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 must be something in the Virginia air. When you consider the state’s track record for creating great bike builders, their batting average ain’t half bad. With shops like Classified Moto, Cognito Moto and MotoHangar all hailing from the Lover’s state, there seems to be little doubt that they are head and shoulders above most Eastern states when it comes to custom bike coolness. And as if to rub your nose in it, here’s perennial favourites MotoRelic with another killer build. Fresh from their place in our most recent Bike of the Year Award, we’d like you to meet their take on the build platform du jour, the mighty (square) BMW K100.
The creator one of the most iconic cars of the Twentieth Century once said “a camel is a horse designed by committee.” Sir Alec Issigonis, the man who designed the Mini Cooper, just might have had a point. But while the saying would have me pretty pissed if I was a camel, I’d be even more angry if I was part of a committee that actually had a clue. A committee made up of, say, motorcycling enthusiasts. Because that’s exactly where this particular bike was designed. And then it was built by Sean from Virginia’s MotoRelic.
Written by Martin Hodgson.
What started nearly two decades ago as a group of Aussie men growing Moustaches for the month of November has grown to become one of the biggest charity events in the world. Movember is all about starting the month with a freshly shaved upper lip, growing a Mo and raising money for Men’s health. Now a global phenomenon with over a million lads attempting to look like ’70s pornstars for a good cause, it was only a matter of time before the custom bike industry got involved. When Progressive Insurance went hunting for a shop to build a bike to give away as part of their involvement with The Movember Foundation, they found themselves on the phone to industry heavyweight John Ryland. Now one lucky Mo Bro will ride off at the end of the month on this killer custom from Classified Moto known simply as ‘Movember XL’.
Steak and chips. That’d be my death row meal, I think. And a bottle of really good Aussie red. Yes, I have thought about it before. Now it wouldn’t just be any old piece of meat and spuds. No way. It’d be something special. One of those melt in your mouth steaks that’s so tender, it almost cuts itself. That’s the thing about good steak; it’s so simple, yet so delicious. And awesomely unpretentious, too. Which brings us to tonight’s bike. It too is a perfect slice of meaty goodness, with nothing more than the bare essentials to make it perfectly delicious. It’s a killer black-on-black Triumph Bonnie and also it’s the latest build from Cognito Moto, so why don’t you tuck in?
There’s nothing better than getting an open brief from a client – especially when the brief is a challenge to do something different. So when a good customer, Dan Smith, came into MotoRelic with a completely stock ‘83 Virago XV500 and said “what can you do with this?”, Sean from MotoRelic’s mind immediately went into overdrive with the endless possibilities. Obviously the challenge was accepted. “Dan had only a few requests from me,” says Sean. “He wanted me to fabricate a small floating style seat and install the ‘05 GSX-R 1000 front end he scored off of Craigslist. With these two requests taken into account, Sean designed what has been given the name ‘Snubnosed Revolver’ – and never has a name fitted a bike so perfectly.
The Seventies might have seen the introduction of the four-stroke Japanese superbikes but for a young lad looking to emulate his race day heroes it was a decade built on two-stroke smoke. The Kawasaki’s had brutal power and beautiful lines, the Suzuki’s offered a level of durability not known to most smokers but it was Yamaha’s RD range that offered the most charisma. Forget your heated grips, traction control and smooth fuel injection when you jump aboard an RD400 and get it up to speed it’s a white knuckle, eyes on stalks experience and that’s before you’ve even pinned the throttle. So when Sean Skinner of MotoRelic in Hamilton, Virginia, was approached by a friend to do a custom rebuild on his 1977 Yamaha RD400 he jumped at the opportunity. The end result is a screaming Yammy that looks better than any factory offering and delivers all of that two-stroke insanity in one hell of a beautiful package.
Compromise can be a word you just have to deal with in the custom motorcycle scene, functionality often sacrificed in the name of form or go preferenced ahead of show. Until the ’70s many applied the same logic to the very ownership of a motorcycle in that you could have fast or reliable but you couldn’t have both. That all changed with the arrival of the Kawasaki Z sportsbike, the fastest thing on two wheels and you just couldn’t break ‘em! So when Classified Moto’s main man John Ryland picked out a bike to turn into a custom creation that also had to be capable of taking him on a thousand mile journey he hit the proverbial nail on the head with a 1978 Kawasaki KZ1000. That it also features the unmistakable styling and build quality of all the brilliant Classified Moto bikes is testament to the talent of the Richmond, Virginia team.
When you’re a one man bike building operation you have to be a master of all crafts and failure at none and that’s not as easy as many believe it to be. You take some of the world’s greatest chefs and put them front of house dealing with complaint filled customers and before you know it Gordon Ramsay is on murder charges. But Sean Skinner has made MotoRelic Custom Cycles in Hamilton Virginia a success by combining his 20 odd years of mechanical and fabrication skills with the design skills of a sculptor and a friendly attitude to customers no matter the job, big or small. With some room in the shop he picked up this 1982 Honda Ascot FT500, tore it down to a bare frame, stood back and let the design come to him.
For all the attention the craziest new builds receive, the ones displayed at bike shows on spinning podiums, there is something very special about an understated bike that comes along that just does everything right. So it should come as no surprise that such a machine comes from Richmond, Virginia’s kings of cool, clean and celerity, Cognito Moto. “We wanted to do something that spoke to the weekend bike builders out there that want a badass bike without all the headaches,” explains Cognito’s Devin Henriques. So it is that this 1974 Honda CB750 proves nothing serves a weekend biker as well as a machine that will carve the canyons, hammer in a straight line, look the goods parked up and importantly starts with the first hit of the button.