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.
When long time upholsterer for DP Customs, Uniqueaz.com, dropped by the workshop for a cold beer and a chat with owners, Justin and Jarrod Del Prado he revealed he hadn’t come to discuss the latest needs of a shared customer but to place an order for a bike of his own. Having carefully studied the quality of the brothers workmanship having worked on many of their bikes, he wanted one of his own. With that some ribs were thrown on the smoker and the beer kept flowing as they began an impromptu design session. The brief from Unique Upholstery was simple, it had to feel comfortable to sit on; With only the barest of constraints they thought up a Street Tracker named “W” based on a 2002 Harley Davidson Sportster that’s big on power, low on weight and rips up the streets in as brilliant a fashion as it appears when standing still.
There’s no two ways about it; Japanese custom bikes are just so damn cool. Japanese builders seem to have an endless ability to jam some crazy-ass styles together and come up with the coolest looking creations. So we were stoked to see this killer build land on our virtual doorstep during the week. Although we’d never hear of this particular shop, their skills were clear to see. Then we find out that they are a paint shop. Huh? What sort of paint shop that can turn out a build like this? Apparently, Saitama’s Takashi Hashimoto and his TM Garage can. And here’s the proof.
Never fear, Hageman is here! Needing no introduction, Greg Hageman AKA “Doc’s Chops” of Hageman Cycles is one of the leading hands and pioneers of the custom motorcycle renaissance. He’s also one of those guys who is a builders builder, I know I’m not the only one who before attempting a new build sees what Greg has done with that make and model, both for inspiration and to see how it’s done right. It’s no surprise really, motorcycles are in his veins having grown up on a farm in Rural Iowa in a family where trips to the dealerships had him dreaming of those sweet rides before he was old enough to reach the handlebars. But it’s a lucky rider who gets to throw their leg over his latest build, a 2005 Harley Davidson XL883 Custom that brings more than a little racer to its new cafe look.
Perth’s Mean Machines are one of Australia’s leading custom bike builders. As a workshop that once built a Triumph Bonneville with a 200 section rear tyre, you always expect big things when they unleash a new machine. Well, Wenley Andrews and his crew haven’t let us down with a ‘04 Harley Davidson 883 Sportster that’s stripped at the waist, packing plenty of punch and showing off one hell of a rear end. Even for Wenley, categorising the build is difficult “The word racer was brewing in my head, I decided to make the bike’s theme into a drag/race bike, but I’ll let you guys decide what it is…” The truth is it’s all that and more, with Cafe Racer influences and old school Bobber touches that mix with the drag racing look. Nicknamed ‘Furiosa’, it’s fair to say this HD is every bit the fearsome, fiery warrior as Charlize Theron’s character in Mad Max: Fury Road.
There’s something that always intrigues me about taking a Harley off-road. Like the James Bond Lotus that goes under water, or the Space Battleship Yamoto, there’s something unexpected yet just so very cool about the out-of-context-ness of the situation. For a bike that seems so much a part of America’s road culture, it’s off-road history is undeniable and despite the company’s current dirt shyness, it seems that the brand can do nothing to escape the call of the dust. In that spirit, he’s a man who really needs no introduction with a bike that probably does. It’s Hageman’s brand new Harley XL 1200 scrambler.
Building a custom motorcycle usually takes time and a lot of knowledge. Jared Smith from El Cerrito, California, had the time but didn’t have much knowledge when it came to building his first bike. 12 months ago when Jared started building this 1960 XLCH Ironhead, he had never welded anything. After picking it up cheap as a non runner that had been completely spray painted black, he started the steep learning process of rebuilding the bike from the ground up. Jared had a clear vision of how he wanted the end product to look. “I was going for an ‘old but loved’ look to the build” he says, “and purposely used vintage components where I could that had not been refurbished, everything else I wanted to make by hand.” Over the next year he started a crash course in welding – mostly as a student at the prestigious ‘School of Youtube’. Meet the Ironhead aptly named the ‘The Bad Investment’…
The two brothers who own and run DP Customs think themselves lucky to have forgone the politics and paperwork of larger workshops. Instead of having to follow someone else’s vision for a bike, Justin and Jarrod Del Prado spend their days building what they simply describe as ‘great bikes for great people’. And in between refining their pit-master BBQ skills, beer drinking sessions in the hot Arizona sun and trips to go storm chasing they’ve produced this simple, clean 2001 Harley Davidson Sportster bobber dubbed the ‘ZZ’.