Classic BMW boxers are still über-popular as custom donors—but there’s a downside. As we’ve seen with the Honda CB750 and the Harley-Davidson Sportster, airhead Beemer builds are all starting to look the same.
So what does it take to build something fresh—without going overboard? You need a client and a builder who are both tired of the me-too BMWs flooding the market, and have a taste for classic beauty. Then you have a winner, like this elegant R60/7 from Vintage Addiction Crew.
This dapper 1978 airhead belongs to a gentleman who collects vintage BMWs, but wanted something ‘alternative’ in his garage. And the Spanish workshop was happy to oblige.
The Vintage Addiction Crew name is a bit of a misnomer. It’s just one man, Carlos, a talented car mechanic who has turned his hand to bikes. Based in the coastal Catalan town of Arenys de Mar, near Barcelona, Carlos left fulltime employment a couple of years ago to open the VAC shop full-time. Or, as he puts it: “to dedicate myself to my passion and what makes me happy.”
Carlos had a clear vision in mind for the slash-7: a classic look, with a single seat and modern electronics. “After seeing many designs,” he says, “we did not want to do the typical ‘mono-square’ BMW look that’s been all over Europe lately. There’s been a fever, or a plague, of this look.”
“This R60/7 does not have big modifications, or a big engine with many horses, or big brakes. It does not need to boast: it is a simple and clean motorcycle, with all its original components, that works perfectly for a nice Sunday ride.”
The donor bike was in pretty good nick, having been well maintained its entire life. Still, Carlos cracked open the motor and refurbished it with new seals, piston rings and bearings.
The valves were lapped too, and new valve seats installed. And the transmission and carbs were overhauled, bringing the whole setup up to standard.
Carlos started from scratch with the electrics though. Everything now runs off a Motogadget control unit, allowing for a mega-clean wiring loom and increasing reliability exponentially.
He also installed a speedo and switches from Motogadget, with all the switchgear wiring routed to inside the handlebars. The battery’s been swapped for a smaller Lithium-ion unit, tucked away in a hand-made box below the swing arm pivot.
The speedo mount is especially interesting—it’s been welded to the front of the fuel tank, rather than bolted in. As for the tank itself, it’s a 8.5 liter (2.2 gallon) aftermarket item designed for Harleys, which Carlos adapted to fit the BMW.
“The tank gives an ‘air’ to this classic custom motorcycle,” he says. “Very disruptive and elegant at the same time.”
Just behind the tank is a gorgeous custom-made seat, upholstered in a dimpled fabric matched to the grips. The subframe underneath has been modified, but not with the usual cut-n-loop design that we’re used to seeing. There’s a new rear fender too, tucked in close to the frame.
The boxer’s stance has been tweaked substantially: Carlos has installed a 21” wheel up front, and an 18” out back, lacing new rims to the stock hubs.
He left the brakes mostly original, just upgrading the front with a classic Brembo caliper from a Ducati Desmo 500. The front forks are stock, but refurbished and shortened. A set of Showa shocks from a Yamaha XJ650 prop up the rear, adjustable for preload and rebound.
The rest of the trimmings are as tasteful as they come. There’s the small chromed headlight, the laid-back bars, and small details like the color-coded spark plug leads. For the exhaust, Carlos added stainless steel pipes to the stock headers, with hidden baffles inside.
For the color, he picked a classic blue hue from the 50s—common on old Fords or Volkswagens. A set of gloves in a leather glove latch offer up a final touch, courtesy of Carlos’ friend Jose, at Indomable.
Look even closer, and you’ll also spot the neat little ‘VA’ logos on the engine badges.
Carlos’ R60/7 is a welcome break from the onslaught of copycat Beemers—and a bike we’d pick ourselves for lazy Sunday cruises. Bravo, Vintage Addiction Crew!
We’ve waited so long, and it’s finally here. It was over three years ago, in November 2014, when Husqvarna revealed the Vitpilen 401 concept at the huge EICMA show in Italy. It marked Husqvarna’s return to the street motorcycle segment, and the attention it received was massive.
The angular, fresh design helped: for many, it was a welcome respite from the endless focus on the retro scene. Then a year later, the bigger 701 concept was unveiled: another clean and modern design, built around the 690 Duke engine from sister company KTM.
Fortunately, the production Vitpilen 701 is very close to the concept, and the design is stunning in the metal. The tank is a piece of modern art, and so is the tail unit. It’s all very clean and sleek—very Swedish, pure and simple.
This is the DNA of the bike, and its vision too. It was not developed for a specific target group, and there is no stereotype that matches its philosophy. The Vitpilen 701 defines its own segment.
After three interminable years from concept to production, the Vitpilen 701 is now available at dealerships in many countries—along with its smaller siblings, the Vitpilen and Svartpilen 401s.
We’ve just ridden the 701 in Barcelona, Spain, and one thing became immediately clear: the riding performance is on the same level as the design. The new Husqvarna is a serious and ‘grown up’ motorcycle, and not just a style item.
It’s tempting to underestimate single cylinder bikes, but one shouldn’t. Especially not when the engine is the most powerful street single you can get nowadays. It’s derived from the KTM Duke 690 and delivers 75 hp at 8,500 rpm from 693 cc. It’s also worth noting the Vitpilen’s wet weight of only 166 kilograms, which is easy meat for this engine.
Given those figures and the KTM connection, it’s not surprising that the Vitpilen is fast and very agile. If you are pressing on hard, you’ll need the assistance of the traction control at the exit of the corner because your front wheel might pop up.
