It’s no secret that we’re big fans of two-strokes here at BikeBound HQ, and it seems we’re not alone — two of our Top 10 Customs of 2019 were smokers. 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 builds like Eber Temperan’s Yamaha RD400 street tracker or Andrew Greenland’s Honda CR250 Elsinore tribute would have made the list, and a few builds already made our forthcoming lists, such as the Bultaco street tracker from Nitro Cycles. Without further ado, here’s our list of the Top 10 Two-Stroke Custom Bikes of 2019, in alphabetical order by builder:
5Special is a Spanish brand founded by Sito and Lucía Vázquez, whose bikes, parts, apparel, and sponsored riders hark back to the golden era of motorcycling. This 1980 Yamaha IT425 was built to compete in all three disciplines at the Wheels & Waves festival in Biarritz, France: Punk’s Peak (Sprint Race), Swank Rally (Enduro), and El Rollo (Flat Track). In fact, we had the good luck of being just inches away when Sito himself kicked the bike to life in a riot of blue smoke and headed for the starting line at Punk’s Peak last summer. This kind of all-around performance harks back to the Superbikers concept of the 1980s, which birthed the world of supermoto.
Peter Abelmann of Western Germany wrote the book on Yamaha two-stroke motorcycles, literally: Yamaha-Zweitakt, which means “Yamaha Two-Stroke” in German. So, not surprisingly, Peter rides, builds, and collects two-stroke Yamahas from the late 1950s through the late 1980s. When it came to the bike you see here, Peter’s mission was clear: “Not more or less, I just wanted to build my IDEAL Yamaha RD.” The result is this stunning Yamaha “RD380” cafe racer, with a host of modern upgrades and a dry weight of less than 300 pounds.
Paul Courbot of Titan Performance bought his first Suzuki T500 in 1977, at the age of just 19. When the bike was hit by a car, Paul repaired the bike to original condition and used the insurance money to build a cafe racer out of the replacement bike. Fast forward some four decades, and Paul still owns both T500 machines! “Purchased in 1977, when I was 19…I’m 61 now!” After many years of running his shop, Paul decided it was time to tackle his original ’75 T500: “It seemed ironic that I was helping others make their machines look good, when my own was a mess….so I decided to put that right.” The result is one of the most staggering two-stroke customs we’ve featured, nicknamed the bike “Alpina”: “The bike acquired the Alpina nickname as a result of a 1986 European tour, during which it traversed the Alps twice. Since the build, it has been to the TT every year, and is well received by all.” We bet it is!
One night, while staring at the rolling chassis of his RD, Danny Comer (@Dannersautomotive) looked to the far corner of his garage and saw a spare set of Honda CRF motocross wheels: “I made it a mission to get those wheels to fit, that’s what spurred the build…” After starting the build, he heard about the Malle Mile, and the RD became a bike to race in the 2019 edition. That’s where we came across this two-stroke “Wasp” arrayed in scratch-built parts, including the one-off extended swinger and mono-shock conversion. No expense was spared on the engine, and there’s not a sticker on the whole bike — it’s all paint, mixed and sprayed by Danny himself.
It’s hard to describe what GNAS is. A family, a crew, with friends all over the country, from VMCC members, to skateboarders, BMX-ers, motocross riders and more. Their builds are not your typical custom builds. They tend to favour original, period parts with the hard-earned patina intact. “Scuffs and marks are kept to tell the story of the bike.” SK8TM started life as a stock, early premix model KTM 200 EXC and was built for tearing round the woods and fields, as well as events like the Malle Mile, where we came across the build. It uses skateboard decks for front mudguard, radiator cowls, chain guard and seat base.
Dragging this 1987 KX500 from the weeds beside his father’s cabin, Jan Žuži of JZ Handmade set out to create his own vision of a futuristic dirt bike. Only the engine, frame, swingarm, and rear suspension are original — the rest of the bike is handcrafted. The signature element is the carbon bodywork, which Jan designed and molded himself, developing his skills and trying different methods and technologies throughout the process. The end result is one of the most striking custom motocross bikes we’ve ever seen, aptly nicknamed “Carbolution.”
Max Miille of Hillsboro, Oregon, shares a fabrication shop with his father, the owner of Sandragon Motorsports — builders of custom ATVs and parts. He fell in love with customizing bikes after building a Yamaha XS650. He’s since become obsessed with dirt-biking. So it wasn’t too long before he melded the two loves into the gorgeous custom dirt bike you see here. The donor is a ’93 YZ125, which Max bought from a friend for only $500! The bike was featured in the 2019 One Moto Show, but this is no show queen — Max built this bike to ride: “It’s an original looking bike that nobody’s really built before. It looks cool and it still rips on the track.”
You may know Mark by his online handle, @nojoke2stroke, or the stunning smokers he builds, including his RD400 street tracker and “Street Lethal” Kawasaki KX500 we’ve featured. Mark wrenches as a hobby, building about one build each year. This past year, he set out to build a machine inspired by the board track era, but with modern touches like suspension and a 2-stroke engine from a ’74 Yamaha RD350. The frame and bodywork marry form and function into a one-off work of art. He shaped the cylinder heads to look like they were from an earlier era, and we particularly love the reverse clutch and brake controls on the drop-style handlebars, making the bike look something like the fastest, deadliest racing bicycle on the planet.
Greg Tomey of Valencia, California, spent more than three decades racing in the deserts and on the motocross tracks of Southern California. Greg, who’s owned more than 50 bikes over the years, decided to build an ultimate RD, utilizing an array of RD400, aftermarket, and NOS parts. Says Greg: “The concept was to recreate the look of a 70s cafe bike with a street-legal edge.” From the original, re-anodized DG heads to the Yamaha speed block paint, this is one of the meanest, sexiest RD350’s we’ve ever featured. Below, we get the full story on the build.
Eric Zanutto of California’s Zanutto Engineering started building bikes with his old man at an early age. Auspiciously enough, Eric’s first street bike was his aunt’s French blue 1977 Yamaha RD400 — what a cool aunt! Fast forward nearly two decades, and Eric’s wife, Melanie (@theluckyyogi), decided she wanted a vintage two-stroke of her own. She’s owned and ridden many modern bikes, but this would be the first bike the duo built together. They picked up a rusted, mismatched ’71 R5 in Rancho Palos Verdes. The bike had an RD350 engine transplant, but it was in very rough condition. Together, the pair managed to salvage and refurbish most of the parts, building one of the sleekest, cleanest 350 Yamaha smokers we’ve seen — complete with a Kenny Roberts paint job they shot themselves!