Editor S Choice An Alternative Top 10 For 2019
This is tough. Week on week, we strive to curate only the best custom motorcycles for you, our readers. So even though Chris and I don’t always agree on what’s hot (and what’s not), every bike on these pages is, in some way, a favorite.
That makes picking the ten best bikes of the year an impossible task. We get around it by leaning purely on stats to compile our ranked ‘Top 10‘ each year. But once that’s done, I have the thankless task of rounding up my personal favorites—an editor’s choice that ignores web stats and social media buzz.
It starts with a ‘short list’ of about 25 bikes. Once Chris compiles the stats and publishes his list, I eliminate any bikes that made both lists, to level the playing field. This year, those were Brad Peterson’s Yamaha TZ750, Workhorse Speedshop’s Indian Scout drag bike and Andrew Stagg’s jaw-dropping Yamaha MT-07.
Like the stats-based list, my selection is extremely light on café racers—but loaded with flat trackers and street trackers, and bikes that take cues from those styles. There’s been a big push towards performance in the scene this year too, and some of the bikes below would be proper fun to ride. As an added twist, two of the machines that made the cut are electric.
The list below isn’t ranked, it’s simply alphabetical (by builder name). So read on and soak up my ten favorite custom motorcycles of 2019. Then hop into the comments and tell me if you agree with the selection.
Alta Redshift by Blatant Moto When electric manufacturer, Alta, shut their doors, three ex-employees were left with a laundry list of untested ideas. Luckily, those guys also had the skills to execute their ideas, and access to a bundle of prototype and sample drivetrain parts from the company’s promising Redshift model.
The three formed Blatant Moto, and debuted with this radical flat tracker. Ironically dubbed ‘The Death Rattle,’ it’s a refreshing twist on a popular genre, but it’s also a glimpse at the design potential that electric drivetrains offer.
With fewer moving parts, and no need for frivolous things like a fuel tank, Blatant were able to build something truly minimal. The only real bodywork is a custom made tail unit, and a small cover that protects vital electronic components. Since there’s no clutch or front brake, the cockpit is sano to the max (and even the onboard charge port has been removed).
This team’s packing a serious skill set too—the chromoly trellis frame and the swing arm were done in-house, and the overall design and color scheme are inspired. We’re keeping a keen eye on Blatant Moto in 2020. [More]
Honda CR500 by Deus ex Machina USA Deus USA’s in-house bike builder, Michael ‘Woolie’ Woolaway, is as down to earth as he is talented. And as someone that actually races too, he knows what works and what doesn’t. So when Red Bull asked him to collaborate on a custom motorcycle for MotoGP star Dani Pedrosa, it was never going to be mild.
Since Dani’s raced with Honda throughout his entire career, Woolie picked the extremely potent Honda CR500 as a donor. Then he yanked out the motor and stuck it in a custom chromoly frame from master frame builder, Jeff Cole.
The parts list is mouthwatering; a custom carb from Lectron, Öhlins forks in adjustable triples and a Race Tech shock. Everything’s tied together with an array of hand-made bits, that covers everything from the aluminum bodywork to the custom exhaust system. Woolie also tapped the best in the biz to handle things like the motor porting and custom radiators, so nothing was left to chance.
Not only does the bike look absolutely mental, but it’s a wild ride too. Luckily, its owner knows things about riding motorcycles fast… [More]
Ducati Multistrada 1000 DS by 46Works It’s hard to explain 46Work’s signature style—or even why it speaks to me so much. It has a lot to do with builder Shiro Nakajima‘s background. He was the founder of Ritmo Sereno, he lives in big old wooden building in the Japanese countryside, and he races both classic cars and bikes.
Add that all up, and you get bikes like this striking Multistrada 1000 DS. Somehow, Nakajima-san has taken a fourteen-year-old motorcycle, shed its awkward lines, and made it look both more retro and more contemporary at the same time. According to him, his original idea was to build a modern interpretation of the classic Ducati 750 GT.
