Photography by Horst Roesler and Frank Sander
Unlike American custom bike builders who hem pretty closely to air-cooled V-twins as the basis of their custom builds, on the international scene it’s anything goes—usually the stranger, the better. There’s no finer example of this than the annual World Championship of Custom Bike Building, which in recent years has been won using BSA, BMW, and even air-cooled Honda inline four-powered customs. This year’s event, held in conjunction with the Big Bike Europe Expo in Essen, Germany, was no different. Gathering 112 machines from 23 countries, this year’s entries included bikes powered by the usual American and Italian V-twins, as well as oddballs like a diesel, a Honda generator engine, and even a 1920s boat engine. Amongst competition like this, is it even surprising the overall winner featured a Moto Guzzi horizontal single?
Freestyle, 1st Place: Medaza Cycles
Only a mad dog or an Irishman would build a custom using one of Moto Guzzi’s “bacon slicer” singles—or two Irishmen, in this case. Called Rondine, this sleek speedster was built by Medaza Cycles’ Don Cronin and Michael O’Shea, using a 1971 Guzzi Nuovo Falcone 500 engine mounted in a one-off custom frame. Minimalist aluminum bodywork is hand-formed and the girder-type front fork is actually made from a highly modified Harley-Davidson V-Rod swingarm. We especially like the forward-facing muffler, with “zoomie” tips inspired by ’60s dragsters.
Freestyle, 2nd Place: Zen Motorcycles
Vintage bicycles and boardtrack racers inspired the Tribute to Hagakure built by Frenchman Laurent Dutruel. The rigid frame and fork clearly reference early American bicycles, while the dump-pipe exhausts and mustache handlebars are straight from the 1920s boardtrack look-book. Powered (overpowered?) by a 1200cc Buell V-twin, Dutruel built the TtH to ride—as proven at Bonneville Speed Week last year, when he was timed at 130 mph on this bike.
Freestyle, 3rd Place: Rocket Bobs
Rocket Bobs proprietor Pete Pearson built this “Gas’d Rat” from a Shovelhead-powered Harley-Davidson FXS, with styling heavily influenced by the fuel-altered gassers that dominated American drag strips during the 1960s. Incredible details are everywhere you look on this UK-built bike, including the custom monoshock rear suspension, triple-caliper brakes front and rear, and the vintage Morris/Hunt dual magnetos and Weber carburetor that give the engine undeniable old-school appeal.
Modified Harley, 1st Place: Rough Crafts
Taiwan isn’t the first place you think of when you think of custom Harley-Davidsons, but that’s where Winston Yeh’s shop, Rough Crafts, is located. Yeh’s black-on-black, Sportster-based Stealth Bullet is full of trick touches including all-carbon-fiber bodywork, an oil-in-frame conversion, chain drive, and a super-slim parallelogram fork.
Retro Mod, 1st Place: Inglourious Basterds Cycles
Something in the shop name—or at least its spelling—seems lost in translation, but there’s no misunderstanding the rat-rod aesthetic of the Italian-built Bastarda Senza Gloria that won this year’s Retro Mod balloting. A mash-up of a 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead chassis with the engine and running gear from a 1979 FX Shovelhed, the BSG is distinguished with perfect patina on the many original components and just enough brass, copper and chrome accents to give the bike a touch of modern appeal.
Street Performance, 1st Place: Zen Motorcycles
Laurent Dutruel was a double winner at this year’s competition, and this bike that won the Street Performance class looks decidedly more real-world rideable that Dutruel’s Freestyle entry. Based on a Harley-Davidson XR1200 that has been extensively modified with a Softail-style under-engine rear shock and a custom subframe that supports a hand-formed aluminum tail section with matching fuel tank, the patriotic-colored flyer also gets a big-time horsepower boost via a turbocharger located beneath the seat. Like he did with his other bike last year, Dutruel plans to ship this one from France to the U.S. next summer, where he will ride it from San Francisco to the Bonneville Salt Flats and attempt to set a speed record in the 1350 M-PBG class.