Somewhere in Kobe, Japan, a man named Shoichiro Irimajiri is sitting quietly with a satisfied smile on his face and the sort of grin that says “I told you so”! Not only is he the man behind the legendary Honda CBX Six Cylinder that now commands premium prices by collectors he’s also responsible for the CX500, once derided as the “Plastic Maggot” it’s now the base of some of the very best custom motorcycles built to date. It seems even the good folks in the Honda marketing department knew it might be a while for the potential of the CX to catch on “First into the Future!” was the pitch, but after years as a lowly commuter bike some are taking the Honda to the levels it always deserved. One such company is BBCR Engineering and their latest ride, a 1978 Honda CX500 known as BBCR507, shows the enormous potential that’s always lurked under the maggot’s skin.
It’s one of the greatest marketing campaigns in history and certainly the most influential in kick-starting the global motorcycle industry; “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”. The idea was bought for Honda by Grey Advertising from a UCLA undergraduate student who’d created it for an assignment, but I don’t think any of those involved envisioned just what it would mean for Philippe Vincent from French-speaking Montreal, Quebec. Exactly a year ago he didn’t even own a motorcycle, didn’t have a motorcycle license and had only just discovered from a friend what a Cafe Racer was. Yet only a year later the proof he’s a faster leaner can be seen in the evidence of his creation, his first bike and build, a 1974 Honda CB750 with plenty of 1950s British inspiration, it takes the name “Majesty”.
Every industry has its personalities. The leaders. The entrepreneurs. The strong, silent types. The worker bees – and of course the rockstars. When it comes to the world of custom motorcycles, the latter position is more than adequately filled by the two Italians who make up Anvil Motociclette. To say they bring a little Mick Jagger and Steve McQueen to our scene is a gross understatement. San Marco and Phonz may spend their days with greasy hands building cool motorcycles with their own sinister edge, but they’ve also starred on TV, been featured in Italian Vogue and Rolling Stone magazines and collaborated with a fashion house on a line of leather jackets. But let’s not forget that what got them noticed in the first place was their bike building abilities, and it should come as no surprise that on any given Sunday they can be found racing bikes and going fast; something which their latest weapon, the “Rusty Quattroemmezzo”, does in style.
In the pocket of Western Europe that includes France, Belgium and Switzerland, endurance racing is a way of life. Small teams and factory-backed giants meet at some of the world’s most famous circuits, like Spa and Magny-Cours, to battle it out for up to 24 hours straight. One such event, the Bol d’Or, holds a special place in the hearts of Belgians where from as early as 1927 the small nation has tasted success. For Deep Creek Cycle Works from Diepenbeek, they don’t only build custom bikes but come the weekend they take their love of racing to the track where they compete in the European Classic Endurance Racing series. So when one of the race crew members was after a new ride for the street, it made perfect sense to build a 1981 Honda CB750 Bol d’Or road rocket, a bike they fittingly called the ‘Bol Noir’.
Nyen. Saint Petersburg. Petrograd. Leningrad. It’s the city with more names than Rasputin had orgies. Along with the Mad Monk, Saint Petersburg has been at the centre of Russia’s tumultuous past century of history, including being its imperial capital and the root of the Communist revolution of 1917. It’s now one of the most ‘Western’ cities in Russia (both socially and geographically) and serves as the country’s cultural epicentre. So it makes sense that if there’s anywhere in the nation’s vast expanse that would sprout a world-class bike shop, it would be here. Enter Butcher Garage, a bunch of custom Vespa builders who’ve undergone a little revolution of their own and shifted their mitts onto some Japanese metal. Here’s their latest build, a Honda simply called ‘The Scrambler”.
Mighty Motorcycles is the realisation of Josip Bucic’s dream. Nestled deep in the Black Forest of Germany, Josip crafts beautiful pieces of two-wheeled art for a handful of very lucky customers. He has been building bikes for 12 years now and oh boy, does the guy have skills. This CB750 was originally intended as a restoration project, but Josip’s exquisite vision saw the potential to create his dream bike, and so he set out to make this one of the best café racers you are ever likely to see – dream or otherwise.
In case you haven’t noticed, we’re pretty keen on the old motorcycles here at the Chateau du Burnt Pipes. So us telling you how we like one particular model of bike over another is tantamount to the chubby kid with chocolate all over his face telling you how he much prefers Mars Bars to Snickers. But with that said, you’ve got to admit that there’s a certain something about Gold Wings. Their unique engine. Their ‘Americanese’ East-meets-West design. Their relative scarcity. It all adds up to something that really pushes our buttons – and those of Retro Bikes Croatia, too. Here’s Zeljko, the shop’s owner, to walk us through just how this chocolate-coloured delight came to be.
“That bike’s a classic!” It’s a phrase we hear all the time, and often it’s used far too flippantly for its own good. But if we were to use a, erm, classic definition of the word ‘classic’ it would mean that for any bike to truly deserve the title, it has to be ‘of an exemplary standard within a traditional and long-established form or style.’ Of course, many of the bikes that grace our pages are far from being traditional in form. Hell, some are the exact opposite of that. But for the lucky few who do live up to the title, adoration of a bike that we know will look as good in 100 years as it does right now awaits. And the latest candidate for the title? Meet Monnom Custom’s latest, a classic Honda CB550 cafe racer if ever we saw one.
The financial centre of Brazil, Sao Paulo, is one of the world’s great cities, but on the surface it can appear to be just like any other sprawling metropolis. With an enormous population the biggest city in South America can be a tough and intimidating place to the uninitiated. But amongst the mix of high-rise buildings and historic architecture is a maze to be explored, filled with incredible bars, gourmet restaurants, art-house theatres and a 24/7 night life. To properly explore this urban jungle and find the hidden gems takes a special machine, it’s no place for a Sportbike and Cruisers are just too big. So local Carlos Eduardo Manso has built a go anywhere urban assault motorcycle that can squeeze through the tight spaces, handle the potholed back alleys and look the goods while doing so. It’s a 1984 Honda XL 250 that’s been given a custom make over with tip of the cap to the VMX scene and it’s ready to take to the streets.
The majority of the world was largely ignorant of the passion for motorcycles that exists in Argentina until a small film called The Motorcycle Diaries was released in 2004. It tells the story of the legendary Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado riding their 1939 Norton 500 as they adventure throughout South America. Not only do you begin to realise the importance of a motorcycle to young Argentinian men as a rite of passage but discover that little repair shops dot the landscape. So nine years ago to feed this appetite for motorcycles, Lucas Layum founded Lucky Custom to serve up tasty two-wheel treats to the populace. But the Cordoba based shop doesn’t just tweak bikes here and there, they take everything from new Harley’s to old BMW’s and create one-off masterpieces. And so it is that a little 2011 Honda CBX250 Twister has become their latest creation with a build that’ll blow your mind.