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Wednesday 31 January 2024

Custombike Show

Custombike Show 

December 1-3, 2023

Bad Salzuflen, Germany

Words and pictures by Horst Roesler, Motographer

What do you call four halls, 20,000 sq m (200,000 sq ft) of exhibit space and a custom bike show with 240 bikes, 180 exhibitors and 22,100 visitors from 24 countries? In any language, a success of course! 

One of Europe's premier custom bike shows is back and back in force with a massive footprint, massive attendance, and a massive number of custom bikes.

The first weekend of December was never the easiest date in the annual European custom show calendar, with the build cycle 'between seasons', uncertain winter weather and Christmas looming large, but despite the challenges the Custombike Show has faced ever since it was founded in 2005, it is now back to its best.

Despite historic and current problems such as the 2008-2010 global financial crisis, the pandemic, organizer bankruptcy, ongoing economic uncertainty, multiple wars, inflation and more - to say nothing of the changing demographics and nature of the custom motorcycle industry - there has always been the need for a show like this to succeed in Germany,  and there is massive determination among German custom market enthusiasts, builders, parts and accessory vendors and growing OE support dedicated to making sure it does succeed.

The show is now thriving under the new ownership and institutional memory of the professionals at the host expo center and benefitting from the continuity of backing from former show promoter CUSTOMBIKE Magazine - now recovered from the near-death experience of its now defunct former show-owning publishing company.

One of the many returning highlights at Bad Salzuflen was the European Biker Build-Off. It featured Germany against Austria and BMW against Indian Motorcycles - for the first time there was no Harley participant on the contest.

The three-day event saw the usual focus on V-twin parts and accessory vendors, performance specialists and custom builds alongside a wide range of additional custom platforms, new bikes and older names and models. An example of the rapidly changing motorcycle industry show and expo landscape in Europe saw Kawasaki and BMW giving European premiers to new models at CUSTOMBIKE - rather than at the 'Milan Show' (EICMA), which had been staged just four weeks earlier.

The weather probably prevented the show from establishing a new record attendance, but there was a healthy crowd and a € 5,000 prize for 'Best in Show', and the title of European Champion attracted custom bike builders from all over Europe, including well-known names and show winners from Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Scandinavia and many other European markets.

The 'Live-on-Stage' International Biker Build-Off saw local BMW dealer Becker-Tiemann crossing wrenches with top Austrian specialist Indian (and Victory) customizer Styrian Motorcycles (SMC - Markus Krasser). 

The local Becker-Tiemann team created a Bobber-style R-18 'Classic' using BMW custom parts as well as Roland Sands wheels, Jekill & Hyde exhaust and own custom-made parts. 

SMC radicalized a 'Chief' into a wild, front and rear Airride equipped 'Chicano' that took the Sunday visitor vote by the smallest of margins - the contest saw both bikes starting at first try, which, historically, is not always the case in 'live' build-offs.

The trophy ceremony saw 14 categories - plus a Best of Show - and with the World Championship still in hibernation pending new ownership, the Bad Salzuflen show can genuinely claim to be the leading custom motorcycle showcase in Europe and a worthy home to a new, reimagined iteration of the European Championship.

For the first time no Harley team was on stage as the 2023 battle was themed "Indian vs BMW." Styrian Motorcycles (SMC) of Markus Krasser and a team-up of BMW Becker-Tiemann Bielefeld staff created two cool custom bikes that both started at first touch of the button and came quite close in the voting. SMC opted for a Chicano-style Lowrider with air suspension, with BMW opting for a classic R-18 Bobber in BMW tradition.

Best Of Show: Triumph again for Mirko Perugini of Gallery Motorcycles , Italy, who won 'Best Of Show' with his 120th anniversary tribute bike. Handcrafted around a 103-year-old model J F-head motor, it features outstanding craftsmanship and superb sheet metal work. 

Old School winner: Owned and built by young Swedish custom bike enthusiast Kevin Almlöf, this mild "Digger" is welded, modified and engraved by Kevin. The XL Sportster is of 1973 origin.  

Chopper winner: Of the wildest Choppers on display ever, Vito Klemencic of Slovenia's VK Custom Works created "History", a masterpiece of sheet metal work around a classic 45 cu in "Flathead," with outstanding details and one of the longest forks ever in Europe! 

Café Racer winner: Benelli SEI is a great base for any retro Café Racer and perfectly modified into a Seventies-style Café Racer. It was restored and modified by Markus Tellenbrock of Oelde/Germany with top restoration and customizing, with homemade six-in-six exhaust system and Café Racer parts in a classic Café Racer set-up.

Best Engineering: No doubt that 16 years is a long time for building a custom bike! But Otto Nijs not just built this wild V-8 turbo with NOX option, he also had it homologated for street use! All handcrafted rolling chassis, twin turbo charger to reach noise emissions and the possibility to achieve 1,000 hp out of 5,736 cc were his motivation.

Craziest Bike: There have been many bike show entries which could have been labeled crazy, but Tomas Pitlik's " TnorF", a 1938 cc engine in a "Megola" inspired frame set-up, did certainly catch the eye of every visitor who passed it! Frame and many parts are handcrafted. The bike was ridden onto stage by Tomas, who is well known for his motorcycle art and art motorcycles in the Czech scene.



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