Not so Easy Rider: Nine Customized Bikes by Powerplant Motorcycles
From fighter planes to women, here are the inspirations that make for a unique custom by the motorcycle trailblazer.
Once considered a niche subculture, often associated with the rebellious and unruly members of society, custom motorcycles have now cemented its place in the automotive world, while continuing to garner great appeal thanks to customizers spearheading the genre. No longer holding the negative connotations it once had, motorcycles are a form of transportation that also doubles as a piece of art for some, or an undertaking of sorts for others. Yaniv Evan falls into both cateogories. He began customizing bicycles as a child, eventually moving onto automobiles. As time went on, Yaniv began major modifications and metalwork, resulting in apprenticeships at various garages. Finally in 2002, Yaniv opened Powerplant Motorcycles in Los Angeles as an all-stop shop for 100 percent customized bikes.
Now that motorbikes have become more ubiquitous — especially the custom kind — everyone is clamoring to learn more. Even celebrities have begun advocating for the two-wheeled companion — take a look at Ryan Reynolds or Brad Pitt. According to Yaniv, “[custom bikes] used to be looked down upon because people didn’t understand how something could take so much time and work yet still look like a bunch of old parts in the end and cost more than your average bike.” While it has become trendier to own one, there isn’t a rulebook on what’s “cool” or not. “Bikes are like fashion statements – naturally, you see trends emerge… Not always good ones though like fat tires, goofy bars, tribal paint jobs and alligator skin seats… Sort of like the stitching on the pockets of True Religion jeans. In fashion, you can tell a lot about a person by what they are wearing. The same goes for bikes – you can tell a lot about a person just by the style of bike they ride,” says Yaniv.
While a bike can take anywhere from three months to years to complete, Yaniv tries to hand-make everything — from the frame, to the brake system, powerplants, and even engine parts. Ensuring that each build is unique in its own right, Yaniv takes inspiration from everything around him — especially women. Always starting with a motor and a frame, the basic skeleton of a bike is synonymous with a blank canvas for the builder. With a goal to make all builds look like “it’s moving fast, even when it’s parked,” every bike is truly, a functional work of art.
We take a look at nine of Yaniv’s favorite builds, where he talks about how they came to be and his inspirations.
“Built in 2005, this started out as a 1956 Panhead motor that my best friend Scotty scored off an old Hells Angel from San Francisco. He brought it straight to my shop and told me to build whatever I want with it. It took me about a year to finish it because I couldn’t make up my mind which direction to go in. Once I cut and stretched the frame out, I had to be extreme with every part and detail.”
“This is one of my favorite Harley models ever made – they are getting more rare by the year (Harley stopped making these in 1994). This was the choice bike that the bike clubs used because it’s pretty much a race bike with a Harley motor and very fast – perfect to escape from the cops if needed at a moment’s notice. I pretty much have a standard recipe for FXR’s – a big cam, big carburetor, and custom exhaust for better breathing. I also dress them with racing suspension, mid-controls, tall bars and fairing just so I can feel like I’m flying at 100+ miles per hour…”
“This is a very simple build. I’d say it took a couple of months to complete from start to finish. It started out as a 1978 shovel head so, I cut the original frame to make it into a rigid frame. I used a bunch of old vintage parts that I had laying around the shop including an old 1947 springer front forks, old ’60s chopper tank, fended, headlight, etc. I also incorporated my custom handmade parts as well.”
“Inspired by an old P51 Mustang (fighter plane). Sometimes, I find myself having my hands tied behind my back with building bikes for my clients because they give me deadlines and, at times, restrictive budgets. In this situation, I had no one telling me when it had to be done by or how much money not to spend on it, so I basically took a year to build this for myself and did whatever the hell I wanted… It started as a 1948 Panhead motor. I pretty much handmade everything on this bike and even made my own oval-shaped tubing frame and stainless exhaust. Most parts on this bike are made out of stainless and it’s not an easy metal to work with. But, in the end, this bike is like a timepiece to me – there is no part like it anywhere on this planet.”
“Best part about being a builder is that I get to work with different people’s ideas and different people’s engine choices… I had never built a Norton before. Nor have I ever built a cafe racer, but when I got approached by Bob Rock to do this build he told me he’s always wanted an all aluminum Norton. He found one in Canada we shipped it to LA. I stripped it down to the frame and motor, handmade the entire body parts out of aluminum, built the the frond girder suspension from scratch and this was born…”
2001 Harley FXDXT
“This is actually a neat bike. It’s a first generation twin cam motor that I customized by beefing up the motors, lightning the weight of bike, upgrading the suspension and overall performance. It’s a lot of bike. I call it an urban assault vehicle since it’s my everyday rider that allows me to be anywhere, anytime, any lane, at any speed. And, it feels like flying like in a stealth bomber.”
1969 Triumph (Battleship Gray)
“I started building this bike over 10 years ago. It’s never actually been finished, just a work in progress… The reason is that I started building big twin Harley’s around the same time. I was almost done with this bike and since it’s a 750cc motorbike, I realized I needed more power so I better just put it on the back burner until I could bring it to 100%. Now, 10 years later, I’m finally done with it. Well, almost since I’m always wanting to add something new.”
The Hollywood Cruise (All Gold)
“This one was built back in 2005 – built after a David Mann painting of two guys riding on the 101 Hollywood Freeway passing a joint to one another with the “Hollyweed” sign in the background. From a certain angle, the bike looked just like this one does… And, it does tall wheelies!”
“This bike was built in 2007… One day, I get a call from a guy in Mexico City named Jose. He had a really small budget, but I was ready to build anything I possibly could at the time. And, I also happened to like the dude, so I made this happen with a 1978 Shovelhead motor that we found along with a bunch of used parts and very little customizing…”
- Arto Saari