Best Custom Bikes of 2021: Editor’s Choice

Best Customs 2021

Last week, we presented our Top 10 Custom Bikes of 2021, which is an objective, data-driven list, in which bikes are ranked according to website traffic 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!

White Helmets Tribute: Triumph Bonneville T100 “No.2”

Triumph T100 Bonneville White Helmets

For nearly a century, the Royal Signals Motorcycle Display Team — better known as the White Helmets — was a team of soldiers from the Royal Corps of Signals of the British Army who performed public demonstrations of motorcycling skills, stunt riding, and acrobatics. The team’s origins were the horsemanship and precision motorcycle demonstrations given by members of the Signal Training Centre starting in 1927. Unfortunately, in 2017, the team was disbanded after 90 years of service, with top officials stating that the White Helmets had become too old-fashioned an image for the Royal Signals, which are now involved in cutting-edge cyber warfare. (Cue the eye roll.) Oli Blount (@no.2triumph), who served a three-year stint with the White Helmets (2012-2015), developed a love for the classic bikes they performed on, and in May of 2021, he had the idea to create a White Helmets tribute build: “The vision for the build was to create a tribute motorcycle, something the team would be proud of and happy to ride in a show — British, highly polished with a classic appearance, but on this occasion, road legal.” All in all, this is one absolutely stunning tribute to the White Helmets, and one of the loveliest Triumphs we’ve had the pleasure to showcase in some time.

Super Single: Suzuki DR600 Supermono

Suzuki DR600 Supermono

We’ve always been fans of “supermono” motorcycles — a term that came into use to describe a European road racing series for single-cylinder machines with a maximum displacement of 800cc. Enter Eddy Cuccaro (@l_etabli_d_eddy), a 28 y.o. French metalworker who’s been passionate about motorcycles since he got his license back in 2013. Eddy decided he wanted to relaunch himself into the bike-building adventure, wondering what he could accomplish with his experience, tools, and the materials at hand. The end product of that mission is the DR600 supermono you see here. He bought the ’87 DR600 Djebel donor in poor condition, already modified into a supermoto form. Usually, we see this kind of base used for scrambler or tracker builds, but Eddy already had other ideas in mind: “The criteria was only to build a cafe racer with an inverted fork and spoke rims. The rest would be seen.” Eddy says he let the bike come together naturally, letting the various parts harmonize as the build unfolded. He shaped most of the bodywork in aluminum, and did all of the custom work himself barring the paint and saddle. The result is a custom cafe racer / supermono that’s both striking to the eye and a hoot to ride around the French Alps of his home: “It is stable, light (145kg with gasoline), maybe lacking in power but very fun on the roads of my home (I live at the foot of the mountains).”

Small-Bore Speeder: Honda MB5 Land Speed Racer

Honda MB5 Land Speed Racer

This stunning ’85 MB5 is the work of Tim Klostermann of Economy Chopper, who had one clear goal in mind with this build: “I built the bike to race at Bonneville and attempt to beat the current AMA land speed record in the M-AG 50cc class.” Keeping as much of the 80s style as possible, Tim set out to streamline and de-clutter the small-bore smoker. He detabbed the frame and had it nickel-plated, mounted a longer aftermarket swingarm, internally lowered the forks, and fabricated a whole host of new componentry: rearsets, swingarm struts, chain guard, brake/shifter linkage, and more. Then there’s the engine: “The engine has an inner rotor ignition, lightened crank, shaved head, cylinder porting, adjustable CDI, slightly larger than stock bore Dellorto carb, and some reed valve trickery.” At the end of August, we got to see the bike in person as Tim took it to the Bonneville Salt Flats, hoping to beat the M-AG 50cc class record of 70.314 mph. While it didn’t run as well as he hoped, he’ll be back!

