You know it’s going to be a good birthday when your moto-loving better half asks you to close your eyes and leads you out the front door towards the driveway. But there’s always that nagging doubt. What if, in your heart of hearts, you don’t like the surprise bike? There’s no accounting for taste, and that goes double for us know-it-all custom bike ‘experts’. But there’s one thing for sure, if anyone with a skerrick of taste found this red, white and blue bad boy in their driveway come their birthday morn, they’d be one seriously happy camper. And that’s just what happened, thanks to Michael Mundy and his Florida-based Steel Bent Customs.
Of all the major manufacturers, we think it’s fair to say that Honda is the one most unmoved by current trends. Triumph, Ducati and Yamaha have all thrown their hats in the ring when it comes to appealing to a new generation of riders. But Honda has remained steadfastly traditional with their new models. CB1100 anyone? It’s easy to point and laugh, but the real losers are us. Just think of all the bikes that could be in your local Honda showroom. Bikes like this neat little tracker from Poland’s Jasin Motorcycles. With a touch of HRC and a pinch of Evil Knievel, it’s pretty much everything we’ve ever wanted in a Honda weekend warhorse.
There’s pretty much nothing we like better than to be sent an amazing custom bike from a home builder. Wright Brother’s style, the idea of some guy starting with an old beater and emerging from their frosty and/or sweaty single car garage with a minor miracle in moto making is what really floats our, erm, float valves. And here’s a prima facie case in point. Portland’s Lars Topelmann started with a basket case Honda XL250 and somehow ended up with this. It’s not exactly the miracle of powered flight, but it ain’t far off, either.
Clearly, France’s Bad Winners never sleep. Either that, or they have a rather serious amphetamine problem. Why, you ask? Because here you have their third new bike in five weeks. Seriously. This time it’s a superbly timeless Honda CB400T build that looks as good now as it will when cars start flying and mobile phones can out-think you in a chat about French Existentialism. They call it ‘Raw to Raw’. We call it our new addiction.
Life can be a lot like a game of Texas Hold’em, you can’t determine which cards you’ll get dealt, but what you do with them and how you play that hand is down to you. It’s something we instinctively know and why so often we find ourselves cheering for the underdog, knowing their victory was hard-earned. It’s fair to say that Maxime Montaggioni didn’t get dealt Aces, he is missing his right arm; but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a World Champion Snowboarder and winning Gold in Taekwondo. But racing down mountains and kicking people in the face just wasn’t enough adrenaline. So he’s commissioned fellow Frenchman Lionel of Duke Motorcycles to build him a steed of speed based on 1993 Honda XR600, appropriately named Mad Max.
If you’re anything like me, moving house is right up there with wheelieing into the side of a police car or finding out your sleazy prog rock uncle now has a bike and is looking to joining you on your next big group ride. The cleaning. The endless boxes and tape. The sheer amount of time it takes is always straight up nightmarish. Now imagine moving your custom bike shop. Suddenly it’s goodbye income, too. But far from collapsing in a screaming heap, David Gonzalez from Barcelona’s Ad Hoc Cafe Racers managed to find the time make this Honda NX650.
Mick Jagger gave us a pretty good life lesson when he said, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you just might find, you get what you need.” Which is often the case for professional builders instructed by many clients to create machines that personally don’t blow the wind up their skirt, until one day that right build comes along. But when returning customer Ralph Klerekoper came to Sean Skinner of MotoRelic Custom Cycles in Hamilton, Virginia, he delivered a vision that inspired each man. They’d start with a later model 1992 Honda CB750 and allow Sean to create a killer custom with modern engineering and classic style that earns it the name The Gozen.
There’s something undeniably cool about a bike that can go anywhere. Whether it’s secretly stroking your zombie apocalypse fantasies or it’s just a reminder that life shouldn’t just be about your job and mortgage, every rider should have at least one mountain eater in their garage. But until recently, there was pretty much zero chance of ever finding a cool one – unless 80s fluoro graphics and wall-to-wall plastics spins your wheels. But thanks to shops like Italy’s Emporio Elaborazioni Meccaniche, we now have options like this Transalp they call ‘Cobra’. Who needs to move mountains when you can just ride over them?
Steampunk bikes. Usually, they’re much more steam than they are punk. And more’s the pity. If the thought of a 19th Century Sid Vicious on a bike tearing around the streets of London pushes your buttons as much as it does ours, then we’ve got just the bike for you. Fresh off the bench of Milan’s Rustom workshop, it’s ironically named ‘Just Another Punk’ as a tongue-in-cheek tilt at steampunk builds. And that’s because this Honda CB900 packs a punch that is anything but hot air.
I hate to admit it, but I was there in the now legendary video game arcades of the 80s. I actually played all the original machines the geeks of today froth over. Space Invaders. Donkey Kong. Nibbler. You name ‘em, I played ‘em. Yes, I’m that old. Taylor from Arkansas’ One-Up Moto Garage isn’t quite as decrepit as me, but he too is a fan. And there’s one game he loves above all else. Atari’s Asteroids. He loves it so much, he’s gone and customised a 1984 Honda Ascot VT500 to honour it.