Here at BikeBound, we’re big fans of scramblers, desert sleds, and enduro machines. Apparently so are you, our readers, as several of the machines that made our list of the Top 10 Custom Motorcycles of 2019 were running knobby tires, enduro-style bars, and bash plates. We decided to follow up with a list of the most popular scramblers and desert sleds we featured this year, based on traffic and social shares. Without further ado, here are the BikeBound Top 10 Scramblers and Desert Sleds of 2019, presented in alphabetical order by builder.
A&J Cycles is a small shop outside NYC that’s been in business for more than two decades. Working with their local Triumph dealer, Locomotion Powersports, they managed to get their hands on the first 2019 Scrambler 1200 XE on the east coast, then spent two months of nights and weekends putting the A&J Cycles twist on the machine: “We set out with a vision to build a modern version of Steve McQueen’s 1961 Desert Sled. We wanted to build a bike that he would ride today with all modern technology.” We have zero doubt that the King of Cool himself would love to swing a leg over the saddle and put the XEcutioner through its paces.
Matt Butts, a project fabricator for Detroit Speed, decided to track down a US import of the NX650 — a search which ended up taking a couple of months. Finally, he found a low-mileage example a couple of hours away, picked it up, and began stripping it down after a short run around the block. Matt says of the design concept: “I wanted to keep it super simple and somewhat true to the scramblers and trials bikes of the 70s. No mirrors, no speedo, no frills.” Four months later, working on a tight budget out of his two-car garage, Matt had built one of the few American-made NX650 scramblers we’ve seen…and she’s a doozy.
Few Sportsters seem so capable of blasting across the post-apocalyptic world as the OVRLANDR, built by Michael Bates of Combustion Industries. Michael, an industrial designer who works as a design manager for such aftermarket brands as MAG motorsports and Kuryakyn, says of the build: “I really love the idea of building a no-nonsense vehicle for going balls out across any type of terrain…[or wasteland] of the future.” The result is the OVRLANDR, which reminds us of a two-wheeled Mars rover — a motorcycle that might be home on the desert wastes of Tattooine or the off-world mining colonies of Calantha…as long as the atmospheres are conducive to internal combustion!
Paul Hartman is a flat track-obsessed Minnesotan who moved to Oceanside, California, half a decade ago, and now races a Triumph Bonneville Super Hooligan in the RSD Super Hooligan series. He picked ups this 1983 Yamaha XS650 some three years ago and just got around to building it. Little on the bike remains stock besides the frame, engine, and swingarm. We especially love the high pipes, which Paul hand-made himself, and the overall spirit of the bike: “I didn’t really give it a name, but I called it ripper a few times. Ya know, just go for a rip around town. Or rip down some fire road. It was just a nice little Ripper.”
Nicolas Margolles is a frigoriste — refrigeration and air conditioning mechanic — from Pau, a township on the northern edge of the Pyrenees in southwest France. Inspired by some of the previous Honda NX650 Dominators we’ve featured, as well as the work of our friend Spencer Parr of Parr Motorcycles, Nicolas built a simple, clean “city scrambler” that looks like something Honda might have created in the 1980s, had people been interested in a rugged, stripped-down enduro for daily commuting and weekend fun.
Back in 2017, we featured the first build from Martin Kvarnhult of Sweden — a 1991 Honda Dominator scrambler that he built to be his daily rider, and which has become one of the better-known NX650 scramblers on the web. Since then, Martin has opened his own shop under the name Moose Garage, garnering quite a lot of fans and followers for his custom-built creations. This is Martin’s second Honda Dominator scrambler, built from a beat-up ’92 model donor.
Back in 2016, Nick Petterson of Milwaukee’s Moto-fied Cycles unveiled his first custom build, a Kawasaki KZ400 dubbed the “Brown Bomber.” Since then, his shop has grown in big ways, moving from a one-car garage to a new location just north of Milwaukee’s Miller Park. After seeing the Brown Bomber, friend and customer Dean D’amato reached out to commission an aggressive, trail-ready scrambler. Starting with a 1976 Yamaha XS500, Nick pushed his own comfort zone, retrofitting a mono-shock swingarm from a vintage motocross bike, fabricating an entirely new tail, and leaning on expert friends for wiring, paint, and upholstery help. The result is the “TxXsChainsaw” — a killer 500 twin scrambler.
Brothers Seth and Casey Neefus of Red Clouds Collective — a Portland-based company that makes lovely, high-quality waxed canvas clothing and leather goods — are big motorcycle enthusiasts, a passion which started some 15 years ago when brother Casey managed to build three separate bikes from a pile of CB350 parts he’d bought. At the 2019 One Moto Show earlier this year, we were absolutely staggered by their newest creations, a matched pair of Yamaha XT500 builds Says Seth of the concept: “We wanted to build two motorcycles that were the same, but different at the same time. Kind of like brothers, we are from the same parents, but we look different and live different lives.” While building two similar bikes at the same time was more work than expected, they’ve succeeded in creating two of our favorite bikes we’ve ever featured.
Yves Chassaignon of YC Design is an elite firefighter by trade, having served with the BRPP (Paris Fire Brigade) and the Firemen de Clermont in his home region of Auvergne. Between fighting fires, he’s managed to customize a wide stable of bikes and compete in enduro racing on big-block thumpers he built, never missing the legendary Gilles Lalay Classic, the world’s original — and some say most difficult — hard enduro event. So he was the perfect man to build this DR800 monster, which he calls the “Big One.”
Motorcycles have a history of bringing hearts together, and so it was for Zoth Huang of Zoth Moto and his girlfriend, Chrissy (@yourlordchrissy), who owns this 2003 Yamaha SR150. Says Zoth: “This motorcycle belongs to my girlfriend, Chrissy. Last year she had an accident and her SR150 was crashed, then she came to my motor shop and told me that she wanted to rebuild it. And because of this accident, we met each other.” Chrissy needed a bike for daily commuting, but she also likes to go exploring on the weekend, so Zoth wanted to build a machine that would combine the convenience of a street bike with the “wildness” of a scrambler. The result is “Hardy” — a lightweight scrambler that echoes the vintage Yamaha enduros of yore.