From 3,000 rpm onward, the bike answers ride-by-wire throttle inputs with a strong punch—thanks to the ample 72 Nm of torque at 6,750 rpm. Happy feelings guaranteed.
It’s a good setup and it’ll put a bright smile on your face. In Swedish Vitpilen means “white arrow” and the moniker fits well.
The acceleration is linear—and smoothed out by the twin-spark ignition and a second counter balancer shaft. Having said that, it is a little twitchy under 3,000 rpm. But remember this is a single, so you still want some good vibrations.
The urban playgrounds of Barcelona and the Catalonian backcountry are a good area to test performance, in both city traffic and on twisty roads. The chassis is quite firm, but it’s a dynamic and precise riding experience.
It’s super easy to bank the bike quickly from one side to the other, from curve to curve. The 43mm USD forks and monoshock—both from sister company WP Performance Systems—deliver exact feedback. You know exactly what’s going on, but the setup is also stable at speeds of up 160 kph (100 mph) on the highway.
Compression and rebound can be adjusted easily using the clickers on the top of the fork tubes, so you can adjust the suspension for more comfort in the city or a tauter ride on the back roads.
The mild angle of the clip-on bars offer an engaging riding position which suits the sporty character of the bike, improving the handling and agility—but they also make it a little tiring during longer rides.
On the technical front, the Vitpilen 701 comes with a quick shifter and auto-blipper, so you can easily shift through the 6-speed ‘box without using the clutch. It works well, especially at higher RPMs. There’s also an APTC™ slipper clutch, which stops rear wheel hop when braking hard into a turn during fast downshifting.
The Brembo brakes are up to the job, although there is only one floating 320mm disk with four-piston calipers in the front and a 240 mm rotor at the rear. We wouldn’t describe the braking as super-sharp, but it’s predictable. Advanced riders can switch off the Bosch ABS if they wish.
For a single, the sound through the standard exhaust system is pretty good, especially if you’re accelerating at full throttle. If it’s not loud enough for you, you can improve it with a stunning titanium/carbon muffler from Akrapovič—which adds to the looks of the bike and doesn’t require a remap.
The seating position is comfortable and feels ‘just right’—even though it’s higher than you’d expect at 830mm. Everything else is where it needs to be, and gives you a good feeling of control.
The headlight is well made and looks very sharp, but the dashboard could have been finished a little better. It’s also not always easy to read the key information fast.
Riding with a passenger shouldn’t be a problem, at least not for short distances. The fuel tank holds 12 liters (3.2 gallons) of petrol, and consumption lies somewhere between four and five liters per 100 kilometers.
Depending on your riding style, the effective range should be around 250 to 300 km (150 to 190 miles).
To sum up: the Vitpilen 701 is a fun and easy bike to ride. It’s not cheap, but it’s not expensive either. For US$11,999 (or £8,899 or €10,195) you can get one of the most desirable and stylish motorcycles on the market.
It’s a progressive design that fits the modern zeitgeist, with state-of-the-art componentry and engineering—and a dynamic riding experience. Well done Husqvarna. Your white arrow has hit the bullseye.
Curiosity is a powerful motivator. When Jack Watkins first spotted Stellan Egeland’s BMW Harrier, he was curious about how the suspension worked—and that curiosity wouldn’t let up. Fast forward nine years, and we have this incredible contraption built around the powertrain of a BMW R1150 RT.
The pseudonymous ‘Jack’ holds a PhD in mechanical design, and works for an industrial firm in Gdańsk, Poland, where he heads up a design office of some thirty engineers. Plus he’s a lecturer and researcher at the Gdańsk University of Technology. So if anyone’s qualified to scratch that sort of itch, it’s him.
It started with Jack figuring out and reconstructing the Harrier’s front suspension design digitally. The design was then shelved for a while, before being resurrected, reworked, and fleshed out into a full motorcycle. Another four years later, and the Watkins M001 was finally complete.
It could have been done quicker—but Jack has work and a family to juggle. So the project was relegated to evenings only. He doesn’t have the experience (or workshop) to build such a machine, either. So he turned to Mateusz Kozlowski at Moto Spec in Gdańsk for help.
The bike’s individual parts came from the network of suppliers and craftsmen that Jack had built up at his day job. But all the assembly and mechanical work was done by the pair at Moto Spec, guided by Mateusz’s knowledge.
As you can see, the work was extensive. Beyond the power plant and some of the running gear, the Watkins M001 is almost entirely custom-made—like some oversized, mind-bending LEGO Technic set.
At its heart is a 2002 BMW R 1150 RT motor, transmission and final drive. It’s easy to assume Jack sourced an 1150 and stripped it, but in fact he only bought what he needed. “I went to the guy, rode the bike, and just after that we disassembled it,” he tells us. “After a few hours, I had the engine in my trunk.”
The rear shock’s from the 1150 too, but the rear wheel is a BMW GS unit. Up front is a Yamaha XJ6 wheel with a milled hub, hooked up to Jack’s one-off hub-steered front suspension system.
Jack shared several CAD drawings and exploded diagrams of the setup, and we had to lie down afterwards. There are roughly a hundred components in play—including eight roller bearings and ten sliding bearings.
But Jack’s biggest challenges lay elsewhere: the space he had to work with, and the choice of the XJ6 front wheel, which wasn’t an easy fit.
“Despite all the technical problems related to the functional aspects, I wanted to keep it in a different form,” he says. Nevertheless, he checked every last bit by running every simulated test under the sun.
The shocks are from Moto Guzzi V750. “I made an analysis which proved those particular ones would be OK,” says Jack. “I found them at a good price on the internet, as well. That matters when you’re building for yourself after hours!”
