It’s crazy to think that nine years ago we featured a few bikes from a random little show in Portland called the ‘One Moto Show’. Then it its second year, it had 75 bikes and around 1500 bike enthusiasts come through the doors to check out this ‘new wave’ of custom bikes. But ten years later…
The Red Clouds Collective are a Portland-based outfit that make bomb-proof waxed cotton moto gear. And luckily for us Seth and Casey Neefus, head honchos at Red Clouds, also use the business as a front for making gorgeous custom bikes, like this pair of incredible Yamaha XT500s…
In the late 1950s Lucas, a large Birmingham UK-based manufacturer who built electrical components for the automotive industry, made a drastic change that would send waves across the industry. The days of the dynamo/magneto were over and coil ignition was in; sixty odd years later they’re still going strong. So while many would succumb and fail, the good gentleman down the road at Birmingham Small Arms embraced the challenge. What they produced all those years ago provides the heart of this brilliant Oregon-based Bobber. Forged from the hands of David Bright, it’s a 1965 BSA A50 that takes its name from your first unfiltered reaction, “Uhh Yeah Dude”.
There’s pretty much nothing we like better than to be sent an amazing custom bike from a home builder. Wright Brother’s style, the idea of some guy starting with an old beater and emerging from their frosty and/or sweaty single car garage with a minor miracle in moto making is what really floats our, erm, float valves. And here’s a prima facie case in point. Portland’s Lars Topelmann started with a basket case Honda XL250 and somehow ended up with this. It’s not exactly the miracle of powered flight, but it ain’t far off, either.
We’ve all done it. Scrolling through eBay or the classifieds and coming across a bike that was a project, 98% complete. The price seems great and hey, how hard could it be to finish that last 2%? Well Anthony Scott, photographer extraordinaire and man behind Enginethusiast found out that the maths doesn’t always add up. At the time he’d never had a 2-stroke and was looking for a new build to take on. So when a Yamaha RD400 came up for sale that had been treated to the beginnings of an “extensive restoration” in his home city of Portland, Oregon he snapped it up. Turns out extensive has a different meaning to some people, but the end result is a trophy winning tarmac and track warrior that Anthony calls a “Stroke of Luck.”
New tools customising old bikes. If you had to be blunt about it, that’s probably how you’d surmise the current custom bike scene. You need only to look at the old guard with their thinly veiled cries denigrating the beards and beanies to see that a ‘new tool’ generation has taken over from the old one. But today’s bike flips that equation on its coiffured head. With tools that date back to New York in the 1880s and a bike that’s barely out of diapers, today’s Honda XR650L from Hill Moto, still ticks all the cool custom boxes.
Red Clouds Collective is the very personification of everything that makes Portland, well, Portland. It’s a small workshop that produces bespoke leather goods like hats, tool rolls and aprons. And a glance through their social media feed features lots of desaturated black and white photos of bearded men in the woods staring into the middle distance. But they also turn their hands to the occasional custom bike. And they do a really neat job of it too, as this paired-back 1989 XR250 shows.
It all started in the last ten minutes of a Saturday afternoon showing of Little Fauss and big Halsy. The sound of a 2-stroke road bike and that bubbly vintage road race fairing. Then a quick glance at Airtech streamlining for some more inspiration. Yes. A well-timed search on Craigslist and there it was; a rough 1975 Suzuki T500. At first it was going to be a fun little bike build, and then I would sell it for a couple of bucks. But the deeper it got, the more I realized I was building my dream vintage road race bike. The Enginethusiast ‘No.7.’
Customising bikes is a gargantuan task at the best of times. And unless you’re a rich trust fund kid with zero family ties, no friends or social life, and a garage straight from the MotoGP pit lane, time probably isn’t on your side. So choosing a donor bike that’s almost entirely inappropriate for its intended custom end game is just adding insult to injury. It’d be pretty much a death warrant to the project – unless you’re biking mega clothing brand, ICON 1000. They love death warrants. And death too, apparently. Here’s their dead cool Kawasaki Vulcan 650S.
It’s 7pm on a Saturday evening in Portland’s industrial district. The steel train rails glisten in the evening sun and the magic hour is upon us; a perfect time to photograph a perfect bike. The sun is still shining strong as dusk approaches. It’s an unusually quiet time of day in Portland. Normally bustling with people coming and going, the silence is eerie. Even though the location we chose to meet was at the heart of where all the action usually takes place, there’s a sense of calm in the air. Within minutes of talking to Andrew from Little Horse Cycles, I realise that maybe this environment is the perfect setting for him. He is quiet, calm, and collected, but you can tell he is a mastermind that’s really passionate about his work.