I am pretty sure that after living in lockdown for so long, I have begun to forget just what it is like to be able to walk through a custom motorcycle or car show. I keep seeing information about the return of the Bike Shed Festival in London near the end of May, and my dreams of taking a trip ignite once again. Sturgis is another event I have always wanted to go be part of. August seems so far off.
This had me surfing away again—looking at bikes I admire and builders that constantly blow my mind. So I thought I would share some bikes that really do have insane builds (according to me, anyway). My reasons are varied and my opinions my own, but therein lies the fun of it all. It creates conversation and debate. Let’s get to it!
Blatant Moto – Death Rattle
Three former staff of the now-defunct Alta Motors brought their knowledge to a new startup, Blatant Motors. Clearly, this bunch has a deep well of knowledge pertaining to electric motorcycles and this build clearly shows that off.
Many attempt to make a minimalist bike, but sometimes I am convinced that decision makes for an even more difficult build. Any flaw in the design stands out like a pimple on date night. However, the Death Rattle is as clear as can be.
Using a Yamaha R1 front suspension and a Penske mono-shock at the rear, the handling looks to be well sorted. High praise has been heaped to the Alta Redshift powertrain—and in this frame, it should have no issue ripping the Death Rattle around the track.
In the southern part of Brazil, you can find Cramento Motorcycles happily making your wildest dreams a reality. How they took a 1999 Suzuki DR650 and turned it into this stunning machine. In my estimation, it’s a work of genius.
Fabricating a custom triple tree allows the fitment of the fat front tire. Then it appears the rest of the frame was cleaned and tidied better than your mother ever got you to do for your bedroom. Just look at the slick LED rear brake light—that is clean.
Custom covers were mounted over the wheels, totally changing the look from dirt bike to something more at home during the apocalypse. Adding the LED headlight, bar-end turn indicators, and modern gauge cluster finish the entire build beautifully.
Cafe Racer Dreams has a long list of brilliant custom machines built either as custom client builds or as theme bikes. To honor its tenth Anniversary, the CRD128 was themed as a tribute to Bultaco, especially the classic Bultaco Frontera 370 Gold Medal, which was itself a celebration of the golden decade of Spanish “off-roading” in the 1970s.
I love the way the back half of the bike has been stripped, and the fitment of the Supertrapp exhaust is perfect. I cannot stop looking at the rear suspension, driveshaft, and number plate; it just has a modern retro feel that was very well executed.
There is no shortage of nice Harley Davidson V-Rod builds out there, but this machine fully turned my head. Devin Diego does a brilliant job of getting a low, wide, and oh-so-mean look from the V-Rod. Sure many of the components are similar to other builds, but the complete execution of DD Designs’ work puts them in a different category. I am a huge fan of the fat 180mm front tire balancing out the massive rear tire.
From relocated gauges to the headlight nacelle, subtle clean touches are everywhere on this bike. I, for one, really appreciate seeing it in this matte red—it looks very similar to the factory HD Crimson Red Denim. Great build.
The machined hub for the rear wheel and custom spoke lacing. The way the disc brake is designed. I won’t tell you, look until you see it. The amazing springer front fork. The list is endless; this is a bike that you just see more and more the longer you look. My mind is blown by the craftsmanship of Max Hazan.
Hookie Co – Cobra BMW R NineT
German builder Hookie Co has a series of Cobra bikes built around a BMW R NineT. Limiting production to just 10 bikes, this one is the Toxic Red. The plan is to make a Moto-kit that customers can order and use to transform their own R NineT into a Cobra. I love this concept, and I love the design they have applied to this R NineT.
I find this an extremely attractive build, and knowing that it is been made into a kit to allow anyone to achieve a similar result is very very cool.
I love the vibe of this Japanese builder. Taking Hondas and turning them into radical urban assault-looking awesomeness.
The Monkey is all about attitude, and now that attitude says “don’t mess with me.”
The stretched rake of the front fork plus the extended swingarm creates a wicked stance for the monkey, and these balanced lines draw your eye. Up the front end from the hub to the top of the bars is just such a great look.
Luuc Muis – Hasty Flaming Buffalo
Basically, everything beyond the engine and axles is bespoke. Personally, the tank, and the tribute it pays to the Indian Singles of the 1910s, is my favorite piece. Or is it the design of the rear shock? No, it might be the way the seat and tank flow together. Whatever; this bike is exceptional, period.
