There aren’t many builders with a strike rate like Pepo Rosell. Since the early days of his Radical Ducati shop, he’s been turning out several sleek, lightweight cafe racers every year.
Pepo is not a Harley specialist, though: his favored platforms are more compact and sporty. But his Dyna from a couple of years ago made waves, and led to the commission of this extremely rapid Sportster.
“The call came in from a foreign client,” Pepo tells us, “after he saw my ‘Gabrielle’ Harley Dyna in Bike EXIF.” (Gabrielle made our 2016 Top Ten).
“This time, the idea was to make a Harley that’s more sporty, and more ‘European.’ With better brakes, less weight, more power and a ‘normal’ riding position.”
Although he’s French by birth, Pepo’s workshop is in Madrid. He sourced a clean Sportster locally—a 1992 five-speed XL883 model—and started work on the suspension.
Rather than tweak the existing forks, Pepo has taken the nuclear option and installed a set of suspenders from a ’92 Suzuki GSX-R750, complete with its double-disc brake setup.
The fresh new rotors are from the Spanish specialist NG, and Pepo has installed a Discacciati radial master cylinder to keep the pressure on—in the best possible way. He’s also modified the hub to make everything fit with an 18-inch front wheel.
The rear brakes have been upgraded to match, with a mix of Brembo and NG parts. The lines are a steel-and-Kevlar braid mix supplied by Fren Tubo.
The reason for all these upgrades? Pepo has woken up the Sportster’s 883 engine and turned it into a powerhouse.
Most Sportster owners will be familiar with 883 to 1200 conversions, which are popular for two reasons: They’re often cheaper than buying a new 1200 model, and you get to keep the 883’s shorter drive ratios—which amplifies the acceleration even more.
For even more punch, Pepo has ported the stock heads, and fitted higher compression pistons. An Andrews cam with more duration and lift boosts power throughout the rev range.
There’s a Mikuni carb (with Pepo’s own air filter design) for super-crisp response—and a fully custom 2-into-1 exhaust system at the other end, built by Pepo’s in-house fabricator ‘Supermario.’ A Domino quick-open throttle ensures no time is lost when the rider twists the throttle.
Power is likely to be comfortably on the right side of 80 horses, and it hits the back wheel via a chain conversion (with a gold Tsubaki chain). The tires are Bridgestone Battlax BT45s, the perfect compound for older sport bikes.
Keeping everything running smoothly is a Screaming Eagle programmable engine control module, with sparks coming from a high-performance coil. There’s new wiring all round, hooked up to a Lithium Polymer battery pack and controlled by Motogadget’s ubiquitous m.unit box.
Pepo is a dab hand with custom metalwork, and he hasn’t held back on this Sportster.
The frame from the engine backwards is new, and it’s more than your standard cut-and-loop job: it’s part of a monoshock conversion, with a custom-built Hagon shock on damping duties.
If the tank looks familiar, that’s because it’s a Yamaha SR500 item modified to fit. (The gas cap and fuel filler assembly are from a Laverda.)
Underneath the custom seat unit are side panels that originally came from a Triumph Legend TT, again modified to fit—and on the right-hand side, concealing a modified Sportster oil tank.
The fenders, footrests and brake lever are all fabricated in-house from aluminum, along with the license plate and headlight brackets. There’s a lamp up front from a Mash 125, a Lucas-style taillight out back, and a custom dashboard housing a Motogadget instrument. Rizoma bars are plugged at each end with natural rubber grips from Gonelli.
The paint is just about the only part of this build that Pepo didn’t handle himself. His client chose a warm grey-blue to match the color of a favorite helmet from Les Ateliers Ruby, and it was applied by the Madrid motorcycle paint specialist Artenruta.
It’s got to be one of the fastest Sportsters we’ve ever featured on these pages, and it should be equally handy in the twisties too. There’s a new Sportster coming soon from the Milwaukee factory, and if Harley are thinking along the same lines as Pepo, they should be on to a winner.
One of our favorite custom shops—Rough Crafts—has just released its first helmet. So we put it through its paces, along with an armored undershirt from Knox, and new boots from Icon 1000. Get the low down before parting with your cash.
Rough Crafts Revolator helmet We’ve been swooning over the bikes that roll out of Winston Yeh’s Rough Crafts shop for years. The Taiwanese whizzkid has now turned his attention to gear, with the ‘Revolator’ helmet. Winston’s been working on the Revolator (yes, that’s how you spell it) for two years now, so I’ve been itching to get my hands on one for quite a while. And I have to say, I’m pretty smitten.
Like most Rough Crafts bikes, the Revolator blends classic and modern touches. The design’s reminiscent of retro MX helmets, but Winston wanted as clean a look as possible—so there are no snaps for attaching a visor. But there is a large, wide eye port—spacious enough for fitting goggles as big as Winston’s favorite pair, the 100% Barstow.
The shell’s made from carbon fiber, with two shell sizes covering five helmet sizes (S to XXL). There’s an EPS lining, with a luxurious looking (and feeling) inner liner that combines an anti-bacterial material with synthetic leather touches.
I thought it was genuine leather at first, but Winston explains that a synthetic fabric handles heat and sweat better. The helmet latches down with a D-ring system, with a small snap for stowing the strap end, and a genuine leather pull-tab on the D-ring. And the whole thing is ECE approved too.
Winston’s a stickler for quality, and the Revolator doesn’t disappoint. Everything’s top-notch, from the paint job on the scalloped design I picked, to the contrast stitching on the liner, and the multiple embossed logos that you discover as you dig deeper.
The carbon fiber ‘air vents’ on the jaw are a killer design touch too, and Winston pointed out that they’re lined with the same air filtering material you find in air masks. Even the included carry bag is a touch fancier than normal.
