Ordinary to Extraordinary – Start with What You Have – Make it What You Want

Have you noticed the recent theme in many of the stories here? While the major manufacturers struggle to move large numbers of mass market motorcycles, there are quite a few builders heading off in a different direction, taking standard models, sometimes even old, used and very common motorcycles, and remaking them into something unique and very desirable. The only limits are imagination and skill.

McDeeb Six DaysThe McDeeb Royal Enfields are a beautiful example of what happens to a standard Royal Enfield, redesigned in the manner of a classic. Though there is a contingent of buyers who like the RE as it comes from the factory, I'd bet a lot more of you appreciate what comes from the Italian Classic Farm Motorcycles.

Of course, if we're going to mention Royal Enfield, we have to bring up the Musket, the V-Twin creation of Aniket Vardhan. Again, the standard bike is completely transformed into the beauty we've seen here several times. While few of us are going to create a V-Twin engine from a single, he knew what he wanted and created it.

Banquer 920The Banquer 920 takes an engine from a Yamaha Virago, a fairly common offering, and splices the Japanese power plant into the English framework of a Norton. The result is quite unique.

The Magpul Ronin takes the now defunct Buell 1125R and swaps the front end with a girder, moves the radiator, adds some different bodywork and a totally new look emerges.

Yamaha MaximThen, a really fascinating build, the $300 Yamaha Maxim completely rebuilt into a low budget custom most any of us would be happy to ride.

What amazes me is you can’t guess what motorcycle will be modified next. In hindsight, the Royal Enfield is a great starting point for specials like those built under the McDeeb name, but how many of us would think of doing that? The “Six Days” model looks superb, but it took a builder with imagination to see it in the basic model he started with.

The Yamaha Maxim started from really humble beginnings and turned into a custom that the builders saw and no one else did, hiding in plain sight.

What makes many of these so interesting are the unusual starting points. The number of modified Harley Davidsons is staggering, modified Royal Enfields, not so many, Yamaha Maxims, very few

Ordinary to extraordinary because the builder used his imagination. I really want to emphasize these projects because some of you have motorcycles you might think don't measure up to the builds you see online, they're fun to ride but they don't stand out, well, neither did any of these, until the builder made them stand out. It wasn't a matter of saving up the money to buy a brand new exotic, high dollar custom, it was just looking at the bike they already had and asking, "What if ... ?" Can you can ask the same question? You certainly can. Can you do what they did? You tell us.


  1. Jody says

    This reminds me of two bikes that Dale Lineaweaver built for flat track racing. One was a Ducati 748 and the other a BMW F800. Either would make for an awesome street tracker setup, but you just have to love the sound of that Rotax 804 parallel twin!


  2. Derek Larsen says

    i think the fact that older bikes are mechanically simpler, and covered in less plastic probably factors into it. There’s a reason they call them “Universal Japanese Motorcycles.”

  3. John @ designsincoldsteel says

    Personally the challenge for me on any build that I do is not to be limited by the inherent design of the existing piece. You need to have a strong vision of what it is the you want to accomplish and not be afraid to jump in the deep end. Just like the Maxim that we used above you can make something interesting out of just about any size or style of motorcycle. In our shop right now we have a Big-bore Beull Blast, 1984 750 Kawi Twin, Honda CM400, 98 Suzuki GSXR 600, 2 late 70’s xs650 Yamahas and a 1971 Honda 500 motor that will be set in a custom frame with a Ducati 748 single sided swingarm, Ducati Monster S4 front forks and all hand fabricated accessories. None of the above are considered mainstream by anyones standards but therein lies the reward. Now I do realize that everyone does not have the ability to see in their minds eye the end result, however I don’t believe that should stop anyone from creating their own project. The only one that you should be concerned about pleasing is your self!

    John at; Designsincoldsteel@yahoo.com

  4. David/cigarrz says

    I might add take a young person with you on your building journey if possible. Build a motorcycle and a motorcyclist.

