Ah, the K-series BMWs. What can we say that hasn’t already been said before? Their unique engines. Their incredible second-hand affordability. And then there’s all that get up and go! Even a very tired example of a K100 will deliver you 85hp and 80Nm of torques – and for little more cash than a boozy weekend away with friends. Of course, this isn’t exactly a revelation. The sheer number of them we now see gracing our pages is a testament to this. Hell, we’ve seen less virgins at a Minecraft show. But just when you think you’ve seen them all, along comes Austria’s NCT Motorcycles with something that piques our interests like no other Brick has done in a very long while. Say hallo to ‘Sir Ulrich’.
In ancient feudal Japan, a rōnin (or in Japanese, 浪人 – literally meaning ‘wave man’) was a samurai warrior with no master. A samurai usually became ‘masterless’ from the death of his master, or after the loss of his master’s trust. Thus he would be condemned to wander like a wave wanders the ocean. And while the noun has become the stuff of adolescent male fantasy over the past 30 years with visions of mercenary assassins who answer only to themselves, the truth is far more mundane. Rōnin were wanders with no particular place to go; just like how you feel on a great bike ride. So with that thought in mind, Indonesia’s Minority Custom Motorcycles have created their own little wandering soldier; this very Japanese, very sharp ‘76 Honda CB200.
When you’ve plied your trade in the paddock of the Italian Superbike Championship you’d expect your garage would house one of the litre bikes that call the grid home. From the glorious Ducati Panigale to the technology tour de force that is the new Yamaha R1 there is no shortage of choice. But for 25-year-old Dario Denichilo of Milan, Italy, he’s gone in the complete opposite direction. A Moto Guzzi fan he chose to ignore their modern stable of steeds that start at a minimum of 750cc and 200kg in weight and instead chose the little Guzzi that could. But after an accident on his 1983 Moto Guzzi V35 he decided not only to keep the ugly duckling of the marque but transform it into the custom creation laid out before your eyes as the very first build of his new venture, Ireful Motorcycles.
We’re guessing you all know what a custom bike is, right? They’re the ones with all the wild and unique modifications. The bright colours and the racing numbers. The flames and chrome skulls with the glowing eyes. And the ones that develop a gazillion horsepowers from their superchargers, nitrous oxide and turbos. But what if you wanted a custom bike that didn’t look like, well, a custom bike? What if your aim was a customised yet classic machine that would look good today and in 2116? If that thought puts a lightbulb above your kopf then you best check out today’s feature bike, a wildly mild Kawasaki W800 from Germany’s very talented Schlachtwerk.
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.
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.
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?
It’s one of the greatest marketing campaigns in history and certainly the most influential in kick-starting the global motorcycle industry; “You meet the nicest people on a Honda”. The idea was bought for Honda by Grey Advertising from a UCLA undergraduate student who’d created it for an assignment, but I don’t think any of those involved envisioned just what it would mean for Philippe Vincent from French-speaking Montreal, Quebec. Exactly a year ago he didn’t even own a motorcycle, didn’t have a motorcycle license and had only just discovered from a friend what a Cafe Racer was. Yet only a year later the proof he’s a faster leaner can be seen in the evidence of his creation, his first bike and build, a 1974 Honda CB750 with plenty of 1950s British inspiration, it takes the name “Majesty”.
With the corporate dollars rolling in, the celebrities coming on board and a global fascination with the custom motorcycle culture there has never been a better time to be a bike builder. But for any movement to survive, its indigenous roots must be well fed with a continuous supply of what sprouted that seed in the first place; and nothing serves that purpose like a classic motorcycle, with a timeless appeal, that’s built to a high standard and designed with a purpose. The Harley based chopper scene is dead for not watering those seeds but at Montreal’s Clockwork Motorcycles they make no such error, giving their customers machines that will stand the test of time and be just as good in ten years as they are today. Their latest offering is a perfect example, a 1978 Kawasaki KZ650 that does everything a motorcycle should, just better in every way.
There are literally millions of two-wheeled machines on the streets of Thailand, with the market dominated by a huge variety of scooters and low capacity commuter bikes. With 15 million people living in the Greater Bangkok area it makes for the perfect form of transport, if not more than a little dangerous for the uninitiated foreigner. But where the streets of LA and London have been home to vintage-tyred, old school styled Cafe Racers for decades, in Thailand it’s not just a case of what’s old is new again, it’s simply never been seen before. For the huge motorcycle megastore K-Speed, with branches across the country, custom bikes play a crucial role in their daily fun and promotion. But for founder of the brand Eak they are a way of life, a passion and on this build his chance to deliver to the Thai streets the rare sight of old school cool; it’s a 2015 Triumph Bonneville with his trademark sinister spin.