The M001’s main body is essentially two sheets of laser-cut steel, bent in six places—with a few hidden pieces to stabilize the structure. It was impossible to weld up without a jig, so Jack had to design and manufacture that too.
The other trick was to get the mounting points to line up with those on the engine, so there was significant 3D scanning involved.
Hiding under the panels is a small framework that holds the electrical components. Up top, Jack designed three aluminum panels for the seat, sending them to a local craftsman for upholstery.
Everything was designed to tuck together as tightly as possible, to leave space for a generous fuel tank. In the end, Jack managed to squeeze in a 16-liter (4.2 gallon) reservoir—but volume was only half the battle.
“I had to figure out how to carry load from the rear shock through the tank,” he explains. “So inside the tank there is a spatial structure guiding the load to fixing points.”
The fuel pump is mounted in there too, and the filler cap sits just in front of the seat. The rear end is finished off with a unique polycarbonate finned structure, which hides the tank and also provides a mounting system for the taillight and license plate.
Jack says he used steel for the body to save cost, but will use aluminum next time around. “I was not sure if I could fit it all together the first time,” he says. “I was prepared for big mistakes, but it wasn’t that bad after all. Just a few single components had to be scrapped.”
He did use high-strength 7075 aluminum for the M001’s moving parts though, citing safety as a factor overriding cost. And he’s used the same alloy on some less important parts too, for a consistent effect after anodizing. All the components were either CNC machined, or laser cut, milled and bent.
Even the exhaust is excessively complex, and we love it. It’s built from stainless steel, ending in a box that has two layers and eighty-four screws. “It took me almost five hours to assemble it,” says Jack. “The noise is, I would say, unique.”
In contrast, the cockpit’s been kept pretty simple: standard switches of unknown origin, bar-end turn signals and mirrors, and a KOSO speedo. “There is so much happening on the bike that I decided not to go crazy with those details,” he explains. “They simply do not exist when you see the machine.”
The amount of work it took to create the Watkins M001 is as astounding as the bike itself. “The project is complex. The forces are analyzed, the kinematics checked, the material confirmed, the load calculated, drawings prepared, components ordered, online shopping done, the screws are counted… there is every aspect of industrial project inside.”
Jack’s also documented every last detail, which means that if he wants to, he can put together a comprehensive service manual for the M001.
A sinister Yamaha XJR1300, a smokin’ hot RD350, a Honda CX500 with R6 suspension, and an 80s-style Hayabusa rocketship. It’s all about the grunt this week.
Yamaha RD350 by Jake Drummond Working from drawings that he’d penned about a year earlier, 24-year-old Jake Drummond wanted a custom that dipped toes in both the board tracker and mountain bike ponds. After two years of labor and learning on the fly, he’s done more than succeed with his Yamaha RD350.
Jake didn’t even know how to weld properly when things got underway, so instead of blasting towards a finish line, he took his time. Barely anything, aside from the engine cradle has been left stock. The subframe is an all-new unit, designed to work with the modified swingarm that holds the 21-inch rear hoop and provide a mount for the twin inboard shocks. The steering head has been completely re-worked, and the lines on that custom tank earn Jake near-Golden Arm status.
Up front a shortened YZ250F front end has been fitted, and the front cowl was designed to mirror the look of the two-stroke’s cooling fins. The seat is Jake’s first upholstery attempt, and he even fabricated the aluminum silencers. The package is unique and stunning, and given his age, we’re sure even better things are on the horizon. [More]
Yamaha XJR1300 by deBolex Engineering Last year I found myself on a ferry ride to the Isle of Man to take in the action of racing’s most amazing spectacle. And thanks to a friend, there was a Yamaha XJR1300 in the belly of that boat for me to flog around Snaefell during my stay. But as thankful as I am, my loaner sure as hell didn’t look anything like this stunner from deBolex Engineering.
This bike belongs to Gareth Roberts, the man behind the eagerly awaited upcoming moto documentary Oil in the Blood. And while the job started out as a mild refresh, it didn’t take long until a full redux was underway.
To dull the shine on the Yammie’s frame, everything was stripped out so that a matte finish could be applied. Then deBolex’s Des and Calum figured they’d Cerakote just about everything they could.
Blacked out and sinister, attention was now turned to the custom tail. The seat is a single piece of kit that sits on a new subframe structure. And you’ll notice the pillion can be padded or cowled, depending on which piece slides onto the metal racking.
On the performance end of things, the Marzocchi forks have been lifted from a MV Agusta Brutale and Öhlins Blackline shocks are mounted in the rear. An Akrapovič exhaust has been fitted up to custom headers, and the big inline-four breathes through a less restrictive set of K&N cones. [More]
Honda CX500 by Redwood Cycles Putting together your first custom build can be a tricky affair: just ask Chris Kent. Thanks to an ‘off’ and some disastrous electrical gremlins, he and the team at Redwood Cycles had to do everything twice. Persistence paid off though, because Obersten Regal (‘Top Shelf’) is one of the sweetest CX500 builds we’ve ever seen.
The transverse twin engine has had a complete rebuild—along with an overbore, and the accompanying new, right-sized internals. Mikuni carbs now feed the beast, breathing through a bronzed set of velocity stacks with integrated screening. The exhaust is a bespoke, slinking underbelly unit that exits through a set of 12-inch cones.
An R6 surrendered its front end in the name of handling and a Penske shock controls the rear. The Warp 9 wheels came hubbed courtesy of Cognito Moto and are flanked up front by a Gixxer’s petal rotors.