The only QA issue I could spot was the bronze ‘Rough Crafts’ emblem on the right side, which was peeling up a touch on the front. Winston explains that the curve of the helmet is too extreme for the adhesive used. So he’s shipping the Revolator with a spare emblem in the box, and talking to the factory about pre-curving the logo on future runs.
I’m scoring the Revolator high on comfort too. My head measures 62 cm, which makes me an XL in Rough Crafts sizing. The helmet fits well straight out the box—not quite as snug as some XLs I’ve worn (since the size chart reads 62 cm / 63 cm for XL), but not too loose either. And it’s maintained that fit after a fair bit of use.
Sunglasses and goggles fit without hassles too, but that wide eye port does have a down side; like most retro full face helmets, the Revolator does little to block wind noise, so grab those earplugs. On the up side, the carbon shell makes it the lightest helmet on my rack (Rough Crafts claims roughly 1,100 grams).
The kicker? On price, the Revolator weighs in at $699 for solid colors, and $780 for graphics. That’s similar money to the carbon Bell Bullitt, but without the benefit of a visor. But if you’re willing to spend that, you’re getting a well made, comfy and extremely good-looking lid. [Buy]
Knox Urbane Armor Shirt In a crash, a decent motorcycle jacket protects you from two things: abrasion and impact. The leather jacket you inherited from your granddad might be okay for a little slide time, but it won’t soften the blow if you hit the deck hard. If you must still wear it, you should check out the Knox Urbane Shirt.
The British company Knox is considered an expert in the field of armor, supplying OEM protectors to other brands (such as RSD) while also offering their own line of gear. The Urbane is part of their armored undershirt range; it’s designed to be worn under Knox’s own bike jackets, or with your favorite abrasion-resistant outer layer.
It’s a refreshingly simple—but highly usable—piece of kit. (And at £160.00, it’s pretty affordable too.) Basically it’s a tight-fitting shirt made of a stretchy mesh fabric, with pockets for elbow, shoulder and back protectors. A tough YKK zip seals it up at the front, plus there’s a handy chest pocket, and soft fabric details at the neck and cuffs.
The actual armor is Knox’s proprietary Micro-Lock armor; CE level 1 in the shoulder and elbows, with a generously sized CE level 2 back protector. The shoulders and elbows slip into neoprene pockets, with some extra fabric on the outside for reinforcement, and the back protector slots into a large pocket with a Velcro closure.
The Urbane’s biggest drawcard is, without a doubt, comfort. My dad bod has trouble finding jackets that fit well in the arms, chest and gut, but the stretchiness of the Urbane’s chassis meant that an XL fitted me everywhere, without problems. (Think of it as the Spanx of moto jackets.)
Knox’s Micro-Lock pads are also extremely malleable, adding to the overall flexibility in a big way. The Urbane’s also cut a bit longer in the back for extra coverage, but I’d love to see Knox add some sort of loop for attaching it to your belt, to stop it from riding up. The soft neoprene pockets in the elbows and shoulders are soft against your skin, but since there’s no zip or Velcro to close them, I’ve had to be careful not to accidentally stick my hands in there when I put the shirt on.
Since it’s summer here in Cape Town, I’ve been riding in the Urbane shirt with a mid-weight cotton canvas jacket over it, non-stop. Granted, that cotton outer layer probably won’t wear well in a serious crash, but the peace of mind from the armor (particularly that extensive back protector) is invaluable.
Especially when you consider that the Urbane’s skintight design should prevent the protectors from shifting in a crash. And if you’re the extra cautious type, Knox also sell a chest panel that attaches to a Velcro strip in front.
The only downside is that, while the Urbane shirt’s mesh..
It takes true talent to turn a Honda CX500 into something pretty. And Takashi Nihira of Wedge Motorcycle sure is talented: remember his radical reworking of BMW’s little G 310 R?
Okay, this latest build from Wedge is not technically a CX. It’s based on a 1981 GL400, a downscaled model sold in the Japanese market. But despite the ‘GL’ designation, it’s effectively a smaller capacity CX with a few subtle differences. And the factory bike was just as gawky in the looks department.
The brief came via a new client. He’d spotted a Wedge Honda CB750 custom, and wanted a CB-based cafe racer of his own. But Nihira-san wasn’t up for re-hashing the same formula.
“I’ve experienced building Japanese four-cylinder CBs already,” he says, “so I said that I’d like to try a new challenge, using a new machine. That new idea was the Honda GL. It turned out that the customer knows the European custom scene well, and he’s often seen CX customs there.”
The brief hung on two basic requirements: cafe racer styling, and spoked wheels. “I could not imagine the cafe style when I saw the standard GL the first time,” says Nihira-san. “The GL has a shaft drive and Comstar wheels…”
Finding a way to quickly switch out the wheels proved difficult, so he tackled them one at a time. Up front, he grafted on the forks and hub from a Yamaha SR400, using a modded SR steering stem and an aftermarket aluminum top triple made for the SR.
“It was easy because that method is very popular in Japan,” Nihira-san explains. “But the rear section was so difficult.” After some research, he realized that the GL1000 was from the same generation as the GL400, and came with spoked wheels.
So he hopped onto eBay and sourced a rear hub. And with a little encouragement he finally got it to fit the GL400’s final drive.
All that was left to do was lace up both hubs to a pair of DID rims. They measure 18” up front and 17” out back, and both are wrapped in Pirelli Phantom Sportscomp tires.
Nihira-san wanted to take advantage of the fact that the GL1000’s hub was setup for a disc brake, but couldn’t source a replacement GL1000 disc. After even more research, he figured out that he could install a CB500 front disc instead. So he sourced a used one, refurbished it and set it up.
The rear brake’s gripped by a Brembo two-pot caliper, with a rotor and master cylinder borrowed from another bike. And the front’s running with a Brembo caliper four-pot caliper, a Sunstar rotor and a Grimeca master cylinder.
