Our annual review of the most popular custom motorcycles is based purely on statistics, and is almost always polarizing. To balance it out, I have the formidable task of picking my ten personal favorite customs of the year, data be damned.
It’s never easy, but 2021 was a year where the cream truly rose to the top. And so my short list was shorter than it’s been in the past, with a number of standout builds grabbing the top spots almost immediately. It’s an eclectic selection, and the bikes that made the cut have very little in common, other than the fact that they all wowed us.
To level the playing field, I’ve automatically eliminated any bikes that already popped up in our main Top 10. With that out of the way, here are my ten favorite custom motorcycles of 2021, listed alphabetically by builder name.
Feel free to let me know if you think I got it right… or wrong.
10 til’ 12 BMW R100 The challenges of 2021 did nothing to slow down the slew of me-too boxer customs hitting the scene. So this supercharged BMW R100 from F1 works designer Ben Norton felt like a fresh spring breeze.
Operating as 10 til’ 12 (because that’s when he works on his bikes), Ben left no stone unturned on this 1992-model R100RT. The engine work alone could fill volumes; a 1,070 cc Siebenrock kit, an Eaton M24 supercharger, custom engine covers and a custom-made alternator are just a few of the highlights. Oh, and there’s a methanol injection system with a DIY ignition and control computer.
Ben fabricated two separate aluminum fuel cells to hold the petrol and methanol, then hid them under carbon fiber covers that resemble the original R100 tank. Behind that is an Alcantara seat, with custom exhaust headers directing a TYGA muffler to just underneath it.
Chassis upgrades include the forks from a BMW S1000RR, a heavily modified R nineT final drive assembly and a Ducati Panigale shock. Everything is top-shelf—from the Brembo brakes, to the Motogadget electronics and LED lighting. Oh, and did we mention that this was only Ben’s second ever custom job? [More]
Engineered to Slide BMW R nineT Nigel Petrie at Engineered to Slide keeps a pretty low profile outside of his native Australia, but we’re familiar with his work—and his engineering prowess. So when we caught wind that he was working on a BMW R nineT, our anticipation was sky high. And Nigel didn’t disappoint.
Starting with an R nineT Racer, Nigel stripped it down to just its motor, drivetrain and rear brake. Then he started mocking up his vision: a low-slung chopper with a custom chromoly frame and girder-style front end.
The 22F/18R wheels are custom, recalling the snowflake units that graced classic BMW boxers for so many years. The motor now runs with custom-made Smart Carb carbs, and a Morris Magneto unit. And the intakes and exhausts are handcrafted titanium pieces.
Finished off with a modified Lowbrow Customs tank and fender, it’s an astounding machine that subtly blends old and new. And it would have stolen the spotlight at the Born Free this year, if not for some dastardly travel restrictions. [More]
Hazan Buell S1 Max Hazan’s twin-engined Velocette landed on our traditional top 10 list this year, but that wasn’t the only machine he blessed us with. His personal bike—a turbocharged Buell S1—blew us away too.
Max bought the bike two decades ago, rode it for a few years, experimented on it a couple of times, and then let it sit while he established himself as one of the scene’s top builders. With a lot more experience under his belt, he brought the Buell back to life with a ground-up rebuild during the COVID shutdown.
The work includes a capacity boost to 1,350 cc, a handful of internal engine mods, a racing clutch and a Mikuni HSR42 carb. It’s fed by a pressurized fuel system, with a Garrett dual ball bearing GT25R turbo in the mix too. There’s 200 hp at the crank, and 175 at the back wheel.
The central part of the frame is stock, but Max converted the engine mounts from rubber to rigid and rebuilt the rest. There’s also handcrafted aluminum bodywork, a swingarm from another Buell, CBR1000RR forks and 16F/17R Marchesini wheels. It might not be the museum-worthy style of build we’re used to seeing from Max—but it’s still a total masterpiece. [More]
Icon Harley-Davidson Dyna When our friends at Icon Motosports in Portland take a break from producing motorcycle gear to build a custom bike, the results are always wild. We’re still crushing on ‘Homemade Sin’—a bonkers Dyna with a 124 ci S&S Cycle motor and Honda bodywork.
