It’s amazing how much the big motorcycle manufacturers have changed in the past ten years. Up until very recently, bike customisers were little more than pariahs to the factories. All their hard engineering work, undone in the fell swoop of an errant oxy torch or angle grinder. You could almost hear the engineers in Japan and Europe weeping in pain. And as for a factory dealer that might dare to try and make a few changes to the merchandise? If they were lucky, they’d find themselves selling second-hand Dneprs in Siberia… in winter. But my, what a difference a decade makes. Suddenly it’s raining factory customs. And for Yamaha, that means throwing money behind their ‘Faster Sons’ custom shop collaboration project. And the latest star of the decidedly successful program is this here XSR700 from French shop Motomax Metz. A French shop that just happens to be a dealer, too.
For a number of decades the AMA Grand National Championship was dominated by Americans riding American machinery from the big two; Harley Davidson and Indian. That was until the late ’60s when in the space of four years the likes of Gary Nixon and Gene Romero led the charge for British manufacturer Triumph to take out three championships. Unlike the Trackers created today, it was a time of big wide bars, tiny tanks and leather padded seats. The way you paid the racing bills was to be like legend Mike Anderson and work at the local dealership during the week. There were no corporates with big sponsor dollars, no millions to be made and some race tracks still displayed the sign “helmets recommended”. But it was a time of raw competition, big personalities and an authenticity that Italy’s Anvil Motociclette have come to love. With that spirit in mind they’ve built a bike named Foxtrot, a 2011 Triumph Bonneville 900, that dances rings around the competition.
This weekend we’ll be heading to Jogjakarta to take part in Indonesia’s biggest custom culture festival called Kustomfest. The custom motorcycle industry in Indonesia seems to be going from strength to strength, and a testament to this is the hundreds of quality builds on display at this years show. One of these bikes that will no doubt be a crowd pleaser at Kustomfest is this super clean ‘Honda CL650’ by the talented guys at Thrive Motorcycles based in Jakarta. Given the name “Balfour” this is a project that Thrive took on for a friend called Anka who happens to be a huge Honda enthusiast but his collection of Honda’s have all been restored to original condition and had never customized one – until now.
It pains us to say it, but crashed bikes are the lifeblood of the custom scene. Without all those wrecker’s spares, Craigslist heaps and engines-without-an-owner leftovers that many shops depend on for parts, we’d either be making everything from scratch or cannibalising perfectly good bikes like some desperately hungry plane crash survivors. So in some very symbolic, cycle-of-life type shit, bikes must die so that the custom scene may live. And if there’s one type of bike that’s crashed more than others, it’s entry level bikes. Harley’s XG is a blatant tilt at this market segment, and the bike is a popular choice for riding schools across America. Thank it’d be hard to total a riding school bike? Well, as Chris from Los Angeles’ Chappell Customs found out, it’s easier (and more comical) than you’d ever think.
There’s a famous saying in Spain that goes something like this. ‘De una boda sale otra boda.’ Despite our initial guesses about it having something to do with selling your body, it turns out it literally means “from one wedding comes another wedding.” As you can imagine, we were a little confused when Spain’s Tamarit used it in reference to their new bike build. As we started to express our support for what we assumed was Spain’s progressive new human/bike marriage laws, they explained that the first ‘wedding’ was the party to reveal their ‘Superstar’ build, featured a few short months ago on these very pages. Happy to see the bike complete but keen to move on, fate and serendipity conspired to bring them their next wedding and/or customer at the very same event. With their best suits on and a spring in their step, here’s Spain’s Tamarit Motorcycles with their latest build – a 2006 Triumph Bonneville named ‘Pantera’, or as we say in English, ‘The Pather’.
For a century now limited production run motorcycles have been a mainstay of the industry, from companies like Bimota and Confederate who use the engines of major manufacturers to power their beasts to the Harris and Rickman Brothers who made their own frames. It has always been about offering something that little bit special, Honda had Colin Seeley make them a batch of race replica CB750’s while Ronin picked up a bunch of unwanted Buell’s for their unique creations. But for Jose and Tito from Spain’s Macco Motors it all came about in a very unexpected way, rather than create a “special” they’ve simply had customer after customer want them to take a modern Triumph Bonneville and build it the Macco way. Each one comes with a little something different but all are built with factory level quality and a brilliant finish, their latest is a 2008 example known simply as The Trickster.
The Seventies might have seen the introduction of the four-stroke Japanese superbikes but for a young lad looking to emulate his race day heroes it was a decade built on two-stroke smoke. The Kawasaki’s had brutal power and beautiful lines, the Suzuki’s offered a level of durability not known to most smokers but it was Yamaha’s RD range that offered the most charisma. Forget your heated grips, traction control and smooth fuel injection when you jump aboard an RD400 and get it up to speed it’s a white knuckle, eyes on stalks experience and that’s before you’ve even pinned the throttle. So when Sean Skinner of MotoRelic in Hamilton, Virginia, was approached by a friend to do a custom rebuild on his 1977 Yamaha RD400 he jumped at the opportunity. The end result is a screaming Yammy that looks better than any factory offering and delivers all of that two-stroke insanity in one hell of a beautiful package.
There are certain artists, designers and builders whose work is instantly recognisable in their field and often even into the broader community: A Hendrix riff, a Pollock painting or a Scorsese film. In the world of custom bikes few builders’ creations are more instantly recognisable than those of David González from Spain’s Ad Hoc Café Racers. Twelve miles outside of Barcelona along the C58 Highway, with mechanics apron on, David operates out of his small workshop that is equal parts artist’s studio and motorcycle garage. It is here that his unique creations are realised and while some may consider them quirky, David in fact is sticking to the true Latin meaning of the name Ad Hoc – or for this – a solution designed to solve a specific problem. In this case it’s a 1991 Yamaha XT600 known as “Rising”, a flat tracker that’s built to shred the wildly varying street surfaces of Greece.
Two years before Triumph relaunched the ‘new’ Bonneville range in 2001, Kawasaki had delivered their W650 to the market. It was a bike that was described years later as being “closer to a ’60s Bonneville than Triumph’s own latter-day replica”. Of course, that line alone will kick off the greatest of debates between purists of the British brand and those who fell in love with the new Kwaka, but what can’t be argued is how good a job Kawasaki did at re-creating a retro machine with plenty of modern-day improvements. While the late ‘90s ushered in the era of the modern race bike for the road with the launch of Superbikes like the Yamaha R1, the W650 gave new bike buyers the option for a much more laid back, classic ride. When German motorcycle enthusiast Uwe Kostrewa first saw one he instantly fell in love and now, years later, he’s been able to create his perfect W650, a ‘99 model come Street Tracker with all the goodies you could ever hope for.
Great artists are always challenging themselves, pushing the boundaries of what is possible and creating new pieces that require them to go to a place they’ve never been before. When you live in the incredible city of Elche, Spain, with its beautiful historic town centre, Baroque splendour and you spend your days churning out some of the best custom motorcycles in the country, it would be easy to rest on your laurels. But not the team at Tamarit Motorcycles. Specialists in turning modern Triumphs into cafe racers and scramblers for their backlog of clients, they decided to set themselves a challenge. Throw off the shackles of a customer’s requirements, liberate themselves from their previous styling and time constraints and see what would emerge. It all started with a simple Google search and the end result is this stunning Dirt Tracker for the streets, a 2010 Triumph Bonneville known as “Superstar”.