If it sounds like Nihira-san spent an inordinate amount of time on the brakes and wheels, it’s because he did.
“I imagined adopting details which matched the age when the GL was born, mixing in new trends, and further improving the riding performance. The wheels and the brakes especially have a huge impact on the style, because they occupy a big space in the side silhouette. So I didn’t want to compromise.”
Part of the bid for more performance—and a better stance—involved switching the rear suspension from a dual- to mono-shock setup. Nihiri-san studied a few different rear suspension designs first, then adapted the shock from a donor bike with custom mounts, and reinforcements on the swing arm and swing arm pivot.
It was a stylistic consideration too: by ditching the rear shocks, he freed up the space behind the carbs. The open ends of the two stainless steel velocity stacks that he hand made are now in full view.
To that end, Nihira-san also designed a new subframe, leaving the area under the seat bare. Again, he spent more time on it than needed, building the section between the engine hanger and swing arm pivot with an extra welding bead, to match the look of the original hollow stamped frame.
Everything works together to create an aggressively pitched-forward stance—just as Nihira-san intended. Getting the profile perfect meant all-new bodywork, so he fabricated a new gas tank and tail section too, keeping the tank capacity generous so that its size would match the heft of the motor.
A Mooneyes headlight was placed up front, mounted at just the right height to draw a line through to the tank and tail. A tiny Motogadget speedo and a set of clip-ons complete the cockpit, matched to custom foot controls.
Then there’s the exhaust—a gorgeous custom-made stainless steel system, exiting left and right at different heights. Even though Nihira-san was aiming for a touch of asymmetry, he made sure to have the headers exit parallel to each other.
Nihira-san tells us his primary goal was for the bike to look natural from any angle and have factory level finishes. Mission accomplished, thanks in part to a stunning Wedge Motorcycle paint job to cap things off.
If this is what he can do with a humble GL400, just imagine what else we can look forward to from Takashi Nihira. We’ll be keeping an eye out.
There are a handful of modern motorcycles that really lend themselves to customization. And if you pick the right one, you might not even have to get your hands that dirty.
And that’s fair enough. Although we all swoon at the fabrication skills of rock star bike builders, not everyone has the ability or desire to create a ‘stack of dimes’ weld.
Owners of bikes like the Harley-Davidson Sportster and Triumph Bonneville have always been spoilt for choice when it comes to bolt-on modifications. Whether it’s a few detail changes or a complete transformation, ‘custom’ can be nothing more than a credit card swipe and a couple of hours in the garage.
The BMW R nineT is now on that list. Although it’s only been on sale for four years, the list of suppliers making plug-n-play goodies is growing fast. And now the French custom shop BAAK has thrown its hat into the ring, building an R nineT kit with a subtle bobber vibe.
On the surface, it looks like an extremely neat and well-proportioned custom boxer. But it’s not a one-off; most of the parts you see here will be for sale soon, and nineT owners will be able to replicate all or part of this look without grabbing a Sawzall® or welder.
The Lyon-based workshop picked the most basic nineT model for their test bed—the R nineT Pure. It’s the cheapest in the range, and comes standard with 17” alloy wheels, right-side-up forks (sans adjustability), and a steel fuel tank. Without the fancy trim of its siblings, it was the perfect bike to develop new parts on.
BAAK’s goal was to take the already timeless Beemer and give it an even more classic spin, with a design that would date well without bowing to trends. “To give soul back to the motorcycle,” as the guys put it.
“We focused on the purity of the riding feel, so it provides a stronger sensation for the rider. This motorcycle isn’t rational; we did our best to make it feel like it’s doing 160 mph while remaining within the legal speed limit.”
“On the other hand, this build takes advantages of modern motorcycle features: it brakes hard, the engine has great flexibility and torque at throughout the rev range, it handles well, and it’s reliable.”
In their Lyon workshop, the BAAK crew kicked off the project by sketching how they’d like the nineT to look, and then developing each individual part. The process for most of the parts involved designing them with 3D software, creating 3D printed prototypes, and then test fitting those to the donor bike. Once each part was fine tuned to perfection, the final product could be manufactured using the desired materials and finish.
“It’s the usual process,” the guys tell us. “Assemble the raw parts on the bike, spend hours looking at it, take it apart to start the design again, and once you reach a satisfying result, give each part the finish level it deserves.”
We’ve included a full parts list below, but highlights include a pair of 16” wheels in BAAK’s typical style, redesigned cylinder head covers, and a sharp new tail section. We’re loving the tightly routed exhaust too, and the side-mounted rear shock that harks back to the original BMW R 80 mono-shock design.
The finishes are top shelf. The seat leather is double tanned, using a bespoke system that combines both natural and chrome tanning. This will help it to hold its color over time, while still developing character as it wears.
The mudguards are stainless steel, with a brushed finish. Parts like the cylinder heads and triple clamps are machined aluminum, finished with a satin black powder coat. And the intake manifold cover and seat cowl were shaped in-house, by hand.
Getting these details right was paramount—more so than a need to build something ‘over the top.’ “This build isn’t extravagant,” the BAAK guys explain. “You can enjoy trying to spot every detail that contrasts with the original configuration.”
“Sobriety was one of our guidelines for this project. This is the result of the work of a team of six craftsmen based in a small French workshop and we’re proud that it looks right when riding.”
BAAK’s R nineT hits the sweet spot for us as a package. But we can also picture the individual parts doing well alongside other mods on any given R nineT.
And anything that helps riders personalize their bikes is all right by us.
