New tools customising old bikes. If you had to be blunt about it, that’s probably how you’d surmise the current custom bike scene. You need only to look at the old guard with their thinly veiled cries denigrating the beards and beanies to see that a ‘new tool’ generation has taken over from the old one. But today’s bike flips that equation on its coiffured head. With tools that date back to New York in the 1880s and a bike that’s barely out of diapers, today’s Honda XR650L from Hill Moto, still ticks all the cool custom boxes.
For some of the most isolated people on the planet, West Australians have a well-earned reputation for punching above their weight. Take Australian music, for instance. You may have heard of such bands as Tame Impala, The Scientists and INXS. Yes, you guessed it. They’re all from the West. Maybe it’s the sublime climate, or the clean water and fresh air. Hell, maybe they’ve discovered the meaning of life and they’re keeping it from the rest of us for shits and giggles. Steve Gernhoefer from Perth’s RAGE Motorcycles is obviously in on it. That’s the only rational explanation for this killer KTM 640 LC4. That and sheer skills.
There must be something in the Virginia air. When you consider the state’s track record for creating great bike builders, their batting average ain’t half bad. With shops like Classified Moto, Cognito Moto and MotoHangar all hailing from the Lover’s state, there seems to be little doubt that they are head and shoulders above most Eastern states when it comes to custom bike coolness. And as if to rub your nose in it, here’s perennial favourites MotoRelic with another killer build. Fresh from their place in our most recent Bike of the Year Award, we’d like you to meet their take on the build platform du jour, the mighty (square) BMW K100.
We think it may be time for an intervention. For Officine Rossopuro’s Filippo Barbacane, barely a week goes by in which he doesn’t send us a ‘bugger-me-sideways-that’s-an-amazing-build’ bike. There can only be a few valid reasons as to the cause of his ceaseless productivity. He’s either possessed, a robot, or he has cloned himself half a dozen times. Unable to decide which scenario is more likely, we’re going for a combo answer; clearly the guy who makes these bikes is some sort of Sextuplet Satanic Cyborg that’s hell-bent on world domination through a never ending stream of totally sweet-ass bikes. Here’s his latest evil effort – a Moto Guzzi Bellagio he calls ‘Terra Moto’.
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’.