It’s been a huge year for custom motorcycles, but also one of significant change. The scrambler aesthetic is now neck-and-neck with the ‘café racer’ style. Pipewrap is out and performance is back, with custom sportbikes edging into the scene.
The manufacturers are reading the tea leaves too. Yamaha has enlisted the cream of the world’s builders for its impressive Yard Built and Faster Sons programs. Triumph put the custom scene (and its journalists) center stage at the launch of the new Bonneville range in London. And the retro-style Ducati Scrambler has become the fastest-selling Ducati of all time.
It’s been a huge year for Bike EXIF too, with around 25 million page views during 2015. For the past few days we’ve been sifting through the stats, analyzing web traffic, social shares and links, to pick out our top custom motorcycles from the past year.
Congratulations to the builders that made the cut.
10. Ducati 848 by Apogee Motoworks There are formulas at work in the custom world: sticking to a ‘look’ guarantees acceptance and a sale. But some builders happily ignore the rulebook, and LA-based Gustavo Pena of Apogee Motoworks is one. ‘Le Caffage’ is a Ducati 848 given an extreme makeover, and hinting at both the past and the future. The bodywork is hand-made, the mechanicals have been tweaked with NCR parts, and the stance is predatory. If there’s any custom motorcycle capable of stopping the traffic on Rodeo Drive, this is it.
9. Holographic Hammer’s Ducati Scrambler Sylvain Berneron cut his teeth as a designer for BMW Motorrad, but the first build from his new workshop was a collaboration with Ducati and the magazine Moto Heroes. Berneron and his brother Florent have shifted the Scrambler away from its dual-purpose role and created a clean, road-biased café racer. The emphasis is on performance: 43mm USD Showa forks, 17-inch carbon racing wheels, a Beringer 4D brake system and a Werkes USA muffler. At 40lbs lighter than stock, this machine should be even more fun to ride than the regular Scrambler.
8. Ton-Up Garage’s Muxima Most custom motorcycles are destined for short trips around town on sunny days. But this Honda FMX650 spends its time roaming around a village in Angola. It comes from Portugal’s Ton-Up Garage, and breaks with tradition by avoiding the popular NX650 ‘Dominator’ and in favor of its lesser-known supermotard relative. The mods are designed to maintain reliability; hence the side-mounted K&N filter on a custom intake. The typically immaculate Ton-Up paint and engine finishing is the icing on this particularly delicious cake.
7. Huge Moto Café Fighter Kit If you’re a fan of sportbike performance and dynamics, but hate the plastic look of Japanese machines, Bill Webb has the answer for you. His first build narrowly failed to make the Top 10 last year, so we’re pleased to see him hit the charts with this Honda CBR1000RR kit. It’s a fine example of industrial design; the package includes the bikini fairing, tail unit, mounts to relocate the ignition and speedometer, new levers and a headlight assembly. Fingers crossed this goes into production soon.
6. The Hunter: A Scrambler With Extra Firepower Not all popular bikes are ground-up builds. This scrambler is a blueprint for anyone wanting to boost a modern Triumph with performance-based mods. It comes from Erne’s Euromotos—a dealership in Zürich, Switzerland—and gets a power jump from big valves, hotter cams and a Zard exhaust system. Brembo supplied the braking setup, and Öhlins the suspension. It would cost a pretty penny to replicate this build, but we can all dream, hey?
5. Absolute Gem: Diamond Atelier’s BMW R100R With their third build, Munich-based Diamond Atelier hit the jackpot. It’s based on a 1994 BMW R100R Classic, although you’d be hard pressed to tell. This is no formulaic airhead custom, but a radical reworking with a serious performance boost—check out the 40mm Dell’Orto carbs, K&N filters and Akrapovic racing exhaust. The detailing is off the chart, right down to the top triple clamp, which holds a crowning jewel: a 0.17-carat diamond.
4. Rajputana Customs Harley-Davidson Street Some folks might turn up their noses, but the Street has been a much-needed sales hit for Harley-Davidson. We reserved judgment after its release—patiently awaiting the killer custom that would reveal its potential. As 2014 rolled into 2015, Rajputana Customs of Jaipur City delivered. The bike itself is a remarkable reworking, but even more remarkable was the timeline—just four weeks. Rajputana are based just 300 kilometers south of the Haryana factory where the Street is built, so this was a major victory for the home team.
3. Clockwork Motorcycles’ Honda CB750 Five years ago, 1970s Honda café racers were all the rage. These days, not so much. So we were skeptical when an email arrived from Montréal, Canada, announcing a new CB750 build. And then we saw the shots and the build story. Samuel Guertin of Clockwork Motorcycles knocked us out with this brawny, murdered-out custom, and the readers responded in kind.
2: Sacha Lakic’s CX500 café This one came out of nowhere: a build from a designer fresh to the custom motorcycle scene, and from a country that most people would find difficult to locate on a map. Luxembourg-based Lakic nailed the lines of this bike, and on a difficult base platform too. The ‘Poor Man’s Guzzi’ has never looked so good.
1. The Daryl Dixon Motorcycle by Classified Moto Actor Norman Reedus is a motorcycle nut, and when his Walking Dead character required transport, he knew whom to call. Choosing Classified Moto was a stroke of genius, and builder John Ryland delivered a killer build. Or rather, two: the production crew requested a pair of identical bikes. John amped up Classified’s raw signature look, and applied it to a pair of Honda CB750 Nighthawks. The zombie aesthetics are spot-on, despite the cripplingly short time frame. (We’ll even forgive whoever mixed the audio for the show, and added a Harley V-twin soundtrack.)
As always, we are indebted to the photographers. They deserve as much credit as the builders, and their skills can ‘make or break’ a bike. It’s also worth name checking a few builders who very narrowly missed the cut, notably Ed Turner, Dream Wheels Heritage, Luis Moto, Marcus Walz, Axel Budde and Magpul Ronin.
Let us know in the comments what you think of the current state of the custom motorcycle scene. And if you want to compare this list to the winners from previous years, check them all out here.