To many of us it will almost sound like a swear word, you can’t even say it out loud without pulling a face like you smelt something rotten.
Although it is very likely you may want to put the past twelve months behind you and move on, we should not forget that a large number of very tasty and beautiful machines have been built the past year. Those were the shining diamonds that kept us smiling while they were radiating with beauty. We like the idea of spending more time in the shed and less in the office. And so do many builders, it shows.
Since everybody loves lists, the team at BikeBrewers are no different, we wanted to create a list of some of 2020’s most notable pro-workshop and shed-babies. Sure, our list may be different than yours, and even within the BikeBrewers team the debates got heated quite quickly and we found it hard to agree. There are preferences for café racers, other colleagues are adamant scramblers are the one to go for, or brats… and it goes on and on and on.
Still, we put our differences aside and managed to brew this totally arbitrary list of the top 5 custom build bikes of 2020.
As usual we are still debating fiercely as we hit our deadline, so regard this as a first overview. We feel we need to do justice to a number of notable builds we have seen in 2020.
In other words: “We’ll be back!”
1. Kawasaki Desert Sled by Martin Schuurmans
I remember seeing this bike the first on the streets of Amsterdam (the Netherlands) some time ago. I had to blink twice to fully see what was going on. It looked like a Yamaha XT500, but it sounded different, meaner, louder. Then I noticed the “W650” written on the side cover of the bike. I’m not gonna lie, I wanted to own this bike really bad! That, to me, is a clear sign of a perfectly built bike.
All the proportions are well balanced, this is the bike Yamaha should have built instead of the XSR700, and I don’t mean that as an insult to Yamaha, I love the XSR700. But this Kawasaki W650 looks correct to the “T”. Big fat padded seat, XT500 classic fuel tank, color combo, chrome handlebars, golden rims with knobby tires, headlight and taillight, it even has a kickstarter. It is such a well thought through machine. If Martin Schuurmans, the builder, would sell a kit for the W650 making your bike look like this, it would sell out in a heart-beat. And I would be the first buyer!
2. Kawasaki ZRX1200R by deBolex Engineering
Let’s be clear, as far as we’re concerned, green is the only color that suits a Kawasaki. Bright, shiny, neon green. That’s what we thought, at least, until we saw the deBolex Kawasaki ZRX1200R. Now we also approve of different shades of green. This machine looks incredibly retro, with its old school looks and new school kit, almost like a muscle bike. The LED headlight, made in a unique way, is now a deBolex Engineering trademark. It looks very futuristic. Then, when you look through the side, you see 4 mighty Mikuni flat side carburetors. Tuned properly, they transform the ZRX from a lazy cruiser, to a quarter-mile powerhouse. We love this bike because of the beautiful lines of the fairing, tank and cowl. All metal, shaped and beat by hand to perfection, pure craftsmanship. Hard to believe that all of the work was completed in-house, including the mesmerizing paint job, that isn’t only green, but also has gold and white details.
3. Suzuki GS750 turned Classic Racer by Walter van Elk
We do not see a tremendous amount of Suzuki’s being rebuilt into memorable machines unfortunately. So when the Dutch builder Walter van Elk came to us to have his 1978 Suzuki GS750 featured we happily obliged. Walter really took his time to finish this project. He spent no less than 7 years in his shed to create his ‘piece the resistance’. This might have had a lot to do with him having a hard time to make up his mind which direction to take. No bolt was left unturned on this project. Rather than listing the modifications it would be easier to list what has not been changed! The frame was left almost as it was, but installed the front of a Suzuki GSXR750-W, the petrol tank of a Suzuki GSX750, and the rear shocks of a Suzuki GS1000. The aluminium MORAD rims, both 18″ with stainless spokes, and the aluminium rear suspension originate from a Suzuki GSX750. I An aluminium Raask gear shifter and brake pedal were added to finish the look. Together with the custom-made exhaust, built from various existing exhaust parts, classic Ducati 750SS fairing, and exquisite paintjob, this Suzuki looks amazing.
4. Triumph Bonneville by BAAK Motocyclettes
The French have something special, je ne fais pas qoui, call it style, taste, or refinement. Their cuisine, their movies, their women Ooh la la la… The same goes for this very tasteful Triumph Bonneville T120 dubbed “The Bathtub”. Back in the late 50’s, some manufacturers, such as Triumph, would design and build these quirky rear fenders, meant to provide superior weatherproofing in countries where it rained a lot. Unfortunately, back in the days, California was becoming hugely popular, and the demand for motorcycles there grew exponentially. If you know a bit about California, you’ll know that it’s a dry place where it doesn’t rain often. So, customers would ask their dealers to ditch the goofy rear fenders, which meant the end of a design feature. The people of BAAK must have thought that it would look incredibly cool to build a bike like the once of yesteryear. And they were right. This Triumph looks so incredibly elegant and chic, it could pass as a factory replica of the original 50’s motorcycle. But building a rear fender like that is no job for the fainthearted. 26 days of grueling metal work, bending, grinding, welding, English-wheeling and cutting later, and the aluminium rear fender looks like it was molded and pressed from the factory. Almost makes you forget about all the other hand-made parts on this Triumph, such as the front fender, seat, headlight cover, 16” rear and 18” front wheels, and so on. Feast your eyes on this incredibly good-looking Bonneville Bathtub.
5. Royal Enfield 650 Desert Runner by Revival Cycles
We love Triumph, but we also love Royal Enfield. Continuously building motorcycles since 1901, and originally a weapons manufacturer, the former British now Indian motorcycle manufacturer has won over hearts of people over the world. Mostly in India, but also in the rest of the world. It is the people’s champion, and we recon, dare we say it, that IF Steve McQueen was alive and still in his prime, he would ride, nay, race a Royal Enfield 650. More specifically, this one built by Revival Cycles.
This Texas based builders really know their sh#t. The original bike is a Royal Enfield Interceptor 650, a retro-style motorcycle that’s currently selling like hotcakes. The folks at Revival Cycle took that simple, affordable but good-looking air-cooled Enfield and turned it into a desert racing machine. Long travel suspension, with DRZ forks in the front with upgraded springs, and a pair of custom-made ICON gas-shocks in the rear, ready to soak up big bumps.
The ground clearance on this Royal Enfield is incredible, proper off-road minded design. Mind you, originally the Royal Enfield weighs in at around 200 kg or 440 lbs wet. To complete the desert racer look, the rear subframe got shortened and looped, alloy fenders were added, a bulletproof LED headlight nestled in the front, 18” wheels at the front and rear and a massive sump guard make this Desert Runner ready to race.