When you receive an email talking about a man from a small village in Southern France who used old fashion forging techniques, a crucible and sand moulds your mind starts to wander. Is this a 19th century inventor who burned his home down trying to create some delusionary dream? Perhaps a 16th century sword maker working for one of the 4000-odd aristocrats who died in duels during the reign of Henry IV? But no. It is in fact the work of Nicolas Baux, a CAD Designer by trade, who in 2016 revived some of the oldest metal working techniques to produce a staggering one hundred individually handcrafted parts for his custom motorcycle. The result is a modern machine with historic roots, a Royal Enfield Black Bullet from his new company, Motocyclette Certifiée Non Conforme.
Being on the receiving end of many custom bike submissions, you tend to get a pretty good idea of just how prolific a bike shop really is. Some we hear from once a year. Some twice. And then there’s France’s Motomax Metz. Believe it or not, this here bike hit our inboxes little more than two weeks after their previous build. At this rate, we’ll be featuring another 26 of their bikes in 2017, and by 2020 France will be nothing but an army of cool Yamaha trackers and a load of fresh mud. But before that happens, please meet the rad-to-the-bone ‘Dirty Smoke’ XSR700 that will have caused it all.
Today we’ve got the second half of a matched pair of air-cooled Suzuki’s by French workshop Ed Turner. While the previous custom was a bare knuckled, stripped back brute of a GSX1100 for a gentleman client, this is the more feminine half the duo destined for his partner. It’s a little 80’s Suzuki GSX400 dubbed the ‘GS-XX’. Dressed in faux-alligator leather and upholstered to resemble a high-class evening shoe, this highly polished tribute to rolling Eurotrash sensibilities is guaranteed to start some conversations.
Karl Renoult heads the curiously named custom shop Ed Turner Motorcycles, in Nantes, France. We’ve been following his builds for the last few years but nothing has prepared us for his new project. And this only one half of the enterprise, a mid-eighties Suzuki GSX1100 forming the ‘masculine’ part of a matched ‘his and hers’ pair of custom rides. Designed to reflect their owners’ love of high fashion, clubbing, and possibly sadomasochism, it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. After a close look, I’m not sure if it has a kill switch or a safe word.
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.
Father and son duos can be a hit and miss combination, Jerry and Ben Stiller have made millions making the world laugh and even with Jerry at 89 they’re still working together. On the other hand Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great not only became bitter rivals, the folks they encountered along their journeys hardly had smiles on their faces. Luckily for the father and son team behind FrenchMonkeys, Lionel and Florian, they not only get on like a house on fire but their love for customising motorcycles has become a very successful business venture. Based in Lyon, France, their builds have become so popular there is now a waiting list for their services and their parts business is doing a roaring trade. But after fifteen straight client builds it was time to create a bike for themselves and the BMW specialists have turned this 1978 R60/7 into a long and lean custom with plenty of classic style.
There is something about the Glemseck 101 1/8th mile sprint that brings the best out of so many builders, static competitions are one thing, but when the rubber hits the road everything on the bike is truly tested. The German motorcycle festival draws massive crowds of up to 75,000 people and is billed as “the meeting point for international designers, engineers, developers and their bikes.” For Yann and Manu of Sur Les Chapeaux De Roues in Brittany, North Western France, it was a chance to create a truly unique machine that showed off their full array of skills. But their Project Z Kawasaki is more than just a bike for competition, in the true tradition of Hot Rod Motorcycles it can do it all, win trophies as a static display, give a perfect ride on the beautiful back roads of Brittany and then go to the strip and lay down a great number in competition; our two French friends are simply brilliant at everything they do and this is their creation.
The historic walled port city of Saint Malo set on the French side of the English Channel can lay claim to hosting many important events in world history. But as the port of choice for the swashbuckling French buccaneers of the 17th century it’s hard to argue had they still been coming to shore today this wouldn’t have been their ride of choice. Quick and nibble, capable both on and off-road with the ability to out run and out manoeuvre local law enforcement and angry traders this 1994 XR600R Street Tracker is definitely the moto du jour. Built by a new workshop from the port city, Escapade Custom Motorcycles is the brainchild of good friends and business partners Allan & Jérôme. Not interested in the glitz and glamour of over the top builds and acres of chrome, they craft bikes that are all about a single purpose, the simple joy of riding a motorcycle.
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?