  5. Thom says

    I’ve seen several of my stillborn ideas brought to reality lately… Belly-tank two-stroke with chambers over the top of the motor? Thought of that ten years ago and didn’t follow through. (I would have used a Suzuki T500) Triumph with an articulating frame instead of a headstock? Well, the frame is something I thought of… I wanted to use a Ducati Desmo 500.The point being- take a chance! Don’t let your ideas go to waste! I still plan on building a belly-tank bike with the exhaust over top, but I’m changing my engine choice now, thanks to the Jaybuilt XJ500T. Wouldn’t do to be thought of as a copycat, regardless who thought of it first. But I digress- even if you don’t know if an idea will work, TRY IT. All these cool bikes we enjoy ogling could be nothing compared to what is in your head right now!

  6. says

    My current project is taking a mundane bike and making something unique and fun out of it as well. Some people have tried to dissuade me from doing it because I “could just buy a better bike for less money.” Those people don’t get it. 😉

  7. says

    The beauty of older, discarded bikes is that they are simpler in design, which makes it an easier to pull off undertaking for a less experienced do it youselfer. If you don’t have to worry about fuel injection, water-cooling, complex electronics and fairings or bodywork, the job is easier for the first timer. Or for me too. Anything air-cooled is a great starting point. You just need a big trash can so you can put all the junk where it belongs! The absolute best ideas come from the less experienced builders, because there’s no fear or bad habits to hold them back. They’ll try anything.

  8. kneeslider says

    @Mule: “The absolute best ideas come from the less experienced builders, because there’s no fear or bad habits to hold them back. They’ll try anything.”

    Excellent point. It’s also a matter of not “knowing” it can’t be done.

  9. Derek Larsen says

    at the same time, getting to build a bike from leftovers requires having tons of leftovers to begin with, and the experience to know what’s junk and what’s salvageable. showing what can be done is one thing, but explaining and demonstrating how it can be done is key. which is why every bike builder should have a blog.

  10. says

    Derek, Most bike builders think they need to hoard information and not share! Like anybody that heard their secrets would run right out and do a quick Arlen Ness build up from parts. I love to share info. It’s like feeding somebody that’s really hungry. A guy that’s engineered himself into a corner is usually very appreciative of help or possible solutions.

  11. steve w says

    I still have 3 Triumphs to go (previous Readers ride) a Suzuki 550 4 chopper, a 350 Honda road racer, and my 145 cu inch S&S custom in the shop now. A future build will be a Streetable roadracer from a single cyl motocrosser so I have plenty to build and do. I have a sign in my basement that says “don’t lose sight of your dreams”.

  12. Thom says

    Alright, how’s this sound…. Yamaha FZ600 with Seca Turbo top end, belly tank, turbo mounted above the engine with stock tank cut out to make a heat shield, dustbin fairing? Maybe even the exhaust exiting the side of the “tank” directly from the turbo, a la WWII fighter plane….Some lovely pinup graphics would set it off nice, and a Ducati tail section would be nice, too… There’s an idea I don’t mind sharing. :)

  13. John @ designsincoldsteel says


    You are absolutely right. That is how the Maxim came about. My youngest son wanted a bobber that he could ride last summer, but not spend more than $1000.00 on. We spent 2 days on Craig’s list locating several prospects. Just so happened that the Maxim was first on our list and we picked it up after dickering for $300.00. After cutting, chopping and stripping off all the extra crap we stood back to see what we had and if he could live with it as it was. The answer was a resounding NO! Well $3000.00 and several hundred hours worth of labor later we ended up with the red/white machine above. We just….well….got carried away! But the best part of the whole build was..as you say David.. getting another person to enjoy the whole process and be added to the ranks of the enthusiast!


  14. Mike says

    I work with a guy that is building some unique cb 500 hondas. One is a rigid bobber which is finished and he rides and the other is a lowrider. He has plans to build one with a springer.