Much of the criticism levelled at this new generation of custom bikes concerns usability. Whether it be fenders, suspension travel or comfort, the main undercurrent to the comments is that the bikes just aren’t functional in the real world. But if there’s anyone who really cares about how their equipment works, it’s a soldier. Hammered with rules about unwavering trust from day one, most soldier’s tools are nothing but thoroughly, brutally, unforgivingly functional. So what happens when a career warrior builds a custom bike? This happens. Meet Piotr and his newly weaponised Yamaha XJ750 Seca.
When the Japanese custom car culture really began to boom in the early ’90s those heading to the land of the rising sun to witness it all were given a simple instruction. Don’t look for big showrooms with flashing lights, head to an industrial area of any of the country’s big cities and go down the smallest of alleys. Here in cramped garages, 1000hp beast were being turned out in spaces so small you could barely spin a spanner. Now Poland’s Ugly Motors is taking it to extremes, with a 1st floor workshop that sees bikes lifted into place by a homemade crane. It’s here that Jakub Beker has crafted Ugly #08, a power cruiser come cafe racer from a 1983 Yamaha XV920 Virago.
Whenever I think of big Honda tourers I think of the hulking modern ones. You’ve probably seen them – they’re hard to miss. They have stereos, airbags, a reverse gear, heated seats and air conditioning. Honda call it the ‘Gold Wing’ but I usually refer to it as ‘Just go buy a goddamn car’. But the earlier 70’s models are something else. They were still monstrous bikes for their time, but they were simpler, mile-munching naked cruisers. And that’s what Poland’s Cardsharper Customs have tackled – a 1975 Honda GL1000 dubbed ‘Cestus’.
In nature, coloured codes are pretty common. It’s how the planet’s livings thing communicate. Whether you’re trying to attract a mate, protect yourself or spread your DNA, it’s the colours you utilise that will mean the difference between success and failure. And there’s no prizes for guessing that when it comes to things that are red and black all over, it can only mean one thing. Danger. So be it bravery or just complete stupidity, we’ve ventured forth to bring you the story of today’s build, the ‘Just’ Honda Cx500 from Poland’s MichuMoto.
I watched the latest film about Steve Jobs the other week. Directed by Danny Boyle of Slumdog Millionaire fame, it was unfortunately a fairly average flick. Despite this, it did have a few memorable moments. The one that sticks in my head is the scene where Jobs is asked what he actually does by Steve ‘Woz’ Wozniak. “I play the orchestra,” he somewhat pretentiously exclaims. The idea is a simply one. Some of us are good at playing an instrument, but unless someone is taking care of the whole she-bang, all you end up with is a big cacophony. And while it might be a bit of a stretch to compare today’s builder to Jobs, it’s clear he approached building the Bonneville you see here in the same way. Some creators use their hands, while others use their head. Poland’s Wojtek Borecki is clearly all about the latter.
There is a lot to be said about picking a model of motorcycle to customise that is already popular in the industry. Parts are readily available, there is a wealth of knowledge on what does and doesn’t work and plenty of inspiration to be drawn from other builds. The problem comes, when if like Wena Customs of Poland, you pick such a bike and hope to not only stand out from the crowd but win trophies too. But their 1980 Honda CX500 is positive proof they can take a popular machine and build a bike so good that judges at the Poznan International Motor Show awarded them the prize for best cafe racer. Even more impressive is that the Wena Customs journey only began two short years ago, but the team brings together a wealth of knowledge that means this Honda has the go to match the show.
When you nickname your custom build “Cafe Terror” you immediately invoke ideas of a bike capable of roaming a post apocalyptic urban environment and intimidating anyone that gets in your way. A statement not only true of this 1986 Yamaha XJ600 but the man who owns it and swung the tools, professional solider by day and bike builder by night, Piotr of Custom Operational Group in Warsaw, Poland. Before he could attempt to create a design all the hideous ’80s fairings had to be removed and destroyed in case any poor soul should stumble across their retina inflaming looks. Now with a clean canvas to start from and a few beers to lubricate his imagination Piotr knew the look he was after “It had to be aggressive, low, straight and it had to arouse respect on the road. A muscle car among motorcycles.”
From the outside looking in the custom motorcycle culture must appear to be quite confusing for those who don’t have petrol running through their veins. Why do builders the world over take old bikes, that may not have even been that great at the time of their release, and then spend thousands of dollars and hours building crazy contraptions when you could just go into a dealership and buy a brand new superbike for the same price. The reasoning is just not something the average punter will ever understand, the thrill of an old 2-stroke, the character of the best of British or buzz that comes from hearing a 50-year-old engine fire to life again for the first time in decades, it has to be lived. But amongst us is a rare breed that make much more logical decisions, like first time builder Krystian Bednarek from Bull Cafe Racers who chose a 1992 Honda CB750 as his project over the much more fancied early models.
Here’s something that you probably didn’t know. The movie ‘On Any Sunday’ not only won an Academy award, invented the world’s first helmet cam and single-handedly changed the Western world’s attitude to motorcycling – it also introduced large areas of the world to the wonders of both Flat Track racing and BMX bicycles. Which, if it’s not too long a bow to draw, means that it’s probably also responsible for today’s star bike. Meet Poland’s Pan Sławomir and his very mean, very green flat track Yamaha, ‘Storm Buddy.’