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.
I hate to admit it, but I was there in the now legendary video game arcades of the 80s. I actually played all the original machines the geeks of today froth over. Space Invaders. Donkey Kong. Nibbler. You name ‘em, I played ‘em. Yes, I’m that old. Taylor from Arkansas’ One-Up Moto Garage isn’t quite as decrepit as me, but he too is a fan. And there’s one game he loves above all else. Atari’s Asteroids. He loves it so much, he’s gone and customised a 1984 Honda Ascot VT500 to honour it.
Nitrous oxide. Turbos. Superchargers. We’re as guilty as the next guy and or gal for drooling over flashy go-faster parts that make good headlines and get those website clicks a-clicking. But there’s a much more traditional approach to speed that doesn’t involve mega bucks and a team of rocket scientists. It’s what bikers have done since the dawn of time. Drop weight, increase capacity and work on the heads. And for Schlachtwerk’s Tommy Thöring, it’s just this approach that turned out this little gem. Meet his Kawasaki W740 he calls ‘No Fat’.
It’s 2017 and I find myself in a dilemma involving lack of time and money. Questioning how we would build our next custom as well as a new bike to race in the American Flat Track series, a decision was made to kill two birds with one stone. Why not build a custom worthy of the race track and a race bike worthy of being a custom piece of two-wheel art? Why not, indeed!
Harley’s original XR750s are the stuff of legend. With a winning streak that started in 1972 and is still being felt in flat tracking today, many argue that it’s the world’s most winningest motorcycle. Which is a pretty amazing claim to fame, when you think about it. The Netherland’s Bart Verstijnen knew he could build his own XR750 if he really put his mind to it. And once you see the twin Mikuni’s, you know this isn’t just a tepid homage. Oh no. This is the real deal.
BMW R-series customs. Go on, say it. You’ve seen more of them than Trump’s seen golf courses. You’ve seen more beefed-up boxers than a New York gym. You’ve seen more loud R’s than an overloaded pirate ship. We get it. But when we saw this little R100RS from France’s JRM Motorcycle, we were intrigued. Knobby tires? Nope. Bobber seat? Nope again. Murdered out? Extra nopes. Contrary to all expectations, this one has a road-racer-meets-motard vibe that we might just be digging. A lot.
Last September a friend’s father contacted me about a commissioned build. He had a 1983 Yamaha XS 650 Special that a previous owner had already modified quite a bit. It needed a little mechanical work, so it hit the Retrowrench side of the shared space first. Chad Francis got the basics working properly. Then I met with the client and he informed me he only had a minimal budget. He just wanted to freshen the bike up and have it repainted with the Gulf color scheme, the number 64 (which his son races under) and the JC3 emblem, which is in memory of his daughter. So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.
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.
When does a custom bike shop become a fully fledged bike manufacturer? While some successful shops are happy with their two or three bikes a year, others like Spain’s Macco Motors take things a little more seriously. Eminently comfortable in their own stylistic skins, they’ve now developed quite the global business. With a waiting list as long as Stretch Armstrong’s arm and customers from as far a field as the UK and Miami, we’re beginning to wonder how long it’ll be before Hinckley starts to get worried. Here’s their latest build, a Triumph T100 they are calling ‘Seagull’.
This old 1986 BMW R80RS has had four iterations. In its original form it was a tourer, designed to ferry middle-aged German men to Paris for wine tasting, to Madrid for lunch, or Kiev for sex tourism. Then Tattoo Customs got their grubby hands on it, stripped it back, painted it black and stuck Firestones on it, dubbing it a mixture of a cafe racer and a bratstyle bike – a ‘Brafe’. But the Firestones went all Firestoney and dumped the bike onto the road. So the third model was born: a nose down cafe racer with a psychedelic paint scheme. And now it’s been changed again – this time into knockout Bultaco-inspired flat tracker. Fourth time’s a charm.