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Top 5 bikes for customising

Looking for a bike to customize? To help you choose, here is our pick of five of the current best, across a variety of styles, manufacturers and budgets!

Phil West

Words by: Phil West

Published on 26 November 2020 | 0 min read

1. BMW R nineT Pure – the boxer with lots of tricks
BMW’s R nineT retro-styled roadster, as based on the 110bhp R1200R, has been one of motorcycling’s success stories ever since the original was launched, initially as a special limited edition to commemorate 90 years of BMW motorcycles in 2014 – hence the name. That bike’s huge popularity, partly due to the fashion for ‘customised’ BMW boxers but also because it rides and looks so good, led it to becoming one of the German firm’s mainstream models, spinning off a whole family which now currently includes the R nineT Scrambler, R80G/S inspired R nineT Urban G/S and this, the more budget R nineT Pure (starting at £10,510) which has a steel tank and more basic suspension and instruments than the ally-tanked original, which costs £12,745. Best of all, however, BMW, long renowned for their extensive accessory options, also offer a huge amount of custom goodies for all the nineTs including the latest ‘Option 719’ parts packs which means the home-customising options are almost endless, have the reassuring quality of being produced by BM themselves and make the resulting bikes look both high quality and very individual. Our recommendation? Go for the cheaper Pure and spend the saving on some billet bolt-ons (a typical Option 719 billet parts pack costs around £1000), luxury leather and more.
Find a BMW R nineT Pure here.
2. Triumph Street Twin – the brilliantly customizable Brit
British brand Triumph are now probably the market leaders in retro-style roadsters, largely due to the continued success and numerous spin-offs of its Bonneville twin, which was last fully-updated in 2016. The result, today is an extended family of eight different Bonneville variants, all based around 900 and 1200cc versions of the engine, ranging from the novice-friendly, 65bhp, 900cc £8100 Street Twin to a Street Scrambler, two different classic Bonnevilles, the Bobber and Speedmaster cruisers, the Scrambler 1200, sporty Speed Twin and top-of-the-range and genuinely potent 105bhp, 1200cc and £13K Thruxton RS café racer. All are sweet-handling, easy to ride and with such a wide choice there’s now a Bonneville retro to suit every taste. But best of all, when it comes to customizing, is that Triumph now are second only to BMW when it comes to offering extensive accessory and customizing kits for their bikes – and also have a brilliant online configurator on their website which lets you see the model you’re interested in with all your options fitted. Our recommendation? Go for the most affordable Street Twin and save some of your budget for some of the 140+ accessories Triumph now have available, including two special ‘inspiration kits’ – the ‘Urban Ride’ (with special seat, single pannier, bash plate and other goodies) or the ‘Café Custom’ (with uprated shocks, V&H cans, rear fender eliminator and other cosmetic add-ons).
Find a Triumph Street Twin here.
3. Ducati Scrambler 1100 Sport Pro – the exotic Italian
Italian sportsbike legends Ducati entered the hugely-fashionable ‘retro scrambler’ market when it launched its Scrambler family in 2015, initially comprising four differently-styled variants of an affordable, novice-friendly and retro-styled 800cc V-twin roadster. These have proved such a success that a 400cc A2-compliant version was soon added, along with two more potent, 1100cc, 85bhp versions in 2018 which have now been further updated for 2020. Like Triumph’s Bonnevilles, all are friendly, pleasing and relatively affordable and, again like Triumph, the Italian firm also encourages and supports individual customization via an extensive range of official accessories. Ducati also promotes and inspires such customizing with an annual dealer custom contest called the ‘Custom Rumble’ (latest winner pictured). Of the bunch, although more expensive, we’re tempted most by the new-for-2020 1100 Sport Pro with its fancy Ohlins suspension, stacked performance exhausts and restyled rear end, currently around £12,795, onto which we’d add some mouth-watering Ducati cosmetic goodies. After all, who said you can’t have show without go?
Find a Ducati Scrambler 1100 here.
4. Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special – the ultimate
When it comes to bikes and customizing no manufacturer has a richer heritage than historic American marque Harley-Davidson so no round-up of ‘customisable bikes’ would be complete without them. Thanks to Harley’s traditionally enormous accessory catalogue, any machine from its range of 883 and ‘big twin’ Sportsters, Cruisers and Touring bikes can be easily extensively personalized – and in truth, most are. The current ultimate, however, is surely the current Street Glide Special. First introduced in 2010, the Street Glide, essentially a chopped down ElectraGlide, proved an immediate hit in the US for its blend of Tourer practicality with custom style – so much so that it inspired a whole new breed – the bagger – and has become a far and away US best-seller. Updated repeatedly since, the latest version boasts a 1868cc version of the classic Harley push-rod V-twin developing a decent 89bhp, a surprisingy easy handling chassis complete with Brembo brakes, luxurious ‘Infotainment’ system and, in the UK, comes in ‘Special’ trim with fancy alloy wheels, blacked out engine, detail touches and seven different colour options. OK, you might think that doesn’t leave much room for further customisation – but you couldn’t be more wrong: seats, luggage, performance pipes, billet bolt-ons, comfort options and much, much more are available from Harley and, if you want to go the whole ‘hog’ (sic) Harley are also offering the limited edition ‘CVO’ variant which is slathered in accessories and special finishes and can be yours for a whopping £33,095. Pricey, yes, but custom bikes simply don’t get more luxurious and lavish.
Find a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special here.
5. Yamaha XSR700 – the most customizable of the Japanese
If a £33K Harley is out of your budget for a customizable bike don’t worry – there’s plenty of more affordable options. Of the Japanese ‘Big Four’ manufacturers, however, it’s Yamaha who have most consistently and determinedly embraced the current customizing trend. Its ‘Yard Built’ program has seen reknown customisers commissioned to produce special one-off versions of a series of its bikes, which have then been used to promote and inspire buyers of its bikes to customize their own machines via a growing range of official Yamaha accessories. Admittedly, Yamaha’s range of goodies isn’t quite in the same league as Harley or even Triumph, but there is enough there to have fun personalizing and customizing your bike. Of Yamaha’s current bikes, the most customizable of all is its retro roadster, the XSR700, as based on the all-ready lively and great value MT-07. At £7447 it’s very affordable. Its 74bhp twin is at the same time unintimidating for novices yet lively enough to satisfy more experienced riders. It handles well and is decently versatile. The XSR gets retro styled tank, seat, headlights etc and there’s some tasty new retro paintjobs for 2020. There’s also a new, limited edition XSR700 XTribute version with cosmetic tweaks inspired by the classic XT500 or, if you want to do it yourself, Yamaha now has a range of 52 accessories specific to the XSR, ranging from exhausts to different seats, Ohlins suspension, billet cosmetic parts and even retro-styled luggage if you want to make your XSR truly unique.
Find a Yamaha XSR700 here.

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