Since its invention the car has been a symbol of freedom and mobility. The venerable automobile eventually went to work, it took us to jobs or they were our jobs. For some they were just the cage that took us from cage to cage. For those who required even more freedom there was the motorcycle. Two wheels and the wind around your body, the motorcycle kept the promise of freedom the car originally offered.
Part of that freedom comes in the way that people make motorcycles their own; the little custom touches that make their bike theirs. There are the custom handlebars, distinct paint on the fairings and the aftermarket pipes. The size of the motorcycle ultimately means that there are fewer places and options for someone to make their bike unique. For something truly unique, a fair amount of fabrication is required.
With shows featuring custom motorcycle builders the fabricated chopper has seen a bit of a golden age with some of the most unique and well crafted custom motorcycles ever made. With so many options, there's bound to be a fair amount of missed marks or at the very least, rides that are an acquired taste. Some mods people make to their bikes defy explanation, and sometimes that's the point. Let's take a look at some of the wild mods made to people's motorcycles.
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23 Sci-Fi Side Car
It's no surprise to the average gear head that if it has wheels and a motor someone somewhere races it. While this includes motorcycle side car this is not what a racing side car looks like.
Off the race track, side cars have been reserved for cruisers and a handful of military motorcycles as they don't really lend themselves to the sport bike. This particular MV Agusta with a custom side car has a purpose, however. This home built creation allows its wheelchair bound builder and owner to enjoy the motorcycle lifestyle.
22 Fiero Trike
The Fiero was a landmark unto itself, unique in a lot of ways. In the conformity worshiping 80s it stood out as America's only mid-engine sports car. They were popular enough to sell in fairly good numbers, but they weren't popular enough to continue.
This means that there is a cheap and bountiful supply of Fieros out there for customization.
While most of them end up in Ferrari dress-up kits, some make bolder moves. Since the engine is amidship on the car the entire front end can be removed and replaced with a motorcycle wheel for those looking for something different than the VW trikes.
21 Iron Horse and Hog
The motorcycle has a lot of nicknames. Some of the names are specific to the type or the kind of rider. Two of the most common names, especially for those who prefer cruisers, is the 'iron horse' and the 'hog'. For these two participants in Daytona Bike Week, they have decided to take those names quite literally.
They have constructed for themselves a horse made of iron and a metal hog on top of their cruiser bikes. The lack of headlights seems to indicate these are parade-only rides.
20 Bunny Racer
There's a lot of talk during the Christmas season about how Santa is able to get around the world so fast to deliver gifts, but what about the Easter Bunny? Clearly the bunny gets by on horsepower. While there is no telling if the owner was going for an Easter feel or was a fan of Donnie Darko (or a Monty Python fan), it's certainly something that makes the bike stand out.
With the bunny suit covering the intake parts it seems that this is a storage cover that will make sure no one loses this bike.
19 Wagon Wheels
Legendary GM designer Harvey Earle, the man who gave the world the 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville with its tall dramatic fins, had one over riding design philosophy, long and low. Modern customizers have taken to the tall wheel with the low profile tire. This builder has taken both concepts and run with them with the long and low bike with the tall wheels with just the slightest strip of rubber around them.
While it's difficult to tell how the bike could lean into a turn, it is certainly unmistakable.
18 Maserati Motorcycle
There have only been a handful of manufacturers that have become known for both motorcycles and cars, and often these two divisions share little resemblance. There's no DNA in the Acura (Honda) NSX shared with Honda sports bikes, the pancake twins in the BMW motorcycles are not reminiscent of the BMW sports sedans. This doesn't stop people speculating on what a sports car builder's racing bike might look like.
At one point someone put a Viper V10 in a 'motorcycle' chassis and that set a bar for madness that led to this Maserati engined bike.
It probably looks better than it rides.
