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Petersen Automotive Museum opens "Custom Revolution" motorcycle exhibit
Installation view.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Petersen Automotive Museum opened its newest exhibit dedicated to the art of a new generation of motorcycle customizers on Saturday, April 14th. Located in the Richard Varner Family Gallery, “Custom Revolution” gathers the works of the most influential and innovative alternative bike builders of the past ten years in one place for the first time ever.

Guest curated by motorcycle historian and author Paul d’Orleans, “Custom Revolution” celebrates the visionaries who are pushing the creative edges of motorcycle design. Using both new and old engines, past and present chassis ideas, and groundbreaking styling, these internet savvy designers and builders are dramatically influencing the current generation of factory-built machines.

The exhibit features about 25 different bikes spanning 25 different builders. Notable bikes include the Glemseck 101 winner “E-Lisabad,” an electric dragster built by Krautmotors in 2017 from a BMW scooter chassis; the rarely seen “Black” by Falcon Motorcycles, which was built in 2014 and based on the 1952 Vincent Black Shadow; and the “Rondine” by Medaza Cycles, winner of the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building.

“At the Petersen, it is our utmost goal to embrace and foster creativity—especially when it comes to automobiles,” said Petersen Executive Director Terry L. Karges. “Because we’ve built exhibits around the art of four-wheeled vehicles many times, we believe it’s the perfect time to recognize a global phenomenon in the form of the custom bike revolution. This new exhibit will celebrate the international trendsetters of this movement while delivering a definite nod to L.A. culture.”

Custom Revolution Exhibit Content

2 Stroke Attack (2015)
Built by Roland Sands – Los Alamitos, CA

The “2 Stroke Attack” is a mashup of Roland Sands’ two loves: racing and building customs. It has an air-cooled 1974 Yamaha RD400 two-stroke motor on a 1997 Grand Prix Yamaha TZ250 chassis. While a mix of Yamaha parts seems like a natural fit, the motor and chassis are from wildly different eras and built for totally different purposes. Sands sourced parts from World Champion Kenny Roberts’ shelves and his own pile of racing bits, and he built the fairing out of carbon fiber and the seat of hand-pounded aluminum.

Ago TT (2016)
Built by Deus Ex Machina – Venice, CA

Founded in Australia with locations in California, Bali and Milan, Deus Ex Machina is a bona fide institution in the alt. custom world. At their Venice, California “Emporium of Postmodern Activities,” Design Director Michael “Woolie” Woolaway builds Deus’ signature custom motorcycles. The “Ago TT” is Woolaway’s homage to Giacomo Agostini and his amazing record of wins at the Isle of Man TT—considered the ultimate road race for its complication, length and danger.

Asymmetric Aero (2014)
Built by Alp Racing & Design – Los Angeles, CA

The “Asymmetric Aero” is the fastest unstreamlined pushrod-engine motorcycle in the world for all capacities under 1000cc, but its speed is not why it has been included. The “Aero” was 3D-sketched as a unit with a rider, an approach which resulted in a minimized frontal area, eliminating dead-air pockets and reducing wind resistance. It meant pulling builder and rider Alp Sungurtekin’s body into a gapless bond with the chassis, where he positioned his head, arms and torso a bit to one side in an asymmetrical reflection of the motorcycle itself.

Beezerker (2010)
Built by Speed Shop Design – Boston, MA

The highly finished construction and interesting surface textures of the “Beezerker” reveal builder Christopher Flechtner’s experience as a silversmith. Every detail is precisely crafted, with almost everything apart from the 1965 BSA A65 motor imagined and fabricated by Flechtner himself. Although unusual looking to traditionalists, its dropped handlebars, rear set footrests and humped seat nonetheless identify the “Beezerker” as a café racer.

Black (2011)
Built by Falcon Motorcycles – Los Angeles, CA

Among the designers building new-generation customs, none rose as quickly into superstardom as Ian Barry and his Los Angeles-based Falcon Motorcycles team. The execution of each Falcon is so detailed as to defy belief. The “Black” began as a 1952 Vincent Black Shadow, a machine of legendary performance and the fastest standard motorcycle in the world for decades. Falcon made it faster, better and technically more intricate with a totally new chassis bristling with innovative modifications sensitive to the bike’s heritage.

Blue Monday (2017)
Built by NYC Norton – Jersey City, NJ

After leaving the publishing industry, NYC Norton founder Kenny Cummings turned to restoring motorcycles and building custom Seeley-framed race and road bikes. “Blue Monday” was built specially for “Custom Revolution” and is representative of NYC Norton’s racing bikes, which differ only slightly from their road bikes. Cummings’ race-oriented but vintage-inspired work is a bridge between the classic café racer era and today’s alt. custom scene, as it fits comfortably within both camps.

