The numbers have been crunched, and the results are in. And as usual, our annual roundup of the most popular custom bikes on Bike EXIF is both enlightening and eclectic.
The ten machines listed here are those that made our servers work the hardest in 2022. This ranked selection is purely data-based. We take our website stats and look at social media engagement, add everything up and voila!
By its very nature, our top 10 also acts as a litmus test of sorts for the custom scene. It tells us that the café racer trend is still alive and well, and that over-the-top customs have a place too, if they’re executed well. (Curiously, this year’s list is also devoid of any electric customs.)
Scroll through our selection below, let us know how it makes you feel, and happy holidays.
10. Renard Motorcycles BMW R100 The fact that this list kicks off with a BMW R-series café racer, speaks volumes of the longevity of both the donor bike and build style. BMW remains one of the most popular marques on Bike EXIF, and half of the bikes in our top 10 this year are café racers.
The BMW café racer you’re looking at here comes from Renard Motorcycles. No stranger to these pages, the Estonian outfit built it (and three others like it) to kick off a series of BMW R100-based builds. Renard designed these prototypes to their own spec, but each example they build moving forward will be tailored to its owner.
The bikes feature rebuilt motors, with smart upgrades like twin-spark heads, and lightened cranks and flywheels. Each one also gets a custom-built exhaust with Hattech silencers, a full rewire with a Lithium-ion battery, and LED lighting. Ceriani replica forks, adjustable shocks, Borrani rims and Beringer brakes take care of the running gear.
All the bodywork is custom—from the reimagined take on the classic BMW R100 fuel tank, to the tidy café-style tail section with its integrated taillight. Finished with luxurious paint and upholstery (and fenders), it’s one of the nicest made-to-order customs we’ve seen. [More]
9. MB Cycles Sportster hardtail Harley-Davidson manufactured their last-ever Evo Sportster this year. And yet, a rigid-frame Sportster has defiantly made our list, to remind us that the perennial Sporty has much gas still left in the tank.
The story of this hardtail goes back twenty years, when MB Cycles founder Martin Becker built it up for his brother. It was ridden for a while, then parked for years before Martin bought it back, cleaned it up and stuck a 1996 Harley-Davidson XL883 Sportster engine into it. Pretty soon a new customer snapped it up and commissioned a custom build.
The actual rigid frame originally came from the Dutch frame fabricators, VG Motorcycles. It’s matched to a replica springer front end, and rolls on 16F/15R wheels with late-80s Sportster hubs. The engine isn’t stock anymore either—it’s been jacked up with a 1,200 cc kit from S&S Cycle.
A 1930s fuel tank is matched to an aftermarket oil tank, a modified Penz fender and a custom-made sprung saddle. Sneaky modern touches include a Motogadget speedo, Kustom Tech controls and modern push button-style switches. Some of the patina on the bike is real, and some of it’s been painted on—but you’ll have a hard time figuring out which is which. [More]
8. Vtopia Vyrus From its aggressive silhouette to its hub-centered steering, the Vyrus looks pretty wild straight out the box. But then Milan-based custom shop Vtopia found a way to make it even wilder, by designing a kit that’ll fit the Vyrus 984, 985 and 987 models.
The biggest eye catcher is the new bodywork. Vtopia used a minimalistic style known as ‘low poly design,’ which is typically found in video game design and animation. The body is a single piece, made from carbon fiber and supported by CNC-machined subframes front and rear. Hiding underneath is a custom-built fuel cell, and the seat pan is a 3D laser-printed nylon-carbon fiber part.
The kit also includes a new exhaust, with two routing options. It’s fabricated (in titanium) by Spark, based on Vtopia’s design. No expense is spared, with carbon fiber handlebars, LED lighting and a Motogadget speedo all added.
Vtopia built two prototypes to develop their kit, but we prefer the one with the raw forged carbon finishes. Because if you’re going to buy a Vyrus and fit this kit, you may as well go all out. [More]
7. Yamaha GTS1000 by Aki Suokas The custom Vyrus isn’t the only oddity on this list. Finnish hobby builder Aki Suokas did the unimaginable this year, by turning the unusual Yamaha GTS1000 into a café racer. With its unusual front swingarm setup it’s an unlikely donor—but somehow, he made it work.
