Revealed: The top 10 custom motorcycles of 2023

It’s that time of the year again. The numbers are in, the data’s been analyzed, and our brains hurt—all in the name of bringing you, our dear readers, the most popular custom bikes on Bike EXIF.

These ten motorcycles are those that garnered the most eyeballs in 2023, both on our website and on our social media channels. Devoid of our personal preferences, the selection is often as surprising, or unsurprising, for us as it is for you. This year’s crop is particularly eclectic, with no identifiable thread to connect the winners, other than the expert craftsmanship that it took to create them.

Enjoy the list, and be sure to tell us which bikes hit the mark for you.

Custom Honda CB1100 by Rough Crafts
10. Honda CB1100 by Rough Crafts Winston Yeh has had a busy year. Not only has the man behind Rough Crafts kept releasing custom motorcycles at his usual frenetic pace, but he also put on his first custom motorcycle show, Speed and Crafts. Plus he has the distinction of being the only builder with three motorcycles on our short list this year.

Although Winston is best known for his custom Harleys, it was this brawny Honda CB1100 that eked its way into our Top 10. Aptly nicknamed the ‘Oriental Uppercut,’ the bike’s design was Winston’s reinterpretation of the Honda CB1100 TR Concept that debuted at EICMA in 2016. Winston considers it one of the best modified CB1100s ever made and sought to put his own spin on it.

Custom Honda CB1100 by Rough Crafts
The bike is quintessentially Rough Crafts. Gold leaf pinstripes trace the deeply scalloped lines of the handmade bodywork, which is finished in contrasting black and forged carbon textures. The big four looks compact and purposeful, rolling on chunky Pirelli Supercorsa tires that wrap around gorgeous carbon fiber wheels from BST.

Winston threw everything at this one; Öhlins suspension, Beringer brakes, a titanium exhaust with an SC-Project muffler, and a slew of parts from the Rough Crafts catalog. It’s a worthy addition to our list, and further proof that Winston isn’t bound to just one make, model, or style of motorcycle. [More]

Ducati 749 café racer by Kalapea Garage
9. Ducati 749S by Kalapea Garage While some Ducatisti have no love for Pierre Terblanche’s Ducati 749S, others would surely balk at the idea of seeing one customized. But in this case, it’s a moot point; this 2005-model 749S was wrecked when Kaspar at Kalapea Garage in Estonia got hold of it.

Looking at the work he did, it’s little wonder that Kaspar’s 749S landed on this list. Very little of the original bike remains, with the trashed bodywork being replaced by a modified Ducati PaulSmart 1000 LE fairing and a custom-made fiberglass tail section. (The removable headlight cover is one of the neatest details we’ve seen on a bike all year.)

Ducati 749 café racer by Kalapea Garage
The engine was treated to ported heads, lighter rods, a lightened flywheel, a Ducabike slipper clutch, a programmable ECU, and more. Kaspar matched the 749 front wheel and Brembo brakes to the Öhlins forks from an Aprilia RSV and swapped the swingarm and rear wheel for MV Agusta Brutale items. Everything fits like it belongs, right down to the way that the curve of the exhaust traces the bike’s silhouette.

The only thing that outshines the Ducati’s flawless proportions is its retro-fantastic livery. Both are proof that Kaspar has one of the sharpest eyes in the business. [More]

Metorbike electric Puch café racer
8. Metorbike Custom electric motorcycles continue to polarize public opinion, but the charm of this little Puch-derived café racer is irresistible. Conceived by friends Michael and Marvin, the bike started as a zany concept—but eventually developed into a small-scale production model.

Dubbed the ‘Metorbike,’ it uses a refurbished and modified Puch X40 moped frame. The bike is fitted with Aprilia RS 125 forks and custom YSS shocks, and rolls on 17” laced wheels with a single disc brake up front. The whole thing weighs a svelte 165 lbs.

Metorbike electric Puch café racer
Mounted below the frame is a 7 kW brushless motor, good for a top speed of 50 km/h [31 mph]. An upcycled battery hides under the faux fuel tank, offering a range of 50 km [31 miles]. The Metorbike wears clip-on bars at the front, and a wooden café-style tail section out back.

