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.
Stuck in an office cubical with phones ringing, people yelling and a boss standing over your shoulder it seems a strange time to daydream. But it takes you away to a different place, a once abandoned warehouse in the industrial part of town where the enormous doors and the shop truck both sport the logo of your custom bike shop. Here you wrench on the kind of machines that fuel your passion, share a bourbon or beer with a customer to discuss their next project before picking up the tools again to finish off your latest creation. This is the world of Daan Borsje, the main man at Moto Adonis in the Dutch city of Roosendaal, that bizarrely enough is also home to the official ABBA fan club and hosts an annual festival in honour of the Swedish super group. But there’s no Fernando, Mamma Mia or White jumpsuits here, just quality custom creations and Daan’s latest is a red-hot 1982 Yamaha XV920.
Automotive engineering is full of ideas that must have seemed great at the time but in the cold, hard light of day can tend to look a little less than inspired. Take Yamaha’s XV750 for instance. An unbreakable engine that not only goes and sounds great, but also serves as a stressed member that the rest of the bike is built on. True innovation, yes? Well hold your horses for a second, because there’s always the bike’s pneumatic suspension and that pesky starter motor to consider. Sure, they probably seemed like pretty good calls at the time, but bake them for 35 odd years and then try them on for size them and you’ll likely find something a little less than the next successful entry into the Motorcycle Engineering Hall of Fame. So you’ll understand the irony when I tell you that the very same engineers who designed that damned XV starter motor were also the ones who created this, the XJ550 SECA. Created for the original cafe racer set from the get-go, it’s turned into somewhat of an engineering classic over the years. And it’s number one fan? Here’s California’s Thirteen and Company to vie for the position.
Can you have it all? It’s an age-old question and a truly illustrative answer will depend on the unique requirements of each of the seven odd billion individuals who call the planet Earth home. But this isn’t the place for such an esoteric conversation, this is where we come to admire motorcycles and in that particular sphere, Cologne-based JvB-moto has answered with a resounding ‘yes’! Based on Yamaha’s insanely versatile fun machine, the MT-07 this bike delivers a go anywhere urban warrior possibility, with custom cool, cheap purchase price and a warranty; what more could you want? Of course, the very nature of the custom bike scene is that we all have very different wants and needs, but when it comes to ticking so many boxes it’s hard to think of many builds that do it as well as MT Super7.
The Snipe. A well camouflaged but otherwise nondescript bird that is native to the old world. But for such a seemingly average little fellow, it has sure inspired a hell of a lot of things to be named in its honour. The dictionary defines a ‘snipe’ as the act of ‘making a sly or petty verbal attack.’ That act is named after the military tactic of ‘sniping’, or shooting at the enemy over a long distance. This in turn took its name from the difficulties involved in hunting the bird with a rifle as its flight patterns are erratic, making it almost impossible to hit ‘on the wing’. But most importantly to this story, the bird also gave its name to the Sopwith Snipe, the replacement aircraft to the now famous Camel. And while it’s service began only a few short weeks before the end of WWI, it was renown for its rate of climb and manoeuvrability. Now fast forward to South Eastern England in 2016, where two likely lads with a fascination for old British aircraft have decided to build themselves a custom motorcycle…
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.
There are certain artists, designers and builders whose work is instantly recognisable in their field and often even into the broader community: A Hendrix riff, a Pollock painting or a Scorsese film. In the world of custom bikes few builders’ creations are more instantly recognisable than those of David González from Spain’s Ad Hoc Café Racers. Twelve miles outside of Barcelona along the C58 Highway, with mechanics apron on, David operates out of his small workshop that is equal parts artist’s studio and motorcycle garage. It is here that his unique creations are realised and while some may consider them quirky, David in fact is sticking to the true Latin meaning of the name Ad Hoc – or for this – a solution designed to solve a specific problem. In this case it’s a 1991 Yamaha XT600 known as “Rising”, a flat tracker that’s built to shred the wildly varying street surfaces of Greece.
There was a time when only two things wore raw shields of smoothed out aluminium, UFO invaders cutting through the sky to attack earth as narrated by Orson Welles and the race bikes of the big manufacturers that were as equally alien to the visuals of a real road bike. It was a time when the imagination was the only limiting factor, rules and regulations not strangling the mind as they do today and allowed the likes of Isaac Asimov to amass a portfolio of more than 500 science fiction works. It was while reading Asimov’s famous Foundation Series that Markus Pintzinger came across the name of a micro food exporting Mycogenian known as ‘Sunmaster 14’ and decided it would make the perfect name for a future build. As the head honcho at Omega Racer in Thailand, Markus finally got a chance to use the name on a build befitting the era as he turned a ‘98 Yamaha SR400 into an aluminium shielded racer ready to descend from the skies and take over the Bangkok streets.
It may not have a local motorcycle industry to call its own but if one country could lay claim to be the kings of the home-built motorbike it is the land of the long white cloud, New Zealand. I tender two pieces of evidence, the World’s Fastest Indian, built at home over a 20 year period by Kiwi Burt Munro whose near 50-year-old record set on the Bonneville Salt Flats still stands to this day. Second, John Britten, the greatest motorcycle builder of all time, who not only designed and built his incredible V1000 at home but even made things like the engine cases himself, cooled from his wife’s pottery kiln with water from his swimming pool. So beloved are his creations that decades later they still feature on the covers of the world’s biggest magazines and riders like Valentino Rossi and Guy Martin consider them the greatest machines ever built. So it should come as no surprise to find out that this Kiwi custom, a stunning Scrambler themed 1981 Yamaha TR1 was built entirely at home in.