Practically for the same reason your wife rearranges and decorates your living room, riders decide to customize their motorcycles. You want to fit it perfectly to your style. You want to adjust everything to its optimum performance and comfort. And of course, you want to get that uniqueness out of the design. Every rider likes to see heads turning after his custom motorcycle. It adds to the pleasure, and it just feels fantastic. You want to hear people say nice things about your kids, and it makes you happy to hear compliments about your two-wheeled beauty as well.
Building a custom motorcycle doesn’t only mean upgrading its performance and changing visual appearance. To point out it’s also about adding to its functionality for whatever part it is missing from the factory. If you’re new to the hobby, you should probably start slowly. In the end, practice makes perfect, and you should upgrade your skills with time.
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For some, it’s a hobby, and some do it for a living. Some take it as a one time project, but in the end, most people would describe it as art. Are you having troubles to imagine how to connect dirty hands with art? Read on and see some beautiful custom motorcycle masterpieces as a result of dedication, hard work, great imagination and impeccable craftsmanship. However, in some cases, creativity has no limits. It may not even have anything to do with art unless the art piece intends to bring a smile to your face.
Yes, you can! Nowadays you can find an infinite variety of motorcycle parts and accessories that will fit your beauty on two wheels. Even if you can’t find anything that suits your idea at first, countless custom shops will manufacture any part for you that will fit your motorcycle in the desired way.
Regardless if you are searching for a customised seat, wheels, headlamps, turn-signals, extended forks, fenders, shock-absorbers, modified tail and brake lights, personalised fairings and almost everything else you can imagine; the options are infinite and you’ll probably want to take on several projects, just to put out the tremendous creativity all the varieties offer.
Custom motorcycle described as a »bobber« is called that way only in the last two decades, give or take a few years. The name bobber derives from the word »bob-job« that riders use from the 1930s onwards It describes motorcycles customised in a way they resembled the racing motorcycle from the American Class C racing motorcycles back in the days.
The primary focus for this particular type of customisation is to strip down any excess weight to improve the power-to-weight ratio. Riders strip down all excessive fairings, remove the front fender and shorten the rear one; they remove any parts that aren’t essential for the best performance of the bike. One of the most recognisable features is the seat, only for the rider, a smaller gas tank, raised handlebars, and upwards curved exhaust pipes. This features became distinctive for this kind of custom motorcycles even up to date.
Cafe racers started trending in the 1960s. The trend grew fast among young riders, which wanted to customise their motorcycles to resemble the Grand Prix racing motorcycles. Usually, Cafe racers were smaller displacement bikes, stripped down as much as possible to reduce weight and like with the bobber, to optimise the power-to-weight ratio. Riders tunned up the engines to the maximum extent practicable and upgraded their bikes for optimum handling on the road.
Another distinctive feature is the low-mounted and narrow handlebars, elongated fuel tank, forcing the rider in a more racing position to minimise the wind resistance and getting the most speed out of their motorcycle. Custom cafe racer motorcycles were built for speed, not so much for comfort. Thus they were intended for short-distance rides, like riding between cafes. They were meant for showing off rather than riding. They are very trendy again in the last few years, and it is beautiful to see the return of the cafe racers on our roads.
To point out, the perhaps most extreme custom motorcycle type, choppers are one of the most recognisable and undoubtedly the most popular type of bikes modification in the USA. It is not surprising at all since the style originates from the USA. You can’t miss them. You will quickly recognise this custom motorcycle type for their extended forks. Also, more significant than the stock front wheel increased rake angle and lengthened frames. Another signature feature of choppers is the so-called »sissy bar«. It is a set of tubes connecting the structure with the rear fender, very often set and extended several feet high.
Numerous workshops, also called »chop-shops«, are not only customising factory-built motorcycles but are building choppers from scratch as well. In many cases it became a type of an art form, sometimes risking a part of the motorcycle functionality and handling for a higher level of artistic expression. What started as a trend in smaller regions in the USA, soon became a worldwide phenomenon. The art form became popular after the year 2000 with many successful reality shows boosting this art form to an even wider audience.
Nowadays Scramblers are trending. Beside custom shops, even the manufacturers are releasing new models with scrambler designs, hitting tremendous sales results. The most recent scramblers the manufacturers introduced were the Ducati Scrambler, BMW R-nine-T and Moto Guzzi V7 Stornello Scrambler.
However, what defines a scrambler is the vintage, stripped-down design, knobby tires suitable for off-road riding, high pipes, rugged and aggressive looks. This type of custom motorcycle appeared along with the Cafe racers in the 1960s where young riders competed in races from one point to another, often choosing shortcuts through rugged terrain and fields. Since back in the days there were no specific dirt bikes available. Riders customised the bikes available to make them perform better in off-road conditions.
Nowadays, manufacturers develop dual-sport motorcycles to combine on and off-road riding experience. It makes me think if the latest Scramblers aren’t presented only for the riders who seek the visual attraction and nostalgia of this particular motorcycle type. As it seems, a lot of motorcyclists still have a lot of passion for Scramblers. Even among younger riders, recent Scrambler editions have a lot of success. To point out, it has been an evergreen, and it will remain so for a while. Even though you can buy a Scrambler already from the factory, a lot of riders prefer to build their custom motorcycle in the “scrambler” look.
From my research, I could only conclude, that the Streetfighter type custom motorcycle evolved from the cafe racers as a subgenre in the late 1970s to early 1980s, after the introduction of affordable Japanese street bikes.