There’s so much to love here, from the custom tank and frame mods, right back to the new swing arm and twin shock conversion. Shiro also fitted 18” wheels, setup a custom braking system and added Öhlins kit at both ends.
Given that the Multistrada motor is peachy enough out the box, and the handling and ergos have been properly seen to, this one should be a good runner. But it’s the details that send it over the top—like that Ducati motif on the back of the seat. [More]
Royal Enfield x Harris Performance Harris has been building high-performance motorcycles since the 70s, but have remarkably never built a flat tracker… until now. Judging by this sharp Enfield-based flat track racer, they’ve come out the gate running.
Harris is owned by Royal Enfield‘s parent company, and actually developed the chassis for the Continental GT and Himalayan. So this bike was built in collaboration with Enfield’s technical center in Leicestershire. That makes it a ‘factory custom’—and it has us praying that it makes it onto showroom floors in some form.
It’s powered by Enfield’s new 650 twin, boosted to 750 cc by S&S Cycle, who also supplied the exhaust and a custom-mapped ECU. Harris built the frame with brazed steel tubing, then matched it to adjustable yokes and Öhlins suspension. And Enfield’s UK design team made the carbon fiber bodywork.
The result is a slick race bike that ticks all the right boxes, but looks fresher than your garden variety flat tracker. Enfield have already been spied running laps on track, but they haven’t given any word about whether they’re actually going to race it. We’re holding thumbs. [More]
S&S Cycle Knucklehead by Hazan Motorworks Max Hazan is a regular feature on our annual top 10 lists, and with good reason. His creations are elegant mechanical beasts that often show just how far he’s able to stretch his imagination.
This masterpiece has shades of Italian sport bikes, but it’s actually powered by a Knucklehead motor. And it’s no run of the mill Knuckle either. Max started with a 74 ci motor from S&S Cycle, and then rebuilt it to run two front heads and two carbs. All because he had spoken to someone that loved both Knuckleheads and old Vincent motors, and figured he’d build something in that vein.
The conversion required extensive (and some pretty unique) mods to work, but there’s just as much work in the rest of the bike. There’s a bespoke chromoly frame, matched up to an aluminum swing arm and a set of Enfield forks. All the polished aluminum bodywork is custom too, as is the stainless steel exhaust system.
A set of 18” Morris mags add a dose of retro track style, while mods like the Indian Scout transmission match-up and home-made clutch actuator have us scratching our heads. See you again next year, Max? [More]
Yamaha MT-07 by Jake Drummond Who is Jake Drummond? Just a twenty-five year old kid from Wisconsin, who knocked our socks off with this utterly ridiculous MT-07.
The story behind the bike is as crazy as the end result. It involves shaping a 1/10th scale model from stainless steel, buying a new MT-07 when a crashed one couldn’t be found, and dropping out of school to finish the project. It all paid off though.
Jake’s design revolves around a hand-built aluminum perimeter frame, flowing straight into an aluminum swing arm. The engine’s mounted onto a forward subframe, with a stainless steel rear subframe to support the seat. Upgraded parts include R6 forks, 21F/18R RSD wheels, and a custom-built stainless steel exhaust.
Nicknamed ‘The Omen,’ this MT-07 is also sporting a custom tank, seat and tail. The stance is flawless, but so is the clever mix of contrasting finishes. [More]
Indian Scout by Luuc Muis When Indian Motorcycles launched a custom design contest in the Benelux region, Luuc Muis jumped in with both feet. He designed a 1910s-era boardtracker with a modern twist, and won. The prize: a brand new Scout and 20 weeks to translate his concept into a finished bike.
Working after-hours (Luuc has a full-time job) out of Outsiders Motorcycles’ shop, Luuc built one of the most extreme examples of a board tracker we’ve seen.
Other than the Scout’s motor and axles, everything else is custom. The frame’s particularly nuts—it was designed digitally, then an engineering firm in Norway milled the 16 aluminum parts that it’s constructed from. The fuel tank forms part of the frame, and has different sections to hold fuel, the electronics and the air intake.
