But relying on cold, hard data means that some very worthy custom motorcycles don’t get the exposure they deserve. Several of my own favorites are in the 2015 Top 10, but others aren’t. So for the first time, here’s an Editor’s Choice. It’s purely subjective and there’s no ranking order.
Auto Fabrica Type 6 It’s been a huge year for the London workshop. We featured three Auto Fabrica bikes, but the standout has to be this Yamaha XS650. It’s one of the most balanced and minimal customs we’ve ever seen, with streamlined bodywork in 2.5mm aluminum and a swooping exhaust system to match. You could write a book about this machine, so we put it on the cover of the Gentlemen’s Edition of The Ride: 2nd Gear.
Supercharged BMW R80 by VTR Customs There’s nothing conservative about this Swiss-built custom. It’s sporting a ‘home-made’ fuel injection system, a custom ECU and a Rotrex supercharger. And, for extra oomph on the quarter-mile, a nitrous oxide injection system. Just as well builder Dani Weidmann races in the Swiss supermoto championship, otherwise we’d say this BMW is too insane to ride.
Ducati Leggero by Walt Siegl We’re always on the lookout for an excuse to feature Walt Siegl’s work. Thankfully, there’s a slow but steady stream of hand-built Leggeros leaving his New Hampshire workshop. This one caught our eye, commissioned by a client who wanted a completely naked bike with a classic look. With magnesium wheels and Kevlar bodywork, it’s as light as a modern sportbike—but the simple exhaust system and understated paint give it timeless appeal.
Bunker Customs Triumph Bonneville The new Triumph Bonneville is hitting showrooms soon, but there’s plenty of life left in the current air-cooled model. This sleek T100 from Turkey’s Bunker Custom Cycles is one of our all-time favorite Bonnies, with a staggering level of finish and a substantial power upgrade. The restyle is subtle but effective, with a clean line running from the base of the tank through the length of the bike.
Roland Sands RD400 These days, Roland Sands mostly builds slick road-going customs and concept machines for the big manufacturers. But occasionally a race bike sneaks onto the job sheet. Called ‘2 Stroke Attack,’ this Yamaha was the fastest machine on display at the last Born Free show. The race-spec RD400 motor is hooked up to hand-made expansion chambers and cradled in a TZ250 frame. And the tank is as authentic as you can get: it’s from the TZ250 Roland won the AMA Championship with in 1998, minus the dents.
ER Motorcycles ‘Thompson’ Are there any unmolested BMW airheads left? Probably not. But if you find one and simply have to customize it, this is the benchmark. The Slovenian workshop is famed for its craftsmanship, and this ‘bitsa’ has the factory-built look. The frame is from an R69S, the engine and transmission are from an R100, and there are R50 and R80 bits elsewhere—but it all hangs together beautifully.
NYC Norton Commando Kenny Cummings of NYC Norton is a legend in the vintage British iron scene. This ‘Sunburst’ Commando will extend his reputation even further; it’s one of those rare instances where a highly technical build also looks drop-dead gorgeous. The blueprinted engine has a lightweight, balanced crank and forged pistons, and it’s slotted into a Seeley Mk2 replica chassis. There are too many other mods to list here, but rest assured, this is mechanical expertise of the highest level.
Kaffeemaschine #17 Moto Guzzi Axel Budde has now built 17 Moto Guzzi Le Mans resto-mods, but we reckon this is the best Kaffeemaschine yet. It’s a Mk III created for a client who lives thousands of feet above sea level in Colorado. The engine has been rebuilt with a balanced crank, a hotter cam, big valves and ported heads, and now breathes through a pair of 40mm Dell’Orto carbs. It’s the paint that gets us, though—a vintage Jaguar blue offset by brown leather.
Alex Earle’s Ducati Monster Most trackers have a retro vibe. But rather than follow a well-trodden path, Alex Earle has given his Ducati lashings of carbon fiber. The monocoque bodywork and reworked frame have dropped the dry weight to a mere 345 pounds (157 kilos). The 19-inch wheels are lightweight custom jobs milled by RSD—but you can specify 17-inch rims and handlebars with less pullback, if you prefer more of a ‘retro superbike’ look.
Ed Turner’s Suzuki GSX1100 A burly 1980s Japanese superbike with yellow engine paint and skate stickers all over the tank does not sound like a recipe for success. But that’s the genius of Frenchman Karl Renoult, who heads up the aptly named Ed Turner workshop. The engine is all that remains of the big Zook, because Karl has built a new frame and a compact fiberglass tank. The forks and wheels are from a Buell, the headlight is from a Ford Mustang, and the taillight is from a prison cell. (Yes, really.) We liked it so much we put it on the cover of the Rebel edition of the book The Ride: 2nd Gear.
That’s my pick—what’s your take?