Last week, we presented our Top 10 Custom Bikes of 2020, which is an objective, data-driven list, in which bikes are ranked according to website visits and social engagement. Today, we present our Top 10 Editor’s Choice, which is a more subjective list of our personal favorites — the bikes that gave us the biggest kick to feature! The only rule is that a bike has not appeared in one of our past Top 10 lists.
Alp Sungurtekin’s background in Transportation Design and hot-rodding led him to found Alp Racing & Design in 2001, building race engines and bikes. The nitro-burning LSR Vincent you see here is built around a 1948 Vincent Rapide, serial #F10AB/1/666 — hence the bike’s nickname, “Vincent 666.” This was Alp’s first time laying hands on a Vincent V-twin, but he was able to bring to bear what he’s learned from all of the previous racing engines he’s built. As for the chassis design: “I machined the entire Vincent 666 out of 6061 Aluminum, and all components are mounted together with modular construction, no welds, no bends.” Surely such innovation would delight the likes of Phil Vincent and Phil Irving, happy to see their engines still setting records 80+ years after the first Rapide rolled out of the Stevenage factory. Says Alp: “So far I have a total of 14 minutes run time on it and it has proven to be a successful design. It already broke the Vintage class record at the ‘Bonneville World Finals’… The average speed within the flying mile was 177.375, top speed at the end of the mile was 182mph.”
Alf and Mihaela are the husband/wife team behind Romanian workshop Bandisca, known for pushing the established patterns of bike-building design. For 2020, they decided to build a tribute to the DR Zeta rally bikes, enlisting the help of true rally race workshops like Germany’s Hessler Rallye Team and Spain’s GZ Parts. As Alf envisioned: “The bike should be a true rally bike, not only an aesthetic creation.” Starting with a 1990 Suzuki DR800 Big SR42B — the closest thing to the mighty DR-Z800 rally bike — they’ve created a DR Zeta that would make the late Dakar legend Gaston Rahier proud. All of the lightweight alloy bodywork is mounted via quick-release, allowing the bike to be stripped down in <10 minutes, and this 809cc giant now puts out 70 hp — on par with the factory racer! The stunning paint scheme — Mihaela’s design — harks back to the blood-red Marlboro livery of Rahier’s ’88 DR-Z800 Dakar racer. It might just be our favorite build of 2020.
Kevin Busch‘s grandfather, Jack Williams, owned a speed shop in British Columbia known as Syndicate Scuderia — a fixture of the Vancouver hot rod and drag racing scene. About four years ago, Kevin managed to get hold of the frame, wheels, and drilled forks of his grandfather Jack’s old drag bike, “Zeus.” At the 2020 One Moto Show, Kevin was back with his second vintage drag bike build, a 500cc 1955 Triumph dubbed “Born Again.” He originally went to buy just the engine and transmission, but the seller threw in the numbers-matching frame…which they dug out of the snow behind his garage. Kevin’s vision for the preunit Triumph was clear, inspired by the early 60s drag bikes that a guy of that era would build: “A show-and-go drag bike that would run in the gas class…that he could show one weekend and then take out to a strip the following weekend and go racing.” Kevin fabricated pretty much everything on the build, from the twin tube gas tanks (three cups each) to the seat, linkages, pegs, handlebars, and more. The result is a show-and-strip stunner that oozes 60s cool.
Brian Cox (@Classicbikebuilding) had been squirreling away this ’72 S2 for some years, waiting for the right time to build it. In late 2019, he decided it was time to dig the S2 out of storage and finish the build. He had a vision for a lighter, sleeker two-stroke triple that would resemble the cafe racers of an earlier era. Brian has touched nearly every piece of this bike, inside and out. Not only has the engine been rebuilt and the frame cut and rewelded in places, but he’s hand-made and turned every single aluminum bracket, both those you can see and those you can’t. “It would be easier to tell you what I have not made custom in this bike than what I have.” The aluminum bodywork is simply staggering, made from flat sheets of aluminum that Brian cuts, hammers, English wheels, straightens with hammer and dolly, gas-welds, sands, and polishes. “I love making the hand-hammered aluminum using old tools and old techniques. That’s what I’m the most proud of on this build.”
Rick Hannah of London’s Dirty Dick’s Motos is a semi-pro shed builder who says he gets paid more often in beer than pounds sterling — though if there’s any justice in the world, he’s sure to start garnering more commissions and acclaim from this staggering W650 build, nicknamed the “Posh Sled.” Rick says of the project: “My goal was to build a Desert Sled with modern handling for comfort and performance, it needed to be reliable and fast.” The donor was a “restored” 2004 non-runner, in terrible condition beneath a fresh coat of black paint. Rick addressed the bike’s brakes and suspension, two of the model’s known weak points, developing a W650 big brake kit in the process. The frame was stripped, chopped, de-bracketed, polished, copper-plated, and finally nickel-plated. The engine has a set of Keihin CR Special carbs and stainless custom shotgun pipes: “The pipes are straight through and yes, it’s loud, but sounds glorious with the 360-degree cranked twin of the W650. There’s a lopey popping idle which turns into a roar at full chat and a rasp on the over-run.”
