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BARE METAL CAFE RACERS from Spain and Italy are spinning our wheels this week, plus a Honda XR600R tracker conversion and a fluoro orange Yamaha FZ-09 from Australia.

Honda XR600R by Vintage Addiction Crew The Crew are no strangers to these parts. They’ve impressed us couple of times before with their attention to detail and expert level of execution.

And they’ve done it again with this transformation of a Honda XR600R into a scrappy looking street tracker. Given its Baja-winning roots, the Barcelona guys were originally thinking a vintage enduro build would foot the bill. But after some reminiscing over old flat track photos, the thumper’s new identity was forged.

But first they needed the engine to fire. Moto Racing Canet helped with the rebuild, as things had actually seized solid. And while the internals were being seen to, the V.A. Crew went to work on the rest. A Sportster surrendered its peanut tank, which was reworked to sit so pretty on the Honda’s spine. A new, 2-piece subframe was fitted and the obligatory fiberglass flat track tail bolted on. The suspension was rebuilt and lowered to nail its new stance on those 19-inch hoops and a gorgeous coat of HRC paint dressed everything up.

Honda CB750 by Bolt Motor Co. I’d like to say it’s not every day we see a Honda CB cafe—but that would be a lie. Truth be told, the inboxes are inundated with them, so it takes something special to truly stand out. This time around, that standout comes with a bare metal finish, from Valencia’s Bolt Motor Company.

Working with a late model 1994 CB750, Bolt’s craftsmen had a bit of plastic to strip down before they started this build. But they didn’t stop there. The tank that Honda spec’d in the mid-nineties had an aero treatment that just wasn’t going to sit right for a cafe racer, so the flowing OE unit was swapped for one from a 77’ K7. From there, all of the electrics were tidied and the airbox was ditched to deliver one of the cleanest triangles we’ve seen. But it’s the seat and tail unit that steals the show here. To perfectly match the shape of the K7’s tank, Bolt’s designers took to some 3D modeling before fabrication and absolutely killed it.

Ducati cafe racer by Affetto It’s hard to go wrong with a custom Ducati when you draw inspiration from Paul Smart. Which is why this tribute in raw metal from Affetto Ducati is making me drool.

Of course, there’s a bit more going on than some fancy metalwork and a painted frame. Leo Fleuren, the Dutchman behind Affetto, has a thing for transforming old and rare Italians, so the base for this bike begins with an 860 Bevel. To ensure everything would work flawlessly, the frame was fettled and the swingarm from a late-model Sport Classic was fitted. But it too needed modification as the drive chain on the Bevel churns rubber from the right side, not the left. The wheels are from a Ducati Scrambler, and the brakes from a 996.

Wiring has all been re-worked with some help from Motogadget and a lightweight, lithium battery hides in the hump. Speaking of which, all of that gorgeous bodywork—the tank, tail and front fender—was hand beaten by local wizards at Labro Carrozzeria.

Yamaha FZ-09 by Ellaspede The Brisbane, Australia shop seems to nail that balance of performance and style with every build. What started out as a riotous city-mouse from the factory has been transformed into a country-mouse machine that’s just as comfortable scampering along the beachfront as it is heading into the Outback.

Starting with a bone stock 2014 FZ-09 (or MT-09, depending), a quick consult with its owner revealed a desire for some dusty path work. That meant the asphalt-friendly suspenders at both ends needed to go. Öhlins were units were fitted up on both ends to soak up the rough stuff without elevating the seat height into the stratosphere, and a set of Continental TKC 70s found their way onto the mags.

Since the Yammie already had a competent layout, the tank and seat remain untouched. But Ellaspede put some tidy work into the 3-into-1-into-2 high-mount exhaust system, guarded by a set of custom side covers. The rumor is those mags may soon swap to spokes, and with them an upgrade to TKC 80 rubber. But we’re liking the looks on this thing as it sits.

Triumph Thruxton R by Alo’s Cafe There’s rarely a day that goes by where I don’t ponder plunking down on Triumph’s new Thruxton R. Of course, that doesn’t mean things can’t be improved.

The Italian Triumph dealer and custom shop Alo’s Cafe was approached by watchmakers Meccaniche Veloci to build a cafe racer that would reflect the intricacies of their timepieces. ‘Bullet Time’ is the result.

Working with aluminum—for their first time, I might add—Alo’s team put over 100 hours into the bodywork fabrication alone. The dolphin fairing, side panels and hand-rolled fender were all left with a raw, brushed finish that’s echoed by the stripped, factory tank. The seat is a completely bespoke unit that was contrast-stitched in Alo’s workshop. That stitching mimics the style found on Meccaniche’s watchbands, and the aluminum stripe atop the hump is form-fitted. Finishing things off, a custom exhaust snakes through whatever negative space it can find to keep a slim profile, and is capped on both sides by Zard cans.

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With a population of 1.4 billion, China should be a goldmine for bike builders. But it’s not: motorcycles are banned in many of the biggest cities. In Shanghai you can still get a license plate for a bike, if you have 450,000 Renminbi (Yuan) to hand. Which is about US$67,500.

On the other hand, you can get a license for an electric bike for about 50 RMB, which is $7.50. China is tackling pollution by shifting the market towards electric motorcycles, and the small number of local custom builders are adapting fast.

