Here at BikeBound, it’s no secret that we are fans of 2-strokes, and it seems we’re not alone — two of our Top 10 Customs of 2018 were powered by RD350 engines. So we decided to follow up with a two-strokes-only list. Bikes which made one of earlier Top 10 lists do not qualify, or else bikes like Spoken Moto’s YZ/RD350 “Zed” and or Mark Miller’s KX500 “Street Lethal” would have surely made the list.
Without further ado, here’s our list of the Top 10 Two-Stroke Custom Bikes of 2018, in alphabetical order by builder:
Growing up, the owner of Atlanta Motorcycle Works dreamed of owning a fearsome, 4-stroke-killing Daytona Special. When the opportunity came up to build one, he jumped at it. The shop’s team — all of whom were “corrupted by the love of vintage Japanese motorcycles” as kids — worked to retain much of the RD400’s stock aesthetic while pushing the bike’s limits in performance and reliability. The result is an RD400 restomod that can do it all: “To go fast and not die, to smoke and not be broke, to stand the front wheel up at 12 o’clock, but still get you home after a long hot day of riding twisties.”
Pete Chase of Rhode Island’s Café Cycles has been tinkering with motorcycles ever since the tender of age 9, when he bought his first bike, a ’79 Honda XR75. Since then, he’s worked on everything from cranes to exotic car engines to off-road race cars. Last winter, he decided to build this 1975 GT380 on spec. The bike was in rough shape when he got it — seized engine and water in the case. As much a resurrection as customization, Pete managed to turn this unloved machine into the staggering two-stroke cafe racer you see above — one of our favorite builds from the 2018 Handbuilt Show!
Indiana’s Keith Carlson, who specializes in two-stroke builds, is one of our very favorite builders. Each year, Keith and his friend Steve Hoy of Hoy Vintage Cycles build a pair of bikes to ride the legendary US 129 through Deal’s Gap, including the Tail of the Dragon — 318 curves in 11 miles! For 2018, Keith built this incredible 1984 Yamaha RZ350 restomod, completed with an R6 tail, FZ600 swing arm, GSX-R front end, programmable CDI, and much more. He says the bike performed so well in Deal’s Gap that he’s been spoiled: “It is so fun to rip the corners and does EVERYTHING great. Trying to progress further forward would require stepping into the exotic RG500 or RZ500 world…now I am spoiled!”
Paul Fuelling of Mabel Studios, along with his wife, Kim, build custom furniture and doors for a living, and they remodel vintage campers as well. When the clutch started to go on their ’73 Kawasaki F11, they decided it was time for a full rebuild, giving the bike a modern stance and improved setup for the gravel roads and trails around Boone, NC, where they live. The bike was invited to The 2918 Congregation Show in Charlotte, NC, where we had the thrill of seeing it in person. We were simply staggered with the build — our show favorite — and immediately reached out to Paul for the full story on this stunning 2-stroke trail and tarmac ripper!
Peter Hood spent early years riding a Banshee, which whet his appetite for the RZ: “Since I had a Banshee before, the RZ had been one of my dream bikes from when I was in high school. The possibility of having that sound on the street was unbelievable.” When he had the time, space, and means, he picked up this Canadian ’83 RZ350. Unfortunately, the day after getting his motorcycle license, the rear tire locked up at 75 mph — yikes! After that, Peter decided he needed to go through the entire bike. The result is this ultra-clean RZ350 restomod, which boasts R1/R6 suspension, modern electronics, and a rebuilt motor with port/crank work from Scott Clough Racing. Says Peter: “When you downshift, people look around like the antichrist just landed…”
Daniel Swinney, founder of Swinndustries, is a mechanical engineer by trade who grew up rebuilding two-strokes with his old man. Daniel and his father asked one simple question: What would the Yamaha RZ350 look like if Yamaha were to build it today? To answer that question, the duo set out to build a modern-day Yamaha RZ350, aka the “Lab Rat.” The process would take seven years, with the final stages being completed in Daniel’s cramped apartment garage, but the result is simply staggering — a modern two-stroke street weapon showcased at the prestigious 2018 Handbuilt Show in Austin, Texas.
Mark Eddy of Vallantine Motor Works graduated top of his class at MMI and spends Seattle’s long rainy months restoring old two-strokes. Back in 1980, when Mark was still riding his BMX bike around his hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska, his older brother Wayne fell in love with the Kawasaki Triples — a lifelong passion. One of these — the 1970 H1 Mach III you see here — ended up rotting in Mark’s backyard for a few years until the day he tore off the cover and decided revive the once-glorious carcass. We were thrilled to get the full story of how this Kawasaki Triple street tracker came to its present state, along with some great photos by our friends at Enginenthusiast — some of the very best moto photography in the business.
Lou Voiler, a self-proclaimed 2-stroke fanatic from Southern California, decided to build his ’85 RZ350 into an evil, bloodred restomod like none we’ve seen, capable of putting newer bikes to shame. Lou spent years dialing the bike in just the way he wanted it, with a wide arsenal of parts to enhance the bike’s suspension, braking, and aesthetics. He built the bike himself except for the engine, turning to one of the great 2-stroke wizards, Roger Arreola of California’s Wicked Motorsports ATV. The result is a 392cc, 2-stroke, 81.6-rwhp street weapon that Lou rides every weekend. Says Lou of the machine: “It is a pure bred giant-killer, not for the faint of heart…”
Justin Weber of Oregon’s Weberwerks is an aircraft mechanic who’s been involved in road racing since he was a teenager. Inspired by Barry Sheene and the glory days of 1970s GP racing, he decided to build his dream vintage 2-stroke Suzuki T500 road racer. Justin, who works out of his garage, says he wouldn’t necessarily classify himself as a bike builder, but he’s created one incredible 2-stroke road race tribute!
Scott Zupner of Hawaii has been racing since the early 70s at Indian Dunes in Southern California. In 1996, he moved to Hawaii, where he’s been a sponsored professional surfer and motocross rider, and got hooked started racing Supermoto in 2010. As he says: “Motorcycle racing is not just a hobby for me — it’s a passion and a way of life.” Scott has long been a fan of vintage air-cooled two-strokes, as well as the flat track racers of the 60s and 70s. We can’t think of better tribute to those loves than this RD350 special, built in his personal shop — an absolute ripper.