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Today's Top Custom Bike Builders Review

Thursday, December 10, 2009
S S Cylces book Todays Top Custom Bike Builders
If you like custom motorcycles, you'll love Today's Top Custom Bike Builders.
In 2008, V-Twin engine manufacturer S&S Cycle celebrated its 50th anniversary by commissioning 50 of the best custom motorcycle builders in the industry to build a bike sourcing one of its mills. With $50,000 in prize money up for grabs, the quality of the work was stupendous. The end result of each of the custom motorcycle builder’s efforts is captured in a high-quality hardbound book called Today’s Top Custom Bike Builders.

Each builder gets a four-page spread for their bikes, including a brief, well-written description penciled by Howard Kelly (former Hot Bike and Street Chopper editor). Each chapter gives a description of the build, what makes the motorcycle unique, comments on the processes involved and provides a little insight into the character of each custom bike builder. The spreads are highlighted by a wonderful photo montage courtesy of famed industry photographer, Michael Lichter. You can get a sense of each of the builder’s disposition through Lichter’s photography, and he has a knack for choosing the right angles and components of a bike to feature.

The only stipulation presented to the custom bike builders during the competition was that they use one of 50 commemorative anniversary S&S engines. Besides that, they were only limited by their creativity. From the book, you can tell that some builders put more energy into the project than others. Keiji Kawakita of Hot-Dock Custom Cycles out of Tokyo, Japan, was one of the builders who put his all into it. His bike, the StG Nautilus, was voted by the 49 other custom builders in attendance as the ‘Grand Champion.’

Motorcycle styles run the gamut, from Chris Olson’s ‘70s-style chopper called Remember to Rick Fairless’ psychedelic
Pam by Rick Fairless
Bikes in the book run the gamut, including this fuel-in-the-frame psychedelic creation by Rick Fairless.
exotic custom called Pam. An interesting aside is that three generations of custom bike builders got to compete against each other as Arlen, Cory, and Zach Ness all got the invite to the S&S celebration. Arlen is the grandfather who started the Ness legacy, Cory is his son that continued the family biz, and Zach is the grandson who now carries the family torch.
The competition also inspired builders to work out-of-the-box. Big Bear Choppers Kevin Alsop has made a name for himself in the industry by making stretched-out choppers and wide-tired Pro Street bikes, but for S&S’s 50th he made a sport-oriented V-Twin powered motorcycle with Brembo brakes and gold-trimmed Ohlins suspension. I also got a chuckle out of Jesse Rooke’s story. Rooke took the risk of shipping his bike in pieces to La Crosse, Wisconsin. When he arrived to put the motorcycle together, all that had arrived was one small box. Everything else showed up with three days to spare, so Rooke had to scramble to get
Crew of Road Rage Customs
The crew of Road Rage Customs came all the way from New Zealand to compete in S&S Cycle's 50th Anniversary, making it truly an international affair.
the bike pieced together. He pulled it off with a little help from some of the other builders – barely.

Motorcycle enthusiast and avid collector Jay Leno provides an introduction, recanting tales of George J. Smith dominating the drag strips in 1958 and commenting on how George had a penchant for making bikes go faster. A brief history of S&S Cycle follows Leno’s introduction, chronicling how the business evolved from making pushrods and carbs to full-blown engines.

A lot of books and assorted media come across my desk, but this book is by far one of the highest quality publications I’ve come across this year. Of course, it’s full of Michael Lichter’s photos, so how could it not be top-notch? It’s hardbound with an attractive cover and it would be a great book to keep out on the coffee-table to share with moto-minded friends. Professionally done, killer photos and interesting text make this one of my favorite books from the past year.

Printed by Motorbooks
MSRP $40 (but it’s listed on Amazon.com right now for $26.40)
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philamar -custom bikes  December 14, 2009 11:48 AM
Form follows function so most of the customs I see comming out are examples of good welders gone bad. Really does anything look better than a classic British or Italian bike? I saw a clean BSA 650 the other day and its form, design and function was a beautiful combination of simplicity and stellar good looks. And chrome never goes out of style. I still think bikes like that would sell even in this economy. A B King would be a good example of a bike that the engineer just couldn't put down that pencil and leave well enough alone

Ryno -Fairless  December 11, 2009 07:17 AM
Rick's signature is the tye dye look, and I've seen this bike very close up. It's unreal the detail in this thing. Fairless runs Stroker's Dallas, and is HUGE in the custom bike world, especially in Texas...This is actually my favorite bike of his, I call it the bubble gum bike because the colors make me think of bubble gum for some reason...lol
x2468 -wow...  December 10, 2009 10:16 PM
I like it. It looks sick as fk. I couldn't imagine riding it but.... it looks awesome. really trippy. Not everything colorful means it's gay...
Tim B -Wow  December 10, 2009 10:00 PM
I've seen a lot of weird, ugly, and outlandish custom bikes, but I have never ever seen anything like that Rainbow Brite inspired custom. WTF was that person thinking? And what kind of drugs was he doing? Or did he make it for his favorite San Francisco parade?