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”.
The historic walled port city of Saint Malo set on the French side of the English Channel can lay claim to hosting many important events in world history. But as the port of choice for the swashbuckling French buccaneers of the 17th century it’s hard to argue had they still been coming to shore today this wouldn’t have been their ride of choice. Quick and nibble, capable both on and off-road with the ability to out run and out manoeuvre local law enforcement and angry traders this 1994 XR600R Street Tracker is definitely the moto du jour. Built by a new workshop from the port city, Escapade Custom Motorcycles is the brainchild of good friends and business partners Allan & Jérôme. Not interested in the glitz and glamour of over the top builds and acres of chrome, they craft bikes that are all about a single purpose, the simple joy of riding a motorcycle.
If you tell a small child not to touch something, the chances are the very moment you turn your back they’ll not only touch it, but bash it around and probably break it. Maybe they’ll even set it on fire. So when Jeremy Hutch’s parents kept saying no to motorcycles it was inevitable that he’d find a way to get his hands on one. But this is more than childhood rebellion, Jeremy’s passion for two wheels clearly runs deep and his skills as an Industrial Designer have taken he and his 2000 Honda NX650 Dominator known as ‘Death Crusher’ all the way to the highs of a personal invite to the Handbuilt Show in Texas. But you don’t go from childhood dreams to invitational builder under the Hutchbilt banner at one of the world’s premier shows overnight and this journey in motorcycle madness has literally taken Jeremy around the world.
With the big manufacturers, corporates and TV shows dedicating large sums of money to the custom motorcycle scene it is easy to forget that its foundation has and always will be home builders on tiny budgets scrummaging through scrap yards for that must have part. We can all dream of our ultimate ride, a $100k to spend and the skills of the words great fabricators at our disposal but the reality for most of us mere mortals is a few grand for both bike and bits. As a 21 year old student from Liège in Belgium, Jordan Froidmont found himself in this very predicament but has found a way to make his dreams come true with a little left field thinking and a lot of hard graft. After three years of work he’s turned Honda’s forgotten FT 500 Ascot into a stunning street bike and is now filling the Belgian air with the sound of a screaming single.
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.