Practical Customs - a good title for a magazine, perhaps, though I don't suppose anyone will take a chance launching it...

This name occurred to me while wandering around the exhibits at the latest KICKBACK Custom Show, held at the National Agricultural showground known as Stoneleigh Park.

The agricultural clues are all around as you drive past the Charolais Cattle Society building and the Dexter Cattle Club on the way to the car park area. The Harleys, and similar bikes favoured by custom bike fans, made an incongruous mix as they rumbled in under blue skies with the temperature, at last, reaching double digits.

Custom bikes are many things - innovative, inventive, idiosyncratic, eccentric - but they're often anything but practical. Early in my exploration of the mostly gleaming exhibits, I spotted and photographed a couple of bikes that looked as if their builders had intended they not only look good but ride good:

Suzuki 750
First into my lens, a 750 Suzuki that had garnered a number of awards but still looked as if it belonged on the road. It had begun life as a 1978 GS 750, but had acquired a swinging arm and wheels from a Kawasaki ZR550 and brake calipers from a GSXR 750. All the excess brackets had been cut away to achieve a sparse but attractive back section.

SV 650
Nearby, another 'practical' Suzuki: one of the most resplendent SVs I've come across. It's based on a 2004 SV650S model and remodelled as a café racer by Louis Barnet. His first project, and he acknowledged the help of his dad Andy on the information sheet.

Rickman Metisse
This black and gold monster with the Rickman Metisse tank logo is a rare beast. The frame is one of 12 built in 1997 to house a Harley Sportster motor, but this one has a 2001 1203cc Buell Cyclone engine fitted. Not sure about the current 'fashion' for clothing road bikes with knobbly tyres, though...

Honda '77
Perhaps the correct 'rubber' for this Honda, numbered to remind the builder of the year he first began riding. It's the epitome of practical as it's used year-round and has put five 5,000 miles through the engine since completion in March 2014. Goes off-road too.

1955 AJS 350cc
Another first build, this very eccentric 1955 AJS 350cc. Bought as a near wreck, but restored as a young rider might have wanted to create it back in the 50s. Notice the saddle - it's been modelled out of marine ply and is said to be comfortable.

Yamaha V-Max - Blue Thunder
Another bike that had more rust than was required when bought off eBay for £1500. Now completely transformed and named 'Blue Thunder'.

The Show

The show occupied just one hall, with the familiar stunt show held at intervals in an adjoining building. Trade stands were in the main hall while smaller stalls occupied that popular footfall area by the entrance/exit, reminding me of the Banksy film Exit Through the Gift Shop.

KICKBACK, along with the Bike Shed, has led the recent increased interest in custom and bespoke bikes. It will be setting up shop again at the Cheltenham Festival of Bikes on Sunday 21st August at the famous horse race track. Then, just as we're preparing for the dark months again, a ray of biking light will glow at Olympia in west London where they will organise the two-day KICKBACK London event.

But for now, some more of our favourites:

Were you at the show? Which bike is your favourite? Let us know at

27/04/16          Tasty machines again gentlemen

03/05/16         I was at the Kickback show, my favourite bike is the Metisse. I could stare at it for hours, and sometimes do as it lives in my garage! It is indeed a practical custom and it is now being used regularly with few faults to iron out. I should have put more detail but was ill prepared having never put a bike in a show before. The original run of frames were meant to be flat track style but I wanted the heritage of the Metisse name that originated with the Rickman brothers off road racing in the 60’s hence the original style bodywork and the racing numbers 73 one side and 74 other (Derek and Dons competition numbers). The tyres are TKC conti’s and glad to know I’m ‘fashionable’ for once! They are dual sport and surprisingly good on road. I built the wheels to BMW 1200GS sizes so I had a large choice of tyre and thought I’d try these first. Anyway, thanks for noticing it is a practical custom and when the magazine comes out I would definitely buy it.

Posted by John Newman
for Wemoto News on 26 April 2016 in Events

Edited By: Daisy Cordell



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