Godet-Vincent 1330cc Scrambler

Vincent Scrambler

Patrick Godet was a modern master in the world of Vincent Motorcycles. He learned the mechanical art and intricacies of these legendary machines from men who’d worked at the Vincent factory, and he would work to keep the breed alive and well into the 21st century, garnering an astounding list of awards, accomplishments, and titles. Sadly, Patrick passed away in 2018, but Godet Motorcycles has kept going strong thanks to the efforts of workshop manager François Guérin and a small team of Vincent / HRD specialists. Vincent motorcycles come to them from all over the world for restoration, they campaign a Grey Flash in the French classic championship, and they’ve developed a slightly modernized 1330cc / 100-hp Vincent engine. The Scrambler you see here was a special order from a customer, who wanted a scrambler with an Egli frame and Godet-Vincent 1330cc engine. While workshop manager François admits that scramblers aren’t really their culture, they decided to move forward with the project, basing it largely on their Sport GT model.  The result is not only stunning, but one hell of a ride: “Some purists will hate this bike, but honestly, to open the gas on a 160kg scrambler, with that tires and a 100hp Vincent engine…. WOWWW….”

Johnny Campbell Tribute: Honda XR628R Baja

Honda XR628R

Former motocross racer Matteo Gualandi of Italy’s GPgarage not only helps run a pair of modern Hondas in the Italian Rally Championship, but his passion for vintage Honda machinery still burns strong, as evidenced by this tribute to Johnny Campbell, the “King of Baja.” Says Matteo: “Everything started three years ago after seeing some Johnny Campbell videos — I was in love with his XR628 Baja… I had to build one especially for me!” Matteo scoured old American motocross magazines from the 90s for any and all information he could find on the XR628R Baja machines — not surprisingly, much of the bike’s components had to be built from scratch, as the original Honda factory parts are rare artifacts indeed. But all that effort was well worth it, especially when Johnny Campbell himself reached out to say he liked the build!

Lurch Reborn: Yamaha XV920RJ Vintage Superbike

Yamaha XV920 Superbike

Did you know the bike that Kevin Schwantz rode in his first-ever professional race was also the first Japanese V-twin ever raced in AMA Superbike? The bike was “Lurch,” a Yamaha XV920 built by Vernon Davis of Texas — a V-twin monster which has become a near-mythical creature in American racing lore. Fast forward to 2021, and Jesse Davis, Vernon’s son and the owner of JD Moto Service, decided to build and race a re-creation of the original Lurch his father built. The specs are nothing short of staggering: 1155cc, 100+hp, less than 400 pounds, R6 geometry, built for AHRMA Vintage Superbike Heavyweight. Nearly everything on the bike was hand-built in-house: brackets, spacers, cam sprockets, fork brace, exhaust, seat unit, and more: “Nothing on the bike has been untouched by the mill, lathe, or welder.” As you might imagine, it’s a very sentimental build for Jesse — a tribute to his father, who loves the bike — and it’s no show pony either: “I was able to win the CSRA Superbike race at Thunderhill on the bike’s debut. With over 100 hp and 85 ft lbs, and 375 wet weight, the acceleration and handling are extremely surprising for a 40 year old motorcycle…”

Excess 750: Yamaha XS650 Motocrosser

Yamaha XS650 Vintage Motocross

The man behind this beast is Travis Newbold of Newbold’s Motorbike Shop — a Colorado workshop focused on performance engine building and suspension tuning. Travis grew up racing motocross, attended Motorcycle Mechanics Institute, and raced in Baja before the legendary Pikes Peak International Hill Climb beckoned him. In 2012, Travis won the 450 class at Pike’s Peak on a “junkyard-poverty-built” CRF450 he pieced together on a shoestring, then used the winnings to open his shop. Travis still keeps his foot in a number of racing disciplines.  When he built a fresh motor for his XS650 flat tracker, the old engine — a heavily-massaged 775cc unit — needed a home. Travis decided to give the veteran race motor quite the retirement — some golden years on a motocross track! Nicknamed the “Excess 750,” this massive XS650 motocrosser has a stock frame with an RM swing arm, YZ front end / rear wheel, DT400 tank, first-gen Öhlins remote reservoir shocks, and a very trick set of stainless straight pipes welded up by his buddy Gary Pasquale of MONA Creations. Travis says the “Excess 750” might be a tank on the track, but he makes it work against the production motocross bikes of the same era: “It reminds me of riding a big wave runner for some reason. It has no problem spinning the rear wheel with a crack of the wrist. I find myself jumping jumps on it that should not see flight from a street bike.”

