Written by Martin Hodgson
Running a custom bike shop can be a bit like being a real estate agent, no not being the brunt of everyone’s jokes, but dealing with a public whose eyes are often bigger than their wallets. We’ve all heard about the guy who walks into an agent’s office looking for a large five bedroom home, ensuite and spa bath, on a large block of land with water views and only $100k to spend; tell him he’s dreaming! But the requests are often along similar lines at custom shops; however they hold an ace the agent doesn’t, they can actually create something to satisfy the outlandish request.
The Snipe. A well camouflaged but otherwise nondescript bird that is native to the old world. But for such a seemingly average little fellow, it has sure inspired a hell of a lot of things to be named in its honour. The dictionary defines a ‘snipe’ as the act of ‘making a sly or petty verbal attack.’ That act is named after the military tactic of ‘sniping’, or shooting at the enemy over a long distance. This in turn took its name from the difficulties involved in hunting the bird with a rifle as its flight patterns are erratic, making it almost impossible to hit ‘on the wing’. But most importantly to this story, the bird also gave its name to the Sopwith Snipe, the replacement aircraft to the now famous Camel. And while it’s service began only a few short weeks before the end of WWI, it was renown for its rate of climb and manoeuvrability. Now fast forward to South Eastern England in 2016, where two likely lads with a fascination for old British aircraft have decided to build themselves a custom motorcycle…
In the sleepy town of Sandy in Bedfordshire in the UK, lives Chris Baglin, owner of Merlin Engineers Ltd. Merlin specialise in historic aviation and motorsport fabrication and repair. Around 8 years ago, one of Chris’ mates had an Egli Laverda. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Fritz Egli was a motorcycle racer turned custom frame builder. Amongst others, he built 25 Egli frames for the Laverda 750SF. Very rare and very beautiful and one of these bikes was the inspiration for what you see here.
You’d think somewhere in Bavaria would be a workshop producing the best custom BMW R series bikes around, no doubt there are some great ones, but from a seaside town in Devon, England, Kevil’s Speed Shop could lay claim to being the best out there. Headed up by Kevin Hill who has been in the game since the 1980’s, the steady supply of stunning BMW customs coming from the shop is incredible; we’ve featured six of them here on Pipeburn. But there is more to the Devon outfit than Bavarian brilliance “we are also turning out well polished and well-priced custom smaller capacity Japanese bikes,” explains Kevin. So to show just how good they are at doing that they’ve picked one of the most bland and vanilla commuter bikes of the last twenty years, a 2000 Honda FX650 Vigor and turned into a gorgeous custom, Kevils MOTO #8, that has all of the shop’s magic and has been given a complete new lease on life.
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.
In 2016 Brough Superior are probably best known for being the motorcycle company of choice of the legendary Lawrence of Arabia (T.E. Lawrence) and the record-breaking prices these machines now fetch at auction. To the vintage motorcycle enthusiast they are the holy grail, the companies run of motorcycle production from 1919 to 1940 producing two of the most sought after bikes in history and a legacy that lives on in Brough Superior Clubs, an endless array of hard cover books and the spectacle that occurs when any Brough comes up for auction. But all that has been said before, what is rarely discussed is the role George Brough and his motorcycles had on the custom scene and the lessons he left for future builders. So from the collection of The Motorworld by V.Sheyanov, let’s take this rare 1940 Brough Superior SS80 Special around the block and see what we can learn.
The 59 Club played a major part in shaping the Rocker and Cafe Racer culture. I love these vintage pictures from the 59 club days. If you want to see more check out Graham Hulletts Photographic Collection . (Graham was the club leader from 1962 to 1970).