Almost every motorcycle company in existence today was started by one man with a vision, with immense ambition to bring that idea to life and with the drive to make it happen against all the odds. From Michio Suzuki and Soichiro Honda in Japan to James Norton and Count Agusta in Europe, these men forged companies that would dominant the motorcycle landscape for decades. But for every commercial success there were hundreds of companies that failed and the dream of many a man shattered, some because of war, others tragedy and global economic decline. But amongst those that failed to survive are a handful of motorcycles whose importance to the technological advancement of our beloved machine is so vital the few examples that remain live on as reminders of where it all began. One of the greatest of these is the German built Windhoff 750 that broke new ground and initiated technology that lives on today.
One of our favourite bike builders in Europe is the super talented Dirk Oehlerking from Kingston Customs in Germany. Dirk is a self-proclaimed perfectionist and motorcycle fanatic. Not only was he the German Enduro Champion as a kid, but has owned 36 racing machines over the years. Now he spends his time building unique customs and pioneering the scene in Germany. After finishing his stunning red R75/6 bobber last year, he decided it was time for a new BMW project. “I really wanted to build a BMW café racer build” says Dirk. “A BMW café racer is nothing new, but I wanted it to look very different in the Kingston style.” Well, amongst other things, we think he has definitely nailed the ‘Kingston’ style.
When you’ve been building custom Vespa’s for most of your life and you decide you want to build something with a bit more power, then a 1953 Triumph 500 hardtail is a pretty good place to start. Built by Marcus Offergeld and Martien Delfgaauw of the relatively new Berham Customs based in Berlin and Hamburg. “I’ve always ridden, raced, tuned and customized Vespa’s” says Martien. “It’s not what you work on, but rather how. Because for a great result you need to be driven by the joy of doing, rather than wishing to finish.”
After happening upon an “ugly looking and pretty run down” 80s chopper with raked front forks, the boys from Berham could see potential not in the bike itself, but certain aspects of it. Most importantly, the Triumph 500cc pre-unit powerplant had the 1957 Triumph race kit with the splayed port aluminium cylinder head kit. A good base for a build, the bike was given the Berham treatment.
These pics were taken at the Audi Museum in Munich. It’s a stunning 1939 US 250 DKW. The German company DKW where once the largest manufacturers of motorcycles in the world. By 1928 they were building some 65,000 engine units annually, and DKW engines could be found powering some 60 German marques of the interwar period. They soon joined Audi, Wanderer and Horch to form Auto Union in the 1930s, merging again in the 1950s with Victoria and Express to form Zweirad-Union, which in turn was absorbed by Sachs in 1965. DKW motorcycles usually used two-stroke engines and were technically ahead of their time (like most German motoring companies). To view more amazing bikes from the BMW museum check out Stefan’s flickr page.
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