Leather seat with handcrafted aluminum seat cowl
Aluminum rear wheel arch with integrated taillight
Rear shock relocated to side position with new mountings, designed in collaboration with Shock Factory
Low position license plate holder made out of aluminum, with license plate light
16” aluminum rims laced to BMW hubs with stainless steel spokes
Continental K112 tires
BAAK Bobber exhaust system, with stainless steel manifolds and aluminum mufflers
Cylinder heads covers in machined aluminum
Intake manifold cover handcrafted out of aluminum
Frame side covers in machined aluminum
Öhlins Black Edition fork, with custom caliper brackets and front mudguard brackets
Removed airbox, replaced with air filters
Stainless steel front fender
Genuine leather fork gaiters (water repellent, and manufactured over a wooden mould using a century-old method)
Classic headlight with brushed trim ring and Lucas P700 optics
Aluminum headlight brackets
Wide fatbar handlebar with increased rise and sweep
Beringer handlebar controls
Mini LED turn signals with turn signal covers
Classic round mirror
Cream and Black custom gas tank paint
Cast aluminum gas tank badges
A millimeter-perfect W650 from Wreckless, a barnstorming Kawasaki Zephyr from Australia, a Triumph Thruxton with the Barbour touch, and a killer Ducati Sport 1000 from WalzWerk. It’s all about craft and style this week.
Kawasaki Zephyr by DNA and RB Racing It’s pretty amazing what can happen on a project once the ball begins rolling. Bryan had originally turned his 500-buck Zephyr into a Wrenchmonkees inspired brat cafe, but when it needed mechanical TLC, an overhaul of epic proportions began.
Bryan wanted his Z(ephyr) to pay homage to the Z1 racers of yore: like those tuned by Mamoru Moriwaki, but with a bit of Bol d’Or sprinkled in for good measure. A project manager by trade, he also knew he’d need to outsource some of the trickier bits. So to get things just right, he tapped the lads at DNA Custom Cycles and a friend at RB Racing.
DNA tackled the bodywork and many of the more intricate details on the build, with Bryan researching and sourcing the parts and pieces he wanted. The headlights alone became a topic of obsession, but we’d say the stress was worth it.
The engine was completely rebuilt and overbored, and cranks out 90 healthy ponies. Much of the running gear arrived via cannibalization: the rear end, including the wheel, brake and swingarm are from a ZRX1200, the forks were poached from a ZXR750, and the front twin discs used to clamp down on a Gixxer. We figure the package would have Mamoru-san smiling—and apparently it’s a riot to ride too. [More]
Kawasaki W650 by Wreckless Carving out a niche in the custom world is no easy feat. Especially when you’d rather stand out than merely blend in. That was the drive that fueled Rick Geal and his spanner-spinning partner when they snagged a Kwaka W650 out of a friend’s nearby shop to begin their first build.
Rather than go off-the-wall, the lads from Wreckless decided to focus on fit, finish and quality details, which is never a bad idea in our books. The engine has been torn down, cleaned up and buttoned up tighter than ever before. The finish on the casing is clean enough to eat off, thanks to a vapor blast and fresh lacquer. And behind the slatted side pods, the refreshed motor now breathes through a set of rebuilt CV carbs and howls into the custom 2-into-1 exhaust.
The braking has been upgraded in the front with a Beringer Aerotec caliper, while the rear drum has had a thorough rebuild. The stock forks have been rebuilt too, and the factory shocks have been replaced with a set of Öhlins’ Black Series. Continental TKC 80 rubber has been fitted to new wheels and, in revelatory fashion, a proper set of fenders has been fabricated to keep the mud from flinging all over that impeccable paint. [More]
Honda TLR200 Reflex by Ask If your eyes are growing weary of tried-and-tested, old school lines this weekend, then this Honda TLR from Rad Yamamoto of Ask Motorcycle should dilate pupils. One of two bikes that Rad prepared for the 2017 Mooneyes show in Tokyo, this former trials bike showcases expert levels of fabrication and craftsmanship.
Barely 40% of the Reflex’s original frame remains. The single tube spine is gone, because Rad has welded up a twin flanked unit that now holds a custom fuel cell. The rear subframe is new as well, but is much, much more than your standard chop-and-hoop job. The rear suspension has been swapped over to a monoshock set-up and the front end is a road-ready kit that’s also leveled the bike’s stance.
The party-piece here is the flowing, hinged bodywork. It’s a raw alloy unibody unit that lifts to expose the reworked frame, and Rad undoubtedly pinched a finger or two while rolling the aluminum for hours on his English wheel. The futuristic vibe may not be for everyone, but you cannot deny the skill required for such a flawless finished. [More]
Triumph Thruxton R by Untitled Chances are, if you have a Triumph in your garage there’s a Barbour jacket in your closet. The two British marques are so intertwined, it made perfect sense to combine them on a cafe racer build. Dubbed ‘the ultimate gentleman’s motorcycle,’ this reworked Thruxton R was commissioned by GQ in the UK to win the ‘Best Custom Motorbike We Built Ourselves’ prize at the 2018 GQ Car Awards.
Self-congratulatory humor aside, there’s a lot to like about this mash up of heritage and speed. Taking just over a month to build, Adam Kay and his team at Untitled created plenty of tasteful details. Take the top yoke, for instance. The one that Hinckley built was already a stunner, but this newly machined unit with integrated tach is even prettier. And the rider will no doubt get up close and personal with it, as the new clip-ons sit extra low. They’re adorned with a fresh set of grips and bar-end signals from Motogadget.
On the performance side, there’s little to improve upon with the 1200cc twin. Except, of course, creating a more raucous exhaust. To that end a custom set of drag pipes now heats the rear rubber and announces arrival. On the Barbour side of things, no gentleman racer would be complete without a set of bespoke, leather saddlebags: the ones attached to this Thruxton double as briefcases and detach in a pinch, when you roll up to the office. [More]
Nolan Ducati Sport 1000 by WalzWerk Although not usually his go-to donor marque, Marcus Walz is no stranger to having a Ducati on his bench. And let’s face it, the man is an icon in this community, with enough skill and vision to make anything work. Which is exactly why helmet makers Nolan dialed Herr Walz’s number when they were looking for a showpiece build.