BMW Alpha (2016)
Built by Mark Atkinson – North Salt Lake, UT

If there is a “vaporware” star in the custom motorcycle design scene, it is Mehmet Doruk Erdem—a Turkish industrial designer whose computer-generated motorcycle studies spread quickly on the internet. His sketches are so convincing it is difficult to tell whether they are photographs of real objects. Erdem’s designs typically remain images, but his “BMW Alpha” concept became reality via a Bonneville Salt Flats regular named Mark Atkinson, a dedicated professional machinist and motorcycle builder in Utah who saw the promise of Erdem’s design.

Crapshoot (2018)
Built by Alta Motors – Brisbane, CA

Of all the current e-bike builders, San Francisco’s Alta Motors has the most buzz because they focus on building extremely competitive off-road machines. The “Crapshoot” has just enough traditional drag-bike styling to seem vintage, but the motor is a versatile stock 50 horsepower Redshift electric underneath the fairing. The “Crapshoot” is among the first electric customs to excite traditionalists by showing respect to the best builders of the past while incorporating contemporary “green” technologies.

Dirty Pigeon (2017)
Built by Heiwa Motorcycle – Hiroshima, Japan

Built around a 1971 Triumph TR6 engine, the barebones, elegantly-reductive chassis of the “Dirty Pigeon” took top honors at the annual Mooneyes Custom show in Yokohama in December 2017. It is the premier bike from the foremost custom motorcycle show in Japan, and its success instantly amplified Heiwa’s visibility outside builder Kengo Kimura’s home country. Its perfected style complements its tightly conceived construction, both of which contribute to its popularity as much as the accolades the “Dirty Pigeon” has received.

E-LisaBad (2017)
Built by Krautmotors – Heidelberg, Germany

The “E-LisaBad” is nearly silent, but like most electric bikes it is also extremely fast. Most exciting about “E-LisaBad” is the mashup of the origami-like “dustbin” fairing with the bare metal of the exposed battery pack. They are opposite textures, but the creative mix works and makes for a unique and unusual motorcycle. According to builder Rolf Reick, “designers want to be revolutionary. They want to break out of the box, cause a stir or attract attention. I think this project does all that. It will inspire many more new ideas.”

J63 Schwantz (2014)
Built by Revival Cycles – Austin, TX

Revival Cycles' founders Alan Stulberg and Stefan Hertel are the geek squad of the custom scene, reveling in their love of technical details and enthusiasm for design, fabrication and technology. The “J63 Schwantz” began as a Ducati 900SS SP, an aged design with modest performance and “plastic-bike” looks. Pushing their skill set, the Revival team designed their first custom frame for this project, which Stulberg sketched on a napkin and Hertel translated into metal.

L-Concept (2018)
Built by Bandit9 Motorcycles – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

While the motorcycle industry in the West has grappled with attracting non-riders onto two wheels, Vietnam’s Bandit9 has had much more success. Bandit9 takes utilitarian bikes and transforms them into striking and thoughtfully-designed motorcycles. Resembling a jet or pistol in profile, the ultralight, 297-pound “L-Concept” has a top speed of 68 miles per hour and is powered by a 125cc, four-speed, air-cooled, four-stroke engine.

Mission One (2009)
Built by Mission Motorcycles – San Francisco, CA

In February of 2009, a dramatic next-level electric sport bike was unveiled by Mission Motors of San Francisco—the “Mission One.” It looked like the future of motorcycling then, and it still does. The shape of the “Mission One” was developed by Fuseproject, the studio of international industrial design celebrity Yves Béhar. While Béhar had never before designed a motorcycle, he captured the zeitgeist of the “green revolution,” stylishly combining silence with speed.

Mission R (2011) (On display exclusively at the opening event, 4/13)
Built by Mission Motorcycles – San Francisco, CA

The “Mission R” is Mission’s second-generation prototype production-intended electric motorcycle, developed in 2010 after the “Mission One.” With a new chassis by James Parker, styling by Tim Prentice, and a newly developed Mission-designed powertrain capable of 100 kilowatts (135 horsepower), the “Mission R” dominated a 2011 TTXGP/International Motorcycle Federation electric motorcycle race, winning the eight-lap race by nearly 40 seconds. The motorcycle was marketed as the “Mission RS” but never put into production.

Musket 2 (2017) (On display exclusively at the opening event, 4/13)
Built by Hazan Motorworks – Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles wunderkind Maxwell Hazan rapidly fixed his star in the custom motorcycle space with his impeccable design sense. He is a rare builder, earning near-universal admiration among both jaded observers and online critics; it seems everyone loves his “silver machines.” His “Musket 2” is a custom twice over, built from a limited-production engine by Aniket Vardhan (called the “Musket”) with a chassis fabricated wholly by Hazan. The “Musket 2” has an appealing schematic quality, one of the reasons Hazan’s creations are among the most sought-after.

