It’s amazing how much the big motorcycle manufacturers have changed in the past ten years. Up until very recently, bike customisers were little more than pariahs to the factories. All their hard engineering work, undone in the fell swoop of an errant oxy torch or angle grinder. You could almost hear the engineers in Japan and Europe weeping in pain. And as for a factory dealer that might dare to try and make a few changes to the merchandise? If they were lucky, they’d find themselves selling second-hand Dneprs in Siberia… in winter. But my, what a difference a decade makes. Suddenly it’s raining factory customs. And for Yamaha, that means throwing money behind their ‘Faster Sons’ custom shop collaboration project. And the latest star of the decidedly successful program is this here XSR700 from French shop Motomax Metz. A French shop that just happens to be a dealer, too.
A polymath is defined as a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. And naturally, if such a person is set a complex task to perform, it would be easy for them to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve the specific problems they might encounter. Turn a mind like that to the act of customising a bike, and you’re bound to get some pretty interesting results. Today’s bike is the result the hard work of just one man – namely Pierre from French shop Freeride Motos. Paint, leather, fibreglass, leatherwork, metalwork, electrics – you name it, he probably did it. And by the looks of it, he did it damn well.
Father and son duos can be a hit and miss combination, Jerry and Ben Stiller have made millions making the world laugh and even with Jerry at 89 they’re still working together. On the other hand Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great not only became bitter rivals, the folks they encountered along their journeys hardly had smiles on their faces. Luckily for the father and son team behind FrenchMonkeys, Lionel and Florian, they not only get on like a house on fire but their love for customising motorcycles has become a very successful business venture. Based in Lyon, France, their builds have become so popular there is now a waiting list for their services and their parts business is doing a roaring trade. But after fifteen straight client builds it was time to create a bike for themselves and the BMW specialists have turned this 1978 R60/7 into a long and lean custom with plenty of classic style.
There is something about the Glemseck 101 1/8th mile sprint that brings the best out of so many builders, static competitions are one thing, but when the rubber hits the road everything on the bike is truly tested. The German motorcycle festival draws massive crowds of up to 75,000 people and is billed as “the meeting point for international designers, engineers, developers and their bikes.” For Yann and Manu of Sur Les Chapeaux De Roues in Brittany, North Western France, it was a chance to create a truly unique machine that showed off their full array of skills. But their Project Z Kawasaki is more than just a bike for competition, in the true tradition of Hot Rod Motorcycles it can do it all, win trophies as a static display, give a perfect ride on the beautiful back roads of Brittany and then go to the strip and lay down a great number in competition; our two French friends are simply brilliant at everything they do and this is their creation.
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.
Sometimes it’s easy to hate the French. The food. The wine. The beautiful women. We’re not quite sure what the country has done to deserve all this mana from heaven, but they must have all been very well-behaved in a past life. And, as if to rub salt into the wounds of the rest of the word, along comes the very attractive Monsieur Fabrice Rude rom La Manufacture. With a name that couldn’t be more French if it tried, he’s here as living proof that life is just plain better in the land of the Française. Deciding he just might pop along to the Wheels & Waves show in Biarritz, he seemingly threw together a build at the last-minute only to become the star of the show and subsequently smothered in beautiful women, fame, fortune and bucketloads of la belle vie. Don’t you just hate him?
In the modern custom motorcycle scene, the name Bultaco is probably best known for its logo that often adorns many a T-shirt. But the company’s real success is its domination of dirt racing from the very founding of the company, when the lightweight Spanish 2 strokes took the challenge up to the heavy British 4’s and dominated the Trials world for more than a decade. But this 1976 Bultaco Astro 360, built by Pierre Dehr from France’s Freeride Motos, brings together a variety of Bultaco models components to tell the story of when a small Spanish start-up took on the world, driven by a singular love for racing, and won.
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.
Approaching one of the most enigmatic builders in the world with your idea for a custom build can be a nerve-racking experience, when you bring a limited budget and a quirky bike to the party you might want a stiff drink first. But for Karl “Ed” Renoult of France’s Ed Turner Motorcycles every new challenge is a chance to test his building skills and in this case give some attitude to a bike in its original fair he describes as a “Norman Wardrobe”. Hugo the owner of this BMW K100 really only had two requests, he wanted a blue tank and a tracker build the rest would be in Karl’s more than capable hands. Only one other thing, Hugo is a student and as Karl found out that meant “no dosh”, but that hasn’t stopped Ed Turner Motorcycles turning out another first class build proving yet again a great builder doesn’t need a blank cheque to create a masterpiece.
Struggling to find a donor motorcycle for your next build? Asking prices for ratty old SR400’s making your shake your head? Refuse to spend all your time and money on a glorified old Honda commuter? Thankfully there are better starting points for your next project. Big bore trailbikes. They’re reliable, they’ve got a bit of poke and they’re still very affordable. So here’s a guide on how to turn an old chook-chaser into a blacked-out side street carver like this 1994 DR650 ‘Arsenale’, put together by French company Blitz, makers of some of the nicest switchgear you’ll ever mash your thumbs against.