A Ducati Sport 1000 is the base for this tasteful British Racing Green cafe racer, but much of the Bologna-built original is long gone. The suspension is now top shelf stuff from Öhlins, both front and back, and the rear subframe has been reworked—not only to look good, but also to function with the single piggyback shock.
The rearsets are from Ducati specialists Ducabike, and LSL bits now feature prominently at the controls. The exhaust is a completely handmade unit from the experts at SC Project, and super sticky Pirelli Supercorsa rubber glues the racer to the road.
But the real showpiece is the bodywork. Hand beaten two-millimeter sheets of aluminum received the loving touch from Mr. Walz, who delivered a beautiful, flowing, go-fast aesthetic. Everything, from the height of the humped tail to the deeply scalloped tank and the tiny flares that give the seat extra girth, is spot on. [More]
If you’re a fan of blasting big trail bikes down forest roads, the Yamaha WR450F is probably on your shopping list. And if you also love the brutal beauty of the early Paris-Dakar bikes, Evan Scott has built a machine just for you.
The man behind Iron Cobras has hooked up with Answer Racing to build a custom WR450F that amps up the retro rally raid vibe without sacrificing performance.
Despite his reputation, Evan hasn’t been a lifelong biker: he only got into riding about 17 years ago, and after a misguided obsession with modern sportbikes, he got into dirt riding and never looked back.
He now builds custom motorcycles and exhaust systems, with a growing sideline in metal fabrication, and caught the attention of the motocross gear maker Answer Racing.
“Answer contacted me about eight months ago,” Evan recalls. “I met with creative director Scott Sagud, and we came up with concepts for two Dakar-inspired bikes: one modern-style rally bike, and one retro bike.”
Evan and Scott worked together on concept drawings, blending the ideas each wanted to see in the builds. “Our focus was not only on making sure the bikes looked good, but also making sure they performed like the Dakar racers we were using for inspiration.”
The 2017 Yamaha WR450F is a good platform for a high-performance build. It’s a big trails bike with a punchy ‘reverse-slant’ engine—the same four-valve single used by its stablemate, the YZ racer. You also get fuel injection and electric start.
This WR450F is called ’81,’ and the name is a clue to where Evan and Scott got their ideas from. “The 1981 Yamaha XT500 Paris-Dakar bike [below] has been on my inspiration board for a very long time,” says Evan.
“To me it’s one of the most classic racing bikes of all time. The huge desert tank, the gold rims, and the livery are just amazing.”
“I wanted to take a lot of those aspects and use them in our build. So we handmade the six-plus gallon tank out of aluminum, and incorporated the factory fuel injection.”
“The tank was one of the key aspects of the build for me: I wanted to showcase what I can do with metal shaping. It was a monster of a gas tank build, and took about a week and a half to complete.”
That beautiful tank, it’s worth noting, has no body filler on it. Evan painted it himself, right down to the classic Yamaha graphic.
The headlight on the original XT500 Dakar bike was tiny, but Evan wanted a big rally-style lamp. So he’s installed a Hella seven-inch LED and wrapped it with a vintage-look cowl.
At first glance, the big fenders look vintage too—but they’re actually new, and made from practical plastic.
“The seat is a custom unit we made in the spirit of any early 80s enduro bike: big, boxy and comfortable!” says Evan. “Then we rounded off the build with the item that Iron Cobras is best known for—a stainless steel exhaust system.”
It’s TIG-welded and sporting a custom heat shield and an internal spark arrester.
“The best part of the WR450F build was seeing everything come together,” says Evan. “And seeing the reaction from everyone at our partners Answer and WLF Enduro. That’s what kept me going.”
As is often the way, the worst part was the time pressure. “In the end, I wound up building both of the bikes in less than two months. I was literally putting the finishing touches to the WR450F six hours before I took off for The One Moto Show in Portland.”
Most show bikes get trailered to the venue, or ridden very carefully and polished thoroughly afterwards. The two Iron Cobras bikes, on the other hand, got thrashed. The journey from SoCal to Portland took a week, and here are the photos to prove it.
“It was difficult for me to see the bikes that I just finished building being ridden hard off road,” Evan admits. “It was a conflict between wanting to push them, but also see them make it to the show in one piece—which they did!”
“We wound up displaying the bikes just as they came from the trail—covered in dirt.”
We love glossy paint and gleaming chrome as much as anyone. But when bikes still look good after being used and abused, you know they’re something special. Nice work, Evan and Scott.
Hand-shaped aluminum gas tank incorporating factory fuel injection and aircraft style gas filler
Hand-shaped aluminum headlight cowl with a Hella rally headlight
Custom seat pan and foam with red stitched upholstery by Revs Customs
Custom rear rack
Vintage enduro rear fender with Maier taillight
Custom aluminum skid plate with Answer logo cutout
Gold Excel Takasago rims, Dunlop D606 tires, Nitro mousse tire inserts
Custom aluminum side number plate
Custom stainless steel slip on exhaust using modified Cone Engineering muffler and FMF spark arrester
ProTaper X-ring chain, clutch and brake levers, foot pegs and YZ bend handlebars
Sunstar rear sprocket
TM Design works chain guide
MSR billet rear rotor guard
Ico Rally Max and Rally Max G computers with custom mountings
Acerbis front fender and hand guards
Relocated all electrical components
With the success of Triumph’s Bonneville Bobber, it’s a wonder more manufacturers aren’t pushing out factory bobbers. But the Royal Enfield Classic 500 is close to the mark, with a timeless, minimal design that’s a little on the utilitarian side.
This bob-job from KR Customs is a superb example of what could be done, if Royal Enfield were feeling daring. And KR Customs are even based in the same city as Royal Enfield’s HQ—Chennai, India.