Best of all, this tiny electric moped has a soundtrack. The rider can select their noise of choice from the digital display that’s embedded in the bike’s top yoke, which is then amplified by the chambered ‘exhaust’ under the motor. [More]

BMW K75 café racer by 72 HKG Performance
7. BMW K75 by 72 HKG Performance K-series BMWs have traditionally not been as popular as their boxer-powered counterparts—but the tide has started turning in recent years. Workshops like 72 HKG Performance are leading the charge.

Based in Burgos, Spain, 72 HKG Performance is an ongoing collaboration between Antonio of 72 Cycles Performance and Jorge of Hell’s Kitchen Garage. Their goal here was to take a BMW K75, and turn it into “the best BMW K that can be manufactured.” That meant sharpening up the bike’s touring-focused stance, upgrading its running gear, and re-dressing it in radical bodywork.

BMW K75 café racer by 72 HKG Performance
Like Kalapea’s Ducati 749S, this K75 wears a set of Öhlins forks from an Aprilia RSV4 up front. It also sports Brembo Series Oro brakes, 18F/17R wheels with Michelin Pilot tires, and an Öhlins rear shock. BMW experts will note that the final drive is no longer stock; it now uses the single-sided swingarm from a BMW R1100RS and the shaft drive from an R850.

Up front, blade-like fork protectors, carbon fiber radiator shrouds, and Tarozzi clip-ons create an aggressive, nose-down silhouette. Out back, you’ll find a new subframe, a louvered carbon fiber tail hump, and a beefy muffler that punctuates the three-into-one exhaust system. Finished in a deep candy green paint job with a contrasting orange stripe, this is one of the most radical K-series customs to ever cross our desk. [More]

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles
6. Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles Few have mastered the art of building flat trackers as well as Richard Pollock—better known as Mule Motorcycles. This fiery orange whip uses a 1987 Harley-Davidson XL1100 Sportster frame and a Buell X1 Lightning motor, and ticks every single box for Hooligan-series flat track racing.

Hooligan rules state that racers can’t change a bike’s steering neck, swingarm pivot location, or upper shock mounts, and that geometry changes can only be made via bolt-on parts. No problem for Mule, who has enough experience to know how to extract the maximum performance out of a flat tracker without breaking the rules.

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles
Mule matched the Sporty chassis to a set of Honda NT650 Hawk GT forks via adjustable triple clamps from Durelle Racing, then relocated the swingarm’s lower shock mounts and wedged in a pair of K-Tech Razor shocks. The wheels are 19” flat track-specific items from Lowery Racing, and the back brake uses a Yamaha TZ750 rotor, a Honda CB500 brake caliper, and a custom-made carrier. The Buell engine is helped by a re-jetted Sportster carb and a Daytona Twin Tec ignition.

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles
Traditional Harley flat track fiberglass bodywork from First Klass Glass sits up top, with a race-spec number board and a set of aluminum AFAM handlebars up front. The only controls are a Buell throttle, a kill switch, and a clutch lever; the bike switches on via a toggle switch on the custom-made battery box that’s mounted to the left of the bike.

There are countless other details to pore over, and they all add up to one conclusion—Mule is at the top of his game. [More]

Custom KTM 1290 Super Adventure R by Gasoline Motor Co.
5. Gasoline KTM 1290 Super Adventure R If you miss the legendary KTM 950 Super Enduro R, this beastly custom KTM might just help stave off your cravings. Based on a KTM 1290 Super Adventure R, it’s the work of Australia’s Gasoline Motor Co. Their approach was to keep the 1290’s best bits but give it a major visual overhaul.

The 1290 still has its highly-capable WP suspension, Brembo brakes, and Akront wheels, but all of its bodywork is gone. A carbon fiber fuel tank dominates the front of the bike, with a custom-built chromoly subframe supporting a new seat. Handmade panels ‘fill’ the gaps in the subframe, hiding the new battery box and the relocated electrical components.

