Today, we’re thrilled to present our Top 10 Custom Motorcycles of 2021 as judged by you, our readership. Your visits, likes, and engagement served as votes, so these bikes were selected according to their popularity among our readership. This is the most objective ranking we could achieve.
We noticed a few big themes in this year’s 10 Best:
- Restomods: Nearly half of the year’s Top 10 builds are restomods — vintage machines that feature modern suspension, brakes, and engine upgrades, but retain (relatively) original silhouettes.
- Honda CBX1000 Builds: New this year, two bikes from the list are Honda CBX1000’s, and a couple more of these big six-cylinder machines will make some of our later lists. The year of the six!
- Singles: Half of the bikes in this year’s Top 10 are single-cylinder machines, most of them four-stroke thumpers.
Don’t see one of your favorite bikes? Stay tuned for our 2021 Best Cafe Racers, 2021 Best Scramblers / Trackers, 2021 Best Two-Strokes, and more coming soon!
Without further ado, here are our Top 10 Custom Bikes of 2021, presented in alphabetical order by builder.
Augusto Borghetti Chinelatto is an architect and urban planner, who works alongside his friend Matheus Borghetti to create “unique and exclusive” projects out of their workshop, Cramento Motorcycles, located in the small city of São Marcos in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. The project you see here began as a ’99 Suzuki DR650, the customer had owned since it was nearly new, though it had been mostly sitting unridden in recent years. Augusto and Matheus jumped at the challenge. They immediately stripped the big dual-sport down to the bones and decided on a modern scrambler style: “We wanted laymen to have difficulty knowing what the base bike was. As is usual at Cramento, we do not label motorcycles, but we always try to keep them as timeless as possible, mixing aggressiveness and refinement — the devil is in the details.” The overall impact of the “Black Mamba” is stunning — one of the most aggressive yet elegant DR650 customs we’ve seen, with a dazzling array of small, well-executed details.
Darren Begg of Canada’s dB Customs has made a nam for himself building some of the sexiest air-cooled restomod superbikes on the planet. The recipe is deceptively simple: stay true to the original style of the machine while upgrading the suspension, wheels, brakes, geometry, and power. This ’79 Honda CBX now sports a full arsenal of upgrades, including Öhlins suspension, aftermarket swingarm, Brembo brakes, carbon-fiber wheels with Avon sport rubber, a new wiring loom and ignition, and a fully built 1147cc motor with JE pistons, Web cams, Carrillo rods, Xtreme Motorsports head, and a hand-bent titanium 6-into-1 exhaust. All in all, this has to be the sexiest CBX we’ve seen, a super six that’s 135 pounds lighter than stock! Says Darren: “What makes me most proud is that I was able to take a bike that normally weighs almost 600 lbs (wet), down to 464.5lbs (with oil, brake fluid, and ¼ tank of gas).”
Heiwa Motorcycle‘s Kengo Kimura is one of the world’s most well-respected builders, having taken home multiple “Best in Show” awards at the prestigious Yokohama Mooneyes Hot Rod & Custom Show. He built this 2001 Suzuki TU250 “Grass Tracker 004” just for himself. His intent was to show that he could transform a street bike into a scrambler that both performed well off-road (he’s ridden and raced the hell out of it) and looked good in town. Our favorite part? It has to be the oil tank he fabricated, which is actually a reserve fuel cell!
Henryk Koldras (@tyciczort) is a Polish motorcycle enthusiast born and raised in Amsterdam. As an adolescent, an encounter with a CBX left a deep and lasting imprint on him: “I only heard this bike once. And that was enough. Those six cylinders in a straight line, the high notes. It was like an F1 V10 car drove by. The symphony was just to die for.” Fast forward more than a decade, and Henryk had bought himself a factory-spec ’81 CBX. When Covid threw a monkey wrench into the world, it was the perfect moment to act on a vision he’d had: “I had a kind of vision. If Honda was to bring out the CBX again, how would they make the bike?” Henryk drew inspiration from the contemporary CB1000R and CB650R — Honda’s neo retro machines. The modifications are intensive and deep-reaching. All in all, this is one of the most striking CBX builds we’ve ever seen — one that looks almost like a modern Honda concept bike — and Henryk says he’s proud of the fact that the original bike, though modernized, is still clearly identifiable: “It’s still a CBX. People would say it’s a CBX. But it’s like a refreshed CBX.”
As some of you know, 2021 was the 50th birthday of the Harley-Davidson XR750, “the most successful race bike in motorcycle racing history” (Cycle World) — a bike that took home 29 of 37 AMA Grand National Championships between 1972 and 2008, and also served as Evel Knievel’s jump bike! We featured a number of XR750-inspired Sportsters this year, including this “XR1450” from former racer Max of the UK. When he quit racing, Max decided to transform the bike into an XR-inspired street machine. Very little is left of the original Sportster, even the frame has been cut and braced to achieve the right head angle. The engine has heads provided by none other than Mert Lawwill, as well as cylinders/pistons/pushrods/ignition/etc. from Daniel Dunn of NRHS Performance. Max says the riding experience makes quite the impression on even the most veteran V-twin hot-rodders: “The engine builder took it up the street and he said: ‘First I opened the throttle and then I shit myself.’ I generally ride it pretty sedately.”
