Tag Archives: Japan

BMW K 1600 GTL Project: The Builders

Harley-Davidson dominates the heavyweight custom scene in Japan: many of the top builders work on no other marque. But BMW has just disrupted that paradigm with its ‘Ignite Straight 6’ project: it’s given its luxury K 1600 GTL tourer to two of Japan’s most esteemed motorcycle craftsmen. Keiji Kawakita (Hot Dock Custom Cycles) and Kenji

Yamaha XS650 custom by An-Bu

Where to next for the custom motorcycle scene? Over the past ten years, raked-out choppers have faded away and ‘Brat Style’ bikes have dominated. The genre is named after the Tokyo-based workshop run by ‘Go’ Takamine, one of a handful of Japanese builders who took cheap commuter bikes and stripped them back to the basics,

Kawasaki KZ1000 by AC Sanctuary

Late 70s Japanese superbikes have character by the bucketload—unlike the plasticized contemporary offerings. There’s ample performance too: a stock Kawasaki KZ1000 puts out around 90 hp, and can run the quarter mile in just over 12 seconds. Unfortunately, the dynamics of such bikes have fallen a long way behind modern standards. And that’s where the

Deus Bali: Tiger's Milk I

In Indonesia, the Honda Tiger GL200 is a popular commuter bike—a simple and low-cost thumper with nondescript plastic bodywork. Actually, ‘nondescript’ is not the right word: it’s an eyesore. According to Deus Bali, “the bike comes out of the Honda factory looking pretty ugly. It’s covered in spaceship-esqe plastic covers and faux chrome pieces, which

Hide SP-26 Sportster

Japan holds Harley’s Sportster range in higher regard than probably any other country in the world. The Sportster custom subculture is huge, and somewhere near the top of this very large tree is Hide Motorcycles (aka HIDEMO). This is the SP-26, the latest custom to roll out of the Kawasaki City workshop. And despite the

Kawasaki Z1 900

If I had to lay a bet on the next big trend in custom motorcycles, I’d say we’re returning to the glory days of 1970s and 1980s superbikes. Interest in these iconic machines seems to be rising, and upgrade parts are readily available—albeit mostly in Japan. The days of the traditional British café racer must

Kawasaki Zephyr 750 by Sanctuary

Some 15 years ago, Kawasaki’s Zephyr range kickstarted the trend for retro naked motorcycles in Europe. The styling was loosely based on the original Z1, and although the Zephyrs were criticized for lacking the fearsome character of the Z1, they sold well. This Zephyr 750, however, is much closer to the spirit of the original

Yamaha Maxam CP250

When I first stumbled across this odd scooter, I thought it was one of those concepts that would never see the light of day. And yes, the Maxam CP250 did start life as a concept—way back in 2005. But then Yamaha put it into production. It’s billed as a ‘tandem cruiser’, and it’s on sale

Bull Dock Kawasaki Z1000J

Kawasaki’s original 1972 Z1 was raw and uncompromising. And in the wrong hands, potentially lethal. When the subsequent Z1000J came out, the rough edges had been smoothed over—the styling was softer and the suspension was better sorted, even though the new model was lighter and slightly more powerful. Today, the Z1000J has attained cult status

Heiwa MC

There are literally hundreds of custom motorcycle builders in Japan. They flourish in a climate created by the stringent taxation of new motorcycles, plus the relentless desire of riders for customization and one-upmanship. Over the years, a small handful of shops have risen to the top of the premier league, and one of those outfits

Kawasaki 250TR

The vintage dirtbike influence is growing in the custom scene. Street trackers (like those from Mule Motorcycles) are getting more attention, along with iconic machines from luminaries such as Ron Wood. The vintage motocross scene is booming. And even regular café racers are sporting dirt-track Dunlop K180 rubber to get the vintage look. The mainstream

Ace Motorcycles Panhead

There seems to be a trend towards compact, muscular customs in Japan. And if that means fewer vintage Harleys desecrated with ape bars, peanut tanks and cheesy metalflake paint, I’m happy. This Panhead is a classic example: it didn’t grab me immediately, but the longer I looked at the pictures, the more I liked it.

Honda CB750 Police

Just when you thought you’d seen every possible version of Honda’s iconic CB750, here’s another: the super-rare CB750P/K0 Police model. The exquisite bike shown here is a 1970 example owned by a collector in Japan, and it’s a delicate antidote to the overblown style of its Harley-Davidson and Moto Guzzi contemporaries. The combined headlight/speedometer is

Honda CB1100R

There’s something strangely compelling about 1980s superbikes. The French have a phrase for it: jolie laide, meaning both pretty and ugly at the same time. To my eyes, Honda’s CB1100R is a classic example of this. It’s a ‘homologation special’, produced in small numbers so that the bike qualified for production-class racing in Europe, South