Harley’s original XR750s are the stuff of legend. With a winning streak that started in 1972 and is still being felt in flat tracking today, many argue that it’s the world’s most winningest motorcycle. Which is a pretty amazing claim to fame, when you think about it. The Netherland’s Bart Verstijnen knew he could build his own XR750 if he really put his mind to it. And once you see the twin Mikuni’s, you know this isn’t just a tepid homage. Oh no. This is the real deal.
It can take years. Each second feels like an eternity. From the moment you spot ‘the one’ crossing the road in front of you until the day you finally get up close and personal. But when we spotted this sporty shorty in the workshop corner of Malaysia’s Beautiful Machines, we knew we had to have her. That was when they were preparing their incredible ‘Monster’ for the Yokohama MoonEyes Hot Rod & Custom Show. But we couldn’t just show her off to you in any old state, so we took one for the team and waited until we could get just the right shots. Now for her big debut we can finally present ‘Puting Beliung’; it means ‘Tornado’ and she’s a Harley Davidson Sportster XL1200N Nightster that’ll literally sweep you off your feet.
When you’re young, brash and at the top of your game you can push a lot of buttons and get away with it. Just ask the great Muhammad Ali who once said, “I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail!” The motorcycle equivalent to this level of smack talk is like standing in front of a pack of grey bearded Harley Davidson enthusiasts having defiled the purity of some fine Milwaukee Muscle. The reaction will come quick; bottles may fly, F-bombs will rain down and a chase worthy of the Blues Brothers will ensue. It’s not that the Young Guns Speed Shop lads set out to upset those who cry, “why?” – it’s that they simply answer, “why not!” Their latest bike is yet another badass build with an exclamation point, a 1999 Husky Harley Sportster known simply as ‘DK’.
You may remember back in September, when we teamed up with Cam at Stories of Bike to create a little video called ROADS WE RIDE for Transport for NSW’s motorcycling safety initiative. Well guess what? It went gangbusters, so they asked us to make another one.
When Filippo Barbacane of Officine Rossopuro in Abruzzo, Italy, built a Harley chopper it was a radical departure from his usual creations. Filippo has made a name for himself building some of the most beautifully styled custom Moto Guzzi’s you’re ever likely to see. So when he went down the path of a chopper, based on an Ironhead no less, it sure got tongues wagging. But so good was the uniquely Italian build, it was soon gracing the pages of global magazines. That was until Filippo had an idea. He’d take the fresh chopper known as “Troublehead”, rip it apart and transform his 1977 Harley Davidson Ironhead into an all new breed of bike. From the remains of a perfect custom cruiser comes this go anywhere ’70s scrambler that has a new persona, “SCRhead.”
Among all species of creation there are occasionally specimens who are malformed in whole or in part; the most grossly abnormal of these have been referred to from ancient times as monsters. The name connotes something almost evil, physically intimidating, possessing unseen levels of power and generally considered freaks of nature. And as soon as you glimpse the first image of Beautiful Machines insane 1991 Harley Davidson Heritage Softail you know the name Monster fits. It’s been five years in the making at their workshop in Sunway, Malaysia, where it has been a passion project for head honcho Rajay Singh. The final incarnation rolled out of the Beautiful Machines laboratory just in time to make a splash at the recent Yokohama MoonEyes Hot Rod & Custom Show.
The explosion of the custom bike seen means there are literally millions of aftermarket parts on the market to fit to your bike. The only problem is the temptation can be to order half the catalogue, have no design plan and throw it all on your bike and end up with a squashed fruit salad like mess. That’s never been a problem for DP Customs of Arizona, USA, who build some of the cleanest customs you’re ever likely to see and never seem to stray from that path. Over the last six years they’ve refined their style to such a point that you only have to see a single photo of one of their bikes to know exactly who built it. Owners Jarrod and Justin Del Prado are no-nonsense guys; they like a good BBQ, a cold beer and having plenty of fun on motorbikes. So you can see why their customers love the bikes and the experience of being part of the DP Customs family and their latest build is a low slung bruiser, a 2001 Harley Davidson Sportster known as c88.
It pains us to say it, but crashed bikes are the lifeblood of the custom scene. Without all those wrecker’s spares, Craigslist heaps and engines-without-an-owner leftovers that many shops depend on for parts, we’d either be making everything from scratch or cannibalising perfectly good bikes like some desperately hungry plane crash survivors. So in some very symbolic, cycle-of-life type shit, bikes must die so that the custom scene may live. And if there’s one type of bike that’s crashed more than others, it’s entry level bikes. Harley’s XG is a blatant tilt at this market segment, and the bike is a popular choice for riding schools across America. Thank it’d be hard to total a riding school bike? Well, as Chris from Los Angeles’ Chappell Customs found out, it’s easier (and more comical) than you’d ever think.
A Renaissance man can do it all, and Curtis Miller from Ardent Motorcycles in Milford, Michigan is practically Da Vinci with a thumping V-Twin between his legs. Forget about riding bikes as a kid, Curtis didn’t own a motorcycle until he was 56 years old but once he’d thrown his leg over a Harley Sportster and hit the road he was hooked and began to discover a new art form. Which is exactly what he has always done, a holder of a Bachelor of Fine Arts he’s been self-employed his whole life, first building furniture, then as a computer animator and a photographer but along the way he’s also built everything from classical guitars to a wooden kayak and even radio controlled gliders. So when the motorcycle bug hit it was only a matter of time before Curtis was building them from scratch and this hand-built machine known as “The Grand Prix” powered by a 2009 Sportster engine is his latest creation.
When it comes to the history of motorcycles, you’d have to admit that sometimes the more esoteric the bike is, the more interesting it becomes. For all the Yamahas, Ducatis and Hondas you have running round out there, there are untold thousands of Francis Barnetts, Fabrique Nationale d’Herstals, Rupps, NSUs and Flying Merkels that have fallen by the wayside. Hell, even Triumph Motorcycles almost went the same way. And for each of these ghosts of the civil dead, there lies story upon story of genius engineering, wild successes and miserable, business-ending failures. The partnership between Harley Davidson and Aermacchi in the ‘60s and ‘70s is one such story. The silver lining here is that both companies continued on and still exist today, in one form or another. So, like a phoenix from a engine foundry’s ashes, today’s bike is here to remind us of what once was, and what could have been. Here’s Scott Brown and his beautiful Aermacchi Harley 350SX.