The rider removed as much fairing as possible to get the aggressive look. He took away the excessive rear footpegs, mirrors and perhaps some other unneeded details. One reason was to lower the weight of the bike and the second goal was to get the aggressive appearance that the name itself already suggests. Riders changed the headlamp as well, and it was trendy to add a big round one. Other mods were performance-oriented.
One distinctive feature was to add the straight handlebars that helped to handle in wheelies. Another thing riders added was a short and loud exhaust. Better late than never, the manufacturers also recognised these trends. With a bit of delay, they introduced Streetfighters as serial production bikes. One of the first was the Triumph Speed Tripple, but the Ducati was the one manufacturer that went straight to it when Ducati introduced the Streetfighter in 2009.
Supermoto is also called a supermotard. These custom motorcycles are created for races where riders compete on three different road surfaces that require different riding styles. Races take place on circuits with a combination of paved tarmac (road racing), packed dirt (track racing) and discontinuous jumps and obstacles (motocross). Supermotard, therefore, combines the characteristics of motorcycles from each racing type, allowing them to perform well on different terrains and different riding styles. Supermotards are usually custom motorcycles that combine an off-road bike with road racing tyres. Many manufacturers produce this particular combination in some specific models already from the factory as well.
Like with the Streetfighter model, Ducati went straight to it and had offered a specific motorcycle with a name that speaks for itself – the Hypermotard. Many other manufacturers offer dedicated motorcycle models for the same riding style. Still, Ducati has been the only one that chose a name that doesn’t allow many interpretations and sets the Hypermotard as a factory-built Supermoto/Supermotard.
A Cutdown is an expression for customisation of scooter-like motorcycles. Most popular models for this type of custom modifications were the “Lambretta” and “Vespa” scooters. Whatever the bike could still ride without was cut away, therefore the expression the »Cutdown«. Like with most other modifications, the number one priority is to increase the power-to-weight ratio and to get the scooter to look as aggressive as possible.
Riders turned up their Cutdowns with performance exhausts and modified carburettors, overbored cylinders and aftermarket shock-absorbers. They replaced the drum front brakes with hydraulic disc brakes as well and added a lot of carbon fibre add-ons to reduce the weight additionally.
You’re probably familiar with drag races. Two vehicles are standing in line behind a ¼ mile stretch of asphalt. The goal is to reach the ¼ mile mark as fast as possible. This kind of competitions are popular with a lot of different types of vehicles and motorcycles are no exception.
Racers modify drag bikes to get the most power out of the engine. Since they ride only in straight lines, they don’t put much focus on handling characteristics. Custom drag bike motorcycles are often elongated and have metal tubes extended far beyond the rear fender, which prevents the enormous torque from lifting the front wheel and tipping the bike over. With modified engines with over 1000 HP, the acceleration is out of this world. Such power allows motorcycles to reach the ¼ mile mark under 6 second.
Customising a bike can cost a fortune. But there is one specific type of custom motorcycle – the Rat bike. The basic idea of a Rat bike is to spend a minimum amount of money to keep it operational. Often without any consideration about the visual appearance. Riders of Rat bikes often use parts, that were not intended for the particular model of their motorcycle. Therefore they modify any element to the point it serves its purpose. If there is a hole in the exhaust, Rat bike owners won’t weld it but would instead use a metal cover and fix it with clamps instead.
The rustier, the better. Some of the Rat bikes look like they came right out of the Mad Max series. They resemble motorcycles from the villains chasing Tom Hardy. While some riders find it awful, many seem to find beauty in rusty looks.
In the beginning, I mentioned these three cool motorcycle accessories, which are a great start when customizing your bike 🙂
Vigo is amazing for those of us who use bikes in the city but also for long journeys. It’s a tracking device for your motorcycle that works on three different signals. Actually, by purchasing it you get a SIM card for free. It is a GPS, Bluetooth and mobile antenna-run device that is impossible to jam by robbers. You can do a DIY installation with it because everything you need comes included.
Second, in line is the fact that it offers real-time GPS information about where is your bike. You can open the app on your phone at any time and find exactly where your bike is. It does this without draining your bike´s battery because it uses your bike´s internal dynamo to charge its internal battery. This internal battery can last up to three months anyway.
The third is the fact that the same GPS creates a scoring system to make you a better rider. I love the way it generates a healthy competition with yourself and you just want to top your scores by riding better.
Finally, the SOS system allows you to designate a contact of your phonebook to call in case of an emergency. First, it will attempt to contact you and make you touch the screen. If you don´t, it will call your emergency contact with the exact location where you are. Calling an emergency on time can literally save your life.
Besides the Vigo Smart Track, you can also install the Smart Turn System to your bike. It’s a gadget, that cancels your turn signals automatically when you finish a curve or change lanes. This is a perfect gadget for the city rides if you happen to sometimes forget to cancel the turn signals on your own.
Finally, the SBM is also an essential gadget and perfect for heavy traffic. When you slow down due to engine braking or downshifting, it engages your brake light and let’s other traffic participants know, that you are getting slower.
At Smart Turn System, we love good stories. We always appreciate when our community shares their experience and their projects with us. Therefore I kindly invite you to our Facebook page or Instagram, where you can post your two-wheeled beauties. And don’t forget to tell us what you customised or what you are planning to do in your next project. We’re already looking forward to seeing it!