To say that Adam Nestor got out of the blocks in his bike building career like Usain Bolt going for Olympic Gold is an understatement. With Adam’s Custom Shop’s first builds including Madame Guzzi and Sporganic this young Swedish bike builder showed at just 20 years of age he was capable of building the sort of bikes most mere mortals require decades of honing their craft to achieve. But for a custom motorcycle workshop to survive financially in the long-term a builder has to be capable of turning out lower cost builds while still retaining their signature quality and style. In these two customer builds, a 1974 Honda CB750 and a BMW R100RT the young Swede proves even his budget builds are brilliant!
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is one of the most successful automotive titles ever written, having sold more than five million copies and although its author Robert M. Pirsig admits “It’s not very factual on motorcycles” the global success of the work is one of many proofs that our passion for Motorbikes is more than just a hobby. It’s rooted in family and community, fraternity and adventure, it can bring us our greatest highs and for many it’s our therapy at our times of greatest need. For Craig Jones of Warwickshire and his meticulously crafted 1980 BMW R80 this build has been both a way to cope with great loss and the beginning of a bright new journey.
The relationship between client and creator is always a tricky one. Just ask any designer; their customers always want a game-changing creation for nix, and they usually want it yesterday. But great work always takes time. Time, and the patronage of someone who understands that the bike builder might actually know more about, you know, building bikes. When this happens, art often follows. Art like this, for instance; the latest and dare we say greatest from Kentucky’s best custom bike builder, Scott Halbleib of H Garage.
Sit around a table, hang out in a workshop or share a beer with a group of custom bike fanatics and one question is guaranteed to come up every single time, “What if?”. What if we jammed a Triumph engine in a Norton frame, what if we stuck my Gixxer forks on your old CB Honda or what if we, follow me here guys, we turned a Hyosung into a race bike? Ok, so clearly some ideas are best forgotten, others have gone on to become legendary innovations and the vast bulk never see the light of day. But when Craig Marleau of Kick Start Garage in Northern California had such a moment he not only built his “What if” idea, The Taco Truck, he completed it in record time, pulled off a creation the likes of which has never been seen and won an award at the prestigious The One Moto Show.
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.
The custom bike scene is full of builders pumping out café racers, trackers, bobbers, scramblers and just about anything imaginable. Yet Chris Canterbury, founder and owner of Boxer Metal in California, still managed to knock one out of the park with his fantastically unique 1980 BMW R100 twin turbo build. “We were excited to attend the One Moto Show in Portland again, but the bike that would have been perfect for it was already packed up and shipped to Guatemala,” says Chris. It didn’t make things easier that the One Moto Show was merely 7 weeks away. Not afraid of a challenge, Chris set out to not only build a bike for the show, but to build a BMW that would really stir things up. It takes a great deal of engineering and ingenuity to fuse one turbo to any bike, but two is more than any kid could ever wish for.
The real charm of a Rat bike is to pick up something cheap, get it up and going on the smell of an oily rag and retain all of that true mechanical character without a care in the world for high-end paints jobs and overpriced components. Sadly the concept has become a style and when anything becomes fashionable, large sums of money enter the mix with people spending big dollars to create the “Rat Bike” look. Point well and truly missed! Luckily for us there are builders out there like Parisian Arnaud Morel who has built himself this uber cool 1979 BMW R65 Ratty and done it all for just 500 Euros; an incredible achievement and completely in the true spirit of the rat concept.
At the height of the Import Tuner scene (think the release of The Fast and the Furious in 2001), Japanese workshops like JUN and Top Secret were the leading names, having developed a reputation for automotive perfection and always raising the bar. With the custom motorcycle scene now well and truly thriving and arguably having past where the Tuner scene was at, it is once again Japanese builders like AC Sanctuary and the now US-based Shinya Kimura whose efforts often leave you speechless. Well, you can add to the list one ‘Shiro Nakajima’ who used to build incredible bikes for Ritmo Sereno, which he founded but has since left. Since then he’s set up a new workshop known as 46Works at the base of Mt. Yatsugatake, where he has returned to his roots of brilliant one-off machines, incredible fabrication and the odd bit of furniture making thrown in for good measure. Here’s his latest.
I once worked at a company that was going through some major restructuring. Turning up to work one morning, we found copies of a book entitled “Who Moved My Cheese?” placed on our desks. A quick thumb through its pages revealed it to be a rather patronising little ditty that had been handed out by management to ‘prepare us for change’. Its intended message was simple; companies (and their employees) that are quicker to accept change stay ahead of the competition. Or, as the book puts it, “The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese”. All we took out of the experience was that management saw us as rodents. Bastards. But it’s not entirely without merit. Stay doing one thing for too long and you just might find yourself ‘without cheese’. It’s a thought that Spain’s Macco Motors took to heart after a string of rather nice Triumph builds. The result? Their first ever BMW.
The custom bike scene is booming with a host of mainly older bikes being turned into Café Racers, Trackers, Bobbers, Scramblers and just about everything in between. But when Pierluigi Portolano, founder and designer of MotoRecyclos in Italy talks about his building philosophy he sums up in the best way I’ve heard just how to approach creating new from old. “When one thinks of a new bike the real challenge is not distorting it, but rather being able to grasp the essence and merge it with a new personality.” And that is exactly what he has done with his company’s latest creation, a BMW R80 known as the ‘Boxer Country’. It takes that trusty old German air-cooled twin and with a great deal of Italian passion and ingenuity fuses the two to create a stunning machine that looks as good as it goes.