Despite the complexity of the GTS1000’s chassis, Aki tore into it to tweak the overall look and ride height. The front-end was rebuilt with a set of custom-made linkages and joints, and upgraded with a modified Suzuki shock. The rear wears the single-sided swingarm and rear shock from a Honda VFR800.
The wheels were masterfully pieced together using aftermarket car rims and a few scalped motorcycle parts. The setup still uses the Yamaha’s stock brakes, upgraded with stainless steel hoses. The exhaust muffler is another borrowed part—it comes from Kawasaki Z1000.
For the bodywork, Aki bought an aftermarket fairing and tail section, then modified them to suit his build. The fuel tank was cut-and-shut to shrink it, then covered with a shell made from a 1984 Suzuki GSX1100’s tank. Resplendent in blue, Aki’s GTS is somehow futuristic and classic all at once. [More]
6. BobC Custom Motorcycles Harley-Davidson Flathead It’s not often that we feature a motorcycle that is as universally loved as this fetching Harley Flathead bobber. Built by Croatian ex-pat Slobodan Cirkovic, it garnered not only the admiration of our readers, but also everyone who saw it in the metal at this year’s Malle Mile even. It was part of our Art of Machine exhibition at the Mile, and looked just as good parked in our tent as it did tearing down the drag strip in front of Grimsthorpe Castle.
Part of why it looks so good, is because it was fourteen years in the making, and underwent two full rebuilds before it reached this point. The chassis is a custom affair, pieced together using leftover tubing from Slobodan’s ex-job, where he helped fabricate Range Rover subframes. The engine is a 45.12 ci flathead, with a Linkert M88 carb and a four-speed shovelhead transmission.
An extensively refurbished springer front end offers the only bit of suspension, with disc brakes (yes, you read right) stopping the 16” hoops.
The bike is also impossibly svelte—but it’s really the little details that push this one over the top. From the stunning blue paint job, to the Brooks saddle and wooden inlays on the floorboards, it’s clear that every last choice was agonized over.
This is also the build that marks Slobodan’s transition from tinkerer to professional bike builder. Thanks to the encouragement of his friends, he officially launched his workshop, BobC Custom Motorcycles, this year. What a debut. [More]
5. Honda CB750 Nighthawk by Colin Darling The 90s-model CB750 Nighthawk is hardly the custom builder’s favorite Honda CB—but that didn’t stop Colin Darling from turning one into a modernized café racer. The Oregon-based mechanical engineer went to town on the four-cylinder Honda, radically reworking both its aesthetic and its running gear.
Most of the Nighthawk’s new chassis components come from a Triumph Daytona 675. Colin adapted the Daytona yokes to fit the Honda steering neck, then installed its forks, wheels and brakes. Out back, he fabricated all the parts necessary for a mono-shock conversion, then fitted the Daytona swingarm with a Suzuki GSX-R750 shock.
The subframe is new, as is the premium European cowhide saddle. Lighting is by way of a classic Bates-style headlight (retrofitted with LEDs), with an LED taillight integrated into the rear. All the controls are new, modern parts, as is the digital Koso speedo.
Colin nailed the ‘looks fast standing still vibe’ here—which is impressive, considering the bland nature of the donor bike. Extra style points come from the deep black paint job, executed by layering a glossy clear-coat over a non-metallic black base coat. 3D-printed tank badges drive the point home. [More]
4. ShifCustom BMW R18 trike It seems appropriate that the only BMW R18 to make this year’s cut is a three-wheeler. The sheer size of the BMW’s 1,802 cc boxer engine has made it a tricky bike for customizers to work with—and for fans of more svelte cruisers to warm up to.
ShifCustom’s solution? Lean into it, by making the R18 even bigger than before. It sounds like a goofy concept, but in practice, it works remarkably well—mainly because of the classic automobile vibe that it exudes.
ShifCustom’s customer on this project was a massive fan of BMW’s bikes and cars, hence the obvious throwback to the iconic BMW 328. The handmade aluminum nose cone sports a pair of kidney grills up front, louvered air vents, and leather straps over the top. It opens to reveal a fully bespoke front subframe and double-wishbone suspension system.
