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.
New tools customising old bikes. If you had to be blunt about it, that’s probably how you’d surmise the current custom bike scene. You need only to look at the old guard with their thinly veiled cries denigrating the beards and beanies to see that a ‘new tool’ generation has taken over from the old one. But today’s bike flips that equation on its coiffured head. With tools that date back to New York in the 1880s and a bike that’s barely out of diapers, today’s Honda XR650L from Hill Moto, still ticks all the cool custom boxes.
Oh the ’80s. It was a decade when the planet got so many things really wrong, including the fashion. Unfortunately, that extended to motorcycle design and history has not been kind to the machines of the period. So despite Cycle Guide predicting that the Honda VF750S Sabre would be the bike of choice for the next ten years to come it proved to be more Video Killed the Radio Star than Jacko’s Thriller. But what those years of dodgy hair and shoulder pads really needed was just the skills of a master craftsman. Today, Thailand has such a man, Eak of K-Speed Customs, who’s taken this ’80s horror show and turned it into the most badass Honda “Sabre Racer” ever created. It’s literally fit for a movie star.
Red Clouds Collective is the very personification of everything that makes Portland, well, Portland. It’s a small workshop that produces bespoke leather goods like hats, tool rolls and aprons. And a glance through their social media feed features lots of desaturated black and white photos of bearded men in the woods staring into the middle distance. But they also turn their hands to the occasional custom bike. And they do a really neat job of it too, as this paired-back 1989 XR250 shows.