“Make me a Cafe Racer”. It’s undoubtedly the most fool-proof brief a bike builder can get. Jose Rosell from Spain’s XTR Pepo probably had the bike designed in his head before the sentence had left his customer’s mouth. But the next words to emerge would be akin to someone jamming a broom handle in your wheel at race speeds. “Also, I want to ride it on the beach,” the free-thinking owner added. And no, he wasn’t kidding.
It’s a well-known fact that 1970s drag racing was pretty much the coolest thing that has ever graced God’s earth. And Blind Freddy could tell you that the French are as cool as all hell. And what about the Honda Dax? That thing’s cooler than James Brown doing shots of liquid nitrogen. So what happens when you combine all three? You get coolness levels approaching that of Absolute Zero. Just ask French bike builders Duke Motorcycles; after getting their hands dirty on this little Honda Dax drag bike build, they’ve probably got a case of terminal frostbite.
The Scandinavians and beautiful woodworking. They go together like cafes and racers or Trump and super hold hairspray. Any Scandinavian, Norwegian, Danish or Finnish house worth its salt should have some amazing examples. And in the Finnish house of school teacher and bike builder Sami Karvonen, the example is this superb four-pot Honda CB500. Got wood? You have now…
Kyril Dambuleff has no barrow to push. He doesn’t run a workshop or sell parts or posters or scarves or t-shirts. He only builds motorcycles to keep himself happy and make the rest of us plonkers look bad. And he’s doing an admirable job of it with this exceptional 1972 Honda CB500 he’s dubbed ‘Bikini’.
When champion British thoroughbred Jardine’s Lookout climbed aboard a flight bound for Australia to take on the world’s best race horses in the Melbourne Cup he brought along a buddy. Joining him on the ride was his tiny mate, 14-year-old Shetland Pony Henry; it seems even the most powerful amongst us often need a little friend. Which is exactly why when ‘Monster’ a brutish supercharged Harley Davidson by Malaysia’s Beautiful Machines was heading for the Art of Speed show they decided their high horsepower steed needed a companion too. Based on a Comel minibike ‘LIL Monster’ is all about fun times and fairy floss and ensures the big fire breathing beast is never alone in her stable.
It’s no coincidence that pilots and bikes go together like jets and turbines. After all, the perfect bike on the perfect road is about a close to flying as you can get without a pilot’s licence. And for Canada’s Nic Kirschner, who’s an airline pilot by trade, there’s nothing better than taking a break from his day job of screaming through the air at high-speed to speed all weekend doing the very same thing, albeit with less hostesses and in-flight movies.
Despite what your over-active imagination may be telling you, the Vampire Squadron was actually an American Airforce group based in Guadalcanal during WWII. Their plane of choice was the unique Lockheed P-38 Lightning. A ‘twin boom and a central nacelle’ design, the aircraft stood out amongst its contemporaries like the dog’s proverbials. Cue Honda’s similarly unique flat four Goldwing. A little BMW, a little Moto Guzzi and a whole lot of engine capacity, it’s a bike that still occupies the outer fringes of the custom scene. But not if Kentucky’s Scott Halbleib has his way.
As the old cliché goes, “Restraint is the better part of beauty”. I prefer to think of it like this; there’s nothing more unattractive than someone who’s trying too hard. Be it popularity, personal appearance or 2-for-1 cocktails, the end result is usually always a disaster. Understanding this implicitly, Ironwood’s Arjan Van Den Boom (how cool is that name?) chose a subtle yet beautiful plan of attack when it came time to build this cool little ‘75 Honda CB360 tracker.
It’s easy to underestimate just how big motocross was in Europe in the 70s and 80s. In Italy, it seems you’d be more likely to find someone who didn’t like their Nonna’s food than find a custom bike shop without some connection to the off-road art. For the Soiatti family, it was a seat on a factory bike that marked the peak of their motocross addictions. And after they kicked that habit in the 80s, father Daniele started the Soiatti Moto Classics workshop. Thirty six years later and with his son now in the picture, here’s their latest build.
For a professional furniture maker like Monnom’s Mike Gustafson, using wood on a daily basis is a necessity. But when he swaps hats to his role as a custom bike builder, the exact opposite is true. That’s because using wood on custom bikes is damn tricky at the best of times and in many cases it can look downright nasty. But with his designer’s eye, Mike took the wooden bull by the horns and created this terrifically timbered Honda CB550 he calls the ‘M3’.