17 Literal Saddlebags
The 'iron horse' has taken a lot from its namesake in terms of terminology and attachments. For instance, the seat is often referred to as the saddle, and the bags that hang on the side of the bike are generally referred to as saddle bags, just like the ones riders would use on long trips with their horses. Generally speaking, however, the saddle bags are not on the actual side of the saddle but instead, off the rear wheel. This makes perfect sense as it gives access to the bags even with the rider seated.
If you were going for a more literal saddle for your bike, however, then you'd add these slightly less functional saddle bags.
16 Double Axle Motorcycle
Describing this motorcycle can only lead to misunderstanding. Three wheeled motorcycles are not new, they have a distinction of their own: the trike. Trike, however, has a distinct implication that two of the three wheels will be opposite of each other forming a triangle with the third, whether or not that trike has the two wheels in the back or up front.
This custom, however, sports its third wheel in line with the other two. The best guess is that it's for drag racing as it's not uncommon for drag bikes to have an extended rear fork, but the second tire, that's a new one.
For those in colder climates when the sun becomes more scarce in the sky and the snow starts to fall it's time to pack up the motorcycle and wait for warmer days. The ground is too wet and too cold for the motorcycle to be of any use. This is a state of affairs this motocross bike owner was going to have none of, having equipped his motocross bike with snowmobile treads and a front ski.
Of course now, when the sun comes out and melts the snow, it's time to pack his new snow-cross bike until the colder weather returns.
14 Smooth Steel Boardtracker
The motorcycle as we know it today has gone through a few changes, as has the way that we race and test the speed of motorcycles. It stands to reason that early forms of motorcycle racing resembled bicycle racing that itself was only a generation older than the motorcycle. 'Board track' racing was a style that saw motorcycles in small oval tracks made from wood that featured stark banking all the way around.
The motorcycles that raced the boards were tall-like bicycles with low hanging engines. This looks like a throwback to those early attempts at speed in a wooden bowl, though there's no telling how the rider stays on.
13 Power Big Wheel
For suburban kids of a certain age, nothing is as cool as your big wheel. Essentially a low slung trike with the tall eponymous wheel up front and wide racing style wheels in the back, this usually plastic ride was the coolest thing a suburb dwelling kid could own. As we grow older and have to put away childish things, our hearts still linger back to how awesome it felt to cruise the neighborhood nice and low in your big wheel.
For some people, nostalgia is not enough; they have to relive that moment by putting a four cylinder Honda engine in a custom big wheel chassis.
Strange for sure, but who among us doesn't at least want a spin?
12 Art Deco Meets Chopper
Every bike builder eventually develops a signature style. The Tuttles of American Chopper fame became known for themed bikes, Jesse James for his bare bones rides. For builder Arlen Ness, that was art-deco inspired swooping lines and fairings. One of the key elements of design is the use of proportion. Everything's size has to be in relation to the size of each other. Of course, when this is taken academically you end up with the Ford Thunderbird revival that didn't capture anyone's imagination despite being a study in proportion.
On the other end is this bike with its tall, thin wheel and stunted fairing covered rear end that makes the bike confounding to look at.
11 Reinventing the Wheel
For most people, the invention of the wheel is the quintessential human development that lead to everything from the car to the space shuttle. That one simple first discovery is so fundamental that it's considered the perfect invention.
When people talk about excessive design they use the phrase 'reinventing the wheel.' It's supposed to be an admonishment of overthinking, but the design students at San Jose State University have done just that with this spherical wheel motorcycle that looks more at home with Batman or Judge Dread.
10 Steampunk Toaster Bike
BMW motorcycles are known for their 'pancake' engines. Instead of a traditional V formation or inline formation found on Harleys and sport bikes respectively, a 'pancake' engine has both cylinders laid out flat in 180 degree opposition. For a time in the 50s and 60s the engines got another kitchen related nickname from their engine cases that looked like toasters, dubbing a generation of BMW bikes 'toasters.'
This toaster bike has gone a step further with retro-inspired body work and brass gauges popular with the 'Steampunk' aesthetic.
9 Rat Patrol
Just like the rat rod for cars, the rat bike embraces the rawness of a build. That feeling of someone making due with what they have to hobble together a custom ride that's all theirs.
