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.
If you’ve been flicking through Pipeburn over the last few years you’ll have noticed a change – everyone is shifting away from traditional retro-styled builds. Tight, fast, water-cooled, turn-and-stop on a dime bikes are becoming more popular as more people are actually riding their custom machines and the zeitgeist finds it’s niche in everyday life. Thankfully for grumpy old bastards like me people are still building traditional, honest-to-god specials. And damn well, as Gasser Custom’s 1974 Ironhead Sportster shows.
I always have an internal debate when considering commissioned custom works. Even when – like in this case – the owner says, “feel free to do what you like, but…” Bam! There’s always a ”but”. That “but” can mean so much more than you really planned for. Logically, the owner comes to you because he or she likes your work. But he or she probably also wants “a kind of bike” and – more importantly – has a specific amount of money to spend. Put simply, it’s all about balance.
If you’re anything like me, moving house is right up there with wheelieing into the side of a police car or finding out your sleazy prog rock uncle now has a bike and is looking to joining you on your next big group ride. The cleaning. The endless boxes and tape. The sheer amount of time it takes is always straight up nightmarish. Now imagine moving your custom bike shop. Suddenly it’s goodbye income, too. But far from collapsing in a screaming heap, David Gonzalez from Barcelona’s Ad Hoc Cafe Racers managed to find the time make this Honda NX650.
Big bikes are cool. You’d be crazy to try and cut it any other way. But as in the world of knives, sometimes a scalpel is preferable to a machete. Just ask your local brain surgeon. And if there was ever a two-wheeled, internally combustible scalpel, this is it. France’s Bad Winners has taken the decidedly meek and mild Suzuki GN125 and turned it into a scrambler that’s always sharp and ready for the job at hand. A cut above? Try a cut above and beyond.
Rémy Vivien builds motorcycles in his spare time out of his workshop in Alsace, France. In recent years he’s caught the trials bug and as a devotee of old machines, he squared up the pre-1965 class. ‘But I didn’t want to buy an existing motorcycle that I had to modify, or assemble any parts from the internet. I wanted to create it from scratch,’ he says. ‘I wanted to make something for me by me. Something different.’ And he certainly has, with this incredible custom trials moto, powered by a 1946 500cc RGAS Terrot engine.
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’s something undeniably cool about a bike that can go anywhere. Whether it’s secretly stroking your zombie apocalypse fantasies or it’s just a reminder that life shouldn’t just be about your job and mortgage, every rider should have at least one mountain eater in their garage. But until recently, there was pretty much zero chance of ever finding a cool one – unless 80s fluoro graphics and wall-to-wall plastics spins your wheels. But thanks to shops like Italy’s Emporio Elaborazioni Meccaniche, we now have options like this Transalp they call ‘Cobra’. Who needs to move mountains when you can just ride over them?
Sportsbikes are all but dead. After bikers realised that riding a litre bike on public roads was akin to straightening that crooked picture in your hallway with the USS Nimitz, the bottom fell out of the global market. And while the more switched-on manufacturers have shifted their eggs to other baskets, it seems that the custom builders are again one step ahead. The recent rise of seriously capable machines with cafe racer influences is undeniable. Finally we’ve realised that fast bikes don’t have to rev to 18 grand and look like a reject robot from a Michael Bay film. And here’s a perfect example, via Rob Chappell from Canada’s Origin8or Custom Cycles.
Clients are the same wherever you go. They come to you because they like what you do and then they go ahead and ask for something that’s the absolute polar opposite. Known for your cafe builds? How’d you like to build them a bobber? Knock it out of the park with your last four tracker builds? Then why not try a drag bike? You get my drift. So when the lads from France’s renown Bad Winners had a client that wanted a ‘pure brat-style’ bike, you can probably imagine the reaction. You might as well ask Picasso to paint a Pollock. But instead of a hissy fit, they’ve gone all ‘carpe diem’ and done their own sweet thing that also happens to work a treat.