Three-chords, crap equipment, not much talent, lots of enthusiasm. Young men and women have been in garage bands since skiffle was The Next Big Thing, but it was only during the wave of 1977 punk that the garage bands broke big.
Top-selling punks may not have had the same skills as the Stones or Fleetwood Mac, but they offered an alternative that was lapped up. A similar revolution is happening in motorcycle customisation.
Like punk rock often said it was rebelling against the overblown excesses of ten-minute guitar solos and prog rock, the new generation of custom builders are the antithesis of American Chopper’s fat tyre monstrosities, and showrooms full of 190mph traction-controlled superbikes. And, though the movement started before the global meltdown, its growth has mirrored the fall in sales of big ticket bikes.
The new wave customs are neither chopper nor café racer, but they borrow cues from all genres. They tend to start with unloved, cheap Japanese bikes – though the burgeoning scene is sending prices of air-cooled, spine-frame Jap stuff roofwards. Anything from the 1970s onwards is fair game. Singles, twins, fours; two-stroke or four; Jap, Brit, German, Italian: animal, vegetable or mineral. This isn’t a cult with a basis is performance one-upmanship. It’s creativity and originality (without straying into parody or overt gimmickry) is what pushes the boundaries and attracts the four-figure facebook ‘likes’.
Coincidentally, Deus puffed spores of goodness from their sweet-smelling Sydney HQ. Though not garage-built, their big dollar Yamaha SR500-based builds were close to faultless and had a cleanliness only a truly well-built road bike can achieve. They’ve influenced a thousand builders from Beijing to Bristol, some who copy on the cheap, others who have moved the game on.
People who wouldn’t dream of wearing full leathers and riding a superbike or pulling on a cut-off denim and riding a chop realised there was a bike scene waiting for them. They just had to make it. And they have.
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