It’s as off-the-wall as you can get, mostly thanks to its unlikely combination of parts. The fuel tank’s from a Honda CB900F Supersport, while the fork shrouds and headlight come from a 1969 Honda Dream. The tail was 3D printed and reinforced with fiberglass, and is loosely based on the original CB900F unit.
Up front are Ducati Monster forks, held by a rare set of wide yokes made by Ducati in the early 2000s. Out back is a Roaring Toyz swingarm, hooked up to Nitron shocks, and the bike rolls on vintage 16” wheels.
Icon describe the bike as “obscenely wide and built for glory.” To back that up, they headed to the rundown Middle Georgia Raceway, and put it on track with a 355 ci V8-powered Chevrolet Monte Carlo stock car. And they filmed it, of course. [More]
Kingston Custom BMW R18 Many R18 customs hit the airwaves this year, but most of them were mildly modded. Kingston Custom’s Dirk Oehlerking was one of only a handful of builders that dared to push the envelope with BMW’s big boxer. And his art deco take on the R18 absolutely floored us.
The build was commissioned by BMW themselves, and followed a style that Dirk had cultivated with previous classic boxer builds.
The silhouette is flawless—starting with the generous front fairing, and ending with the finned rear wheel enclosure. Dirk built the parts by first carving foam molds, then shaping everything in fiberglass.
The front grill was made from scratch, taking inspiration from the iconic BMW 328. Higher up is a deeply recessed headlight, and a custom-made windshield.
The R18 also features custom handlebars and exhausts, and a seat from BMW’s own aftermarket range. It’s finished in the quintessential BMW black-with-white-stripes livery, with vintage roundels. And even though it looks like a showpiece, it’s totally rideable. [More]
The Galaxy by Kiyo’s Garage After building land speed bikes with one, and then two Honda CB750 motors, Mitsuhiro ‘Kiyo’ Kiyonaga decided to up the ante. With funding from the late Bobby Haas, he combined three bored-out CB750 mills to build ‘The Galaxy’—a 12-cylinder, 2,508 cc dream machine.
Each engine is a 1978 CB750 unit with an F2 large port head and a set of Keihin FCR carbs. But getting them all to work together was no walk in the park.
The carbs are linked via a rod-and-heim joint system so that they’re synced. Kiyo also had to split the transmissions of the first two engines, and completely redesign the oil circulation system. Then there’s the custom primary—a system of pulleys and adjusters that borders on rocket science.
Everything’s housed in a three-piece chassis that combines tubular sections with large mounting plates. The integrated aluminum bodywork was all shaped by hand; no CAD or CNC processes here. Gen Katsuragawa at Love Ear Art handled the playful paint job.
The Galaxy can be found on display at the Haas Moto Museum, but Kiyo has one more goal to complete: he wants to race it at Bonneville. [More]
Moto Mucci KTM 300 XC-W Dave Mucci has a knack for dreaming up fresh angles and lines, which exist way out in the left field without being awkward. This lightweight KTM enduro pays testament to that.
This Moto Mucci project started with a 2014 KTM 300 XC-W Six Days edition and a fairly straightforward brief. But things escalated. With a little influence from Husqvarna’s ‘Pilen designs, Dave penned a sharp neo-retro street tracker with clean finishes.
Dave built all the aluminum bodywork himself, after taking classes with metalwork guru Cristian Sosa. “I probably built every panel on the bike five or six times before I was satisfied with the quality and fitment,” he admits. The subframe combines bent tubing with water-jet cut gussets.