No fancy paint, no elaborate tools and fabrication, just the tools and materials on hand.
The bike is finished when it starts and rolls out of the garage. This butchered BMW embodies the rat bike aesthetic with a 'more is more' philosophy. The bulbous fairing and bullet nose headlight gives it a mid-century aviation feel.
8 Doggie Sidecar
Scooters are cool, but it's hard to look tough on a scooter. It's even harder to look tough on a scooter with a sidecar. Some people don't need their rides to make them look tough, though. This one was looking for a relatively safe way to let his best friend enjoy the mild breeze in your face of scooter life and fabricated a doggie side car for his little buddy so they can ride together to the dog park.
It's an odd looking contraption but that dog has the coolest story among the other pups at how he got to the park.
7 Ape Hangers
There are a few elements that appear on most choppers. The long front wheel is key, of course; a tall hoop on the back to strap bags to or to give a passenger something else to hold onto other than the driver are common as well.
One of the more baffling additions common to choppers is the ape hanger handlebar. The taller they get the more ridiculous they become.
They get their name from the awkward position the rider is put in, his arms hanging above his head like an ape. Hard to use and awkward looking in practice, the ape hanger remains an enigma in its popularity.
6 C-Cab Trike
The prewar C-Cab delivery truck was a product of its time. That being a time before side view mirrors on cars. To facilitate drivers looking behind themselves to merge into traffic after making a deliver, a huge C-shaped opening in the cab was made so they could lean out and look.
Actual C Cabs remain rare today but fiberglass body makers have been reproducing them for hot rod builders for years now. Someone has chopped one down to fit on this chopper trike but getting in it seems like an awkward process.
5 Actual Bullet Bike
Perhaps the only polite nickname for a sports bike is 'bullet bike'. This name comes not only from the rounded shape of a sport bike with aerodynamic fairings, but also a nod to their speed above all other things design conceit. This builder has taken that concept literally.
Bandit9 motorcycles build the most exclusive rides on the planet, limiting most productions to just a few handmade examples.
The Eve, with its bullet over gun handle look is one of their scratch made examples of their unique design philosophy.
4 You Meet The Gnarliest People On A Honda
When the Honda motorcycle was introduced with the Super Cub 90 it also sought to reform the image of the biker with its 'You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda' advertising campaign.
The Cub, with its small engine and knee guards, was a million miles from the big loud cruisers of Harley Davidson, a gentle and friendly ride for everyday people.
A little bit of cutting torch work and some big knobby wheels later, and this builder has taken some of the 'friendly' out of this Cub and added some different kind of fun.
3 Form Over Function
Most of the time design has to take in that what is being designed has to work as the thing it is. For motorcycles that means that allowances have to be made for the bike to lean, as that is how motorcycles turn. The front wheel doesn't turn so much as the bike leans into the turn creating an arc between the front and rear wheel that the cycle follows. This doesn't lend itself well to the lowrider look on bikes, but increasingly there are customs that are always meant as static displays.
Having a bike you can't ride, however, feels like having a symphony you can only read.
Batman is known for his collection of tools, toys, and mostly cool vehicles. Every generation of the venerable Batmobile has captured a new crowd of admirers and people hoping to one day have their own bat-themed ride.
Game Over Cycles has taken inspiration from Tim Burton's Batmobile for this overgrown custom trike complete with large bat fins and decorative turbine engine intakes up front.
It's hard to imagine that this wide an open trike would actually help Batman fight crime, but then practicality hasn't always been Batman's strong suit.
1 Leaping Cat
Rather than taking cues from some of the most attractive sports cars ever made, the builders at Jaguar have literally taken the company's leaping jaguar hood ornament design and stuck wheels and an engine to it.
The ride presumably also adopts the leaping jaguar pose to ride such an odd shaped bike, giving the impression that they are riding an actual jaguar. Well, sort of.
Sources: Jalopnik.com pipeburn.com bike.com