For more than a thousand years the Czech city of Prague has been one of the political and cultural centres of Europe, a thriving community of intellectual thought and creativity. So important is the city centre and its ancient buildings that it’s listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, an honour normally reserved for single structures like the Taj Mahal or natural wonders such as Uluru. The first criteria for such a listing is that the place “represents a masterpiece of human creative genius and cultural significance”, so you could hardly ride around the place on a plastic fantastic 250cc number and be doing the city any justice. Instead the appropriately named Custom Culture Co. has taken a 1974 BMW R90/6 and with their own artistic creativity crafted a classic ride to cruise the cobblestone streets. Just like the incredible pieces of art on display in the city’s National Gallery this CCC’s chef-d’oeuvre has an equally impressive name, Frau Turkisblau!
The challenge Triumph gave themselves when redesigning the Bonneville was nothing short of Herculean. As a company whose entire brand rests on one hundred plus years of biking heritage, this is the bike around which their entire world revolves. How hollow would their references to legendary motorcycling heroes such as Steve McQueen and Marlon Brando sound if the new Bonneville missed the mark? So to this end, the brief from John Bloor, Triumph’s owner, was as clear as it was short. It had to be as good as the original ‘59 Bonneville T120, “and whatever you do,” he said “do not fuck it up.” Which begs the question, did they or didn’t they? To find out, Triumph Australia asked us to take the bikes on an epic journey over some of the most challenging landscapes in Australia to do battle with the weather and the road in a ride we’ll be telling our grandchildren about for years to come.
In 100 years time when they write the history of the current custom motorcycle renaissance that we are living through you can be sure that Greg Hageman will be one of the leading names credited for spurring the revival. He can turn out a mean Harley, cafe a Honda and build just about any style of bike but it’s his incredible work with Yamaha Virago’s of the early ’80s that have really won him acclaim around the world; from magazine covers, to TV features and the trophies to match. But not only has Greg inspired a new generation of XV builders keen to tackle the old V-Twin he’s also produced a range of quality parts for his fellow customisers and without him leading the resurgence of the models popularity you have to wonder if the all new Yamaha “XV950” Bolt would ever have eventuated!
The deafening chorus of engines scream by. The crowd collectively gasp, as legendary Grand Prix World Champion, Barry Sheene dangerously cuts up his opponent’s inside but somehow manages to slips back in, just ahead of them into the corner. Sheene cheekily flips his opponent his signature two finger “up yours!” from the hip, then roars on to take the checkered flag. Crossing the finish line, he holds up the same two fingers, this time in a victory sign – men, women and children (not to mention several supermodels) fell in love with the ballsy little “Cockney Rebel”. A rebel who continues to inspire the world of motorcycling today. Petros Chatzirodelis of Jigsaw Customs in Greece is clearly one of the inspired. With the vision of creating a modern-day retro inspired tribute to the legendary rider, Petros took styling cues from Sheene’s iconic 1980 “AKAI” Yamaha YZR 500 to create ‘The Missing Piece’ – a Yamaha XJR Heritage Racer worthy of the great man himself.
In the quiet German city of Oldenburg a highly skilled carpenter whittles away his days designing and crafting the finest furniture from timbers gathered from the local oak forests. But by night a darker side comes out to play, the chisel and mallet swapped for the tools of a blacksmith, here the carpenter turns motorcycle builder creating minimalist machines with the single purpose of carving up those same forests in a totally different way. Meet Marcel Papenberg who’s turned his passion and skill for motorcycle building into a second business, Box-Werk Custombikes, run in his spare time producing purposeful BMW’s from a collection of tired old machines just waiting to be restored.
If you could place a value on a motorcycle there may not be another bike on the planet worth as much as this Seeley Norton Commando. Not just because it’s a Seeley Commando, the frame made on an original Colin Seeley jig in the traditional way with all the very best parts and materials used throughout the bike. But because the proceeds of the sale of this motorcycle go to supporting Worth Motorcycles, a not for profit organisation, based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn that teaches at risk youth the art of building custom motorcycles and mentors them towards a better life. Founded by Jeremy Malman a former club racer whose doctoral studies focussed on the various mechanisms underlying adolescent antisocial behaviour, he’s created a place that not only changes lives but turns out some of the coolest bikes in North America.
Ah, Denmark! A beautiful nation with friendly folk who have given the world such gifts as Lego, the Pastry and the Vikings. Have fun, eat well and die! Maybe the lads from Relic Motorcycles eat pastries for their breakfast, of that I can’t be sure, but when it comes to building things from pieces and murdering them out, they never let their heritage down! Based in Aarhus, Denmark the team of builders are forging a reputation for creating low and lean machines with a dark attitude. In steel we trust is their motto and there’s no plastic here, just the best old school bikes infused with a new beating black heart. When it came time for team member Kristian Bech to build himself a new ride he’d always “liked and admired the look, performance and history of these old boxer twins” so why not go straight for the top, take one legendary 1977 BMW R 100RS and give it a full Relic Motorcycles make over.
When it comes time to give credit to which Japanese bikes began the rise and reign of the machines from the Land of the Rising Sun the countries first superbikes, the Honda CB750 and the Kawasaki Z1, often receive the praise. But before they arrived on the scene the first strike in the four-stroke wars was delivered by a motorcycle known simply as the Black Bomber. Released in 1965 the Honda CB450 came packed with technology that defied its very classic chrome and black aesthetic. The first full production bike to feature dual overhead cams, it produced more than 100hp/litre, enjoyed reliable electrics and was described at the time as “engineered with passion and styled with restraint, an embodiment of all the qualities a motorcycle should posses”. It’s with exactly that in mind that KickMoto pay homage to the original with their own take on a classic icon, a 1972 CB450 done just right.
As a professional bike builder you have all sorts of people walk through your door, from the serious customer, to the young lad that wants a custom Ducati for no more than five grand. For Krish Rajan of KR Customs there was a different client to please, his “Lady Love” Loopy who had seen the bikes he’d created and while impressed with the quality wanted something, with “beauty and elegance”. Oh and Krish not one of those “adrenaline filled, tough, macho machines!” you usually build. Many a mere mortal would be losing their hair at the thought of such a demand but with a Masters in Applied Math, an IT expert by day and the owner of Chennai’s premier custom bike shop in his spare time, Krish is a man who gets it done and keeping his partner happy is always a challenge he is willing to accept. This Royal Enfield Continental GT Cafe Racer might have been the star of the main stage at India’s 2016 Bike Week, but the real prize was winning Loopy’s heart.
Growing up in the ’80s with a two-wheeled obsessed neighbour I’d often sit on his living room floor flipping through a giant book, the Encyclopaedia of Motorcycles. He’d encourage me to read up on BMW, ignore the “Jap Crap” and when I got to the Moto Guzzi section he’d wax lyrical as if talking about the most amazing thing on the planet. It’s easy to understand why, up until that point Guzzi had been the big daddy of the Italian Motorcycle world with production peaking in 1973 at some 50,000 units. But by the ’90s it was as low as 3,000, the mystique had been lost and most had never even heard of the marque. Now with Guzzi back in full flight many are taking the opportunity to restore the bikes of the dark days to the full glory they deserve and very few have done as good a job as Michael with this creamy smooth 1984 Moto Guzzi SPII.