Another year is almost over, but there’s no sign of the custom scene losing pace. Exciting new shops are springing up all over the world, as the heavy hitters establish their positions.
Here’s our annual roundup of Bike EXIF’s biggest hits—the 2016 Bikes Of The Year. As always, this list is based on data, not our own opinions. We’ve generated it based on page views, incoming links, and social media data, weighted according to how long ago the bike was featured. When positions have been too close to call, based on numeric data, we’ve factored in the number and sentiment of comments.
There are some interesting take-outs to be had from this year’s crop. Last year, the scrambler vibe was dominant: This year, it’s faded away. There’s still the occasional chunky tire, but readers are looking elsewhere for their thrills. (There’s no pipewrap, either.) BMW has been the marque du jour for builders this year, and that’s reflected in the results.
Congratulations to the builders who made the list.
10. Revival BMW Landspeeder Most successful builders have a signature style, but you never know what you’re going to get from Revival Cycles. ‘Landspeeder’ was inspired by Ernst Henne’s 1928 BMW R37 racer, transplanting the ‘aero’ vibe to a custom chassis crafted from flat-cut rather than tubular steel. Revival even designed a modern version of Henne’s classic trailing link front suspension. Skillz.
9. Hazan Motorworks BSA There’s art to be found in most motorcycles, from the curve of a tank to the knurled edge of a fuel cap. But Max Hazan has taken the concept of motorcycle-as-sculpture to heights not seen since the heyday of Ian Barry and Falcon. This BSA, created for a National Geographic photographer, has the swooping curves of a 1930s coach built automobile, but it’s the little details that wowed us—like the see-through Pyrex oil tank.
8. XTR Pepo Harley-Davidson Dyna We feared we’d heard the last of Pepo Rosell when he shut down Radical Ducati two years ago. But he quickly got back into the game under the XTR Pepo banner, and he’s now hitting his stride. On this 2000-model Dyna Super Glide, he’s added a dash of street tracker style, and strangely enough, it works. We’ll take this over an XR-750 any day.
7. Down & Out Triumph Bonneville T100 The English workshop has done more than anyone to promote the ‘fat tire’ look. And with custom triple trees in production, they’ve taken out the mechanical and geometrical guesswork too. A D&O bike is always a visual thrill, but this T100 gave our servers palpitations. It’s probably the most aggressively styled custom Bonnie we’ve ever seen.
6. Auto Fabrica’s Honda CX500 We have to admit we’re not fans of the typical CX500 conversion, aside from Sacha Lakic’s café racer. So when we heard that Auto Fabrica were tackling the old güllepumpe, we feared for the worst. But Bujar and Gaz delivered a machine that was sleek and elegant, with curves to die for. One of the most extraordinary transformations of the year.
5. NCT’s BMW R100 ‘Black Stallion’ Most builders have a ‘shop bike.’ Sometimes it’s a practical machine to use for running errands. Other times it’s a machine to showcase the ‘house style.’ And sometimes it’s an opportunity to go wild and build something that pushes all the boundaries. Austria’s National Custom Tech went a little crazy with their R100, and our readers went crazy for it too.
4. Federal Moto’s Honda CB550 A dark horse, this one. At first glance, it appears to be a stereotypical CB café racer, built in the style we’ve become familiar with over the past few years. But look closer, and it turns out to be a pretty mean hot rod—with a Yamaha R6 front end and extensive engine mods. Owned by a Canadian film director, it was built by Federal Moto—one of those shops, it seems, that can do no wrong.
3. BMW R5 Hommage We’d heard rumblings about BMW revealing something special at the Villa d’Este anniversary event, but we weren’t expecting anything like this. It’s a tribute to the original R5, built using replica parts and modern custom techniques. It’s a stunning showcase for BMW’s heritage, and perhaps even more so, the amazing skills of Ronna and Benna Norén, of Unique Custom Cycles.
2. Classified Moto’s Honda XR650L John Ryland is a three-time winner of our annual awards, taking out the top spot in 2012, 2013 and 2015. This year, he was just pipped to the post—but there is still a delicious air of revenge about this XR650L. Ryland built it as a direct riposte to the keyboard warriors and armchair critics who clog the comments sections of websites with opinions on how custom bikes should be built. “Consider it a huge balloon-tired middle finger to the crowd who think we exist to build bikes that will knock the chips off their shoulders.” Job done, John.
1. Rough Crafts Bavarian Fistfighter As soon as we saw the shots of this BMW R nineT, we knew it’d be a contender for the end-of-year top spot. The stance is on point, and the styling and paint are immaculate—inspired by classic Beemers from the past. The detailing, from the perforated leather seat to the wide ‘snowflake’ style rims, is sublime. “Menacing and purposeful, this R nineT hits the mark like a well-placed right hook,” we said at the time.
It’s always fun compiling these awards, even though it means a full day poring over stats. The downside is realizing how many incredible machines didn’t quite sneak into the Top 10: This year, we saw Diamond Atelier, Urban Motor, Clutch, Roel Scheffers, Wenley Andrews and K-Speed narrowly edged out.
Special mention must go to the photographers too, whose skills are often just as amazing as the builders they work with.
Here’s to another exciting year of customs, and thank you for joining us in 2016.