The rear subframe is long gone and in its place sits a flat tracker perch. A set of street tracker bars delivers control, and Motogadget were enlisted to tackle the electrics. Underground Art Studio shot the paint on this build and, set against the bronze and red accents, it looks absolutely killer. [More]
Moto Guzzi V7 by Lucky Custom When a brand spanking new V7 Stone landed on the bench at Argentina’s Lucky Custom garage, they knew a transformation from tourer to racer wouldn’t be easy. And yet they’ve pulled it off and delivered one hell of a looker.
The biggest changes to this ‘modern classic’ Guzzi V7 are the suspenders. For a firmer ride and more confidence through the sweepers, the forks are now fully adjustable units—and the monoshock setup out back is a completely new design. Of course, having that shock run right through the V7’s old airbox and battery tray meant relocating just about everything the Guzzi engineers tried to hide, as well as crafting a new subframe to support a rider.
With the stance sorted, the next change was made at the wheels. The hubs at both ends were reworked to accommodate a new lacing pattern and some fatter Bridgestones were spooned on.
The tank received some cosmetic tweaks to mimic the new front fairing, and the tail unit is a stunning slender hump that’s only bested by the new exhaust. And the good news is that Lucky Custom will be selling a limited run of these beasts. [More]
Suzuki Hayabusa by Frank Dirla It’s hard to believe we’ve been tolerating ‘Busa bros and their LED-lit, stretched-swingarm customs for two decades—but lo and behold, the Hayabusa is turning twenty. And while the peregrine falcon-inspired plastics never rocked my world, this retro-tastic reimagining has me feelin’ a touch squidly.
Modeled after a 1989 GSX-R1100, this restomod is a tight and tidy representation of what could have (nay, should have) been. Instead of bulbous bodywork, Frank Dirla worked some magic to deliver slab-sided, late eighties elegance to his once busted ‘Busa.
Starting with a stripped and beaten 2000 GSX1300R, Frank put the 175 hp mill on the bench for a rebuild, after a timing problem caused the engine to eat itself a few years back. Once it was running smooth and strong, he let his experience as a tuner on air-cooled first generation Gixxers take over.
On the chassis side, Frank hacked away at the subframe to so he could squeeze on some bodywork from three different eBay sourced Gixxers. The OEM tank underwent some massaging to match aesthetics and to enable fitment of the new/old plastics. As a restomod it totally rocks and I’m a fan of Frank’s sense of humour, too. It can be appreciated with his German phrasing throughout with the “Bremse” brakes, “Ohldrin” (oil in it) forks and Suzuki Advanced Comical System stickers. [More]
Work on motorcycles long enough, and you’ll amass two things: a pile of leftover parts, and the wisdom to know which of those parts go best together. Hayden Roberts has hit that level, and this candy-coated vintage Triumph dirt tracker is the result.
Hayden restores and repairs vintage British machines under the moniker ‘Hello Engine.’ Originally from Birmingham, England, he escaped to the Californian coast in the early 2000s; “about 40 years too late,” he says.
“I quit my real job to start rescuing old British bikes a fair few years ago and currently work out of Ventura County, CA. I put this bike together an hour at a time between customer jobs over the past three months.”
So what is it, exactly? “The goal was to make a mid-60s TT bike,” Hayden explains, “something you’d see racing at Ascot. But with the late 750 five-speed, which was the best motor Triumph made.”
Hayden started with a 1965 Triumph competition frame, “because the head angle was steeper than the later bikes, and it had the best geometry for that kind of racing.”
As for the motor, he specifically wanted the torquey parallel port 750cc Bonneville power plant from the late 70s. “I stumbled across one of these motors on Craigslist,” he says, “while getting a sandwich in a town a couple hours north of us.”
The 750 came with a left side shifter, since Triumph switched their well-known right side shifter over to the left in 1975. “But all proper bikes shift on the right,” says Hayden.
“So, with a little machining and intermingling of earlier parts, I put the shifter back where belongs.”
He also lightened and balanced the crank, switched out the factory cams for a set of TT ones, and threw in a couple of higher compression pistons. Other upgrades include a battery-less CDI ignition and a set of Amal Mk2 carbs.
The exhaust ports have also been modified: they now accept clamp-on pipes, rather than the traditional push-in types that can come loose.
The actual exhaust system is a pair of TT pipes that Hayden had lying around the workshop. “Over the years I’d stockpiled a fair amount of spares and castaways. As any shop would tell you, old chrome piles high and is pretty much useless in any restoration project. So I used as much as I could in this build.”
Other salvaged parts include the 1966-model slimline gas tank, the oil tank, a set of folding competition pegs and a late 60s rear drum brake. The oil tank’s been modded with an outside filler, and the pegs fitted with replacement Bates rubbers.
The rims are shouldered Akronts from the 70s, laced up with stainless spokes from Buchanan’s. The front drum brake hub is from a 500, which Hayden points out is a fair bit lighter than the 650 unit. “Both drums have been turned and the shoes matched, so they actually stop,” he says.
The front’s held up by a set of Ceriani forks, re-valved and sprung to match the bike’s weight. A new set of NJB shocks do duty at the rear, with an authentically basic aluminum fender capping things off.
Up top are wide N.O.S. handlebars, a Tommaselli Daytona throttle, and new grips. A pair of Tommaselli headlight ears have been repurposed to hold a number board, rather than a headlight. The only lighting anywhere on the bike is a small Harley marker light, mounted on the left for use as a tail light.
“No turn signals are needed on pre-73 bikes in California,” explains Hayden. “Headlight? I’ve never found a headlight I like the look of on a street tracker so I don’t use one. Just don’t ride at night, I guess. It’s got a historical license plate so the law is a little open to interpretation.”
