Words Geoff Baldwin Photography Luke Ray
We’d just finished setting up our makeshift photo studio outside the Kustomfest hall. Scrutineering was about to get underway so before all the bikes started lining up we needed to find a test subject to give it a trial run. About an hour earlier a bike had been unloaded nearby in the carpark that caught our attention. The builder of the little bike, a small capacity, Honda café racer was nearby so I asked him to roll it in front of our camera. As I helped him position it some of the other international guests came over for a closer look. It made for a great test shoot and left us all excited about what other amazing customs the show was going to attract.
Later that weekend Wesley from Bike Exif awarded the Honda with their ‘Best of Show’ prize, handing the builder a custom painted helmet from Elders Company and a Kustomfest plaque. Wes later told me that the Honda had made such an impression on him that first day that he’d committed to giving it his award then and there. I’m sure there’s a fitting phrase I could add here about being early, but let’s just say in this instance it certainly worked out for the bike’s builder, AMS Garage.
The morning after the show Ajus the owner of AMS Garage met us for an interview and photoshoot. Poor old Luke had come down with some sort of tropical bug and was struggling in the 30+ degree heat, but he soldiered on, stopping only to down another bottle of Pocari Sweat. Meanwhile I stood with Ajus, in the shade, while we talked about his business and this bike. As it turned out AMS had recently partnered with an Australian entrepreneur to build a new venue in Sanur, Bali. Within the walls of the 1000sqm venue (due to open in 2016) they’re planning to build a restaurant, bar, retail space, barber shop, tattoo studio and motorcycle workshop. It will be Bali’s first rocker styled venue, named ‘Ton-Up Bar and Grill’ and is set to take on the Deus ‘Temple of Enthusiasm’ as one of the biggest moto themed hospitality venues on the island. The Honda, named ‘White Ton-Up’, is their latest work and was built for the express purpose of displaying atop the main bar to help attract customers and showcase the talent of his workshop.
Despite its intended purpose, Ajus paid special attention to ensure the Honda was completely street legal. Although Indonesian laws around customisation are fairly relaxed, many builders choose to ignore them to achieve the look they want, but this isn’t an approach Ajus has adopted. He explained that in Bali where many westerners are starting to ride customs, the police are cracking down on illegal mods and the “bulé" (slang name for western tourists) tend to attract their attention. With westerners making up a large part of his customer base, Ajus needs to provide them with transport that will keep them out of strife, so following the rules is a key ingredient of his business strategy.
Along with being roadworthy the White Ton-Up’s 1984 Honda CB200 engine was given a full overhaul and capacity increased to 350cc. Surrounding the Honda engine is a one-off frame designed and built by the AMS team, whose skills in welding are something Ajus prides himself on. Instead of a traditional dual shock rear the Honda uses a custom made mono-shock swingarm while the forks were recovered from a Yamaha Byson. To keep the front end clean a custom made top clamp accommodates both of the gauges and a pair of stainless clip on bars are mounted just below. Speaking of stainless, those curvaceous headers are also made from it, painstakingly welded together by AMS staff.
Everyone’s talking lines these days when it comes to custom bike building and AMS have nailed it with this build. The tank and tail create a straight, uninterrupted line running parallel to the road and there’s a smooth flowing arc from the tank through to the tail. The café racer proportions are also just right with nothing protruding beyond the centre line of each wheel and the top of the tank being the highest point on the bike.
Retro design touches come from the handmade, scalloped fuel tank and a collection of turned brass parts, a common theme of Indonesian builds, which are spread over the bike. The 18 inch TK rims are wrapped in classic Coker Diamond rubber and a pair of repurposed badminton racket handles have been used as handgrips. The clear orange candy paint laid over a gold leaf base is perhaps the most striking feature of the bike and it changes shades dramatically when the light catches it. This paintwork was done by Ajus himself who is a self taught painter and pinstriper, inspired by his father who was a VW mechanic and keen customiser.
Later that day, as the temperature continued to rise, Luke and I went on to shoot three more stories for Tank Moto and Fuel Magazine. I had thought the 130 motorcycle shoot on our second day was his best effort to date, but watching him struggle through a tropical illness and coming out with shots like these was really quite amazing. It’s not often we mention each others efforts, but I gotta take my hat off to him for this. Remember kids, stay away from those Indonesian ice cubes...