Titanium exhausts from Akrapovič, carbon forks and a rear shock linkage that borrows its design from mountain bikes; there’s truly some crazy stuff happening here. Add to that a classy red paint job and period-correct leather seat, and you have a winner. [More]
Harley-Davidson Street Rod 750 by Noise Cycles Scott ‘T-Bone’ Jones made his name building extremely cool Harley-Davidson customs. And then he took up Hooligan class flat track racing—and since then, an inordinate amount of his focus has been on racing.
That means his personal race bike has constantly evolved. This is the latest iteration, and it’s so far outside the box that it’s borderline genius. When I saw this Noise Cycles bike in the metal at the Mama Tried show earlier this way, it stopped me dead in my tracks.
The biggest drawcard is the dirt-bike bodywork. Scott and his teammate, Brandon ‘Gonz’ Gonzalez, had the crazy idea of using the body kit from a Husqvarna FC450. So they borrowed the plastics for one from a friend, and it turned out to be a close to perfect fit.
Scott trimmed a few bits away, then built a stunning aluminum fuel cell to fill all the available space it could, while holding the bare minimum for racing. Scott had previously flipped the Harley’s heads to run a left side exhaust, but didn’t like it anymore—so he built a new system that exits left and runs through to the right.
As for the rest, it’s just a whole lot of really cool race sh*t, that Scott’s figured out as he’s gone along. [More]
BMW R18 by Revival Cycles BMW Motorrad have spent all year teasing their upcoming big boxer ‘R18,’ and part of that campaign has involved giving the motor to customizers to do awesome things with. Revival Cycles built this, and it is, indeed, awesome.
They’ve called it ‘Birdcage,’ named for its wireframe chassis, constructed from 138 pieces of titanium. It’s sort of freeform, but it’s also very intentional; everything the bike needs to function is bolted to the birdcage frame.
The front suspension mimics BMW’s own telelever system, using a mix of BMW and custom parts. The forks and handlebars were shaped as a homage to the famed Ernst Henne Landspeeder, and the seat is carbon fiber. There are crazy details everywhere, like the right side hand-shifter and the custom valve covers.
Revival built Birdcage to intentionally look like it’s not functional. Except it is—even if it does have a really tiny fuel tank that’s hard to spot. [More]
PACT by Walt Siegl Walt Siegl builds bonafide dream machines. So when we caught wind that he was working on an electric motorcycle, anticipation levels were sky high. He’s partnered with industrial designed Mike Mayberry, and so far the results have been every bit as excellent as we’ve come to expect from Mr Siegl.
Mike and Walt are driven by a simple ideal: to make electric motorcycles that speak to them on an emotional level. And ‘PACT’ sure is loaded with finishes and touches that evoke emotion. Take a look at the marbling on the bodywork; it’s not paint, it’s the natural finish of the ‘forged’ carbon used for the parts.
PACT is powered by an Alta Redshift drivetrain, cradled in a custom chromoly frame. All the brackets that hold critical components were first 3D designed and printed, test fitted, then CNC’d from steel. Even the rims were custom machined specifically for this project.
The bike makes about 50 hp and weighs just 251 pounds, and has been designed specifically with street-focused geometry. It’s also achingly beautiful. [More]
Editor’s Note: I did mention that picking a top ten is tough, and there are always a handful of top-shelf builds that just quite don’t make it onto the list.
This year, those include Hookie Co.’s kooky take on the Yamaha XSR700 [above], Nick Graveley’s Zero FX flat tracker, CW Zon’s Buell S1 Lighting, Rough Crafts’ H-D Street Bob custom and Huge Moto’s cutting edge Zero FXS supermotard [below]. And Ben Giese’s Triumph Scrambler deserves an honorable mention for being a cracking example of a subtle, real-world custom.
As you can tell, it’s been a mega year for us. Thanks for joining us for the ride, and we’ll see you in 2020 for more.
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