That Bates-style seat looks like another refurbished part, but it’s not. It mimics the Bates competition seats of the 60s, but it’s been designed to match the frame’s lines better, and is better padded than the original. Hayden uses the same seat on all his desert sled builds, using seat pans made for him by Evan at Iron Cobras.
The glitter vinyl it’s wrapped in probably won’t suit everyone’s tastes…but this is Hayden’s bike. “I’m just a fan of bright bikes,” he says, “and this was a good excuse to throw a bunch of metallic paint at something. From the 1970s Rolls Royce palette: peacock blue frame and regency bronze tank.”
We happen to like the combination—but even if you don’t, this is one sorted vintage racer. On top of the serious diet it’s been through, Hayden reckons it’s punching out about 20 percent more horsepower.
And almost all the work you see here was done in-house, including the motor rebuild, head work, wheel builds and paint. Even the heads on all the stainless steel fasteners have been turned down on a lathe to remove their manufacturer markings. “The only thing we didn’t do was polish the aluminum and paint the stripes on the top of the gas tank,” says Hayden.
You could technically call Hayden’s new sled a bitsa, but that’d be unfair. It’s a combination of Triumph’s greatest hits; a shimmering delight that makes us wish we were in California right now.
We never need any excuse to write about Union Motorcycle Classics. Builders Mike Watanabe and Luke Ransom create beautiful machines in their old barn in Idaho, and several have graced these pages.
But there’s an especially good reason to feature this beautiful Ducati Scrambler 250. It’s a personal project of Mike’s, and he’s donated the bike to a charity that helps young people in northern Thailand and Cambodia. The Ducati will be raffled off to raise funds for food, housing, and education.
“The Ducati a 1966 5-speed Scrambler,” says Mike. “I took it in as a trade, in return for a set of bodywork for a customer’s 350 Monza. It came to me as a basket case.”
The 250/350 series bikes were the forerunners of today’s Scrambler Ducati offerings—and were equally excellent bikes in their day. In 250 form, the air-cooled ‘narrow case’ single only pumped out 18 horses—but they were lively Italian horses, because the bike weighed well under 300 pounds.
The original Scrambler 250 followed the archetypal 1960s scrambler look, but UMC have transformed this one into a lightweight café racer.
Luke kicked off the project by completely vapor blasting and rebuilding the motor with new bearings and seals. “I really like these scrambler motors for cafe racers,” Mike notes. “You can get Diana-type performance out of them.”
The refreshed motor now breathes more easily through a custom intake, and there’s a full custom exhaust system too—with slightly larger pipework and a seamlessly blended in reverse cone muffler.
Mike handled the chassis frame and bracket fabrication, and modified the back of the frame to suit the classic café seat and hump. (It’s interesting to note that the Scrambler’s original frame design was based on an experimental dirt tracker built by Ducati’s US importers, the Berliner Motor Corporation.)
UMC are known for their exquisite vintage bodywork, and the fairing and tank on this Ducati are judged to perfection.
“I had Glass From The Past pull the bodywork out of some molds we used a couple of years ago on a gold Monza,” says Mike—who helped GFTP founder Bret Edwards set up the now-legendary fiberglass specialist twenty years ago.
The fenders are one-offs though, which Mike shaped by hand. “I’ve never been 100% happy with what is available,” he says. “You can now buy these from GFTP.”
The strawberries-and-cream paint was applied by Jon Hart of Hoffman Auto Body in Boise, Idaho, just 20 miles away from UMC’s base. New vintage-style aluminum rims plus Heidenau tires with a classic tread pattern complete the look.
There’s a bit of fabrication too: the rear sets were built from scratch, with Mike getting them cast, machined and heat treated from plugs he made. There’s a handy new center stand as well, but the top clamp caused a bit of a headache.
“I couldn’t afford to use a Ducati road race top clamp on a benefit bike,” says Mike. “So I decided to go with an aluminum plate to run the instrument on. It had to be way, way out there for correct cable routing—and I actually like how weird it looks!”
All the cables are brand new, and Luke installed a new electronic ignition and built a new wiring harness. “I have to thank Luke for putting so much time and effort into helping me with this personal project.”
It’s an amazing machine that would command a good price on the open market, so why is Mike literally giving it away?
“I’ve had incredible experiences working in children’s homes in northern Thailand,” he says. “I’ve been there 20 times over the last 12 years, and I wanted to ‘give back’ somehow.”
The Ducati is now the prize in a sweepstake run by Reacts, “a bunch of young guys based in San Fran trying to make a difference. Human trafficking is still a big, big problem in that part of the world and Reacts is helping fight it.”
It costs just $25 to get a ticket in the sweepstakes, and even if you don’t win the bike, the money will go to a fine cause. Top marks to Mike and Luke for giving up their time—and here’s hoping the Ducati goes to someone who will appreciate their superb skills.
When it comes to iconic 1970s middleweights, the Honda CB750 steals all the limelight. But Kawasaki’s KZ650 was also hugely popular—and easily capable of keeping up with contemporary 750s.
“Right out of the crate, it will out-perform any 750 in the world,” said Kawasaki’s advertising at the time, and the claim had merit. The little brother of the Z1 was fast and nimble, and was less than a second behind big brother on the quarter mile.
It’s not hard to find a used KZ650 these days (or Z650, as it was known outside the USA), and Swedish builder Fredrik Pål Persson is a fan. Fredrik ditched a promising career as a chef to set up PAAL Motorcycles in the city of Malmö, and with three guys helping him, he’s cooked up 19 very tasty customs so far.