Custom KTM 1290 Super Adventure R by Gasoline Motor Co.
Gasoline’s approach to the build was calculated and methodical. The tank and tail bump were first molded out of clay and 3D-scanned before the final parts were built. The headlight surround and front fender are KTM enduro bike parts, with a super-bright Enduro-Tech LED unit lighting the way.

Other mods include a pair of punchy LED spotlights, custom crash bars, and an SC-Project exhaust muffler. Gasoline relocated the bike’s OEM dash and built a custom airbox for the KTM. They also abandoned KTM’s signature orange paint for a mix of black and carbon fiber finishes, with striking graphics to push this mental big-bore enduro bike over the line. [More]

Custom BMW R100 enduro bike by Ben Norton
4. BMW ‘R100X’ by 10 ’til 12 Ben Norton calls his workshop 10 ’til 12 because those are the hours that he spends wrenching on bikes. By day, he’s the lead engineer at a works Formula One team—so the custom motorcycles he builds are laced with well-engineered details that constantly blow our minds.

This lanky boxer started as a humble 1995-model BMW R80R, but there’s hardly an inch of it that hasn’t been overhauled. Obvious changes include a long set of WP Suspension forks, a burly Penske rear shock, and dirt-worthy 21F/18R Excel rims. A BMW R65 fuel tank is matched to a custom-made seat and Acerbis fenders, with an unapologetic Baja Designs headlight setup.

Custom BMW R100 enduro bike by Ben Norton
Subtler details include laser-cut braces to support the bespoke swingarm, an extended BMW R100RT swingarm and final drive, and a wide array of frame reinforcements and mounting brackets. Then there’s the engine, which features everything from billet aluminum timing and front covers to a cut-down engine block. It’s been pitched nose-up for better ground clearance, with a custom sump and bash plate mounted underneath.

A rebuilt transmission with fine-tuned gear ratios, a titanium SC-Project muffler on stainless steel headers, and a custom air intake with an oversized K&N filter; the list of well-judged changes is endless. We’re hoping that the 2024 Formula One season doesn’t keep Ben too busy, because we’d love to see what he builds next. [More]

Custom Yamaha XS650 by Simone Conti Motorcycles
3. Yamaha XS650 by Simone Conti Before Simone Conti unveiled this savage machine, he was mostly known for customizing newer and better-performing motorcycles—like the Aprilia SXV and Ducati 1000SS. So when his friends heard that he was planning to apply his signature futuristic style to a Yamaha XS650, they scoffed. His spot on this year’s podium proves that they were wrong.

To be fair, the only parts of the 1971 Yamaha XS650 that Simone used were its engine, transmission, wheels, and rear brake. Everything else was upgraded or built from scratch—including the modular aluminum frame and boxy swingarm. Honda CBR600RR and Brembo brakes sit up front, with an Öhlins shock holding up the tail.

Custom Yamaha XS650 by Simone Conti Motorcycles
Simone hand-shaped the XS650’s sculpted bodywork out of aluminum, giving the bike a kinetic aesthetic that looks like it’s going a million miles an hour even when it’s standing still. Twin exhausts jut out underneath the seat, while carbon fiber wheel covers add to the sci-fi vibe.

Contrasting the ultra-modern parts are classic details like the rear drum brake, the Avon Speedmaster (front) and Dunlop K825 tires, and the reverse levers that are fitted to the clip-on handlebars. The combination of raw aluminum and aquamarine paint is eye-popping, while the myriad vents in the body panels add to the sporty feel of the build. [More]

Custom VW Beetle motorcycle
2. VW Beetle chopper by Paul Clark Barging its way to a silver medal, Paul Clark’s VW Beetle-powered motorcycle is as unapologetic as it is intriguing. Based in the UK, Paul is a hobbyist who collects and builds motorcycles for nothing more than his personal enjoyment. So he built this VW bike for no other reason than that he could.

