Over the last few years, the explosion in popularity of ‘choppers’, fueled in part by the Discovery Channel TV show Biker Build-Off, has brought ‘custom’ motorcycles into the mainstream consciousness. However, with a few notable exceptions, every one of these machines have been powered by one of the many Harley-derived powerplants from companies like S&S. While there’s nothing wrong with these motors, we’d like to see ‘metric’ powerplants get their chance to shine as the centerpiece of a hand-built custom.
As a person who enjoys riding motorcycles, I’ve always gravitated towards those Biker Build-Off contestants who build their bikes with the rider in mind. Sure, almost all customs (and many production bikes, for that matter) make compromises to handling and comfort in the name of appearance, but in the end, I look for the bikes that you could actually hop onto and ride to a bike night, to lunch, to work, or to a buddy’s house. In my mind, a trailer has no place in the world of real motorcycling, except perhaps when used to transport a full-on race bike.
Luckily, there are quite a few custom cruiser builders out there building bikes with this same philosophy. At the same time, the latest drag-racing influenced custom sportbikes are equally appealing. While lowering a sportbike and extending the length of its wheelbase certainly entails some compromises in handling ability, overall most of these bikes are still ‘rideable’ – in the sense that you could use them to ride to work nearly as easily as you could on a stock bike.
Now sportbike and metric cruiser enthusiasts finally have their own show in the vein of Biker Build-Off, and this weekend I visited Las Vegas to meet the builders and check out their creations. MetricTV has a group of builders (ten sportbike builders, ten cruiser builders, and four ‘rookies’) choosing a stock motorcycle on which to base their custom creation. Then, over the course of 180 days, the builders constructed the motorcycles I saw in Las Vegas.
Most of these customs will be featured in future issues of Super Streetbike magazine, but here are some photos I took of a few of the bikes that caught my eye.
In the sportbike category, we saw bikes like the McCoy Motorsports Suzuki Hayabusa, which featured a one-off, hand-built chromoly frame and extended chromoly single-sided swingarm (both by Gregg DesJardins of Gregg’s Customs, a regular MD reader!), wrapped with custom bodywork that completely eliminates the bulbous look of the stock Hayabusa in favor of a much cleaner, edgier vision constructed using components from several modern sportbikes. All this is propelled down the road by an insane Velocity Racing twin-turbocharged Hayabusa motor, with extra power available from the Nitrous Express nitrous oxide setup, just in case the boosted Hayabusa isn’t enough (!!). The end result is something far beyond anything we’ve seen in the hordes of custom Hayabusas out there, and trust me, we’ve seen plenty.
Another standout in the sportbike category was the insane Suzuki GSX-R1000 created by Dean Kawczak and his team at LBF Cycles in New York. Dean’s bike eschewed the spikes, chrome and wild paint common to many custom sportbikes in favor of an ultra-smooth, cleanly integrated look. The GSX-R had so many trick details that every time I looked at the bike, I noticed something new – from the ultra-smooth, ten-inch extended Trac Dynamics swingarm (which doubles as the gas tank!) to the clear lexan wheels, not to mention the nearly hidden controls!
The throttle is routed inside the clip-on, as is the clutch, which is operated by twisting the left handgrip (rather than the usual lever). Cleanly tucked in below the handlebars are small buttons for the two-way Pingle electric shifter, along with slightly larger thumb-actuated brake levers for the front and rear brakes (did I mention these are Buell-style perimeter rotors?). This allowed Kawczak to leave the footpeg area uncluttered by other controls. Even more trick is the clear panel in the gas tank, which allows the rider to look directly into the top of the airbox, and watch the throttle butterflys rotate.
The LBF GSX-R’s clean look is accentuated by the two-tone paint scheme on the modified Suzuki bodywork. The bike rides extremely low on LBF/Dapincci air-ride suspension (front and rear), and the overall look is simply stunning. We predict that after this bike hits TV and magazines, LBF will be vaulted into the top tier of the custom sportbike game.
Finally we come to my favorite machine from the cruiser segment. Adam Canni of Canni Design is an industrial designer, and he put his skills to good use to develop the simple, elegant look of his Triumph 955cc triple-powered custom cruiser. The Canni bike rides low at both ends, and Adam claims the geometry is appropriate for hitting corners, at least at a typical cruiser pace – although like most low-riding cruisers, parts will start dragging early if ridden too aggressively. All the same, the bike is beautiful, and highlighted by innovative details like the bellypan/gas tank and the dual spring/shock combo which suspend the beautiful hand-formed metal seat unit, taking the sting out of the hardtail rear end. The bike’s minimalist design also results in a low overall weight (which Mr. Canni demonstrated by easily lifting the rear end off the ground), which combined with the powerful and torquey Triumph inline triple should produce impressive acceleration.
These are just a few of the amazing machines that were built for MetricTV, but it should be clear by now that the exposure offered by this show has motivated these builders to step up their game, truly taking the customization of imported sportbikes and cruisers to a whole new level.
MetricTV has not yet been picked up by a television station – the producers are planning to finish the show, and then market the entire package to interested parties. However, you can visit the MetricTV website to keep up to date on what’s going on, and find out when and how to tune in to watch the show. Trust me, it will be a hell of a lot better than Orange County Choppers!