The 2014 Bike EXIF Awards, Part I

The best motorcycles from the first half of 2014, chosen by Bike EXIF readers.
It’s time for our biannual roundup of the most popular motorcycles on Bike EXIF: the best of the best, as chosen by our hundreds of thousands of readers from around the world.

After aggregating traffic stats and social media likes and shares, we’ve uncovered the ten motorcycles that made the biggest impact in the first half of 2014.

It’s refreshing to see that no particular style dominates: Our winners range from the understated to the outrageous. But it’s possible to discern some trends: only one bike is distinctly ‘retro,’ modern (and chunky) tires are overtaking vintage-style patterns, and quality craftsmanship is to the fore.

Beauty is in the detail, and the detailing on these ten machines is worthy of a factory production line.

So who’s made the cut this time? Let’s see …

The best motorcycles from 2014 so far: Ducati 749 custom
10. Ducati 749 by Gustavo Penna This is what happens when a track-day-loving Ducatista strips his 749 to give it a thorough cleaning, and likes what he sees. Gustavo Penna is a cinematographer who shoots car commercials, and once he caught a glimpse under the 749’s bodywork he decided to leave it off. He then reworked the rear of the bike with a solo seat and minimalist subframe, retaining and modifying the stock tank and headlight unit. The engine was swapped out for a 749R mill—enhanced with a host of performance upgrades, including a titanium exhaust system that was designed with the help of a friend who works in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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The best motorcycles from 2014 so far: Norton 850 Commando built by Federal Moto of Canada.
9. Norton 850 Commando by Federal Moto It’s hard to believe this is the first build from Federal Moto, a startup workshop from Edmonton, Canada. It’s a 1974 Commando 850 that’s undergone major surgery but retains an authentic period vibe. The frame is 18” shorter than stock, and the Norton has lost around thirty pounds in weight. The fenders are from a 1950s Triumph, and the exhaust system is a modified 1971 Commando SS fitment. Accessories are miniaturized, from the blinkers to the tiny replica Smiths speedo. As one commenter noted, Federal Moto’s work has an “almost undefinable aesthetic rightness about it.”

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The best motorcycles from 2014 so far: Ducati 900SS custom by Atom Bomb.
8. Ducati 900SS custom by Atom Bomb Clay Rathburn seems to be able to turn his hand to any style of bike. His latest creation is this breathtaking café-racer-cum-streetfighter, which started life as a 1996 Ducati 900SS. Being Clay, he’s left no bolt unturned, so the motor punches out far more power than usual—thanks to Fast by Ferracci pistons, heads and manifolds. It’s now cradled in a hand-made replica of a 999 frame, with GSX-R forks handling suspension duties. The beautifully crafted bodywork was inspired by a Ducati 1098 taillight that Clay bought for $20 off eBay.

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The best motorcycles from 2014 so far: Harley Softail Slim
7. Harley Softail Slim by Rough Crafts In stock form the Harley-Davidson Softail Slim is already a simple, vintage-styled bobber. So it’s a great platform for customization—and who better to unleash its potential than Winston Yeh of Rough Crafts? Yeh is one of the top Harley builders out there, and this Softail has his signature all over it. That means dark tones, clean lines and flawless finishes. The frame’s been chopped at the back and a custom tank and seat installed. The wheels are from Exile Cycles, with a 16-inch at the front and a whopping seven-inch wide 15-incher at the back.

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The best motorcycles from 2014 so far: Ducati 999S custom by Stefano Venier
6. Ducati 999S by Venier Customs Stefano Venier is best known for his immaculate Moto Guzzi customs. But his latest creation is this Ducati 999S ‘Testastretta’ converted from race to road use. After removing the fairing, Venier remade the back end with a new leather seat and revised framework. He’s also replaced the stock alloy wheels with Ducati GT1000 spoked rims—a supposedly simple task that became easier said than done. The beauty of this bike is in the discreet detailing, with brackets, tabs and wiring removed to create a super-clean look. And with Termignoni Corse headers and a Zard muffler, Venier’s Ducati is a treat for the ears as well as the eyes.

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The best motorcycles from 2014 so far: 2015 Yamaha SR400 USA model
5. Yamaha SR400 by Palhegyi Design Believe it or not, this is a brand new, 2015-spec SR400. Yamaha have re-released the lovable, air-cooled single—kick-start and all—and the custom world is eating it up. Californian builder Jeff Palhegyi snapped up one of the first USA models, turning it into a timeless scrambler in just eight days with simple, but well-judged, modifications. The SR now sports an aluminum Omega Racer swingarm, custom Racetech shocks and Heidenau dual-sport tires. It’s a fitting homage to Yamaha’s legendary TT500—right down to the iconic “TT” logo on the tank.

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The best motorcycles from 2014 so far: the BMW R nineT custom 'Stockholm Syndrome' by UCC
4. BMW R nineT custom by UCC Ola Stenegärd is BMW Motorrad’s head designer and the driving force behind the R nineT. He’s also Swedish, so it was only a matter of time before he handed one over to a Swedish outfit to customize—namely Unique Custom Cycles. With just five weeks to complete the build, UCC cut and raked the frame and trimmed the stock fuel tank, before loading the bike with custom parts from the likes of ISR and Öhlins. The bike took 2nd place in the Custom Class of the Norrtälje Custom Bike Show—no mean feat in a competition dominated by Harley choppers.

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The best motorcycles from 2014 so far: Bonneville T100 by Renard Speed Shop
3. Triumph Bonneville T100 by Renard If the name Renard rings a bell, you’ve probably seen the Estonian company’s $96,000 Grand Tourer—a limited edition power cruiser with a carbon fiber chassis. But Renard’s Andres Uibomae has now set up a new division specializing in more affordable custom motorcycles, like this brawny Triumph Bonneville T100. It appears to be relatively stock, but there are big changes under the proverbial hood—including a 70mm narrower rear frame, relocated shock mounts, uprated forks, new triple trees and a Beringer/ISR brake system. The subtle grey color even extends to the Kineo rims: this is a scrambler that’s happy to fly under the radar.

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The best motorcycles from 2014 so far: Laverda custom by the Wrenchmonkees
2. Wrenchmonkees Laverda 750 Fuelled by Danish design sensibilities and with a knack for building raw and simple machines, the Wrenchmonkees have pioneered a unique style that’s hard to emulate. So what could be better than seeing that style applied to an early ’70s Laverda 750 SF1? Most of the work’s gone into the suspension: the rear frame and swingarm have been modified to take a Yamaha YZF-R6 monoshock setup, and the forks have been dropped and fitted with Wirth progressive springs. It’s an extremely elegant machine, thanks to the lines created by the hand-made tank and seat, and finishes that are unmistakably Wrenchmonkees.

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The best motorcycles from 2014 so far: R1200S custom by CRD
1. BMW R1200S by Cafe Racer Dreams It’s not often that BMW’s R1200S sports-tourer gets the custom treatment—let alone a radical transformation like this. Luckily Pedro García and Efraon Triana of Café Racer Dreams believe in trying new things—and paying attention to even the tiniest detail. Everything on this post-apocalyptic bruiser has been expertly crafted, from the mesh tank cover and exoskeleton, to the removable subframe and olive green seat. The suspension’s been beefed up with Öhlins shocks at both ends, while twin headlamps light the way. Finishing touches include a Supertrapp muffler and Metzeler Karoo 3 tires, a dual sport design created for big adventure bikes.

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Congratulations to all the builders who made it onto the list, and thanks to the photographers who preserved these machines for us all to enjoy. Want to see the winners from previous years? You’ll find them here.