Turn back the clock to 2016 and you’ll see motorcycle manufacturers scrambling to get involved in the custom scene. Yamaha’s Yardbuilt Series was in full swing, BMW had unveiled the R NineT alongside custom builders Rolands Sands and El Solitario, and Triumph was gearing up to release a whole raft of new modern classic models ripe for customization. It was the peak of the “new-wave” custom scene and manufacturers were working hand in hand with some of the world’s top custom workshops. Unfortunately, those days are mostly gone…
Thankfully not everyone has forgotten about the custom motorcycle scene and the devoted community that surrounds it. Despite other manufacturer’s involvement in the scene being all but over, Royal Enfield is doing their best to breathe new life into it with their aptly named Custom World project.
Since the release of the lauded Royal Enfield 650 twins, the Indian manufacturer has shown great interest in the custom scene. To date, we’ve seen several custom initiatives from the brand that have helped to both support the scene and generate interest in their latest model releases.
Soon after the release of the 650 Twins, Enfield teamed up with their partner company Harris Performance. The result was the Nought Tea Racer, a performance-focused development of their Continental GT650. Next, they launched a dealership based custom project that saw Royal Enfield distributors in different regions around the world go head to head. The goal was to see which dealership could produce the best custom using latest models from the Enfield range. To decide the winners Enfield tasked the general public and influential members of the custom scene to vote and the results were very impressive.
In more recent years Enfield has been commissioning renowned custom builders worldwide to work on their latest motorcycles. In November 2023 an impressive collection of such projects was showcased at Motoverse, Royal Enfield’s annual brand festival in Goa, India.
I was lucky enough to attend the 3-day 2023 Motoverse event and it was an incredible experience. Along with the impressive collection of custom builds, Enfield showcased their latest models, invited special guests to take part in Q&A sessions, hosted dirt, flat, and trial track races, presented well-known Indian bands and DJs on a massive music stage, and much, much more.
The Custom World exhibition at Motoverse 2023 was a powerful insight into just how involved Royal Enfield has become in the custom motorcycle scene. The 30+ collection of motorcycles on display was split up into 2 categories consisting of Shed Builds and Pro Builds. These were showcased on long, 25m stands that each accommodated around 15 motorcycles.
Shed Builds are custom Enfield projects built by enthusiasts as opposed to professional workshops. The collection was vast and varied with everything from 650 Scramblers to Interceptor Bobbers and Boardtrackers, fully faired cafe racers, and utalitarian Himalayan adventurers. Best of all these bikes were all built by locals making it a great insight into current trends in the Indian custom scene.
The Pro Builds were custom motorcycles built by professional Indian workshops. Once again the variety of styles was wide-ranging and the quality was top-notch. Around the main stands, Royal Enfield had also placed several individual bikes on their own stands. These were projects that Enfield had commissioned to be built through collaborations with several high-brow builders. Amongst them was a 650 twin-powered bagger by TNT Motorcycles in Bijwasan, a slick Bobber by Bombay Custom Works in Mumbai, a dustbin faired drag racer by Greasehouse Customs, and Moto Exotica’s carbon fiber bodied ‘Ultimate Himalayan’. These were the bikes that Enfield’s ‘Custom Builds Coordinator’ Shubham Kala was most proud of, and rightly so.
Along with a great showcase of local talent, Royal Enfield invited several special guests to the Motoverse festival to share their insights into custom scene trends of the past, present, and future; including myself. I was joined at the event by custom builder Christian Sosa of Sosa Metalworks in Las Vegas, who had already completed several bespoke Enfield builds for the brand. Robert Nightingale, organiser of the Malle Mile was there too along with several Indian builders.
To their credit, Royal Enfield also embraces brands that are developing aftermarket components for their motorcycles, several of which had a presence at Motoverse 2023. As well as several retail pop-up stores, some of the aftermarket manufacturer’s demo bikes made an appearance on the main custom display stands. These include the work of the French Enfield aftermarket experts Hedgehog Motorcycles and local body kit suppliers Autologue Design. Both brands have been producing kits for the 650 twins over the past couple of years and in more recent times have released parts for models like the new Hunter 350.
Under the banner of ‘Inspired by Custom for Custom’, Royal Enfield Managing Director Siddhartha Lal also used the Motoverse event to unveil a very special custom motorcycle. Produced in a highly collectible series of only 25 bikes, the Shotgun 650 Motoverse Edition was made available to showgoers through a lottery-style purchase process. The limited edition model bore paintwork and accessories inspired by the SG650 concept motorcycle unveiled at EICMA in 2021. During the reveal, Sid described the Shotgun 650 as a genre-defying motorcycle with a look inspired directly by trends in the custom scene.
As a devotee of the custom motorcycle world, it is very exciting to see a manufacturer pouring so much effort into supporting the scene. This approach will no doubt be hugely beneficial to their sales. Many of the latest models in the Enfield range, including the all-new Himalayan 450 offer some of the best value for money in the entire market. This of course leaves buyers with more cash on hand to modify their motorcycles and in turn, keep the custom scene alive and cranking. Royal Enfield, we salute you.