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Our Top 5 Bikes from the 2017 One Moto Show

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Over 17,000 people flocked to the northern end of Portland this year, braving the cold interior of a vacant building with their plaid shirts, in order to drink PBR, listen to loud music, and look at the occasional motorcycle. Yes, it us that time of year for The One Motorcycle Show in Portland, Oregon.

More than just a much larger venue, The One Moto Show continues to gain traction with vendors and sponsors, all the while attracting more and more bike-curious attendees through its doors.

Main-lined into the zeitgeist that we recognize as two-wheeled hipsterdom, “mainstream” motorcyclists can roll their eyes while shuffling through the PDX masses, but you cannot deny the pulse the show keeps with younger motorcyclists.

As such, there were more than a few pillars of the motorcycle industry circulating in the show’s ranks – all incognito, of course – trying to understand how the next generation interacts not only with motorcycles, but also with each other.

Over 150 bikes were on display for those in attendance – I heard a figure as high as 170 motorcycles were hidden throughout the multiple rooms and floors of the show’s venue – and a couple trends struck me over the course of the show.

First, was the virtual absence of any café racers, which made the one or two machines of that genre stand out, like colleagues that didn’t get the memo that Hawaiian shirt day at the office had been cancelled.

Contrast that with the sudden rise of dirt bikes on display – many from the 1980s or older – showing perhaps a new trend for younger riders.

For our eyes, the most intriguing builds came from the “cruiser” section of the show, while A&R‘s hunger for sport-focused machines was disappointingly met with many of the sponsor bikes that we have seen, for several years in a row now.

As such, you might find our favorite picks from the 2017 One Moto Show to be a bit peculiar, considering the sport bike slant that Asphalt & Rubber so often takes. Still though, they are truly impressive machines.

We see the show only growing larger as the years continue, thus adding only more credit to the growing annex of the motorcycle industry, that Portland is becoming.

If you find yourselves without something to do in mid-February next year, we highly recommend attending this free motorcycle show…just get there early, the lines are horrendous.

#1 – Sosa Metalworks’ Knucklehead

Hands down the most beautiful bike on display, if you haven’t heard of Sosa Metalworks, then this knucklehead custom should certainly change that. The bike is decisively analogue, with mechanical actuation for virtually everything.

Truly impressive bits include things like the throttle linkage, which uses rods and gears to make its way from the handlebars, down to the cylinder heads. Spend some time studying the photos, there is no shortage of details to absorb.

That being said, getting even these modest photos was a personal challenge, due to the constant crowd that flocked around the machine. If the show curators can continue to attract builds like this to Portland, then the One Show has a healthy future ahead of it.

#2 – Speed-Machine Motorcycles’ XT500 Board Track Racer

How do you make a boring motorcycle like the Yamaha XT500 look lurid and eye-catching? Painting it orange certainly helps, but the true-to-form board tracker aesthetic works even better…and doing both certainly covers all the bases.

Built by the folks at Speed-Machine Motorcycles, this “Flying Merkel” has been making the rounds for quite a while, but it is new to my eye, and visually very fetching.

This XT pays a good homage back to when you really had to be a special kind of crazy to race a motorcycle, and when motorcycles had more in common with modern bicycles then what we ride today.

#3 – Roland Sands Design’s BMW R nineT

Roland Sands had a hand in making the BMW R nineT motorcycle come to life, so it’s only fitting that he submit a custom motorcycle built off the air-cooled platform.

A nod to the Super Hooligan series that RSD just started, this boxer-engine tracker has a tasteful low-slung chassis with a single-sided swingarm.

The bike looks fast enough to race, but also hip enough to ride to the local free-trade ten-dollar coffee shop – not an easy line to walk.

#4 Suicide Machines Company’s Harley Davidson 750

The world might be collapsing when the sportiest custom you see at a bike show is from the Bar & Shield brand, and yet here we are with Suicide Machine’s tasty Harley-Davidson 750. The bike has not only carbon fiber wheels from BST, but also a carbon fiber swingarm from the South African outfit. 

If you can somehow take death metal music and give it two wheels, this creation from Long Beach, California seems like the only result possible.

I can’t quite place my finger on it, but this motorcycle has a certain irreverence that seems perpetually to be giving you the finger.

#5 Alex Lapidus’ 1974 Honda Elsinore

I was really struck by Alex Lapidus’ work on his Elsinore, as it’s probably the bike at the show that I would most want to ride on a daily basis. Not too flashy, not from some big-name builder, but instead a motorcycle that has beauty in all the right subtle places.

My only real complaint with the machine is the composite work on the carbon fiber tail, where the weave on the fibers clearly didn’t get laid properly. It makes for a noticeable but honest blemish, and I am not sure if that makes me like the bike more or less.

Honorable Mentions

Also on display at the 2017 One Moto Show were a few bikes worth mentioning. Alta Motors was here, showing us its Redshift ST street tracker concept, as was Janus a new motorcycle startup that is focusing on vintage-looking small-displacement machines.

A pair of Walt Siegl bikes were at the show – a Bol d’Or and a Leggero – remixing classic Italian motorcycles into something different. The counterpoint to that was the multitude of air-cooled BMW standards all crowded around each other, like a crayon box containing only different shades of blue, though a few were tastefully done.

The most under-appreciated motorcycle though is easily this two-stroke frankenbike by Roland Sands, named the “2 Stroke Attack” TZRD.

Made from wedging an RD400 engine into a TZ chassis, the TZRD was sequestered in a dark hallway, with nothing to note its build history. I wonder how many people pushed by this work of art, on their way to another Solo cup of cheap lager.

Photos: © 2017 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & RubberCreative Commons – Attribution 3.0

Jensen Beeler

Despite his best efforts, Jensen is called one of the most influential bloggers in the motorcycle industry, and sometimes consults for motorcycle companies, whether they've solicited his expertise or not.

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