Needle (2005)
Built by Chabott Engineering – Los Angeles, CA

Shinya Kimura’s 2005 “Needle” was on display at the Legend of the Motorcycle Concours d’Elegance in 2006, where it sat humbly in a display of extravagant, enormous customs from then-dominant television star builders. Unlike the others, the “Needle” was built around an unpolished vintage Triumph engine with a bricolage chassis assembled from blackened scraps and metal oddments, with rustic, hand-hewn aluminum bodywork in strange shapes. Kimura’s discerning and artistic aesthetic set the tone for the coming alt. custom generation.

Ōishi Yoshio (2015)
Built by Ronin Motorworks – Denver, CO

Like the mythical phoenix, Ronin rose from the ashes of a dead motorcycle brand, Buell, and emerged a transformed manufacturer. The “Ōishi Yoshio” is a radical-looking motorcycle, matching the Buell’s equally radical cast-aluminum frame. The “Ōishi Yoshio” was built around a Buell racing motor to compete at the Pike’s Peak Hillclimb, where it took second place against a field of factory-backed racing machines. While “ronin” means “leaderless samurai,” the unusual name of the “Ōishi Yoshio” was derived from a powerful samurai leader.

Petardo (2015)
Built by El Solitario MC – Vigo, Spain

Anyone who understands motorcycles is intrigued by the “Petardo” and how it resolves the “list” every motorcycle must address—where is the fuel, how is the rider placed, and how does s/he interact with the machine? The “Petardo” answers such fundamentals in a radically different way, and as a result looks like no other motorcycle. It is truly El Solitario’s first masterpiece, a paradoxically mature expression of David Borrás’s vision. The word “petardo” means “firecracker” in Spanish, and like its namesake, the “Petardo” must be noticed.

Rondine (2013)
Built by Medaza Cycles – Cork, Ireland

From a small town near Cork, Ireland, Medaza Cycles grabbed the traditional custom motorcycle world by the nose, winning the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building in 2013. The single-cylinder Italian motorcycle had prevailed against the long legacy of V-twin-based customs, planting the flag of the alt. custom movement at the heart of the old custom world. That the “Rondine” was voted the winner by a jury of its bike-building peers speaks volumes about the changes in the global custom scene.

Sleeper (2007)
Built by Chabott Engineering – Los Angeles, CA

If one person represents the origin point of the alt. custom movement, it must be Shinya Kimura. Working since 1992 in Japan with Zero Engineering, Kimura developed a highly personal chopper aesthetic that became known as “Zero style.” All his work includes his distinctive style of bodywork of hand-hammered aluminum, but the “Sleeper” also incorporates a totally custom-fabricated frame that is built around a vintage motor. In this respect, both the “Sleeper” and “Needle” are especially unusual in Kimura’s artistic oeuvre.

Speedster (2015)
Built by Ehinger Kraftrad – Hamburg, Germany

While the Ehinger Kraftrad “Speedster” appears to be the most traditional and the least alt. custom of the group, in some regards it is the most high-tech machine in the “Custom Revolution” exhibition. The high-tech part of the “Speedster” came in crafting the engine, using 1937 UL crankcases and modified Knucklehead top ends. These parts do not really mix, as their unconventional pushrod angles attest, but Ehinger’s computer simulation proved it could be done. He considers engines the heart of his creations.

Suavecito (2013)
Built by Sosa Metalworks – Las Vegas, NV

Cristian Sosa is a metalworking veteran even in his mid-30s, having taken his high school metalwork training to a job at Count’s Kustoms for 12 years. This led to an early brush with celebrity as the shop was the focus of the custom car TV show Counting Cars. After branching out as an independent shop in 2012, Sosa has made his own name, garnering big-brand sponsorship and appearing at the 2013 Mooneyes show in Japan with this highly modified 1940 Indian-based “Suavecito” (“smooth” in Spanish).

T-005 Cross (2008)
Built by Thrive Motorcycle – Jakarta, Indonesia

The remarkable Indonesian team of Thrive has managed a rare feat: their builds are simultaneously a hit on both motorcycle and haute-design blogs. The global alt. custom scene is borderless and digitally propagated, and an Indonesian brand exciting such interest is proof. The bike stamping Thrive’s reputation—the “T-005 Cross”—is the darling of a hundred design pages and shares something with Vietnam’s Bandit9 in being crossover-ready to a non-motorcycling public.

White Phantom (2015)
Built by Kingston Custom – Gelsenkirchen, Germany

Dirk Oehlerking’s “White Phantom” began as a BMW R80RT. Viewers first notice the striking bodywork of the “White Phantom,” characterized by a white parallelogram with curved ends arcing in consonance with the wheels. The fairing hides a powerful 800cc turbocharged engine, and Oehlerking carefully installed Formula 1-appropriate insulation to protect the rider.

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