In the years after WWII, the “Harley-Indian Wars” become more intense than ever — especially in production-based Class C dirt track racing. One man keeping alive the legacy of Class C racing is PA’s Dan Daughenbaugh (@goodtimesdanny), a world-class engine builder and racer who works out of a 230 year-old stone barn. This is a 1940 Sport Scout from the Rick Dillinger collection, which Dan built from the smallest parts on up. This is no display piece, but Dan’s actual race bike, built to compete in the AMA Class C vintage national dirt track series — in which brakeless, hard-tail bikes slide into the corners at speeds approaching 100 mph! “The spirit of the series is to emulate the AMA events that took place directly after WWII.” Just like the Class C racers of lore, Dan has worked to get maximize the power potential of the flathead V-twin — in accordance with class rules, of course: “Some of my best speed secrets I’ve gleaned at Bonneville are inside the motor. I completely redesigned the combustion chamber and flowbench tested it in my shop. The cams are a special design made for me by a friend in New Mexico and heat treated in the Los Alamos A-Bomb Factory.”
Georgios Kiriakopoulos (@gregoscustoms) is a Greek-born builder who moved from his home island of Crete to Brazil five years ago, where he bought a motorcycle (also a CBX750F) and started customizing it for fun. In hopes of connecting with the Brazilian custom scene, he entered his CBX cafe racer in the annual customization competition hosted by MotoCultura, where it won the 2018 award for “Moto Customizada do Ano” — Custom Motorcycle of the Year! Grego works alone in his shop, the “old school way,” doing every aspect of each build himself: metal-shaping, mechanics, electrics, paint, etc. For 2019, Grego decided to build another CBX750F — this time pursuing a different style altogether. “I always wanted to build a bike without using any colors on the parts. As I had plenty of scrap metal around, I decided to build a bike all made out of metal, so I could then just brush everything and varnish it.” The completed street tracker, inspired by 80s enduro bikes, is aptly dubbed the “Full Metal Beast,” and we’re thrilled to say it earned him a second Custom Motorcycle Award of the Year award!
Jake Robbins and his son run Jake Robbins Vintage Engineering, specializing in early cast lug frame repairs, girder forks, and scratch-building replica vintage motorcycles for customers. The Norton V-twin machine you see here began life as a 1936 Norton 16H that arrived in their workshop as only a frame, gearbox, and forks. Alongside it was a J.A.P. DTZ 1320cc industrial V-twin from a two-many railway carriage. The father/son team set to work making the big J.A.P. railway engine fit in the Norton chassis, extending the frame two inches and fabricating their own heavy-duty engine plates to hold the big lump! They swapped the original hand-crank starter for a Kubota generator and covered up a Norton Commando belt-drive with an original chain case. The pair took great pains to hide the modern touches of the build and preserve the patina of the original parts, enlisting the help of Alchemy Paint‘s Matt Bown to distress the new parts they fabricated. All in all, this is one of the neatest machines we’ve come across this year, a father/son-built Norton V-twin that resembles a period-correct performance special right out of the 1930s, powered by a 1320cc railway engine!
Liza Leung — aka Last Lap Liza — was heavily into the JDM tuning scene before finding her way to motorcycles. Soon she was attending track days and race schools, honing her skills on two wheels. After her partner Rob Forbes (@oldskooltuner) built a CB650, Liza decided she needed a project of her own: “Enter the CX500, a bike we got from a friend who found it at a junkyard for its worth in metal, $50. It didn’t run, was seized to shit, and was fully faired…” Liza was drawn to the ruggedness of a scrambler build — a bike she could rip through town and also find some dirt trails on the weekend. Aptly dubbed the “Unicorn Chaser,” we came across the bike at this year’s One Moto Show, where the 1940s knucklehead piston turned bat holder was a big hit! Liza says the community she developed through the build process might be the greatest reward: “There were a lot of great people involved with this build, each one teaching me something different about every aspect of bike building, and all of whom I now have very close relationships with, due largely in part to this bike. That’s definitely something I cherish.”
The turbocharged monster you see here started life as a 2007 H-D Dyna Street Bob, but little more than the neck and VIN remain untouched. The inspiration for the build goes back to a question Patrick Tilbury of Royal-T Racing asked a friend late one night at Sturgis: “Imagine if Suzuki made the Hayabusa in the 80’s, what would Harley’s competitor look like?” This Landspeed Dyna is now powered by an S&S 124″ Twin Cam motor with a custom stainless and titanium turbo kit. The custom aluminum wheels are inspired by the Turbofan wheels on Porsche 935 race cars of the late 70’s, and it’s one of the only Harley-Davidsons running a Haltech ECU. The hours into the project are immense, from the stunning hand-shaped aluminum fairings to the custom plumbing for the turbo to that standalone ECU, tuned for 280-320 horsepower. The end result has to be the baddest Big Twin we’ve ever seen, a turbocharged missile wrapped in FXRT-style fairings, ready to punch through the air at high speed, whistling the death song of lesser machines.
The Oak Creek Racing Knights are a team of students and adult mentors from Oak Creek High School outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They’re part of the larger Milwaukee-based program BUILD Moto, a program in which students and mentors build and customize a bike each season to race in an AMA event — part of a collective effort to learn valuable life and interpersonal skills. Says mentor Chad Hanebrink, the “Trail Reaper” was one of those “what have we got lying around to work with” projects: “The Trail Reaper is a 1971 Honda CT70 ‘Minitrail 70’ frame with a 1971 Honda CB175 motor shoehorned into it, more than tripling the original motor’s horsepower. Not bad for two seniors, two juniors, and two sophomores right?” When asked what part of the build makes him proudest, mentor Chad points not to the people behind it: “Yeah, the team. These kids knocked it out of the park. They showed up every night ready to work and dedicated themselves to getting the bike done on time.” Now you can help the Knights with their most ambitious project yet, a turbocharged Honda CB350 with which the team hopes to set a new land speed record: Please consider donating to the Knights Racing Land Speed Record Attempt — we did!