Shanghai Customs is one of those builders. We’ve already shown their stylish electric street tracker, but shop boss Matthew Waddick reckons it’s this new eCub that will soon become his biggest ever seller.

“Shanghai is a pushbike city first and foremost,” says the expat New Zealander. “Always has been, and always will be. Even before millions of cars and scooters took over, everyone used to get around on bicycles. The city is flat and beautiful, and with the architecture, shops and crazy traffic it’s perfect for electric scooters.”

Most of the ebikes in Shanghai are cheap and nasty, and powered by inefficient old-style lead-acid batteries: China’s most ‘westernized’ city has not yet cottoned on to the idea of stylish, high quality electric scooters. But Matthew is determined to change that. “I noticed that the Cub frame is everywhere in China. I think it came ‘off patent’ years ago, and the Chinese swooped on it.”

“China is horrible for motorcycles, but with electric bikes we have an opening—and an amazing opportunity. Components for many of the world’s top brand electric motorcycles are made here.”

If you’re attracted to minimalism and timeless design, you probably appreciate the elegant simplicity of the Cub frame. Its size lends itself well to an electric scooter conversion.

“With the eCUB, we wanted to put down our own stamp of authority—and build a bike that was not only a piece of art, but could also be ridden. It needed enough range and speed to be used as a daily ride. The idea is to create an ‘eCUB culture’ in Shanghai.”

Matthew started by welding a cover over the part of the frame where the engine used to be. He’s also made mounts and fixtures to secure the stainless steel box that holds the battery pack and battery management system. But he’s left the holders for the rear foot pegs in place, because the eCub comes with a dual-seat option for riding pillion.

“I modified the swing arm to accept the electric motor, and then laced it onto an 18-inch gloss black aluminum rim,” he explains. The chunky-looking 3.25×18 tires are from one of the better Chinese tire brands, CST. The adjustable suspension, in brushed aluminum and black, was custom made by a suspension specialist 200 miles away in Zhe Jiang.

Control comes from a 3-wire motorcycle-style throttle: “It gives a nice snapping carburetor effect,” says Matthew. But the real achievement is hiding all the wiring that comes with a fully electric bike, not to mention the battery pack.

“With electrics there is always something to do. I’m working with a renowned electrical engineer, the Australian Sam Dekok, to reengineer some motors to improve performance. Then there’s the internal componentry in the controller, the different fast charging solutions, battery sensor technology … the list just goes on.”

The eCub has
 three types of regenerative braking: switch, throttle and variable. “I have wired it up to the switch on the left brake lever. Releasing the throttle also activates motor braking, which slows the bike like a traditional gas motor and puts volts back into the cells.”

Although the eCUB looks ultra minimalistic, it’s fully wired up with a front headlight, a rear brake LED and flashing LED blinkers. The 60v power system is stepped down to 12v to run the lights. “The Cub is not a big bike, so it is literally jam packed with wires.”

Power comes from Panasonic Sanyo Li-ion cells in a 1.2 kW pack, wired up to a 2000 W hub motor. Three heavy-duty phase wires head into the controller.

“There are wires everywhere: phase connections, throttle wire connections, hall sensor wires, switch wires, boost, reverse low speed, regen brake switches, 12 V systems, the key ignition and 
more. It’s really quite something—but also a super fun experience that just becomes addictive.”

Other than a tiny bit of grease on the steering head bearings and front drum brake, there are absolutely no fluids of any kind on this Cub.

So we know the engineering is good, and it certainly looks good, but how practical is the eCub? “I was a bit nervous, because you really never know until you try. I’m an 80 kilo (175 pound) male and we went out late one night 
and just kept riding, from full to empty. We hit our target 50:50 mark—a 50 km range driving at 50 kph.”

That’s a huge achievement given the compact size of the bike, and makes the eCub a practical vehicle for city use. “With the Kelly KLS controllers acceleration is smooth. The app also separates the speed ranges and torque, so at the touch of a button you can program your riding style. Personally I like the ‘high’ torque settings at the low end—for take off—with ‘cruise’ at the top end for battery conservation.”

There are still tweaks to be done. The motor is a little too big for the battery pack, so the controller limits the current to 35%.

“I have had the eCUB up to 80 kph and I’m sure it could do 100—but these li-ion batteries are not cheap, and the last thing I want to do is destroy them!” says Matthew. “It’s really a balancing act. But electric bikes are not replacing gas motorcycles for a while yet. They’re an addition, and good city commuters. A ‘turn the key on and go’ kind of thing.”

Much as we love the sound and smell of conventional bikes, it’s good to see custom builders testing the waters in this way—and the tide is undoubtedly going the way of electric at the moment.

“Until now, I’ve found the electric bike scene dominated by tech-orientated builders who put less emphasis on style,” says Matthew. “So it’s been really exciting speaking with top custom builders (many of whom have been featured on EXIF) and seen their interest in building electrics.”

“Hopefully more custom builders will get bitten by the bug, and develop a new custom electric scene.”

Electric power is already creeping into classic car world: how long is it going to be before the same happens to the custom moto world? We can’t wait to see what happens.

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