The rear wheel is a one-off, but the front wheels are modded Audi A3 items, fitted with Rudge Whitworth center-lock nuts (just like those on the 328). Other additions include a pair of Harley V-Rod headlights and a custom windscreen. Wrapped in blue and silver paint, it’s undeniably the most head-turning R18 of the year. [More]
3. Sym Wolf 125 by Charlie Huang From the biggest custom bike on this list, to the smallest; a humble commuter turned café racer. It’s the work of Charlie Huang—a student from Taichung who attends the ArtCenter College of Design in California. The donor bike was passed down to him from his uncle, and Charlie decided to give it a makeover rather than simply restore it.
Most of the work went into rebuilding the engine and transmission. Charlie bumped the capacity up to 164 cc, and added a six-speed transmission. The Wolf 125’s powertrain evolved from the Honda CB/CG series, so some Honda CB125S parts were used inside the engine.
Charlie shortened and refurbished the front forks, then designed a new top yoke and had it CNC-machined. The swingarm was pieced together from Kymco KTR parts, and is connected to a pair of adjustable RPM RR shocks. 18F/17R help get the stance just right, while a Brembo disc at the front adds extra stopping power.
For the bodywork, Charlie adapted an old Honda CB100 K3 fuel tank to fit the Sym’s frame. The subframe and tail section fabrication was outsourced, as was the paint and upholstery—but Charlie dyed the seat’s leather himself. Perfectly judged and tastefully constructed, this café racer punches far above its weight. [More]
2. Lys Motorcycles Honda CBX 1000 This is the third year in a row that a Honda CBX 1000 has made our hit list, and we’re here for it. Honda’s potent six-cylinder muscle bike is radical enough in stock form, but the world’s best custom builders have shown that it can be made even wilder. You just have to know when to zig, and when to zag.
Lys Motorcycles has figured out the formula. The first time Lys’ founder, Dimitri, customized a CBX 1000, it was a hit—and he quickly had orders for more. This particular CBX was one of those orders, and it’s an absolute showstopper.
Moving from front to back, Lys’ CBX wears the forks, brakes and front wheel from a Triumph Speed Triple R, and the single-sided swingarm, shock and rear wheel from a Ducati 848. As you’d imagine, there was more than a little fettling involved to make everything fit—but the setup works so well, visually, that it feels factory.
A new subframe supports a two-up seat, with a removable cowl for solo rides. Modern parts from Koso, Motone and Motogadget add to the functionality, while a completely bonkers six-into-one exhaust system adds to the soundtrack. Wrapped in a livery that’s as radical as its stance, this CBX is as good as it gets. [More]
1. Retrorides BMW K100 If you had told us a decade ago that a K-series BMW would top our annual top 10, we wouldn’t have believed it. But here we are—the ‘flying brick’ has become one of the darlings of the custom scene. And this handsome BMW K100 RS café racer from Brazil’s Retrorides by Lourenço is a lesson in how to do treat it right.
Founded by brothers Gustavo and Rodrigo Lourenço, and their father José, who sadly passed away a year ago, Retrorides specializes in K-series builds. They even manufacture bolt-on parts for the K—like the horizontal rear suspension system on this one. Just above it is a CNC-machined subframe, supporting a sharply tapered tail section.
The upside-down forks from a Honda Hornet sit up front, along with a 3D-printed headlight nacelle. Unique forward-facing handlebar clamps position regular street bars low down, where you’d find clip-ons. A smattering of Motogadget parts adorns the cockpit.
But the real trick is how clean this K’s silhouette is—no mean feat given the gawky lines of the stock bike. It’s made even slicker with parts like the 3D-printed carbon tank side panels, and the BMW’s brooding paint scheme. The only pop of color are the subtle bronze highlights… ironic, given that this K has just taken gold. [More]
EDITOR’S NOTE Ranked lists are bittersweet affairs, and a number of worthy machines inevitably just miss the cut each year. Just outside the top 10 were Purpose Built Moto’s super-sano Triumph Bonneville T140 [above], Kingston Custom’s Hagon Yamaha restomod [below], CNCPT Moto’s futuristic BMW R nineT, and MotoRelic’s Schwinn-inspired Yamaha XS650.
As always, our heartfelt gratitude goes out to the builders who create these machines, the photographers who capture them, our team of writers, and the advertisers who keep the lights on around here. Check back in a few days when we present our personal favorites from the year (data be damned).