The shop opened its doors a few years ago, when founder Krish Rajan was relocated to Chennai by the IT company he worked for. A lifelong motorcycle enthusiast, he decided to build his first custom bike, but couldn’t find anyone to help him do it.
“For the most part, custom bike shops were still an esoteric notion in most parts of India,” he explains. “After scratching around for a year to build a custom bike, I finally decided to take the plunge and start my own shop.”
“I must say, somewhere the ‘bike gods’ were smiling, because a chance meeting led me to Suresh and his father. They are old time mechanics, who have spent over 35 years working with Royal Enfield bikes.”
Krish acquired a second hand lathe, a gas welder and a pipe bender, and KR Customs was born. And even though Krish still holds down his day job, this is already their fourth build.
The brief came via a casual phone conversation with their client, Vikas. He’s from Mysore, and was looking for custom shops in and around Bangalore when he stumbled upon KR’s website. The deal was cemented when Vikas and Krish discovered that they shared similar backgrounds and both had studied in North America before moving back to India.
“We decided to make a bobber/tracker,” says Krish. “Vikas provided some design cues: he wanted a vintage look, but with some modern touches. Like keeping the EFI pump, the original forks, and so on.”
It only took a few days to source a suitable donor—a three-year-old Royal Enfield Classic 500. The KR Customs crew stripped it right down to the frame and engine, then started the rebuild with the rear end.
KR have a ‘dual mono shock’ design that they’ve used in the past; a design that utilizes two shocks mounted right next to each other, with a custom three-point pivot system. For this build, they decided to tweak this to run as a true mono shock. Then they swapped the swing arm for a custom-built unit, made 4” longer to accommodate the new rear shock.
Needless to say, the Enfield’s subframe found its way into the trash, and a solo seat is now perched on a cantilevered leaf spring mount. The leaf spring is a 1950s replica part, but the actual seat was built in-house.
The Enfield’s original side boxes are gone too, replaced by a single battery box that houses an Anti-Gravity Lithium-ion battery.
Extra consideration went into the 500’s wheelset too. The guys laced up a 18” front and 16” rear, wrapping them in Firestone Deluxe Champions. But they wanted the wheels to have a seriously vintage vibe, so they rebuilt a pair of Enfield drum hubs from the 50s.
The front brake’s a true drum setup now, but there’s a disc brake out back. The vintage rear hub had to be put through the lathe to balance it, and modded to accept a disc and sprocket.
For the tank, Krish and his mechanics tried a few custom options, before settling on an OEM Triumph Street Twin unit. Krish found it on eBay while visiting the US, but the fitting was easier said than done: the guys had to cut and shut the bottom of the tank to accommodate the stock Enfield fuel pump.
“The tank is fairly shallow,” explains Krish, “so we had to place it about two inches higher on the back tube. That’s why the overall stance of the bike looks a bit more aggressive now.”
The cockpit’s been kept low and lean to match, with a set of drag bars adorned with a Biltwell Inc. throttle and grips. For switches, the team used a set of simple push buttons, mounted in custom-made billet aluminum housings. There’s also a Bates-style headlight and Posh turn signals. And the triple trees are off a Honda CX500—chosen because they have a small notch at the front that made tucking the speedo in a touch easier.
KR Customs kept paint simple with a subtle black and white scheme. The engine casings were blasted and polished, and the custom-made exhaust and fenders finished in black.
“On a breezy day we decided to take the bike out for a spin on the sea-facing east coast road,” says Krish. “It rode like a champ—far exceeding our expectation. And the two best aspects of the bike—its sound and ride quality—you can’t see in the pictures.”
Harley-Davidson isn’t the only manufacturer with roots in Milwaukee. Briggs & Stratton—known for their lawnmower motors—were founded in the Midwestern city too, just five years after The Motor Company.
That makes them a century old. And what better way to celebrate, than with a hand-made board tracker sporting a hot-rodded Briggs & Stratton power plant?
This amazing machine is the work of Jeff Wolf, who’s been building custom bikes and hot rods as a hobby for the past forty years. Jeff operates as Wolf Creative Customs out of his home workshop in Culver City, California and his son—who has his own surfboard shaping business—is usually roped in to help with designs.
Jeff’s specialty is gas-powered bicycles and one-off parts; board trackers like this one are his favorite. “I’ve always been fond of the timeless board track racer style,” he tells us, “and wanted to do something different.”
“I told myself this will be my last small cc build before I venture in to the big cc builds. After building just about every power plant I could fit into a bicycle frame, this one would have to make a statement.”
Jeff started with a custom frame, whipped up from scratch by his friend Richard Helmutt in Arizona. Richard supplied the frame complete with a custom-made, built-in fuel tank.
The forks look retro, but they’re actually brand new and sourced from the bicycle manufacturer Felt. Jeff wasn’t totally happy with the functionality though, so he added brackets to accommodate a mountain bike shock from DNM. He now has rebound and compression adjustment, and a lockout feature.
The wheels are 26” units, also from Felt. Jeff radial-laced the front to an off-the-shelf billet hub, and the rear to a one-off hub. There’s only one brake; it’s out back, and features a cable-actuated hydraulic caliper on a hand-made bracket.
The brake’s hooked up to an inverted lever, mounted to a set of hand-made stainless steel bars. The other end’s sporting an internal throttle, with a pair of hand-wrapped leather grips (made from an old belt) rounding out the cockpit. For a seat, Jeff modded an existing chopper pan, mounting it on a small shock to take the edge off.
And then there’s the motor: a 208 cc Briggs & Stratton flathead ripped out of a Junior class dragster. “It’s a class of racing within the NHRA,” Jeff explains. “The Briggs & Stratton Flathead Raptor is the choice of motors, making anywhere between eight and 45 horsepower.”
Jeff rebuilt the motor using a billet head, flat top piston, billet connecting rod and a re-ground custom cam with heavy-duty springs.
