If you ask me to tell you the difference between a genuine Louis Vuitton handbag and a 50 buck knock off from eBay, I could examine it with a magnifying glass and still have no idea. But save yourself the 3k and buy your girlfriend the Chinese fake for her birthday…
If you’ve been paying attention to custom motorcycles for more than fifteen minutes you’ll be aware of Yamaha’s evergreen SR400. In the west its dominance of the scene is a relatively recent phenomenon, but custom builders in Japan people have been doing it for decades. One of these shops is Heiwa motorcycles, who’ve re-birthed this tidy little SR400 bobber.
Walking through the rows of bikes recently at a small regional motorcycle show, I got chatting to a guy who’d just finished a three-year rebuild of a Triumph 6T Thunderbird. She was a beauty, glistening in the sun like the day it had left the factory floor. With great enthusiasm I asked the owner how it was on the open road, the answer sadly is one that’s becoming all too common, “It doesn’t leave the garage!” Thankfully the motorcycle gods have given us Kengo Kimura of Hiroshima’s Heiwa Motorcycles who builds the most incredible old school customs and boy are they built to ride. His latest offering is a ’58 Triumph Tiger T110 that’s original patina earns it the nickname ‘Flavor’.
The British can rightly lay claim to being the birth place of the cafe racer, the Americans the bobber, but while there is no singular name to describe the style of the incredible custom creations that roll out of Japan; you’re in no doubt when you see one. A true master of the Japanese scene is Kengo Kimura, who embodies everything that is mind-blowing about the machines that appear from nondescript industrial buildings that dot the countries cities. His company, Heiwa, operates from just such a workshop, near the port of Hiroshima where his small team craft beautiful vintage machines they’re proud to ride daily. Now he’s throwing his full skill set at a modern motorcycle, a 2003 Triumph Bonneville that he simply calls 002, we call it perfection.
It’s fair to say that we’re all very used to the notion of one bike, one builder. While shops may work with an upholsterer or painter to help their project look it’s best, we very rarely see multiple builders working together on the same bike. Well, now its time to try something a little different. Namely, a three-builder collaboration. Sure, it could end up a dog’s breakfast. But what if instead it took the best skills of all three players and ended up with something superlative? Here’s a clearly superlative HD 883XL from Kyoto’s Hirock, by way of Nice Motorcycles and Plus Cycles, too.
Kengo Kimura fronts up Heiwa Motorcycles, a workshop established in Hiroshima in 2005. They specialise in some of the most beautiful chopped, bobbed and slammed customs found anywhere in the world. This time around they’ve turned out this stunning TR6 Trophy dubbed ‘MasterPeace’. Dear readers, I think we have a late contender for bike of the year.
There’s no two ways about it; Japanese custom bikes are just so damn cool. Japanese builders seem to have an endless ability to jam some crazy-ass styles together and come up with the coolest looking creations. So we were stoked to see this killer build land on our virtual doorstep during the week. Although we’d never hear of this particular shop, their skills were clear to see. Then we find out that they are a paint shop. Huh? What sort of paint shop that can turn out a build like this? Apparently, Saitama’s Takashi Hashimoto and his TM Garage can. And here’s the proof.
The theory of Six Degrees of Separation supposes that everyone is six or fewer steps away from any other person in the world. In the motorcycle industry, it is fair to say the same is true of every model ever made by every manufacture to ever exist; but which motorcycle is separated by the least steps? Which one sits right smack-bang in the centre? Surprisingly, the Answer is the Rikuo Type 97; an American-powered bike produced in Japan by a conglomerate of many small companies that would later become the automotive kings of Asia. And all as a result of protectionist policies designed to assist British Manufacturers with technology passed to German and Italian companies through the War Alliances of the time. It is no wonder, then, that this 1938 Type 97 belongs to our bike-and-battle-obsessed friends at Motos of War.
At the height of the Import Tuner scene (think the release of The Fast and the Furious in 2001), Japanese workshops like JUN and Top Secret were the leading names, having developed a reputation for automotive perfection and always raising the bar. With the custom motorcycle scene now well and truly thriving and arguably having past where the Tuner scene was at, it is once again Japanese builders like AC Sanctuary and the now US-based Shinya Kimura whose efforts often leave you speechless. Well, you can add to the list one ‘Shiro Nakajima’ who used to build incredible bikes for Ritmo Sereno, which he founded but has since left. Since then he’s set up a new workshop known as 46Works at the base of Mt. Yatsugatake, where he has returned to his roots of brilliant one-off machines, incredible fabrication and the odd bit of furniture making thrown in for good measure. Here’s his latest.
The back alleys of cities all over Japan have delivered some of the coolest custom cars and bikes from small workshops that punch well above their weight. From the Hyper Lemon tuner cars of JUN to the retro-tech bikes produced by AC Sanctuary – you don’t need millions and a huge facility to produce incredible machines in the land of the rising sun. And nobody exemplifies that spirit more than custom bike building genius Fujita Koichi and his one man operation AN-BU Custom Motors.