MotoRelic – Yamaha XS650
From his shop tucked away in a quiet part of Northern Virginia, Sean Skinner builds some wondrous creations. Putting together an XS650 to look like an old-school Schwinn (and doing it so cleanly) takes some high-level skill.
Where to begin with all the details? The rear tire makes sense. The oversized rear at 21” just fits so well, and the spokes and drum brake give such an authentic look. The front fork is a work of art, setting off the front wheel (which is, again, just so fitting to the old Schwinn style).
It is easy to focus on how clean the banana seat turned out, but when I noticed the sissy bar shocks are also fitted—well, that just put this whole build over the top for me. Details everywhere. If you are even close to Virginia, consider asking MotoRelic to help with your build.
Purpose Built Moto – The “CBCR”
For me, great builds are clean and showcase something different. This build of a 2009 Triumph is not groundbreaking (it is a hugely popular platform on which to build a sick cafe bike), but the execution and the subtle choices make for a stunning build. Of course, the addition of the sidecar takes things to a whole new place.
What sort of subtle choices do I mean? The 190mm rear tire looks amazing having that extra width out back. How tidy the tail cowl and vertically integrated tail/brake light turned out. When well-executed, these details elevate the whole build.
Starting with a Monster 1100, everything was remade—custom stainless steel frame, CNC machined swingarm, and finally, the body. The whole thing is one piece. The tank, seat, and tail section are a combined unit. Unreal.
Rough Crafts – Igneous Ripper
Rough Crafts is a shop in Taiwan with a solid resume of killer builds. The key to this build was finding the right suspension components to maintain the hooligan nature of the Hypermotard, just at a lower seat height. Turning to Ohlins, the team sourced ready-built top-spec front and rear components that provided the needed drop.
After that, adding multiple carbon fiber parts and the slick exhaust all fit perfectly with the carefully chosen black color scheme. I mean just look at the seat/tail section—who wouldn’t want that on their bike?
Alright, the details—what do I mean about clean, again? At first glance, it’s the stunning body/framework, with lines so straight that rulers are envious. Then there’s the choice of livery. The black and gold are timeless and perfect.
Speaking of timeless, the entire style with the fairing and rear seat cowl is nothing new, but look at how there are no frame tubes exposed under the seat. That subtle trick with the way the saddle is fit is beautiful—and is exactly the sort of detail that makes everything else rise to another level.
UK Harley Davidson dealer Sykes has a one-of-a-kind custom arm called Speed and Custom. This is the team behind many epic builds, and the Sportster I share today is another twist on the Strike True series.
Now, they may have gone to the Roland Sands catalog for a few bits, like the tank, but come on—RSD makes beautiful parts, so this is a win from me. The rear seat section is completely reworked, and the kicked-up fender flows with the knobby treads. Finally, the hand-made exhaust sets everything up to be a stunner.
The upper and lower fairing are handmade and have a beautiful flow about them. Finally, I love seeing the leatherwork, and the leather knee pads get me every time.
Wimoto – Honda CBX
I have seen many single-sided swingarms fitted to bikes, but this single-sided front suspension setup is so extra. Cannondale did this on mountain bikes, but Wimoto has gone wild here and I can’t stop staring at it.
The CBX engine is a jewel in its own right, and the crew detailed the build of this one perfectly.
For all you purists out there, this CBX had been modified in the past, so no Honda Classics were harmed in the making of this beauty. The only thing harmed has been my brain trying to absorb all the engineering that has gone into this chassis and suspension. Wimoto, I am in awe. Well done.
Zillers – BMW R NineT
The team at Zillers had an aviation theme in mind for the build of this BMW R NineT. I would say they nailed it. Part turbine, part magical mystery machine, there is little doubt that this is one incredible build.
The entire body kit of the motorcycle is made of aluminum. The front part around the headlight and behind the front wheel is 3D printed.
The front headlight is made specifically for the entire design and has a Central lens with an angel eye around it.
I could go on and on regarding the bodywork, but the pictures say it better than I ever could. In awe at the way the engine so neatly is cut through the fairing. Amazing machine.
here you go—some of my favorite builds from the last little while. 17 is a lot, I know, but once I started, I began to remember more and more bikes that I thought were amazing.
Now, I am fully aware that opinions are like, well, you know, and we all have one and it stinks, so let me know what you think. Do you like some of my choices? Hate some of my choices? Either way, feel free to comment. I just hope that I can get to see some great builds live—preferably really soon.