The head’s been ported, and there’s super light billet flywheel with adjustable timing too. The reduction drive system is from Sportsman Flyer, and has been modded to run with a Bully centrifugal clutch—so there’s no need for a hand-operated clutch.
A hand-made stainless steel intake is hooked up to a 22 mm Mikuni carb, and the exhaust is a modified Hooker header with a stainless end piece. All in all, the little 208 cc motor’s good for an incredible 60 mph (100 kph) with the current gearing. And because the bike still has working pedals, separate from the motor, it’s registered as a moped in Cali.
Pore over the Jeff’s handiwork a few times, and you’ll notice a number of discreet custom-made aluminum parts—all designed, built and polished in-house. Valley Customs handled the paint, shooting the tank in a classy black coat with a pair of silver Wolf logos.
Though it’s a small cycle, the detail is impressive (just take a look at that plumbing under the tank). We know Jeff’s itching to move onto bigger bikes, but we certainly hope he has a few more petite racers like this up his sleeve.
After all, he should have a lot more time on his hands soon. “I’m getting close to retirement from my day job,” he tells us, “and look forward to doing more of this work.”
You’d be surprised at how many custom motorcycle builders ride ‘regular’ bikes day-to-day. Tony Prust over at Analog Motorcycles has an affinity for KTMs; he’s owned several over the years, and they’ve all been mostly stock.
“I have always wanted to build a custom KTM,” says Tony, “but never had the opportunity, since my customers haven’t requested one as a donor bike, or it wouldn’t fit the design request. Granted I could have probably customized one I’ve owned, but I usually keep them somewhat unmolested and just focus on riding them as much as possible.”
One of Tony’s favorites was a 2007 model 990 Super Duke. “I made brackets for luggage for it and racked up 20,000 miles over five or six years,” he says. “I rode it long distance and around town. It was my daily rider. Perfect seating position, great handing, and plenty of power.”
Tony eventually sold the 990 and bought a newer 1290 Super Duke—but couldn’t shake the feeling that the 990 had potential as a donor. Thankfully the opportunity eventually presented itself, via a repeat client: Rebel Yell Bourbon, a company that Analog has already built two giveaway bikes for.
“The parent company of Rebel Yell is Luxco,” explains Tony, “and the owner’s son Andrew is an avid motorcycle enthusiast. Andrew contacted me when we started last year’s build for Rebel Yell, and asked if I would be interested in building a custom motorcycle for him personally.”
“He rides a Ducati Monster 796 but wanted something with a little more power—and he wanted a sort of cafe racer aesthetic, with a more powerful machine. I thought ‘bingo, this is my chance to build the custom Super Duke I wanted to do’.”
With a suitable donor (another 2007 Super Duke) sourced and on the bench in the Illinois shop, it was time to tick another box—because Tony’s slowly been learning the art of metal shaping. He used to farm out metal shaping tasks on his builds, but he’s gradually started turning out smaller parts himself—like fenders or side covers.
For the KTM, he set out to shape all the bodywork himself—which would mean building his first fuel tank. So the subframe, tank, tail section, fly screen, front fender, belly pan, and even a radiator reservoir cover, were all built in-house using aluminum.
“I had a mentor coming in regularly and helping me learn this art form,” says Tony. “He was an incredibly knowledgeable mentor but passed away unexpectedly nearly a year ago. It took the wind out of my sails for a few months when that happened.”
“But what I learned from him, no one can take from me—and finishing up this bike is a personal achievement.”
The new shapes have given the Super Duke a radically different silhouette—but that’s only half the picture. Analog made a slew of smaller changes too, to help tie the build together.
For the exhaust, they added a custom-made connection just after the stock headers’ two-into-one joint, flowing into a stainless steel Cone Engineering muffler. And they installed a Moto Hooligan intake kit to help the KTM breathe better.
Moving to the cockpit, the stock bars were swapped out for a set of Vortex clip-ons, and the OEM speedo relocated with a one-off bracket. The headlight’s a Denali Electronics M7 DOT LED unit, mounted up inside a traditional bucket on custom mounts.
For the taillight, Analog mounted up a pair of prototype red LEDs with their existing LED turn signals, mounting them discreetly alongside the exhaust can. The front signals are bar-end numbers from Motogadget.
For switches, Analog fitted units that they import and sell, from Renard Speed Shop in Estonia. They’re bolt-ons for modern bikes that negate the need for excessive rewiring—but Analog rewired most of the bike anyway, to slim down and hide as many components as possible.
They also upgraded the clutch and brake controls to Magura HC1 radial pumps.
When it came time to paint, Tony wanted to show off some of the bare metal—and keep a little of KTM’s signature orange in the mix. So they sanded down some strategically placed panels, before Jason at Artistimo laid down a grey and orange paint scheme.
The Super Duke was stripped down, and all the important bits sent of for powder coating. The rims were torn down, and a section on each hand-sanded to match up with the bike’s livery. Dane at plz.b.seated upholstered the perch, with a mix of solid and perforated leather, and gripper vinyl.
‘The Archduke’ is now ready and poised to tear up the streets—just as soon as the snow clears in Chicagoland. “It sounds angry,” says Tony, “and I can’t wait to unleash the horses stored up in that 990cc twin.”
Classic cafe elegance from England’s Sinroja, a cute Moto Guzzi mini bike from Spain, a slinky sprintbike from Belgium, and an electric Ducati Scrambler from Thailand. We’re collecting the air miles this week.
Moto Guzzi Pony Mini Bike by Kacerwagen At the Long Beach Motorcycle Show back in November, a group of industry insiders and veteran journalists convened to pitch ideas on how to attract new riders and reverse a declining trend in North America. Well, guess what folks? Chus Valencia, the man behind Kacerwagen, has the issue licked: start ‘em young and start ‘em with something rad.
