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Revealed: The Top 10 Custom Motorcycles of 2017

The Top 10 Custom Motorcycles of 2017
It’s been a cracking year for the custom motorcycle scene, with a delectable array of killer builds from all over the world.

There’s also been a huge shift towards the mainstream. The big manufacturers have moved on from simply running custom programs and competitions, and are now selling retro and naked bikes with ‘factory custom’ styling.

Looking closer at the independent builders and workshops, it’s been hard this year to pick out a trend. If anything, it’s been anti-trend: the different genres of bike building have leveled out, with no dominant type.

Interest in scramblers is higher than cafe racers, which have finally bottomed out. Trackers are slightly on the rise—but only slightly, despite the media attention given to flat track racing. It’s bobbers that are comfortably in the lead—with interest probably driven by the popular Indian Scout and Triumph Bonneville factory Bobbers.

This year’s Top 10 is probably our most eclectic list yet. It’s purely data driven, based on page views, incoming links, and social media sharing. It’s also weighted according to how long ago the bike was featured, so that bikes that appeared in January are on an equal footing with bikes that appeared a couple of weeks ago.

Respect to the builders who made the list, and the photographers who captured their skills.

White Hot: A cafe racer Honda CB750 from New York
10. Honda CB750 by Bryan Moses When Bryan picked up a rusted out CB750 for $50, he planned to strip off a few parts and then ditch the rest. But then he changed his mind, and here we are—with one of the most popular bikes of 2017 with readers. The engine has been punched out to 836 cc, the front suspension is from a a CBR900RR Fireblade, and most of the back end is from a CBR600F4i. And that strange extra tube at the front of the frame? It’s an oil tank, chromed to match the stainless steel exhaust system.

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Smooth Operator: Vagabund's sleek BMW R100R cafe racer
9. Vagabund BMW R100R With one-piece monocoque bodywork and minimalist styling, this Austrian airhead is well beyond ‘sano’—it’s worthy of a place in the Rodder’s Journal. Designer Paul Brauchart and mechanical engineer Philipp Rabl employed truly left-field thinking here, and the metalwork (hand-made by Bernard Naumann of Blechmann) is outstanding. Even the compact muffler is a work of art, with the kind of sensuous curves you’d find on a high-end superbike.

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Stunning Royal Enfield Bullet 350 scrambler by Thrive Motorcycle
8. Royal Enfield Bullet by Thrive Royal Enfield is on a roll these days, and so are Jakarta-based builders Indra Pratama and Barata Dwiputra. This Bullet 350 is one of Thrive’s more restrained builds, but the old-school scrambler vibe is incredibly appealing. With proper fenders, a comfortable seat and jewel-like build quality, this classy little number proves that you don’t have to ditch the practical bits to make an impact.

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Honda electric motorcycle by Shanghai Customs
7. Shanghai Customs eCub It’s a sign of the times: an electric bike makes it into our Top 10, and a Honda Cub-based one at that. Shanghai boss Matthew Waddick is onto something here: many top-level electric moto components are made in China, and he’s used local knowledge to re-engineer the humble Cub into a stylish city runabout. The eCub might look ‘retro,’ but with three types of regenerative braking and a full suite of LED lighting, it’s anything but. (Interestingly, Shanghai’s electric tracker only just missed the cut to get into this Top 10.)

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BMW cafe racers for sale by Diamond Atelier
6. Diamond Atelier Mark II Series Tom Konecny and Pablo Steigleder of Diamond Atelier have an eye for effortless styling and classy detailing. Their business sense is just as sharp: they’ve packaged the signature elements of their BMW R-series builds into a limited production run of ‘Mark II’ bikes. Each bike gets a monolever swingarm, new bodywork, upgraded suspension and 320mm brake discs with 6-piston Tokico calipers. We thought it was a great idea, and so did you.

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This custom Buell Blast was built inside a tiny apartment
5. The Buell ‘FrankenBlast’ Shed builds are the stuff of legend, but living room builds are next level. This one comes from a carpenter’s assistant called Alex, who emigrated from Romania to Chicago and created a small workshop in a corner of his apartment. All that is left of the Blast now is its engine, carb, and the front half of the frame. And anyone who can graft a girder front end onto on a Buell deserves a medal.

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The BMW ‘Alpha’ by Mark Atkinson and Mehmet Doruk Erdem
4. BMW Alpha Landspeeder Great bikes often have great stories behind them. And they don’t get much better than the tale behind this amazing inter-continental collaboration. After Turkish designer Mehmet Doruk Erdem posted his shark-like concept online, the American bike builder Mark ‘Makr’ Atkinson picked up the baton and turned it into reality. It was a fortuitous match: Atkinson is one of those guys who can build an engine from scratch, using metal billet. The result blew up the interwebs, and even made headlines in the mainstream design world.

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BMW R80 cafe racer by Ironwood Motorcycles
3. The Mutant by Ironwood Custom Motorcycles Older BMW airheads are the perfect donors for custom builds: tough, well engineered and blessed with a plentiful supply of parts. The downside of that popularity is a certain ‘sameness’ to many builds, but Arjan van den Boom and his colleagues Eric and Sam came up with something very different for this R80. The aggressive, angular lines are attention-grabbing, and if you look closer, the attention to detail is top-notch. We especially love the vintage Porsche 356 hue on the Zündapp tank, inspired by Singer Vehicle Design.

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Supercharged KTM custom motorcycle by Hazan Motorworks
2. Hazan Motorworks KTM In any normal year, this would be the #1. Max Hazan’s KTM got more web traffic and more social media shares than any other machine from a known, big name builder. The KTM 520 engine is hooked up to a supercharger, a clever piece of engineering in its own right—but the rest is hand-made mechanical artistry at its finest. From the slender frame to the aluminum bodywork and the gorgeous ‘black nickel’ finish, Hazan’s latest is achingly beautiful.

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The Madboxer: A motorcycle with a Subaru car engine
1. The Madboxer Well, we weren’t expecting this. New Zealander Marcel van Hooijdonk spent five years building this incredible machine, shoehorning a turbocharged Subaru WRX engine into a custom-built frame. Power goes through a two-speed auto transmission, and there’s even a center-steering front hub setup. It’s the kind of build that would tax the abilities of a professional motorcycle engineer, but Marcel is a man who enjoys a challenge. Kiwi ingenuity at its finest, and it’s road-legal too.

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The Madboxer: A motorcycle with a Subaru car engine
It’s been an eye-opening experience compiling this year’s awards: some of the winners here were a real surprise for us. Many remarkable machines just missed the cut: we saw Rough Crafts, Krugger, Heiwa and Craig Rodsmith squeezed out by the tightest of margins.

But it’s that sort of unpredictability which makes the custom scene so exciting. Are you as excited as we are to see what 2018 brings?

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