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Custom Motorcycles

A custom motorcycle is a bike that has undergone certain technical and/or design changes to the original model of mass-produced motorbikes. Such exemplars may be unique or built in a limited number. Since the inception of the motorcycle industry, lots of bikes have been customized. Today, it is possible to purchase a custom bike easily.

The History of Bike Customization

Since the first days of biking, many motorcycles’ owners tried to change the appearance of their vehicles, but the term ‘custom’ was first applied to an altered motorcycle in the late 1950s.  

The motorcycles of 1910s-1920s were similar to cycles, but due to a high center of gravity, it was difficult to ride them. Bike manufacturers started to adapt motorcycle shape, particularly, add custom frame and seat position.

Soon, a cut-down motorcycle custom style appeared, which involved cutting away or removing some of the bike’s parts. Bobber custom style occurred after the WWII due to the growing interested in racing. It involved removing some parts of bodywork and adding other changes to allow a motorcycle to ride faster.

Over the time, other customization styles were developed.

A Café racer motorcycle was optimized for speed rather than comfort achieved by low mounted handlebars, increased in length fuel tank, and other changes.

Chopper bikes came with altered steering angles and increased in length forks. Such motorcycles may also have hardtail frames, very tall/very short handlebars, stretched frames, and large front wheels. Rat motorcycle is styled with kludge fixes. A streetfighter bike comes with a design without the fairing but with changes aimed at achieving an aggressive look.

Ben Hardy and Arlen Ness were popular for creating custom bikes. They started designing bikes in the 1960s. At the end of 20th century and beginning of 21st century, a few custom bikes were considered fashionable symbols.

The custom bikes became pretty popular, and some of the largest motorcycle brands even include custom models to their product line. Today, it is possible to find custom motorbike designers in any country. The following large companies have approval from the USDOT for their custom models that match the safety requirements: Bourget, Big Dog, and others.

Thanks to factory customs, bike enthusiasts can choose out from plenty of custom options, including sizes of engines, paint choices, and accessories while enjoying the same warranty, support, and price as that offered for the mass-produced bikes.

The Most Notable Custom Motorcycles

Harold Karslake created one of the first custom motorcycles in 1902. It was the Dreadnought. The motorbike had the frame/engine combined from different vehicles as well as unique features built from scratch. The Dreadnought can be found today at the Vintage Motorcycle Club.

The custom Harley-Davidson J motorbike was altered according to the cut down style. The last unaltered Harleys had the cycles type frame but featured new frame style, so it was simple to adapt it. Cutting down allowed transferring older motorcycle into a budget model.

One of the most famous custom choppers is Captain America’s motorbike. Originally, it was Harley-Davidson police motorcycle produced in 1952. Probably, the only feature that was not customized in this motorbike was its Panhead engine. The bike’s design was significantly changed by C. Vaughs and B. Hardy, great chopper builders. The motorcycle had an ultra-high-backed sissy bar seat, hard-tail rear, extended forks, ape-hanger bars, upswept exhausts, and stars-and-stripes peanut fuel tank. There were no front brakes.