Rolling on 19” Roland Sands flat track wheels, the KTM’s finished with a mix of high end aftermarket parts and neat custom touches—like the unusual upholstery from New Church Moto. The clear satin coat over the metal work, with subtle gold accents, is about as tasteful as it gets. [More]
MRS Oficina Kawasaki W800 We’ve seen many Kawasaki W-series scramblers over the years, but they seldom push the genre to this extreme. MRS Oficina gave the W800 some actual off-road capability—and left off the street legal bits to drive the point home.
You’ll find a set of Kawasaki KX450F forks up front, with a pair of Öhlins rear shocks connected to an aluminum swingarm. The wheels are a 21F/18R set with Talon hubs, Excel rims and proper knobbies. And the Renthal bars, grippy foot pegs and burly bash plate mean business too.
MRS Oficina nailed the bodywork as well. The tank’s been shortened and narrowed, and the fuel pump now lives in an auxiliary fuel cell under the stubby seat. Trials-style fenders and high stainless steel pipes round out the package.
The Kawasaki’s livery is just as good as the rest of the mods: a luscious green and blue job, inspired by the 1980s KX500. [More]
Stoker Motorcycles Suzuki SV650 Old SV650s are loved for being fun, reliable and cheap—but not for being attractive. Antti Eloheimo of Stoker Motorcycles in Helsinki changed all that, with this radical remodeling of a 2000-model SV.
He’s turned the poor man’s Monster into a well-judged street tracker, with a minimal vibe and a perfectly balanced stance. Up top is a single fiberglass tank and tail unit, capped off with a racing foam seat. The stock fuel tank’s hiding underneath, but it’s been cut and shut to shrink it.
Antti also lowered the bike a touch, rebuilt the subframe and added a custom aluminum belly pan. There’s a host of 3D printed parts too, plus new bars and relocated foot pegs to tweak the riding position. Off-the-shelf parts include a pair of Titanium mufflers, Motogadget goodies, and Michelin Supermoto tires.
This SV650 not only looks damn sharp, but looks like it’d be a blast to ride too. As we said when we first featured it: more SV650 customs like this one, please. [More]
Vagabund BMW R nineT Austrian wunderkinds Vagabund Moto get better with every project, but their progression on this R nineT was stratospheric. Probably because their client asked them to deliver the best custom they’d ever built.
Collaborating with Bernard ‘Blechmann‘ Naumann (who did all the aluminum fabrication), the guys designed two layers of bodywork for the BMW.
The top layer creates the form and carries the seat, while the bottom layer holds fuel and other bits. Push a button on a remote, and the top section moves up and back, carried on hydraulic shocks.
There’s an astounding amount of custom work to absorb. There’s a Motogadget dash mounted to the bottom section that’s visible via a window up top, along with a leather pouch for a Leatherman multi tool. The entire system is custom—from the subframe, to the aluminum hinges and the 3D printed remote casing.
Vagabund also added carbon fiber wheels from Rotobox and a handful of Rizoma parts. The LED taillight and aggressive-looking exhaust muffler are particularly nice touches on top. But we especially dig the subtle Mercedes grey paint job—because this nineT doesn’t need a loud livery to get noticed. [More]
EDITOR’S NOTE As usual, there was a handful of builds that narrowly missed the top 10—but deserve an honorable mention for their craftsmanship. Those are Walt Siegl’s slick electric concept [above], Robbie Palmer’s Born Free Triumph chopper, CW Zon’s twin carb Knucklehead, and Wedge’s XV750 flat track replica. And then there was Rough Crafts’ BMW R18 [bottom], which was one of the best R18 customs we saw this year.
Bikes on my list that had already made our first Top 10 included Christian Newman’s turbo’ed chopper, Purpose Built Moto’s burly Honda CBX1000, Nmoto’s art deco BMW C400X and the ultra-slick deBolex dB25.
To echo Chris’ sentiments, a massive thank you to the builders and photographers that keep these pages beautiful, our advertisers, and you, our faithful readers. Happy New Year, and see you again in a few days.