Dusty Miller is a retired UK firefighter with a penchant for building high-performance RD hybrids. Previously, we featured his “Hybritza” RD350 YPVS and air-cooled RD400 hybrid. This build began life as a 1981 RD350LC. Says Dusty: “I bought the bike ‘unseen’ apart from a few pics sent by the previous owner. I took a chance, knowing that even if it was a wreck, I could do something with it.” The bike was running, but it was a definitely rough around the edges. “I had every intention of tidying a few bits up and then riding her, but I can’t leave things alone, so before I knew it the bike was in lots of pieces on my shed floor, and a plan was hatched to rebuild it, better than before.” Highlights include a newer 350 YPVS engine, stock-length Metmachex swingarm, original Giuliari (Gully) seat, GMX radiator, alloy end cans from Dave “Muttsnuts” Whattam, and brakes that could “could stand a Jumbo jet on its nose.”
Last year Honda Motor Europe Ltd Italia reached out to MAAN (Motocicli Audaci — Audacious Motorcycles) of Sardinia, commissioning a fun, two-seat custom. Not surprisingly, the MAAN crew decided to give their Super Cub an off-road / enduro flavor. After all, they got their start building bikes for Dust ‘n Sardinia, an annual three-day trek across 300+ miles of southern Sardinia, completely off-road, which raises money for select charities each year. For this build, they kept the frame and engine intact, utilizing CAD and 3D-printing to produce elements that utilize the OEM attachment points — such as the new carbon and composite side panels, which house the high-mount exhaust. The tail is inspired by the Porsche RS ducktails of yesteryear, and the front end is an homage to the glory days of enduro, featuring a disc brake cover and single-piece “vinduro”-style headlight / number plate: “The paintwork and pinstriping are also inspired by the old Porsches. We wanted to create a vehicle that was aesthetically appealing, with a sporty feel, but also capable of standing out at the opening night of an opera, in a mix of elegance, fine materials, and aggression.”
Crete native Vagelis Badourakis of Motoworks.gr has been in the motorcycle business for more than 25 years, mainly on his home island: “Crete is an island where you can ride a motorcycle almost all year round and because there are so many special places that can be reached with off-road motorcycles, this kind of motorcycle has always been popular here.” So Vagelis decided to build himself a “vintage enduro with all comforts of new age bikes,” starting with a 1991 Yamaha XT600E — the electric-start version of the Yamaha’s big-single XT600 dual-sport machine. The result, lovingly nicknamed “Thumper Bee,” is an air-cooled big-single thumper that looks straight out of the 1970s glory days, but has many of the amenities of a 21st century machine.
Federico Scalia is the 44-year-old painter, builder, and amateur motocrosser behind Sicily’s Aerostyle Aerografie, which mainly focuses on custom painting for racers, especially custom helmets. As a side hobby, Federico also runs VMX Restomod out of his man-cave / workshop. Federico has an XR650R motard, a CR250 motocrosser, and last year he finished this incredible 1991 Honda XR600R restomod — a bike that’s dripping with trick parts: Wiseco piston, Hot Cams Stage 1 cam, Keihin FCR carb, FMF exhaust, Öhlins suspension, Excel rims, a custom aluminum tank, and much more. The result is one of the trickest 600R’s we’ve ever seen, a restomod enduro that Federico built entirely himself: “I did it all by myself, so I’m very proud of everything. When working on a restoration, every single screw is pampered. The painting, perhaps a little more than the other things.”
Remco Witkamp (@remcopower) of the Netherlands is a two-wheeled enthusiast who modified mopeds for dirt-riding in his youth and turned to full-on motocross at the age of 14, racing for many years. “A few years ago I saw a picture of a scrambler. From that moment on I was thinking that I needed to create one of my own.” Remco picked up a ’91 XT600 as a non-runner, brought it back to his shed, and began working from some initial drawings he’d made. He completely rebuilt the rear frame of the bike, using PVC pipe to mock up the design and buying a welder and pneumatic bending tool to get the job done. He modified the frame to fit a metal tank, crafted a new saddle, re-wired the bike, swapped in a set of 17-inch wheels, and the list goes on. Except for the powder-coated frame, Remco even handled all of the paint himself. The result is a bike he calls the SRC600 — “Scrambler Road Cross” — a unique, shed-built scrambler that’s a blast on all kinds of terrain, and never fails to elicit thumbs up from bystanders!