Maybe I’m just a sucker for a good Venn diagram, but when stumbled across this (kind of ugly, not created by me) infographic, I simply had to share. There is so much confusion and misinformation in the market about what particular bikes are good for, it’s important to get back to basics.
With that said, as a custom builder, the goal is to take different parts of the diagram force them to get busy with each other. Sometimes this produces beautiful babies like the cafe racer (standard + sport) and sometimes it produces unholy bastards.
Yes there is such a thing as an offroad sidecar observed trials bike, and no you could not pay me enough to ride one.
The digram may not show all the weird and wonderful combinations people have come up with, but it provides a good basic understanding of the types of motorcycles available from major manufacturers today. It’s also useful for understanding whether a custom bike build you’re imaging is really such a good idea.
While any combination is in theory possible, some are obviously undesirable (at least to me). I’m not sure why anybody would put ape hangers on a sportbike, or attempt to take an adventure tour on a scooter, but maybe the owners have some explanation. Sometimes weirdness is the overriding goal, and at least on that level, I can get behind pretty much any kind of bike build.
However, some custom projects are simply much easier and cheaper to approach from one direction than the other. If you look at the design of supermotards, the goal was to build bikes that handle well on tight asphalt corners, deal with a bit of dirt, and can hit big jumps. Could you get there by modifying a sportbike? Yes, probably at great complexity and expense. But starting with a dirt bike is so much simpler that it’s what practically everybody does. Better brakes, shortened, stiffer suspension, different wheels and tires, and some gearing changes and you’re off to the races.
I you want to do it that hard way just to prove that it can be done, again, I can get behind that kind of project – but it’s important to go in with eyes wide open.
To get back to the original question of “What kind of bike do I want?” it’s important to take a step back from the marketing speak and think about what capabilities, features, and style elements are important to you. Maybe the real answer is “two bikes.” Maybe you answer that there is a hole in your life in the shape of a rigid hardtail with dirt tires and a big honking turbocharger. Whatever the result of your soul searching, we can make it happen – but I reserve the right to try and talk you out of it.