If motorcycles have earned the reputation as “widow-makers” then two motorcycles in particular can lay claim to being the most lethal assassins. Both are ’70s Japanese bikes from the golden age of two-strokes; the Kawasaki H2 750 is the Ivan Drago-style killer that will get right in your face and club you to death. But it’s the Yamaha RD400 that takes on the true Assassin’s creed, dispatching of its kill in a millisecond without the prey ever having seen what was coming. In Argentina, the land of bike builder extraordinaire and founder of Lucky Custom, Lucas Layum, the RD400 has been known since its birth as “la Mata Hombre”, quite literally “the Man Killer”. But such is the allure of the RD and its intoxicating two-stroke engine, that men will risk death to ride them and when they look this good it’s easy to see why.
Ed Burke and “Hap” Ueno. There’s two names that I’m pretty sure mean absolutely nothing to you, despite them being responsible for creating this, the Yamaha Virago. It’s because in the world of automotive design, most never get to see the limelight. Besides, the original Yamaha Virago range was not exactly the Brough Superior of it’s time. But over the 40-odd years that the bike has been in existence, it’s never been more popular than it is right now. And it’s all thanks to the insight and talent of Ed, Yamaha America’s Manager of Motorcycle Product Planning and Yamaha Japan Engine Designer, Hap. The engine-as-stressed-member design, the box frame as airbox, the single rear shock and the shaft drive – it’s all theirs. And this? This is what their vision, and that of Colorado’s 485 Designs owner Nick, has created. Meet an XV920 that ups the bar for Virago customisers everywhere.
It’s amazing how much the big motorcycle manufacturers have changed in the past ten years. Up until very recently, bike customisers were little more than pariahs to the factories. All their hard engineering work, undone in the fell swoop of an errant oxy torch or angle grinder. You could almost hear the engineers in Japan and Europe weeping in pain. And as for a factory dealer that might dare to try and make a few changes to the merchandise? If they were lucky, they’d find themselves selling second-hand Dneprs in Siberia… in winter. But my, what a difference a decade makes. Suddenly it’s raining factory customs. And for Yamaha, that means throwing money behind their ‘Faster Sons’ custom shop collaboration project. And the latest star of the decidedly successful program is this here XSR700 from French shop Motomax Metz. A French shop that just happens to be a dealer, too.
A polymath is defined as a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas. And naturally, if such a person is set a complex task to perform, it would be easy for them to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve the specific problems they might encounter. Turn a mind like that to the act of customising a bike, and you’re bound to get some pretty interesting results. Today’s bike is the result the hard work of just one man – namely Pierre from French shop Freeride Motos. Paint, leather, fibreglass, leatherwork, metalwork, electrics – you name it, he probably did it. And by the looks of it, he did it damn well.
Karma, the sum of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence viewed as deciding their fate in future existences, is an idea that is shared to varying degrees across many of the world’s religions, philosophies and the basics we teach our children. Do good in the world and eventually the seeds you sow will bear fruit for all to enjoy, you included. The owner of this custom creation is a man who lives by that very philosophy and sold his motorcycle so that he could pay for disadvantaged children to go to school and have a brighter future. But it appears his Karma was nearly as instant as John Lennon describes, for his friend is none other than Bandung, Indonesia’s Ram Ram Januar from White Collar Bikes. Who decided his friend’s good deeds deserved a tasty reward and the Indonesian bike building wizard has created this delicious piece of fruit, a Yamaha XS650 powered custom known as “Mishka”.
Written by Martin Hodgson
Running a custom bike shop can be a bit like being a real estate agent, no not being the brunt of everyone’s jokes, but dealing with a public whose eyes are often bigger than their wallets. We’ve all heard about the guy who walks into an agent’s office looking for a large five bedroom home, ensuite and spa bath, on a large block of land with water views and only $100k to spend; tell him he’s dreaming! But the requests are often along similar lines at custom shops; however they hold an ace the agent doesn’t, they can actually create something to satisfy the outlandish request.
If you’re putting together a basic rock band it’s not too hard to work out the pieces to the puzzle; at a minimum you need a singer with a sick set of pipes, an axe man to rock out and someone to swing the sticks on the skins. So if you’re following the same minimalist formula what do you need to form a small custom workshop to create brilliant builds and still have the talent on deck to make some incredible merchandise and branding to get the company exposure? From the USA’s east coast, Real Moto Co. have found the perfect formula in two guys who can spin the spanners and bring very specifics skills to the floor. Dan Stabbings is the metal man and his partner in crime Jacob Speis a brilliant graphic designer, together they’ve produced the companies debut build – a stunning 1981 Yamaha XS400 that is the perfect opening track.
For as long as there have been motorised vehicles on earth there have been men the world over racing them and trying to find anyway at all to go faster to beat the competition. Harley-Davidson was competing as early as 1904 and Soichiro Honda was a man obsessed by racing in all its forms and his company has gone on to compete in just about every motorsport event. But motorcyclists seem to be the most creative ones of the motorsport fraternity, from racing on ice, to speedway with no brakes and flying through small towns at 200mph in road racing nothing is off limits. So it makes perfect sense that a group of Malaysian motorcycle enthusiasts decided that the beautiful Balok Beach would be as good a place as any to hold a race. Enter Beautiful Machines and their radical supercharged 1993 Yamaha SR400 built for the sole purpose of taking glory on the sand.
If you happen to be lucky enough to own multi motorcycles and ride everyday then the chances are you have a more “sensible” bike, maybe even a stock modern machine, to get you around on weekdays. But when you run a custom bike shop even your everyday ride is going to be something different, you might use it for the commute to work or the lunch time dash to the bakery, but it’s still going to be something a little special. For Tommy Rand, Co-Founder of Relic Motorcycles from Aarhus, Denmark, he wanted his own daily machine to be something timeless, a bike that would survive every fad and trend and still be able to ride it in his old age. With a love for the bikes and everything that was motorcycling in the 1970’s and Relic describing themselves as “experienced bike-builders who favour and restore Japanese bikes from the 70’s & 80’s,” a classic cafe racer based on a 1980 Yamaha XS650 made perfect sense.
Motorsport has always played a critical role in both the custom car and bike scene; at some point the need for speed gets so extreme the track is the only place to express it. The NHRA might now sanction the F1 equivalent of drag racing but as the name suggests it all started with a bunch of guys and their hot rods. In the custom bike scene everything from the Classic TT at the Isle of Man to the resurgence of Flat Track racing and the modern-day Burt Munro’s at the salt lakes, racing and custom bikes are once again going hand in hand. The latest phenomenon and particularly popular in Europe is sprint racing, run over an 1/8th mile drag strip events like the Glemseck 101 near Stuttgart are creating a hell of a buzz. For Tom Thöring of Schlachtwerk the draw was just too strong to resist and his nitrous slurping 1981 Yamaha TR1 is ripping up the strip and collecting the top prize.