“We built this project for a client,” says Fredrik. “He requested complex shapes and straight lines. So we had to think hard when we designed it, but that’s also why the bike turned out so well.”
“When you look at it from the side, the lines are totally straight. But if you take a walk around, you’ll soon see that all the lines are actually curved.”
The base material was not promising. The KZ650 had been gathering dust and rust in a barn for 20 years, and it was in desperate need of restoration. “There were mice living in the battery holder!” Fredrik recalls.
The rodents and cobwebs were quickly banished, and the KZ was broken down into parts scattered around the workshop.
A full engine rebuild was in order, but not just to factory spec: the PAAL crew fitted high compression pistons, new valves and springs, and honed the bores.
The whole shebang was then sandblasted and painted before being reassembled with new bearings, gaskets and seals. It’ll be good for a few thousand miles more now, and a few more horsepower than the 60-something usually claimed for the inline four in stock form.
The four carbs have also been stripped and rebuilt, and fitted with handmade velocity stacks crafted from aluminum and brass. The stubby exhaust system has been fabricated in-house too, and you only have to look at it to know that it’ll be loud.
The frame was cleaned up and powder coated to match the immaculate power unit, and the rear end is completely new.
The true masterpiece is the bodywork though, with a heavily scalloped handmade tank—with inserts to match the pleating on the leather seat—and a matching tail unit, all finished in a deep, lustrous red.
It’s impossible to list every modification or area of work on this machine; literally every standard part has been rebuilt to as-new spec, from the front suspension to the brake system and the heavy-duty drive chain and sprockets.
Even the rims have been powder coated and fitted with new stainless spokes, for that better-than-factory look.
Since the bike had been languishing in a barn for decades, Fredrik wisely decided to strip out the entire electrical system and start again from scratch.
It’s all built around Motogadget electronics—including the speedo and turn signals—and hooked up to a compact lithium ion battery. LEDs provide illumination at the back, for both the taillight and license plate, but there’s a classic headlamp bowl with a conventional bulb up front.
Kustom Tech provided the clip ons, which are adorned with modern switchgear and custom leather grips. And the rider’s feet are equally well looked-after, with a classy pair of Tarozzi rear sets attached via custom made brackets.
It’s a traditional approach to custom building, but it nails the classic cafe vibe perfectly. Tastier than a warm glass of Glögg on cold winter night, we reckon.
Scramblers are a hot topic. Build one, and you’re sure to be judged solely by how well equipped it is for hardcore off-piste use.
But that’s not all that scramblers are about. Daniel Peter compares his latest build to his childhood BMX—and it’s pretty much how we feel about modern-day scramblers too.
“When I was four years old, my BMX bike became my life,” he explains. “It was so simple, yet so fun. Just wheels, pedals and brakes. I’d ride it to the beach, jump a few curbs along the way, race my friends. Those were the good days.”
“30 years later, I set out to build a motorcycle based on the same principles. There’s nothing on this bike that doesn’t need to be there. It has wheels, a punchy engine and great brakes. I didn’t even put a speedo on it, because I never looked at the one on my last bike.”
Daniel works as a photographer in Chicago, but wrenches during the winter to keep his passion for riding alive. He keeps a workshop in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, outfitted with a tool cabinet, a welder, and a 1940s South Bend lathe.
This 1978-model Yamaha SR500 is the fourth Yamaha 500 he’s built to date. “It’s the most simple, yet the most thorough, of the bunch,” he says.
“Having road raced an SR500 for a few seasons, I learned how to make these light and fast. This bike is very nimble, sounds amazing, and absolutely rips while still being a practical daily rider. It will get you to your favorite taco joint before you can say carnitas.”
Daniel puts the SR’s weight at 282 lbs wet—considerably less than the stocker’s claimed dry weight of 348 lbs. But it’s also packing a lot more punch than it did in ’78.
The motor’s been bumped to 540 cc, with a grocery list of go-fast bits that includes a lighter XT500 crank, a new piston from JE and a Megacycle cam for better torque down low.
R&D valve springs with titanium caps, a Powerdynamo ignition and a high-flow oil pump from Kedo round out the package.
Hoos Racing refreshed the crank and cut new valve seats for Daniel, but he tackled the rest of the rebuild himself. Every single bearing and seal was replaced along the way too. As for the carb, it’s been swapped out for a 39 mm Keihin FCR flatslide number, fed by a fat K&N filter.
The exhaust system is a combination of a custom made stainless steel header, and a Cone Engineering muffler.
The performance upgrades extend beyond just the power plant. The forks look stock at a glance, but they’re actually fully adjustable 41 mm units from a 95 Kawasaki ZX6R. They’ve been lowered slightly, and re-sprung to match the bike.
A set of 13.75” adjustable Gazi shocks keep the rear in check, attached to a beautiful aluminum swing arm from MotoLanna.
The SR rolls on 17” supermoto wheels, borrowed from a KTM (front) and a Honda CRF450 (rear). They’re wrapped in Pirelli MT60 Corsa tread; a 120 up front, and a chunky 160 on the 5” rear rim. (“It juuust fits,” says Daniel.)
The brakes have been upgraded with a mix of Brembo and Beringer parts, with an RCS 14 radial master cylinder up front.
On top is an aluminum Yamaha XT500 fuel tank, wrapped in a paint scheme “inspired by an unforgettable riding trip through Baja.” Just behind it is a new saddle from MotoLanna, with a new kicked-up subframe loop.