The Pony Tracker was Chus’ gift to his nephew Luca this Christmas—but getting this obscure 50cc Guzzi to its current state took some sweat equity. The Pony was a barn find, so it looked more like a rented mule when things started out. Everything was stripped and treated to a run at the sandblaster.
Once back to bare metal, the plan for a dirt tracker was cemented and work began on modifying the subframe. The twin outboard shocks were swapped for a cantilevered, mono shock setup as well. On top, the stock tank was sliced down its center and treated to a diet. The new shape suits the package to a T and we doubt Luca is too concerned about covering miles… yet.
To make tracks, the Pony needed a working motor. A two-stroke Morini S6 unit filled the void and delivers more than enough grunt to have Luca smiling behind his helmet. A custom tailpiece, seat and front cowl complete the look, and Chus even sorted out a set of Mitas tires. Hell, even at 40 I’d love to see this thing under the tree with my name on it. [More]
Honda CB550 by Sinroja Motorcycles After some incredible work commissioned by Royal Enfield, the Leicester-based brothers Rahul and Birju are at it again. But instead of going back to the well, they decided to try something new. This time around they’ve focused their efforts on creating a classic Honda CB cafe—and the result is just as clean.
Minimal design, maximum impact: that’s the mantra at Sinroja Motorcycles, and you can tell the brothers take it seriously. Just look at the lines on this bike. Starting with a CB550 frame, its rear was quickly discarded in favor of an in-house creation. This provided the perfect perch for the new seat, which has been tightly wrapped in sumptuous Bentley leather.
Up front, a Fastec Engineering top yoke cradles a Motogadget Motoscope Tiny gauge and hugs the forks—which have been modified to run a second, solid disc brake.
The CB550 engine has been completely rebuilt and overbored to 61mm. The head from a CB650 received some special treatment to enable it to bolt right up, along with a new set of valves and seats, and a performance cam. A set of carbs from a Kawi Z650 handle fueling, and Steve Scriminger’s signature Pulse Jet ignition system was integrated as well. Compression is upped to 11.5:1, and delivers performance as punchy as the looks. [More]
Hermanus’ Sultans of Sprint racer If you were at Glemseck last year, this race bike may look a bit familiar. I say a bit because it’s had a touch of redux. Originally the creation of Mellow Motorcycles, ‘FRKNSTN’ was a ride that Belgians Evy and Andy of Bruges’ Hermanus Workshop wanted for themselves.
Underpinned by a Honda CB750 frame with a KTM swingarm, and powered by a bottle-fed Ducati 1000DS L-twin, the starting point for Hermanus’ build was already plenty quick. So quick that it was the 2017 Glemseck winner. So there were no major modifications required, but Evy and Andy obviously wanted to make the bike their own. And since Evy has been pegged as the pilot of this sprinter, some ergonomic changes were in order as well.
A slick new replica Ducati 175 fairing was fabricated by the fellow Belgians at Gunnar’s House of Custom, and a new seat was crafted to suit Evy’s frame. The wheels were in need of a rebuild, and while they were at it, a beefier front brake was installed. Tipping the scales at a scant 324 pounds (147 kg), and with a lighter pilot and smoother bodywork, Hermanus may find themselves taking home the glory in 2018. [More]
Honda VT750RS by ADS Motorcycles He’s spent a dozen years building other people’s two-wheeled dreams, so David Seidman of ADS Motorcycles is no stranger to making changes on the fly. As the Long Island, NY native says, “Most people can tell you what they don’t like, but they have a really hard time telling you what they do like.” So when a long time customer came into the shop with a Honda VT750RS and some ideas, David knew he’d need to concoct a plan B. Or in this case, ‘Plan-Z.’
The original idea was to turn the Shadow into a sporty cruiser. Something that could gobble miles and look cool. The suspension was firmed up, and the rear fender was bobbed. And then the design direction changed…and changed again. And again. From UJM to cafe racer and everything else in between, each time the bike would be 70% completed before a new plan was hatched.
Finally, clearer heads prevailed and the roadster went under its final transformation—into the street tracker we see here. The requisite flat tracker seat and cowl were crafted to replace the previously humped cafe unit that once sat on the flattened and abbreviated subframe.
A set of Mule bars found their way up front and a new intake was fitted too. A sight gauge was installed on the tank and a set of matched ProCycle wheels were bolted up. The biggest change, and the one that finally ushered in completion on this build, was to the exhaust. An underframe muffler originally built for Sportsters was adapted to fit, and the blacked out pipes were routed to suit. Oh, and we’re told that after all of this, the client behind Plan-Z has moved on to something else, so it’s actually for sale. 
Project D-EV: an electric Ducati scrambler The last time we checked in with Ducati Thailand, they raised our brows with a tasteful run of limited Paul Smart tribute bikes—using a Scrambler as the base. The Bangkok team has now switched from the past to the future, with the most unusual ‘Project D-EV.’
It’s taken just over two years to get everything right, but this battery-powered Scrambler cafe is now the personal bike of the owner of Ducati Thailand—an early adopter and electric vehicle advocate. In place of the iconic 803cc L-Twin now hangs a 33 kW engine and 5.6 kWh battery. Which means this silent cafe racer offers up 79 pound-feet of twist at all points in the rev range.
Which is exactly why a custom machined and extended swingarm has been bolted up out back. More than just a simple swap, all of the detailing has been sweated here. The mono-shock has been moved inboard, and a belt-drive conversion replaces the chain. The brakes have been beefed up as well, with twin discs now floating up front.
We’re told Project D-EV is capable of hitting 100 mph (160 kph), has a range of over 100 kilometers, and tips the scales at 364 pounds (165 kg). So it’s not only a more powerful Scrambler, but also weighs ten pounds less than its dino-juice sipping stablemate. The future’s looking brighter, just less braaapier. [More]
Read Full Article
Read for later
Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
Scroll to Top
Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.