Every year the Italians put on one of the greatest motorcycle shows in the world; they call it the MBE. The thing that really caught our eye at this year’s show in Verona was the incredible array of seriously cool custom rides on display. And none were better than this – the award winning Moto Guzzi Le Mans MkII racer dubbed the ‘MILF’…
Imagine you’ve built the bike that sits before you, pouring your heart and soul into the creation of a classic custom ordered by a meticulous client who collects vintage Porsches. Such is your attention to detail that each machine upon completion is stripped, every bolt re-torqued and over a thousand parts double checked. Then, just as you are ready to deliver your masterpiece, a single clutch plate sticks. Unwavering in his commitment to perfection Axel Budde of Hamburg’s Kaffee Maschine doesn’t try an easy fix with a few heavy dumps of the clutch. Once again he does a full tear down of the machine and you start to appreciate the genius and devotion that emerges in the form of his latest build, KM21 a classic cafe racer from a 1981 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk II.
In recent times it has become all too common a cliché to call a custom motorcycle of a certain quality, a rolling piece of art. It’s not that many of these machines don’t deserve the title and I’d personally take a Max Hazan over an Auguste Rodin any day. But where most art is enjoyed as the finished product, custom bikes are often built by or with considerable input from the prospective owner. From Picasso to Pink Floyd they didn’t sit around with their would be consumers of their work and take input, they simply created. But there was a time, many centuries ago, when the well to do would commission works from their favourite artists and wait for the surprise of the great unveiling. This is the story of such a creation, VITALIS 850 by Filippo Barbacane of Officine Rossopuro, using a Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans as the canvas.
While every brand has its share of fanatics, it’s the Italian marques that seem to inspire the most passion. Some people fawn over their race-bred Ducatis, some battle mercurial Laverdas while the remainder squirrel away in their sheds, tinkering at old Moto Guzzis. While not strictly a Guzzi fanatic, Johannesburg-based professional photographer Kevin Rudham will no doubt have Italian fans nodding in appreciation at his re-born 1980 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk II. Impressively, he completed nearly all the work himself. ‘It took two years,’ Kevin says, ‘and I outsourced only the powder coating and electroplating, but the rest I did myself, including the paint job with a borrowed compressor and a cheap Chinese touch up gun.’
What’s the most common item to be modded first on a custom bike, would you say? The seat? The rubber? Maybe the ‘bars? Now consider what the most unlikely first thing to sink your teeth into might be. Actually, don’t bother, because Peter Boggia and the crew at Brooklyn’s Moto Borgotaro already have it figured out. It’s the tacho. And while the rest of us would be wrestling with greasy engines and skinned knuckles, Peter got all Swiss watchmaker on this Guzzi LeMans and followed the look right on through to the rest of this rather sweet-looking bike.
It’s hard to deny that Moto Guzzi hold a rather special place in the pantheon of motorcycles. They’re a whole lot cooler and unusual than your average Ducati. They’re definitely more passionate than most BMWs. And there’s little doubt that they can out-sport most Triumphs, even if it is by their looks alone. In what you could call a Lamborghini-esque niche, they seem to occupy that perfect world where collectable, beautiful and unusual intersect. Which makes a custom Guzzi even more of an impressive proposition. And when they’re done as well as the bikes that have been rolling out Austin’s Revival Cycles in recent years, it’s a wonder that the other shops haven’t given up and gone home. Meet their latest and quite probably their greatest, the ‘78 Le Mans Special.
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An alchemist, in case you didn’t already know, is defined as a person who possesses (amongst other things) the capability of turning base metals into the noble metals. Put simply, that’s turning iron, nickle, led, or zinc into gold and silver – called noble metals because they seem to have an almost magical ability to resist ever looking old and dated. Now fast forward 1000 years and consider the modern-day work of Hamburg’s Axel Budde. Given a rather scrappy collection of basic parts, some of which had well and truly been turned into near scrap before they reached his lab, he has managed to materialise the very precious bike you see before you here. Magic? Science? A product of the dark arts? Sadly for those of us looking to emulate his creation, it turns out that it’s nothing more than sheer determination, skill, and hard work. Damn.
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Imagine you are a really fast cyclist. So fast that you won a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics. One day you realize your feet can’t peddle any faster but you still want more speed. Lots more. So you do what every self respecting speed junkie does and you purchase a motorcycle. You decide on a Buell xb12s which you love but unfortunately ends up getting stolen. So you go looking on the interweb for a new motorcycle. And then you see it. A bike that stops you in your tracks and you just know the search is over. This is what happened to Swedish Olympian cyclist Gustav Larsson. After seeing a few pics on a website of a stunning Guzzi cafe racer built by German perfectionist Axel Budde, he knew he had found the guy to build his new bike. “I saw Axels race bike and I decided I wanted something similar!” says Gustav. “I had some different ideas from the beginning. But it turned more and more into a 60’s style cafe racer.” After a few conversations with Axel from the Guzzi specialist shop Kaffeemaschine (Coffee Machine – isn’t German cool?), he knew what the basic brief was. “Red frame, raw alloy tank, black Lafranconi’s – although it started with golden cast wheels” says Axel. So he got to work…
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Want to freak out a graphic designer? Make him pray to a higher power and start rocking back and forth on his fancy bent-wood chair. Then give him a job where he can only use two colours – safety orange and turquoise, and then watch him squirm. All the rules of colour theory say “no, this absolutely cannot work.” And yet behold the beauty that is the Gulf Oil livery. Is that angels I hear? Beautiful retro motor racing angels playing heavenly engine music through trumpets that look remarkably like velocity stacks? Chris Trotter from Bozeman, Montana heard that music too. And that music said unto him “build the world’s sweetest Honda cafe racer and paint it like the world’s coolest race car, then send it over to those incredibly great guys at Pipeburn so that they may show it to the world.” And beholdeth, he did. And it was good.
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German bike builder Axel Budde has been modifying Moto Guzzi Le Mans for over 14 years, and it definitely shows. These two Moto Guzzi’s have been built with meticulous attention to detail. Axel told us “to describe all the modifications would take too long, so here are the most important ones…
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