Moving to the cockpit, Daniel installed LSL bars, Driven SBK grips, and a ProTaper Profile Pro clutch lever (with an integrated decomp lever). The switches are basic: a kill switch from Ride Engineering, and a billet light switch.
There’s an LED headlight out front, and a custom LED taillight, made to Daniel’s design, out back. And true to his word, he hasn’t added a speedo—or turn signals.
What he has added, is a bunch of smaller upgrades that score high on aesthetics and practicality. The SR has fenders at both ends, along with a inner splash guard to keep rear wheel much at bay. Serrated pegs and a bash plate add to the SR500’s overall dirtworthiness.
There’s also a neat cutaway sprocket cover, and a Toxic Moto chain blocker to keep the chain from biting the tire. Every part’s been given equal consideration—from the neatly cut exhaust hanger, to the discreet electronics tray under the seat.
It’s just about spring in Chicago, so Daniel must be itching to rack up the miles on his SR500. And we’re betting it’s going to be impossible to get him off it.
A Ducati 848 with a streetfighter vibe, a KTM 640 rebuilt in the tracker style, an e-bike homage to a surfing legend, and a pair of lunatic snow bikes. Variety is the spice of life, eh?
Yamaha WR450F 2-Trac by Deus If a privateer’s former Dakar racer found its way into your garage, would you leave it be? Or break out the spanners? How about if said moto was a rare Yamaha WR450F 2-Trac? Well, at Deus Milan they got out the spanners and grinders and started beating on sheets of aluminum.
With the Yammie stripped down to its barest essentials, the Deus team set about creating a brand new look for the formidable off-roader.
New plastics were formed using ballistic-grade polymers for the mudguards at both ends. The rims were anodized in gold, matching the signature shade of the hydraulic Öhlins 2WD system, and the chunky rubber has been foam-filled. The engine has been blasted cleaner than the inside of a hand sanitizer bottle, and the suspension has been tweaked at both ends.
But it’s the metalwork that steals the show. The bespoke, hand-beaten aluminum tank looks tough enough for another run at Dakar. And that custom saddle delivers the perfect perch from which to sling mud. If you’re as tweaked as I am on this beast, there’s good news: it’s for sale in Deus’ Milan shop. [More]
Ducati 848 by XTR Pepo If speed, performance and aggression light your wick, this latest creation from Pepo Rosell is absolute fire. Dubbed ‘Doud Maquina’ this Ducati could be the custom that brings the streetfighter movement back to early 2000s levels of cool.
As with most of the builds rolling out of the XTR garage, Pepo has left no nut or bolt unturned. Starting with a complete teardown of the donor Ducati, the engine has had its heads ported, and a new set of machined air intakes were crafted—as well as a custom carbon fiber air box. The stock ECU has been swapped for a programmable EVT unit, and the 848 now mixes air and fuel via a 1098 throttle body.
As always, there’s a custom Super Mario exhaust system bolted up too. And yes, your eyes aren’t playing any tricks, that is indeed a dry clutch set-up, courtesy of EVR.
With speed sorted, the handling and weight were next to be put in check. A carbon fiber swingarm lightens the load out back, held in place via an Öhlins monoshock. Braking has been upgraded too, with Discacciati rotors flanking the stock 848 mag wheel, and actuated via Fren Tubo Kevlar lines attached to XTR levers. Let the stuntin’ and flossin’ begin. [More]
KTM 640 LC4 by Just Bike With the American flat track season about to start in Daytona, the hunger for slideways action is on the rise. And that excitement isn’t isolated to the ole U.S of A. Case in point: this gorgeous KTM conversion from Just Bike of Marcon, Italy.
Starting with a SuMo in their shop, it was quickly put on a diet. The stock subframe and enduro-vibe plastics hit the skids, and an all-new seat and tail were dreamt up. When the resins cooled, the neatly angled tail you see here was the result. But Sliding Blue isn’t just a track machine.
You’ll no doubt spot the single disc up front and notice that the seat by Cisco Leather of Venice is filled with enough padding to do more than serve as a thigh rest on a 45. The tank is also brand new and bespoke, thanks to some crafty work with stainless steel and a TIG welder.
The number plates were designed to meet the AMA’s spec. But with roadworthy niceties also included—like the LED headlights, front brake, taillight and license plate bracket—they serve only as an aesthetic nod. Regardless, with the punchiness of that LC4 thumper I’d be happy to throw a leg over and give it what for. [More]
Vintage Electric ‘Jeff Clark Signature Cruz’ Are you tired of walking out of your Malibu home, surfboard under arm, waiting to feel the sand grinding between your feet and your Vans? Well sir, you need suffer no longer. Because California-based Vintage Electric Bikes has recently pulled the wraps off the Signature Cruz.
Kidding aside, there’s a delectable modern contemporary vibe to Vintage Electric’s e-bikes, and this one is arguably their coolest. Powered by a 702-Watt hour lithium battery, there’s enough juice to hit 36 mph (58 kph) in ‘race’ mode—or you can cruise from break to break for upwards of 35 miles (56 km).
The 3000W direct drive motor is stationed in the rear hub when you need it, or you can opt for pedaling in a pinch. Shimano hydraulic discs slow things down, and springs under the seat offer ride compliance. Most importantly, charging takes just enough time to squeeze in a sit-down with Point Break.
