The 2012 Bike EXIF Top Ten, Part I

Triumph Bonneville concept
It’s time to look back at the biggest hits of 2012 so far—the bikes that have attracted the most attention from our worldwide camaraderie of readers. We’ve selected these machines mostly on the basis of website traffic—but we’ve also taken Facebook likes and general positive buzz into account.

This year’s winner came right out of left field. And it’s not even (yet) a fully-functioning road-legal machine. But it’s an encouraging sign: A major motorcycle manufacturer and a leading design studio joined forces, and handed the reins to a pair of younger designers.

The result, Xenophya’s Triumph Bonneville prototype, successfully melds modern and retro influences. Read on to see what’s resonating with hundreds of thousands of motorcycle fans this year.

1. Triumph Bonneville concept (Top) The “Speed Twin” is the work of two young English designers, Roy Norton and Tom Kasher, in a collaboration with Triumph Motorcycles and Barbour Outdoor Clothing. The base platform is the Triumph Bonneville, restyled and fitted with girder forks.

Sportster Forty Eight

2. Rough Crafts Bomb Runner (Above) Here’s the second in Winston Yeh’s planned series of “Guerilla” bikes, which will have Rough Crafts’ signature blacked-out look and components, but different build styles. The base bike is a 2011-model Sportster Forty-Eight 1200.

1975 Honda CB750

3. Mike Salek’s Honda CB750. Mike decided he was ready for a vintage classic. “I always loved the Japanese ‘Brat style’ and the things the Wrenchmonkees were doing,” he says. “While digging through Bike EXIF a couple of years ago, I read about a guy who built a bobber on a very tight budget and with very little experience. Nothing fancy or polished, just a raw, cool, badass bike. So I figured, why can’t I do that?”

Harley knucklehead

4. Rough Crafts Harley Knucklehead. There’s a wonderfully gothic, Victorian vibe to the latest machine from Rough Crafts. It’s built around an S&S Harley Knucklehead motor, using a kit from legendary ‘samurai chopper’ builders Zero Engineering.

1988 Honda Shadow

5. Dime City Cycles Honda Shadow. Jason Michaels is one half of DCC, a leading light of the contemporary US cafe racer scene. Being a good son, he planned to do some light custom work on his father’s Honda Shadow VT800—creating a comfortable cruiser his Dad could pilot around town in a relaxed posture. But after a thirty-day build, the bike delivered to the house of Michaels Snr. on Christmas Day was quite the opposite …

Yamaha Virago custom motorcycle

6. Doc’s Chops Yamaha Virago. Greg Hageman’s strength is an unerring eye for visual balance and stance. For this XV920, he crafted a new rear subframe and installed a MotoLanna seat originally destined for a Yamaha SR500. The tank is a Benelli, but not just any old Benelli: it’s from a 1967 Wards Riverside Mojave.

Harley cafe racer

7. “Harleyton 45” cafe racer. Builder Nick Roskelley calls his creation the “Harleyton 45”, a rolling amalgamation consisting of a 45-cubic-inch Harley-Davidson flathead V-twin housed in a 1960s Norton Featherbed frame. The engine, of 1942 vintage, was originally found in a WLC, the Canadian-spec army bike.

CB750 cafe racer

8. Crowe Customs/Tarantulas CB750. It’s getting harder and harder to impress with a CB750 custom. But this machine, stripped back to bare finishes and muted colors, works a treat. ‘The Natural’ is a collaboration between two Portland, Oregon builders with complementary skills: Crowe Customs and The Tarantulas.

Vincent Black Lightning custom

9. Jeff Decker’s Black Lightning. For someone who doesn’t like stock Vincents, Jeff Decker builds a mighty fine Black Lightning. He’s a sculptor as well as a bike builder, and his eye for a line is evident with this beautiful (and controversial) salt racer.

Custom Yamaha RD350

10. Analog Yamaha RD350. This 1973 RD350 was halfway towards a cafe racer conversion when the current owner bought it. After the bike sat around for years untouched, the owner commissioned Analog Motorcycles’ Tony Prust to finish the job. And what a job he did.

Conclusions? Winston Yeh and Rough Crafts are making waves, with two machines in this Top Ten. And the monochrome look has well and truly taken over. With the exception of two bikes here, all the machines are predominantly black, white or gray. Fat tires and symmetrical wheel sizes are popular too. But only three of our winners are sporting pipewrap. Could we be seeing the end of the trend?

It’s also worth mentioning that several bikes from 2011 and earlier continue to attract huge numbers of hits. In some cases, they’re still outranking the 2012 machines. Honorable mentions go to the Wrenchmonkees (Denmark), Classified Moto (USA), Deus Ex Machina (Australia), Blitz Motorcycles (France) and Cafe Racer Dreams (Spain).

Do you think this latest Top Ten is an accurate represtation of the custom motorcycle industry today? Add your thoughts in the comments.