All Parts Fun: ’66 Triumph T100C from Tamara Raye

Triumph T100C Desert Sled

Tamara Raye is a Disneyland engineer and WARGIRL bassist who finds solace in riding and tinkering with vintage motorcycles. Last year we featured the BSA Victor 441 Enduro of Tamara’s boyfriend, Jorma Vik — another one of our favorite builds of the year — and then we featured “Little Man,” Tamara’s 1966 Triumph T100C. Tamara originally bought the bike with a single mission in mind — vintage motocross — and the pandemic gave her the opportunity to get the old Triumph out of the garage and back in action: “The goal with this bike was to pay homage to the past, while creating a fully functional machine that was nice enough to look at, but not too pretty to bash around in the dirt. Ultimately, I wanted the bike to look as fun as it feels to ride.” Highlights include a Betor front end, T100SC Jack Pine fuel tank, 502 pipes from Ace Desert Parts, custom skid plate and handmade number board, custom seat pan and cover, lots of bracketry and metalwork courtesy of boyfriend Jorma, and an engine fully rebuilt with the help of Hayden Roberts of Hello Engine MC. Tamara says she’s proud the bike looks quite different from most of the other 1960s desert sleds out there: “It’s one part desert racer, one part rat rod, and all parts fun!”

Speedy Seagull: 100cc Honda Land Speeder

Honda 100cc Land Speed Racer

This year, Isaac Siegl of Speedy Siegl Racing took on a new challenge: building a land speed bike to compete at Bonneville! The class/record Isaac chose was 100-MPS-PF, meaning modified frame, partial streamlining, 100cc, pushrod actuated valves, and any fuel besides regular gasoline. His donor was a humble 1964 Honda CT200 — the predecessor of the CT90 — though he ultimately went with a C200 frame for the larger backbone. Design inspiration came from 1960s-70s 50cc GP bikes, as well as Japan’s B.O.B.L. (Battle of Bottom Link) 50cc leading-link racers. Nearly everything is scratch-built or modified. The cylinder was bored 3mm to fit a modified CB175 piston for higher compression, and the crank, primary, cam gear, and rockers were all lightened. The head was ported, a second spark plug hole added, and Web Cams provided a custom camshaft. “The engine inhales through a Mikuni TM24 flat slide carb tuned for methanol, and a wet nitrous system.” The bike is now rolling on 18-inch Excel aluminum rims and uber-slim Bridgestone BT39ss tire, and the custom aluminum tanks holds the nitrous bottle. We especially love the Lucky Strike-inspired livery, a nod to Kevin Schwantz’s 1980s superbikes. The bike weighs in at just 135 pounds! In its very first visit to Bonneville, the “Speedy Seagull” set a new class record of 73.75 mph in the timed mile — quite the feat of engineering for such a small displacement machine!

White Motorcycle Concepts WMC250EV Land Speeder

WMC250EV

White Motorcycle Concepts (WMC) has developed the WMC250EV High Speed Demonstrator, a 250-mph carbon-fiber machine designed to make a world land speed record attempt in Bolivia in 2022. The bike’s unique “V-Air” aerodynamic system is a central duct that allows airflow through the motorcycle rather than around it, resulting in a reported drag reduction of up to 70% — astonishing! WMC founder Robert White explains that this “vastly more flexible” power packaging can be used to optimize the aerodynamic shape of the bike, and instead of pushing air around any unoccupied space within the frame, a channel can be created to pass the air straight through the middle of the bike — not an option with a traditional combustion engine. The WMC team put their theory to the test when they were joined by none other than Guy Martin and his 860-hp / 300-mph streamliner in the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) wind tunnel, where they came away with their 70% drag reduction figures.  WMC’s ultra-low drag V-Air isn’t the only interesting piece of technology on the 250-mph WMC250EV. The bike uses a “D-Drive” motor unit, which powers the front wheel and harnesses regenerative braking energy, and also carries a unique “F-Drive” final drive system that boosts power and enhances efficiency — a technology that could be retrofitted to improve existing street bikes, they say. We can’t wait to see what the WMC machine does in ’22!

 

2 Comments

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