exactly a revelation. The sheer number of them we now see gracing our pages is a testament to this. Hell, we’ve seen less virgins at a Minecraft show. But just when you think you’ve seen them all, along comes Austria’s NCT Motorcycles with something that piques our interests like no other Brick has done in a very long while. Say hallo to ‘Sir Ulrich’.
Go on, admit it. You’ve fantasised about your specific choice of bike for a zombie apocalypse. Naturally you can have anything you want, as you’ll be throwing a brick through the front window of the local deal once the social chaos really takes hold. So what’ll it be? A BMW R1200GS? You’d be able to carry a house on the back, but its weight and size would make avoiding the undead (and keeping it upright) tricky. Then maybe a KTM Enduro bike? You’d be much more nimble and need less fuel, but what about a seat for the loved ones? Who knew a completely hypothetical situation could be so stressful? But don’t fear, as we have the perfect candidate. Meet Royal Enfield’s very own Continental GT survivalist masterstroke. They call it the ‘Dirty Duck’. We call it ‘escape plan A’.