Cologne #INTERMOT2024

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From a motorcycle into a personal dream machine

The INTERMOT Unique Motorcycles special exhibition forms part of the World of Heritage and Custom and presents the fascinating universe of custom bikes. Curated by the specialist magazine CUSTOMBIKE, the exhibition provides a comprehensive overview of the major customizing trends and the almost endless possibilities for transforming a motorcycle into a personal dream machine. Spectacular custom builds will be on display, starting with the lightest bikes – mopeds and light motorcycles – and covering café racers, choppers, bobbers, cruisers, roadsters, racers, radicals, scramblers and trackers. Prepare to be enthralled and amazed – some of the creations may even have you shaking your head in disbelief.



Mopeds, scooters, 80cc and 125cc light motorcycles. For decades, entry to the world of motorised two wheelers has been linked to the two-stroke engine, which has served as a souping-up playground and gateway drug for customizing since the beginnings of motorcycling. The small machines in this category are as diverse as their young riders themselves. But despite their size, they still pack a punch.


BMW motorcycle orange/black Cafe Racer by Pexels

The café racer has its roots in London in the 50s, when rival motorcycle gangs used the streets of the British capital as racetracks. To this day, the style is defined by a forward-leaning riding position, short seats, clip-on handlebars, a round headlight and a no-frills tank, preferably with knee rests.


AMD World Championship INTERMOT 2016

The 1969 film "Easy Rider" inspired a new sense of freedom in an increasingly regulated world. Captain America, the Harley featured in the movie, is now considered the original chopper. The style is characterised by a narrow, extremely stripped-back build – with long forks, small tanks, high handlebars and sissy bars to complete the look.


Bobber Photo by Alex Borghi by Pexels

The term “bobber” refers to the “bob” – the shortened tail jutting out at the end of the rear fender on old Harley-Davidson models. A bob-job meant a motorcycle with two wheels of the same size, fitted with tyres with a high aspect ratio, often with white walls. All this is combined with a hardtail, a slight rake in the fork and generally stripping back all the non-essentials.



The term “cruiser” has been applied to a style of motorcycle only since the 90s. These heavyweights can be recognised by their long wheelbase, wide tyres, large-volume engine, large fenders, wide handlebars and prominent floorboards, a look ideally rounded off a hefty windshield. Equipped with close-fitting saddlebags (and often a top case and a sizeable stereo), the bagger is an American variety of the cruiser.


Roadster Foto by Mã Chí Tài by Pexels

Visible technology, classical beauty, total performance. In principle, a roadster is a naked bike modelled on the classic motorcycles of the 60s and 70s, casting all futuristic influences aside. Everything else is stripped down to the bare minimum – no fairing, no heated grips and no unnecessary nonsense that doesn’t serve the thrill of riding. This is the motorcycle, pure and unadulterated.



Narrow and minimalist, these bikes were originally built to drift. They are the American equivalent of Germany’s speedway motorcycles – just much better looking. Although their long forks recall an enduro, the riding position is low. Other characteristic features are deep-tread tyres, minimal electrics and – at least on racing machines – no front brakes. The sporty family of trackers is formed of the street, flat and dirt varieties.



According to some sources, this style takes its name from the early races in which contestants “scrambled” across country to get to the finish via the shortest route possible. There were no motocrosses or enduros in the 60s, so street motorcycles were customised for riding across fields with deep-tread tyres, wide handlebars, and higher-positioned fenders and exhausts. All this made the bikes robuster and better equipped to handle any terrain – and even enhanced their appearance on the street.



Customizing has its origins not in the visual enhancement of machines, but in racing. Racers removed all the unnecessary dead weight from their bikes for the board-track and hill-climb races popular in the 20s. Keeping the bike’s weight as low as possible is still important in motorcycle racing today, but sophisticated suspension technology and engine tuning naturally also play a major role.



From technical experiments to exotic oddities and Dadaist absurdities – radical custom bikes are simply motorcycles that have been built without any limits or rules. These one-of-a-kind creations experiment with technical features, materials and visual madness. Approval for road use is not usually a given.

The history of customizing is almost as old as the motorcycle itself.

A motorcycle tailor-made to the owner’s taste – this is customizing taken to an extreme. In principle, any motorcycle that doesn’t conform to the series build is a custom bike. But the term is generally used only when considerable effort has gone into rebuilding a machine.

The history of customizing is almost as old as the motorcycle itself. From as early as the dawn of the 20th century, motorcycles were rebuilt, at first for racing purposes and later for military use. Influences from both fields can still be found in diverse styles and customizing trends.

A huge scene around custom bikes.

Old-school rebuilds are based entirely on old traditions and models, often using historic suspensions, engines or parts. The most popular ways to customize modern motorcycles are changing the rear and swingarms, fitting new tanks, forks or handlebars, installing a new exhaust as well as engine tuning or special paint jobs.

A huge global scene has emerged around custom bikes. It includes many professional customizers as well as a large guild of hobbyists, an industry that supplies extensive accessories and numerous dedicated events and bike shows.

Manufacturers and the development of their models

Custom builds have always had a significant influence on manufacturers and the development of their models. Many technical or visual ideas were conceived in small workshops before they went on to appear many thousands of times in series models. Even whole new categories of motorcycles born out of the custom scene have now been adopted by the industry. The club style is one such example. Established in its own right for some years now, it can be recognised in the 2022 series models by Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle. Some manufacturers describe their models as “custom” if minor modifications have been made to another series model in the factory.