It all started with the engine; a VW Beetle mill that Paul found on eBay for £300 [about $380]. Paul mated it to a Dnepr MT 650 gearbox via custom-made concentric flanges, along with a Dnepr clutch and flywheel, and the alternator from a Kubota mini digger. Wassel carbs inhale through a single Amal velocity stack by way of a custom-made intake manifold, while a custom-made four-into-two exhaust system snakes its way through the bike.

Custom VW Beetle motorcycle
Paul mocked up the chassis with parts of a 1983 Honda Goldwing frame, spare tubing, and broom handles. Then he welded up the final hardtail frame using steel tubing sourced from eBay. The wheels use 16” rims, laced to Dnepr hubs, with the yokes and forks from a Yamaha XJR1300 propping up the front.

The fuel tank is a modified Triumph Bonneville part and the ultra-wide handlebars are one-offs. Paul added a chopper seat to the bike, then installed a TC Bros ‘Air Ride’ system underneath it, so that he could slam it when the bike is parked, and raise it when it’s time to ride. The top frame rail acts as an air reservoir for the airbag, with a 12V compressor to ‘charge’ it and a small air pressure gauge mounted just in front of the seat.

Custom VW Beetle motorcycle
Remarkably, Paul’s VW-powered chopper uses a kickstarter. It proved easier to kick to life than he expected on the first shakedown, but he soon realized that the drive shaft was mounted on the wrong side of the wheel and running backward. After many mods and much troubleshooting, Paul’s VW bike was ready to rumble down the road and into our Top 10. [More]

Custom KTM scooter by John Piper
1. PiperMoto J Series scooter Yes, the most popular custom motorcycle of 2023 is a scooter. But that’s hardly surprising. The PiperMoto J Series is impossibly elegant, beautifully engineered, and, with a 67 hp KTM 690 Duke engine under the hood, pretty rowdy too.

PiperMoto’s founder, John Piper, has a portfolio that includes F1, Le Mans, and World Rally Championship cars, plus numerous prototypes and concepts. And this super-scoot puts his experience on full display.

Custom KTM scooter by John Piper
At its core, the J Series scooter sports a TIG-welded chromoly space frame. The KTM mill sits at the back, locked into a modular subframe that also links up the swingarm and rear suspension system. A remote-reservoir shock from ExeTC offers 120 mm of travel, with KTM forks offering 150 mm of travel to the front end; the scoot rolls on 17” wheels with Bridgestone Battlax BT090 tires.

The engine benefits from a revised intake, a stainless steel exhaust system, two aluminum core radiators, and a semi-dry sump with dual Eaton oil pumps. The six-speed transmission shifts via an electronic system that uses paddles on the handlebars.

Custom KTM scooter by John Piper
The J Series is covered in carbon composite bodywork, trimmed with chrome details and OEM-style dials, handlebars, and switchgear. The rear shell flips up to access the engine, while two lockable cubbyholes in the front fairing offer storage space. The blue paint job and Vespa-style split saddles are to die for.

The scooter’s timeless aesthetic, combined with its 160 kg [353 lbs] dry weight, 50-50 weight distribution, and 120 mph top speed, make it the very definition of a modern classic. Bravo, PiperMoto. [More]

Yamaha R3-powered RD350 tribute by Frateschi
EDITOR’S NOTE Highlighting the world’s best custom motorcycles is our bread and butter, but narrowing them down to just 10 winners is a painful process. Worthy candidates that narrowly missed the cut include Frateschi Garage’s Yamaha RD350 tribute [above], Balamutti’s off-the-wall Pantah-powered BMX, Powerbrick’s twin K1100RS café racers [below], HB-Custom’s rally-inspired Honda Dominator, and Sureshot’s mind-blowing Harley-Davidson Dyna.

For the first time, we’ve also excluded any bikes that were published in December of this year. Those will become candidates for 2024’s best-of list, giving them a fairer shot at inclusion than what they’ve had in the past.

Our gratitude goes out to the custom motorcycle builders that continue to wow us, the photographers who feed us stunning imagery, our writers, and the advertisers that keep our servers humming. Happy holidays, and be sure to check back in a few days when we throw the data out the window and present our personal favorites from the year.

BMW K1100RS café racers by Powerbrick

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