It’s been said that while four wheels may move the body, its two wheels that move the soul. Looking at the latest output from some of the world’s custom motorcycle builders and manufacturers, that adage rings true.
The custom motorcycle culture that first appeared in Europe and America in the 1940s has been revived over recent years by groups of young enthusiasts in Japan, America and Australia.
Smaller motorcycle builders and manufacturers are increasingly emerging to appeal to niche markets hungry for a custom aesthetic. The success of these builders does not depend on selling big numbers and isn’t attached to any particular fad. Rather, this culture is based on enthusiasts crafting bikes for enthusiasts. From choppers to café racers and street trackers, the custom motorcycle market caters to all styles, all applications, riding types, displacements and engine types.
Typically, custom motorcycles are minimalistic and vintage looking bikes that combine form and function. More and more, these machines are blurring the lines between mechanics and art.
Record | Preserve | Share takes a look at three of the key players currently influencing the custom motorcycle market.
Shinya Kimura is the founder of Zero Engineering, a motorcycle shop he started in Japan in 1992. His name is synonymous with what people often refer to as the “Zero-style”. A Zero-style bike is typically based around a rigid gooseneck, a pre-1984 Harley Davidson engine, springer front end, spoked wheels and often includes parts of the bike remaining in bare metal.
Kimura’s designs are heavily influenced by the Japanese design aesthetic wabi sabi (austere refinement). In this sense, engine casings are shunned and it is the beauty of the raw materials that take centre stage.
Deus Ex Machina
Deus is the result of a group of passionate and dedicated Australian motorcycle enthusiasts, united in their discontent for what Aussie motorcycle culture had become. Dare Jennings, founder of surfwear label Mambo, was bored of the sea of Harley Davidson’s, Japanese racers and scooters he saw on the streets. Having spent a lot of time in Japan, Jennings was taken with idea of creating new bikes by fusing the retro with the contemporary. Along with motorbike racer Nigel Begg, Jennings founded Deus Ex Machina.
The Deus aesthetic is stripped right back and consists of bikes that you can buy normally with a mix of different parts. Deus takes Kawasaki W650s and Yamaha SR400s along with Triumphs and Sportsters, and turns them into some of the slickest custom cafe racers you can find.
Los Angeles-based Falcon Motorcycles was founded in 2007 by Ian Barry and Amaryllis Knight. Barry has been building motorcycles since he was 19 years old. He formed Falcon Motorcycles to design unique machines without compromise, and build them around the engines of 10 iconic British Motorcycle engines.
His latest (pictured at the top of this post) is the Black Falcon – the third motorcycle in the Concept 10 series. Built off the 1000 cc V-twin engine of a 1952 Vincent Black Shadow, the Black Falcon was a year in the making with everything but the engine handmade.