There is a famous quote that goes something like this. “No one ever achieved greatness by playing it safe.” And yet for the vast majority of us, we play it safe all of our lives. We stay at the job we don’t love because it pays the bills. We eat the same foods. We take the same road to work and we go to the same draw of clothes day in and day out. This is where the custom motorcycle scene plays a significant role in the lives of many. It’s where they throw off the shackles, live on the wild side and do things differently with a license for freedom they don’t normally afford themselves. But one man takes that freedom even further; he pushes the limits of motorcycle design so far his inspiration is actually drawn from art, sci-fi films and a desire to reach the ultimate Zen state of mind. Daryl “Dazza” Villanueva of Bandit9 is back and his latest limited production run machine, known as EDEN, is the ultimate expression of not playing it safe.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not a technical instruction book but the tale of a journey punctuated with philosophical insights. The Motorcycle Diaries too has a title that requires further exploration and is in fact about one Norton, two young men and the journey that sparked the world’s most famous revolutionary’s deep thinking. From T.E. Lawrence to the modern-day adventures of Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor, motorcycles are as much about the adventures they take us on as they are about the machines themselves. For Blaž Šuštaršič the founder of Slovenia’s ER Motorcycles such an epic trip on two wheels has played on his mind for years, so when a client worked in the door looking for someone to build a bike fit to travel the world Blaž knew it was a project that was meant to be. Using a 1989 BMW R100GS Paris Dakar as the base he’s created a machine called “Glober” that’s ready to write a legendary new tale.
The motorcycle industry is booming in Thailand with all the major Japanese manufacturers having a large presence and the Europeans have followed in recent years. With the world’s largest markets on its doorstep Thailand is the perfect place to build and assemble many of the models on offer in the global marketplace. But with this boom attention has also be turned to the local custom bike scene and in the spotlight is the country’s biggest player K-Speed Customs, with 12 locations across the country. Overseen by head honcho Eak they come with a penchant for the dark side and most of his bikes are finished in Matte Black with a sinister appeal. So it’s no surprise that when he combined forces with one of his shop owners to come up with a new build the end result is this murdered out Ducati Monster M1100 known as “Darth Mostro”.
Back in the mid ’90s when Tool released their album Ænima I skipped school for the morning with a mate to grab a copy of the new CD from the local record store. We arrived back on high school grounds, me now rocking the latest Tool T-shirt, a ghoul like figure with a large syringe in his mouth…, needless to say it was straight to the principals office and this Tool inspired Ducati custom is set to get itself in just as much trouble! When client Joe Evers, a Tool fan himself, sat down with Australia’s DVMC Motorcycles to plan out this build he knew he wanted something completely different from any other custom floating around and starting with his bone stock 2002 Ducati ST2 gave plenty of scope to go in any direction. Known as Forty Six & 2 “named in reference to the Tool song with lyrics that talk about the evolutionary change in a species” this Ducati is like nothing that ever rolled out of the Bologna factory.
When Sky Uno, the Italian TV Channel, was looking for the 10 best custom bike workshops in the country for their TV show “Lord of the Bikes”, it came as no surprise that our friends at Anvil Motociclette were selected to compete. Each week, two workshops are pitched head to head in a themed build-off. They are given a new bike, a few Euros for accessories and then battle it out to impress the judges. When it came time to throw down, Anvil was pitted against their fellow Milanese builders South Garage, both given a brand new Moto Guzzi V7 II, €3000 for parts and the theme – ‘Quentin Tarantino’. Okay, so that’s a little out of left field Mr TV Producer. So how long do you give the teams to build their machines while your cameras scrutinise every move, 6 months? 3 months? No. Try 15 days.
Sometimes it’s easy to hate the French. The food. The wine. The beautiful women. We’re not quite sure what the country has done to deserve all this mana from heaven, but they must have all been very well-behaved in a past life. And, as if to rub salt into the wounds of the rest of the word, along comes the very attractive Monsieur Fabrice Rude rom La Manufacture. With a name that couldn’t be more French if it tried, he’s here as living proof that life is just plain better in the land of the Française. Deciding he just might pop along to the Wheels & Waves show in Biarritz, he seemingly threw together a build at the last-minute only to become the star of the show and subsequently smothered in beautiful women, fame, fortune and bucketloads of la belle vie. Don’t you just hate him?
Sit around a table, hang out in a workshop or share a beer with a group of custom bike fanatics and one question is guaranteed to come up every single time, “What if?”. What if we jammed a Triumph engine in a Norton frame, what if we stuck my Gixxer forks on your old CB Honda or what if we, follow me here guys, we turned a Hyosung into a race bike? Ok, so clearly some ideas are best forgotten, others have gone on to become legendary innovations and the vast bulk never see the light of day. But when Craig Marleau of Kick Start Garage in Northern California had such a moment he not only built his “What if” idea, The Taco Truck, he completed it in record time, pulled off a creation the likes of which has never been seen and won an award at the prestigious The One Moto Show.
During our recent Melbourne sojourn to ride Triumph‘s new Bonneville, we caught up with Geoff and Luke from arguably Australia’s best custom bike magazine Tank Moto. After a few beers (OK – it was 8 beers) they told us they had a story we might like to share. We checked it out and were suitably impressed. So here’s Justin Holmes from Queensland’s Popbang Classics and his ridiculously cool ‘Hardache’ ‘74 Honda CB360 in his own words.
The saying “it’s in his blood” gets thrown around a lot when sons follow in their father’s footsteps. But Jeremy Cupp of LC Fabrications must have the blood of a thousand men, because to single-handedly create this masterpiece and do it from scratch takes skills surely not possible for one man to possess in a life time. But that is exactly what he has done in creating this Harley Davidson CAC factory speedway inspired machine from entirely handcrafted components and a drivetrain that is part Buell, part Ducati and with cog swapping courtesy of Triumph. Yes, really. Coming from a separated family, Jeremy had one father a welder and the other a machinist and from an early age he was building his own bikes.“Taking a pile of raw materials and turning it into something that can take you where you want to go… it doubled the spiritual act of riding a motorcycle and really got me hooked.”
With 2015 disappearing faster than petrol down the throat of a badly tuned race carb, it’s time to take stock of the past 12 months and see what bikes really floated our collective boats. In this, our sixth year of making a fuss about the world’s best custom beasts, we’re glad to say that the brouhaha surrounding this weighty, exhaust-shaped prize seems to be getting bigger and bigger. But the award itself is nothing without the guys it’s intended to honour; the bike builders that bless us daily with their art and expect pretty much nothing in return. Here’s to you, you big, oily, talented lunatics. As always, we’ve revisited every bike from this year (all 180-odd posts) to count and re-read your comments, tally Facebook likes and whip out our trusty awesome-o-meter to come up with our top 10 bikes for 2015. So, without any further ado…