Customs from away: Where do you find custom bikes that don’t all look the same?

PAR Steve ThorntonPosted on

Let’s see, now. You seek a highly defined, innovative and attractive motorcycle festooned with one-off parts and built by a bunch of car guys who claim they love motorcycles. Where do you look? That’s right—Romania.

Or, you need a motorcycle that has grown a cowhide and gotten itself tattooed up the ying-yang. What does it say on your plane ticket? Why, Poland, of course.

For no reason that we can think of, we’ve received email messages lately about motorcycles customized in unusual ways from both Romania and Poland, whose borders come to within about 100 kilometres of each other.

In the first case, Gabi Nicolae, the man who started Taifun Off Road (a Romanian company that builds cars for off-road and rally raid competition), and the manager of Romania’s first Dakar Rally team, wrote to tell us about The Mechanik, a BMW K100 with a GSX-R fork, an F-1 type rear suspension, and some other unusual bits.

Here’s a bit of a rundown. At the front, you have a headlight that employs uniball-mounted arms to allow it to swivel on the horizontal axis, showing a headlight on one side and on the other side a number plate.

Nicolae and his team chose a GSX-R fork for the old Beemer “because it is very good quality and has highly tunable compression, rebound, spring rate and spring preload.” The Tokico caliper was kept, “but the problem was how to put together the 1984 BMW K100 front wheel with the wider Suzuki fork legs and the 320 mm required front disc brakes.” For various reasons Yamaha R1 discs were best suited, so they built adapters out of aircraft aluminum and fitted them. Nicolae says they look like OEM parts.

Rear suspension is a Formula 1 car “push-rod type, re-engineered.” The F1 system allows spring rate to be altered without touching the spring preload, bike height to be changed to match fork sag (“by modifying the length of the push-rod itself”), and compression and rebound damping to be tuned “without actuating the shock’s compression and rebound dials,” which remain and allow further suspension tuning.

The triple clamp was custom made, the exhaust system was made in-house, the rear brake required some ingenuity, and other fabricated parts were used, but the electrics are off-the-shelf from Motogadget. Total time on the project, six months and 425 labour hours.

From Poland’s Game Over Cycles comes The Recidivist, a tattooed motorcycle based on a Harley-Davidson Heritage model. All but the Twin Cam 96 engine and part of the frame were made by the custom bike fabricator. Game Over says the bike’s “entire construction is covered in tattooed skin branded directly onto the bike’s tires, tanks, seat, rear fender, lamp and many other smaller elements.” Light-coloured cowhide, “similar to the color of human skin,” was laid onto the bike, then “artists from Polish tattoo studios applied traditional works of tattoo art onto the bike.”

The tattooed skin of the bike is one thing, but many of the components were made to look like tattoo parlour instruments. The fork “has the look of a traditional coil tattoo machine,” while the exhaust system resembles a “modern tattoo machine, including the tattooing needles which when you start the bike, move exactly as they do when the tattoo machine applies ink under the skin.”

The design was based on “a number of technical solutions drawing from the turbulent lifestyles of post-war bikers,” the Polish customizer says. For instance, a lever for starting the bike “has the shape of a bomb detonator lever,” while the rear light indicators “look like brass knuckle-dusters” and the front brakes “have the appearance of handcuffs.”

A sidecar was also created for The Recidivist and is “fully tattooed, both outside and inside and also on the tires.”

Building the motorcycle and sidecar too 3,000 hours, and tattooing of both took more than 2,500 hours. Was it time well spent? We’ll guess the opinions of Cycle Canada readers will be mixed, but judges at the Prague Custom Gallery 2018, which was “organized as part of the H-D brand anniversary” celebration there, gave the tattooed two-wheeler a special prize, and The Recidivist also won first prize in the “Most Unusual” class of the Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show at Sturgis.

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