Designed in collaboration with Jeff Clark, the man who discovered the Mavericks big waves, the Signature Cruz has even more than Vintage Electric’s usual amount of nifty detailing. The ‘tank’ is a laser engraved Maple unit, and Brooks leather is used for the seat, grips and the detachable surfboard rack. At $5,995 for one of the 20 limited edition builds, pricing is far from cheap—but when you consider that a high-end pushbike can run you into the same stratosphere it’s not beyond the pale. [More]
BMW R nineT snow racer by Nagel Motors If you’re still snowed in this winter but hankering for a ride, we have the solution. Or at least Nic Nagel of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria does. Nic needed to get to the top of the local mountains a little quicker than the lifts would move, so his team modded an R nineT and created this ‘Scrambler Husky.’
Just kidding. The project was actually devised to compete in the ‘Harley and Snow’ hill climb event in Tyrol, so Nagel took an R nineT Scrambler and beefed up its off-piste bonafides.
Being a hill climber, the obvious first step was to stretch the wheelbase to keep the boxer planted. The new rear swingarm is, well, totally tubular. The cagey design is also lighter and stronger than a cast unit, and allowed the team to maintain the Beemer’s shaft drive—although that’s been tweaked a bit, too. A gargantuan sand paddler tire, complete with ice spikes, was fitted up after that.
Nic was working in conjunction with Wunderlich, the BMW bolt-on specialist, and many of the components can be sourced from their catalog. But some things can’t be bought off the shelf—like the custom Dr. Jekill & Mr. Hyde exhaust system. Or what appears to be bits from a pair of K2 rollerblades grafted onto the rear subframe.
Jared Smith has a pretty diverse skill set. He has one foot in the digital world as a user experience and software designer, and the other in the analog realm as a custom bike builder. And he does it all under one banner: Blue Jack Studio.
“What gets me up in the morning is designing and creating anything,” he says, “whether physical or digital.” From his converted single garage in Vallejo, California, Jared builds a bike or two a year. This mid-60s Harley-Davidson XLCH Sportster is his fifth build, and it’s a real peach.
Jared first got interested in building motorcycles about six years ago. Since then, he’s collected an array of vintage metalworking tools—and taught himself to use them too.
“I’ve been lucky to meet several very skilled motorcycle builders and fabricators in The Bay Area,” he tells us, “that have been kind enough to help me along the way and teach me what they know.”
“There were many trips over the last few years to Jasin Phares from Phares Cycle Parts (now based out of Kansas) to ask how to get the weld just right, or to shape a piece of sheet metal, or how to hold a complicated part to mill it, or just to borrow a tool I didn’t own yet.”
Jared’s goal with the XLCH was to find a balance—between old parts that would show their age, and handmade touches. “I wanted to build something that still looked (from a distance) like a stock 60s Sportster,” he says, “but on closer inspection, and more importantly when riding, felt a far cry from that.”
“It’s a 1966 XLCH Sportster, which is a favorite platform for me to build around at this point. I just love these simple, battery-less, magneto-fired, right side shift motors so much.”
When Jared got the bike it had been parked for almost twenty years, after an abandoned attempt at customization. Once he’d rebuilt the oil pump and thrown in a set of PB+ cams, the motor was good to go.
The frame needed a little more love. It was covered in Bondo and spray paint, plus it was missing its rear shock mounts and fender strut castings. Jared reckons the previous owner was planning to hardtail it, but that wasn’t the plan here.
With a little luck, he managed to source original mounts and castings. So he blasted the frame back to raw, made a jig to hold everything in place, and welded them in.
The new tank and rear fender are reproduction items, made by V-Twin Manufacturing, and painted by Jay Abate. For the seat, Jared hit up Wes at Counter Balance Cycles, with a dead simple brief. “The only direction I gave him was to make them look like they could be the pilot’s seat in a B2 stealth bomber,” quips Jared. “He killed it with the narrow Bates-style pair.”
The exhaust is custom too; Jared pieced it together using Cone Engineering parts, running it on the left as a nod to the legendary XR750. He then had it finished in black Cerakote, and fabbed up a stainless steel heat shield to cap it off.
This old Sporty’s also loaded with some neat personal touches. That six-bolt bar riser setup is Jared’s own design (he sells both 7/8” and 1” versions of it), and the narrow, high-rise bars are hand made one-offs.
The Harley’s suspension has been upgraded, courtesy of Ikon Suspension. They set Jared up with a set of 3” longer-than-stock rear shocks, and a rebuilt stock front end. Keeping things period correct are a set of OEM 19F/18R high-shoulder rims, wrapped in Firestone ANS rubber.
At the back, Jared built a luggage rack and a small carrier for an extra fuel bottle—both from stainless steel. Other custom bits include the oil bottle and cap, a front brake adjuster on the fork lower, and a small guide for the spark plug leads.
But the most interesting (and outlandish) parts are the new Pyrex pushrod covers. Yes…Pyrex. Jared says they’re a proof of concept, and hopes to reproduce them for modern Sportsters.
“It’s an idea I’ve had for a while, and I finally found a Pyrex manufacturer that could machine the sizes I need. The uppers were custom made here in-house from 4130 Chromoly. All told they took about 30 to 40 hours of design and 20 hours of fabrication to produce on my manual lathe.”
He spent countless hours on planning, checking clearances, testing durability, and just generally making sure they wouldn’t explode the first time he fired the bike up. “So far so good on that,” he says, “and they look epic when the bike is running and you can watch the tappets flying up and down.”
“The pyrex is really tough, with a 0.120″ wall, and has a softening point of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. It would take quite a hit from a rock to do any damage to them.”
Jared’s nicknamed the Sportster ‘Zardoz.’ But it’s way cooler than Sean Connery in a futuristic man-kini. It’s an uncomplicated build with zero pretense, but we do have one gripe: any bike with glass pushrod covers deserves a video of it running!