When you’re a one man bike building operation you have to be a master of all crafts and failure at none and that’s not as easy as many believe it to be. You take some of the world’s greatest chefs and put them front of house dealing with complaint filled customers and before you know it Gordon Ramsay is on murder charges. But Sean Skinner has made MotoRelic Custom Cycles in Hamilton Virginia a success by combining his 20 odd years of mechanical and fabrication skills with the design skills of a sculptor and a friendly attitude to customers no matter the job, big or small. With some room in the shop he picked up this 1982 Honda Ascot FT500, tore it down to a bare frame, stood back and let the design come to him.
To say that Adam Nestor got out of the blocks in his bike building career like Usain Bolt going for Olympic Gold is an understatement. With Adam’s Custom Shop’s first builds including Madame Guzzi and Sporganic this young Swedish bike builder showed at just 20 years of age he was capable of building the sort of bikes most mere mortals require decades of honing their craft to achieve. But for a custom motorcycle workshop to survive financially in the long-term a builder has to be capable of turning out lower cost builds while still retaining their signature quality and style. In these two customer builds, a 1974 Honda CB750 and a BMW R100RT the young Swede proves even his budget builds are brilliant!
For all the attention the craziest new builds receive, the ones displayed at bike shows on spinning podiums, there is something very special about an understated bike that comes along that just does everything right. So it should come as no surprise that such a machine comes from Richmond, Virginia’s kings of cool, clean and celerity, Cognito Moto. “We wanted to do something that spoke to the weekend bike builders out there that want a badass bike without all the headaches,” explains Cognito’s Devin Henriques. So it is that this 1974 Honda CB750 proves nothing serves a weekend biker as well as a machine that will carve the canyons, hammer in a straight line, look the goods parked up and importantly starts with the first hit of the button.
During our recent Melbourne sojourn to ride Triumph’s new Bonneville, we caught up with Geoff and Luke from arguably Australia’s best custom bike magazine Tank Moto. After a few beers (OK – it was 8 beers) they told us they had a story we might like to share. We checked it out and were suitably impressed. So here’s Justin Holmes from Queensland’s Popbang Classics and his ridiculously cool ‘Hardache’ ‘74 Honda CB360 in his own words.
Last year was a busy year for Dustin from Kott Motorcycles in LA. He built a shed load of bikes – around 12 to be exact. We thought we would ask him a few questions about his love of old Honda’s, what the future holds and showcase some of the immaculate café racers he has built in the last 12 months. Enjoy…
Can you introduce yourself to our readers? What’s your background?
My name is Dustin Kott of Kott Motorcycles. I am thirty seven years old and I am the owner and operator of a relatively small motorcycle shop just outside of downtown Los Angeles. My personal background is that of a Jack of all trades and master of none. I say that because I have had my hand in multiple trades, jobs and hobbies throughout my life and as I progress and grow in any one of them the more I realize how little I know and how much more there is to learn. As far as the motorcycles go however, I was very fortunate to have been around them at a young age. Even more so, I believe the real privilege was to be around older men who loved machines and committed themselves to either keeping them alive, restoring or improving them and passing that knowledge and passion along. I recall being captivated by the artistry of motorcycles which seemed to be innate in them due to the exposure and visibility of their design. Also, equally as important was the mechanical truth that one has to align with in order to achieve the end goal of being able to ride and bring life into a machine. Simply put, a combination of creativity and subjectivity along with mechanical guidelines and parameters.
From the outside looking in the custom motorcycle culture must appear to be quite confusing for those who don’t have petrol running through their veins. Why do builders the world over take old bikes, that may not have even been that great at the time of their release, and then spend thousands of dollars and hours building crazy contraptions when you could just go into a dealership and buy a brand new superbike for the same price. The reasoning is just not something the average punter will ever understand, the thrill of an old 2-stroke, the character of the best of British or buzz that comes from hearing a 50-year-old engine fire to life again for the first time in decades, it has to be lived. But amongst us is a rare breed that make much more logical decisions, like first time builder Krystian Bednarek from Bull Cafe Racers who chose a 1992 Honda CB750 as his project over the much more fancied early models.
When you’ve been in the custom bike game as long as we have, you get pretty darn quick at spotting bikes that make the grade. Like some crazed laboratory chimp, we get shown a whole heap of bikes on a daily basis and we often have to make a call as to whether we’d show them or not in a matter of minutes. And ‘show’ is exactly what we agreed to do for this bike. In 2011. Then one thing led to another. Photoshoots were booked. Photos were taken. Photos were lost. Grass grew. The world turned. Then, last week, we received the finished product. In the end, we shrugged our shoulders and said the same thing we say about our love lives. “Better late than never”.
It took two decades, three attempts, and a lot of downtime in between, but when Stephen Bond found Brisbane’s Ellaspede Custom Motorcycles on the net, he knew he had just the builders to complete his brilliant 1977 Honda CB400Four restoration. See, Stephen’s had a love of the Four for a long time. Many years ago, he would buy and sell them for parts to make some extra money. Then, while at Townsville University in 1995, he found this particular example and decided it would be the perfect candidate for a full-on restoration. So naturally he stripped it down to individual components, packaged it up in milk crates and let it sit for 10 long years. Then in 2005, while living in Sydney, it appeared the Honda would finally get the love it deserved. But no sooner had he started when an overseas job offer again put it all hold for 8 more years.
The French Revolution. JFK’s assassination. 911. UFOs. Satanic worship. The Illuminati, that pesky Bavarian secret society that apparently controls the world, gets collared with the rap for a heap of historical events – both good and bad. If you believe the hype, then you’ll know that they are even able to control the weather. But here’s something that I bet you never expected from them – a sweet-assed custom bike. Is there nothing they can’t do? Either that, or there’s a new shop in Thailand that has managed to customise a VRX400 and turn it into an amazing bike to launch their shop and named it the ‘Illuminati’. It’s hard to believe, we know. But just suspend your disbelief and go with it. If we make them happy, I’m going see if they can make sure it doesn’t rain this Sunday.
Maybe if JFK hadn’t kept his cool in those crucial thirteen days at the height of the Cold War and a nuclear holocaust had eventuated, this is the sort of post apocalyptic motorcycle the Russian police just might be riding today. Thankfully that scenario never did eventuate, but when a new client approached Los Angeles-based builders Thirteen and Company he had just such a bike in mind. The brief was for an end of the world Mad Max style and the team were happy to deliver. It’s not the type of bike the guys normally build but this 1972 Honda CB750 known as “The Russian” is proof their talent is not limited to just one style.