Deus Ex Machina is known for the amazing custom bikes that come out of their workshops around the world, and are ridden by celebrities, or just displayed in living rooms. Despite that, for years now they have held custom bike contests for amateurs that reward them for “making the most from the least”. This past weekend the only United States outpost of Deus, in beautifully quirky Venice Beach, held their portion of the worldwide competition and your Clymer editor was there (though we did not build a bike this year, unlike in 2015 when our Bosozoku Honda got an honorable mention).
This year there did not seem to be much in the way of trends to spot, so it appears choppers, cafe racers, and scramblers are over. If anything, there was a bit of a rough, ratty, Mad Max wasteland feel to quite a few of the bikes. That isn’t unexpected from a show that encourages builders to start with “the least”. The most authentic bike in this genre was a 1980 Honda CB650 improbably running a 30 year old studded snow tire on the back of its hard tail frame. There was so much “wrong” about this bike that it was hard to not stare at it; like the kid in grade school who ate worms for attention. This wasn’t just a rusty, dusty, primer black “rat bike” though, there was real thought that went into making this look like something Immortan Joe would ride on weekends.
One of the best things about the most from the least design brief is that it encourages builders to make small bore customs. Take one unremarkable moped, convert it to a motorcycle style “top tank”, and sprinkle some custom touches and you have a great way to get around any quiet little beach community. Also making a showing was a Honda S90 converted over to full electric propulsion; it maintained the classic look and was probably quicker than the original. Of course, there was at least one custom Honda Ruckus there, because they are about the most affordable staring point builders these days.
There being few rules to the show, sometimes bikes show up that aren’t customs at all, but someones race bike or daily rider. A very serious looking Honda CX500 Turbo showed up that competes in SCTA-BIN land speed racing. This bike was not shiny or trendy, but it was serious as a heart attack about going as fast as possible withing the rules of the pushrod 500cc forced induction class. The rear wheel had the Comstar hub converted over to use spokes, and a large diameter rim and tire added because there just are not many options for gearing on these bikes for top speed. Up front a smaller wheel was used, and the fuel tank was relocated under the seat so the rider would make the smallest hole thru the air. They seem to know what they are doing because Anderson Miller Racing have been breaking records, and are currently topping out at near 160mph.
Some of the best bikes there were very traditional customs tastefully done. The eventual winner was a motorized bicycle by Wolf Creative Customs done in a clean, minimal, Speedway style (we somehow didn’t get a picture). Hand worked copper and brass lent classy details to Harleys, BSAs, and Triumphs alike, giving them a bit of steampunk style. Speaking of steampunk, there was a very shiny, very hand made mini car (likely rolling on a 3 wheeled Chinese scooter chassis) that looked like it had rolled out of a Jules Verne story. There was also a retro futuristic board track racer based around a Honda XL500 motor, with the rest custom metal and carbon fiber straight from the builder’s imagination.
You can learn more about these bikes and their builder’s at the dedicated Deus Boundless Enthusiasm Bike Build Off page. Keep scrolling on that page and you’ll see the talented and innovative builds from all the other Deus outposts around the globe as well.
If you’re building a bike, for a show or just for yourself, get off on the right foot by ordering the Clymer manual for it before you start.