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.
If you tell a small child not to touch something, the chances are the very moment you turn your back they’ll not only touch it, but bash it around and probably break it. Maybe they’ll even set it on fire. So when Jeremy Hutch’s parents kept saying no to motorcycles it was inevitable that he’d find a way to get his hands on one. But this is more than childhood rebellion, Jeremy’s passion for two wheels clearly runs deep and his skills as an Industrial Designer have taken he and his 2000 Honda NX650 Dominator known as ‘Death Crusher’ all the way to the highs of a personal invite to the Handbuilt Show in Texas. But you don’t go from childhood dreams to invitational builder under the Hutchbilt banner at one of the world’s premier shows overnight and this journey in motorcycle madness has literally taken Jeremy around the world.
With the big manufacturers, corporates and TV shows dedicating large sums of money to the custom motorcycle scene it is easy to forget that its foundation has and always will be home builders on tiny budgets scrummaging through scrap yards for that must have part. We can all dream of our ultimate ride, a $100k to spend and the skills of the words great fabricators at our disposal but the reality for most of us mere mortals is a few grand for both bike and bits. As a 21 year old student from Liège in Belgium, Jordan Froidmont found himself in this very predicament but has found a way to make his dreams come true with a little left field thinking and a lot of hard graft. After three years of work he’s turned Honda’s forgotten FT 500 Ascot into a stunning street bike and is now filling the Belgian air with the sound of a screaming single.
For decades the world has been told some very silly myths about Australia, everyone rides a Kangaroo to work and there is a blood thirsty, sharped clawed Drop Bear in every tree that takes the appearance of a placid Koala. But what isn’t a myth is the strength of the motorcycle scene in Australia. Luke Doyle’s 1981 Honda XL500 combines two great Aussie loves, the ability to spend fun time on the sand and hit the waves for a surf. Having owned a number of mint vintage RV-90 & 125 Suzuki Sandbikes in his 20’s Luke teamed up with Brisbane’s BikeBuilders to bring to life his ultimate dune shredding, weekend adventure machine.
There was a point in time when the bike before you could have been a Yamaha XS650, but this 1974 Honda CB750 had a destiny with Analog Motorcycles from Gurnee, Illinois that couldn’t be broken. When owner Arne Dinse brought his partially customised CB750 to Analog he had an idea for what he was after but was worried about some creepy noises coming from the engine. Proprietor Tony Prust explained they had an XS650 they could do in a similar theme to that Arne was after and with a handshake and a deposit laid down it was set. With Analog Motorcycles churning out brilliant streetable customs there is understandably a wait for their services so by the time it was Arne’s turn in the schedule he’d decided he wanted to stick with the CB, but it wasn’t just the engine that was not quite right, beware the dodgy mod.
When it comes time to give credit to which Japanese bikes began the rise and reign of the machines from the Land of the Rising Sun the countries first superbikes, the Honda CB750 and the Kawasaki Z1, often receive the praise. But before they arrived on the scene the first strike in the four-stroke wars was delivered by a motorcycle known simply as the Black Bomber. Released in 1965 the Honda CB450 came packed with technology that defied its very classic chrome and black aesthetic. The first full production bike to feature dual overhead cams, it produced more than 100hp/litre, enjoyed reliable electrics and was described at the time as “engineered with passion and styled with restraint, an embodiment of all the qualities a motorcycle should posses”. It’s with exactly that in mind that KickMoto pay homage to the original with their own take on a classic icon, a 1972 CB450 done just right.
A good custom bike build is a big ask from just about anybody. The time, effort, thought and skills required are a challenge that has bettered the best of us. Starting custom shop is another step above that. Suddenly there are things like rent and customers to think about, let alone building cool bikes. Adding restorations into the mix means you’ll have to have an understanding of just how the bikes came out of the factory. Add cars to the mix and you’ve now got vast expanses of metal bodywork to consider. Seems like your climbing Everest already, yes? Well what if, just for good measure, we now make the shop both a clothing store and a brewery? Mission completely freakin’ impossible? Not for the keen proprietors of Italy’s Apache Custom Motorcycles. And as if to boast, here’s their out-of-the-box take on a Honda CB350F brat.
If you’re a regular Pipeburn reader, building a custom Honda CX500 might seem like a task that’s easier than not winning the lotto. But don’t let the pixel mirage fool you; it’s actually a really tough gig. You need a steady eye and a solid understanding of proportions to keep the bike from looking like a half-turned transformer. It’s clear not every builder can avoid that pitfall. This highlights why some CX500’s have it, and others just don’t float your metaphorical boat. The trick is to keep the quality high and the lines clean, which just so happens to be exactly what this bike, Josh Deardorff’s One Moto Show entry, did. And how.
There is a lot to be said about picking a model of motorcycle to customise that is already popular in the industry. Parts are readily available, there is a wealth of knowledge on what does and doesn’t work and plenty of inspiration to be drawn from other builds. The problem comes, when if like Wena Customs of Poland, you pick such a bike and hope to not only stand out from the crowd but win trophies too. But their 1980 Honda CX500 is positive proof they can take a popular machine and build a bike so good that judges at the Poznan International Motor Show awarded them the prize for best cafe racer. Even more impressive is that the Wena Customs journey only began two short years ago, but the team brings together a wealth of knowledge that means this Honda has the go to match the show.
For most of us, our first bike build is a learning experience. It’s as much a lesson in what not to do as it is discovering the aspects of a build we already have a knack for. But if there is an area most of us fall down on with our first attempt at a custom creation, it’s maintaining continuity throughout the build, particularly in the visual aspects. For Miguel Castro, his day job as a Design Director at Rosetta in San Luis Obispo meant this was one aspect where he was never going to have a problem. So what bike would make sense for a first build? Maybe something that’s mechanically simple and yet fun to ride? Something with vintage styling but still capable of carving up the coast roads of Central California? Sure, the humble Honda CL350 (this is a 1969 example) was released as a factory Scrambler, but it has always made much more sense as a Cafe Racer. And here’s the proof.