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.
In the quiet German city of Oldenburg a highly skilled carpenter whittles away his days designing and crafting the finest furniture from timbers gathered from the local oak forests. But by night a darker side comes out to play, the chisel and mallet swapped for the tools of a blacksmith, here the carpenter turns motorcycle builder creating minimalist machines with the single purpose of carving up those same forests in a totally different way. Meet Marcel Papenberg who’s turned his passion and skill for motorcycle building into a second business, Box-Werk Custombikes, run in his spare time producing purposeful BMW’s from a collection of tired old machines just waiting to be restored.
As part of the Yamaha’s incredibly successful Yard Built program, JvB-moto was given the honour of being the first workshop to tackle their new XSR700. Described as a machine designed to have a timeless feel, built on historical icons, matched with tomorrow’s technology for a pure and entertaining riding experience, it has a lot to live up to. But the XSR700 is no ordinary new motorcycle; it’s neither a modern bike or retro remake, but a return to the UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) that combines a non-era specific look and classic design intellection. Having done such an incredible job with their first XSR700 build, known as the “Super 7”, JvB-moto led by Jens vom Brauck are back with a Scrambler version that delivers a new, raw and rough attitude to what is becoming the ultimate urban warrior.
Evolution always seems slow for the living. They are blissfully unaware of any new creatures rising up, until a swarm of better beasts takes them down as they are going about their daily business. From the post war Hogs on the interstates in the USA to the Motorway Cafes of a Rockin’ ‘60s Great Britain, the commuter class that was previously afraid of us has grown accustomed to these stalwarts of the custom motorcycle scene, as generations of bike builders have followed their founder’s leads. But in an increasingly urbanised world, a new animal has emerged from the city streets of Munich; two of its favourite sons have joined forces to put their signature touches on Bavaria’s most famous brand and created a revolution, codenamed ‘DA#4’. Prepare to witness first-hand the birth of the ‘Neo-Racer’ genre.
“They don’t make them like they used to.” We’ve all heard the older generation groan it, oil dripping down the inside of their riding boats. But to be able to own a modern superbike dripping with MotoGP technology first there had to be more than a hundred years of development – in factories large and small – all over the globe. Some got it right, some got it wrong, But it is the evolution of the motorcycle we must always appreciate, its many off-spring is the thing that brings us all together as bike lovers and one pre-war big brother made more than a single innovative contribution to motorcycling that lives on today. That bike, the one before your eyes, is the Böhmerland 600 (or ‘Cechie’, as it was known domestically.) It’s the brainchild of Albin Hugo Liebisch who was born in Rumburk in what is today the Czech Republic. Liebisch was a bicycle mechanic until the outbreak of WWI where he was badly wounded on the Eastern front. After the war he took a number of jobs before driving heavy vehicles for flamboyant businessman and sometime race car driver Alfred Hielleho, who would finance the early years of the Böhmerland Motorcycle company. And thank your lucky stars he did.
The Honda CX500 has become a staple of the modern Cafe Racer scene, but very few have gone to the lengths that German Heinz Christmann has to make one very special neo-vintage machine. With a ‘79 Japanese bike, plenty of German know how and a cornucopia of the best parts from around the world he’s been able to create a bike that uses pieces as new as carbon fibre and as old as drum brakes. The end result is hard to classify. It’s a Cafe Racer no doubt, but it’s also high on technology while also paying more than a subtle tribute to the race bikes of old. Whatever you want to call it, it’s bloody brilliant.
As I’m sure you’ll agree, today’s custom motorcycle scene is a global phenomenon. But if you had to pinpoint the birth of it all, surely it started with returning servicemen in the post World War II period who bought up army surplus bikes on both sides of the Atlantic and bobbed and chopped their way to individuality. But what about the pre war machines? Or those that were built for the war effort with large sums of government money thrown at the manufacturers to get an advantage over what the adversary was creating? Enter Russia’s ‘Motorworld by V. Sheyanov’ – a collection of specially developed military motorcycles with engines over 800 cc, sidecar-wheel driven motorcycles, and the odd 4-cylinder. Today, Motorworld’s representative, Peter Moskovskikh, brings us one of the true prizes of his collection; the iconic German built Mars A20, which began production in 1920. With only 1000 units produced over a twelve-year run, this bike remains a certified classic of the period.
Dirk Oehlerking of Kingston Custom is an elite motorcycle builder known for his clean, stylish creations with small design details you won’t find anywhere else and a pursuit of perfection that is largely unrivalled. So when Shun Miyazawa, the Product Manager at Yamaha Europe and also the man behind Yamaha Yard Built program, was looking for his next builder he knew he had just the man. Thrown the keys to a new XV950 Bolt from Yamaha’s Sports Heritage range, the idea was for Dirk to create a custom classic like nothing else in the Yard Built stable that would inspire fans around the globe and bring to life a new parts catalogue any XV950 owner could add to their own custom creation. Welcome to Yard Built team Kingston Customs Café Bob XV950, a tough road warrior known simply as “The Face”.
Some bikes lend themselves to customisation more than others. Twin-shocked stalwarts like the SR500 and CB750 are so easily stripped back and chopped, lowered and lightened it takes something pretty special to grace the pages of Pipeburn. Other bikes, like this 1985 K100RT from Nuremberg’s Motofication, take considerably more finesse, planning and cutting discs to be transformed into something truly attention-grabbing.
Barn finds are good and well, providing you actually have barns where you live. But as long as you have old geezers who love to horde, you’re going to find old bikes hidden away. Here in Australia we usually find them in sheds or garages. And clearly barns are the preferred storage method for the forgetful oldies in the US. But what about Germany? Apparently carpenter’s shops are all the rage over there. And if Jochen Guske and his find are anything to go by, the common inhabitants of the average Deutsche woodworkhaus are none other than the ‘Kawikus Kaffeus’ – also known as the Green-Breasted Kawasaki KZ400.