At the heart of every custom bike build, there’s usually a story of a lost bike. There can be a million reasons why bikes get set aside. Mechanical issues, health reasons, young kids to look after – hell, sometimes life just gets all up in your face. And it’s not just old bikes that are hung out to dry, either. Witness exhibit ‘A’, a 2001 Triumph Bonneville that has spent a third of its life doing sweet F.A. Screw the RSPCA, where’s the society the prevents cruelty to sweet, sweet bikes? In this case, Spain’s Macco Motors were the knights in shining (or maybe greasy?) armour who rescued this bike from stagnation and turned it into something anyone would be happy to give a home to. Meet ‘The Wasp’.
In the modern renaissance of the custom motorcycle scene the Tracker inspired builds have become a favourite the world over, with the best builders and workshops in the game having produced multiple examples. One of the best built is River Rat Cycle Fab’s Yamaha XS650 screwed together by Heath Reed featured here on Pipeburn last year. Now with this fully fledged AMA Pro Flat Track Racer we can finally appreciate where Heath and his RRCF team get their inspiration for such amazing road based Trackers; They build the real thing, capable of 130mph and some serious sideways action! It’s the sport that Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, Troy Bayliss and many of the best riders have taken as their new passion, it’s where King Kenny Roberts first made his name and it’s where Heath and the RRCF Racing team are hoping to do big things with this Ninja 650 powered machine.
When you’re a one man bike building operation you have to be a master of all crafts and failure at none and that’s not as easy as many believe it to be. You take some of the world’s greatest chefs and put them front of house dealing with complaint filled customers and before you know it Gordon Ramsay is on murder charges. But Sean Skinner has made MotoRelic Custom Cycles in Hamilton Virginia a success by combining his 20 odd years of mechanical and fabrication skills with the design skills of a sculptor and a friendly attitude to customers no matter the job, big or small. With some room in the shop he picked up this 1982 Honda Ascot FT500, tore it down to a bare frame, stood back and let the design come to him.
Every industry has its virtuosos, those that take a skill performed by many and add a level of genius and artistic flair that’ll leave you speechless and set them apart from the pack. Somewhere out in the world is a breakfast chef who sends his pancakes into the air performing triple somersaults in the pike position before returning perfectly to the pan. In the bike building world, Yuri Shif Customs of Belarus has one such virtuoso in bike building wizard, designer and major show winner, head honcho Yuri Shif. From a man who regularly competes in the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building you expect great things and his latest creation, “Ducky” the Cafe Tracker is no exception.
In the global movement that is the custom bike scene you don’t win Best Cafe Racer at the VVMC Rally and be a stand out as an invited builder to the One Motorcycle Show unless you not only build incredible machines but understand the ethos behind the movement. Ask Ken from Spirit Lake Cycles what the mantra was when designing this exquisite 1992 BMW R100r and he responds with “Anything that it does not require, it does not have!”. But to take a clunky German retro tourer and turn it into a masterpiece also requires a fabricator who can build show winning form with traditional cafe racer function and Brian the other half of the SLC team knows exactly what that means “The ultimate goal was to have something that looked vintage but at the same time road like a modern bike”. It’s little wonder then that two men with such abilities and understanding of their goal achieved such an incredible result in this LA built Bavarian beauty known as Miss Thriller.
When long time upholsterer for DP Customs, Uniqueaz.com, dropped by the workshop for a cold beer and a chat with owners, Justin and Jarrod Del Prado he revealed he hadn’t come to discuss the latest needs of a shared customer but to place an order for a bike of his own. Having carefully studied the quality of the brothers workmanship having worked on many of their bikes, he wanted one of his own. With that some ribs were thrown on the smoker and the beer kept flowing as they began an impromptu design session. The brief from Unique Upholstery was simple, it had to feel comfortable to sit on; With only the barest of constraints they thought up a Street Tracker named “W” based on a 2002 Harley Davidson Sportster that’s big on power, low on weight and rips up the streets in as brilliant a fashion as it appears when standing still.
The small state of Querétaro in Northern Mexico has always been a place of revolution and creation having been the locality of both the early Independence movement and the site of the creation of the modern Mexican constitution and it is with this spirit that comes Vitium Moto from the state’s capital of the same name. They are not so much a workshop as a rebellious bunch of builders who as friends unite around their one common vitium (Latin for vice) and build motorcycles that deliberately buck all the trends and refuse to abide by style or convention. They don’t have customers, they create a bond as new friends with those who come to share the same sinful desire for motorcycle revolt and there latest build, a 2009 KTM 450 SMR is proof positive they refuse to fit any mould.
In the space of less than a year in the late 1960s two Japanese heavyweights released motorcycles that would go on to be hugely popular in the modern custom bike scene. First Yamaha with its XS650 and then Honda with the CB750; while the Honda is considered the first Superbike and was designed to seek and destroy its British rivals, the Yamaha was based on classic styling and an engine as Brit as Big Ben. Whereas the evolution of the CB range has progressed to the most modern of motorcycles, the XS650 remained true to its classic styling for its entire production run. One man who truly understands classic design and builds a mean Yamaha is Christian Condo of Melbourne’s Modern Motor Cycle Company and this 1981 XS650 Heritage Special is his latest masterpiece.
For 2016, the Triumph Bonneville has finally shed its air-cooled status and embraced a raft of new technologies that brings the engine of the retro-styled machine truly into the 21st century. It’s a brilliant machine that will no doubt sell like hot cakes, but with such a change there is also a chance for a new bike to become a modern classic. That very well could be steeds like this “new” 2004 Triumph Bonneville. With no electronic aids, no fly by wire and carbies for induction it is perhaps the true bridge between the old classics and the new retro-tech masterpieces. Either way, Macco Motors in Spain sure know how to turn out a brilliant Bonnie of any vintage and this little lady known as ‘Wayra’ sure likes her hair in the wind.
When you’ve been in the custom bike game as long as we have, you get pretty darn quick at spotting bikes that make the grade. Like some crazed laboratory chimp, we get shown a whole heap of bikes on a daily basis and we often have to make a call as to whether we’d show them or not in a matter of minutes. And ‘show’ is exactly what we agreed to do for this bike. In 2011. Then one thing led to another. Photoshoots were booked. Photos were taken. Photos were lost. Grass grew. The world turned. Then, last week, we received the finished product. In the end, we shrugged our shoulders and said the same thing we say about our love lives. “Better late than never”.