Royal Enfield Custom Contest Winner’s Circle

April 3, 2024 | By Mike Seate


In the months since announcing the first Royal Enfield Custom Contest, our eyes have been blown open by the sheer adaptability of the Indian-made machines. The global competition has been open to Royal Enfield-branded bikes regardless of year of manufacture, which resulted in readers sharing pics of their handbuilt vintage and modern motorcycles in equal numbers.

Though the title on our cover clearly brands this as a publication dedicated to the low-bars and high performance school of motorcycling, the Custom Contest brought in everything from stubby, minimalist bobbers to retro stretch choppers and a few track-ready, slick-shod racebikes. The rules were simple: when we first discussed the concept with Royal Enfield’s Nathan Kolbe, he emphasized customization as a means of revealing just what’s possible with these easily modded air-cooled machines. The idea of awarding one set of prizes to a builder (or shop) from the US and another from the vast, global RE community was necessary given the vast following RE’s enjoy.

Our helpful and always curious staff wasted little time weighing in on which bikes were their favorites while our two professional custom bike builder judges, Jay LaRossa of Lossa Engineering and Sean Skinner from Virginia’s Motorelic also pitched in with their spot-on observations. Their unique insights helped the CRM team to select two bikes from a field of dozens to receive the generous prize packages provided by our advertising partners (see sidebar.) Congrats and much props to the winners and our heartfelt appreciation to everyone who turned a wrench to modify their Royal Enfield to reflect their individual vision of what a custom streetbike can be. Fantastic craftsmanship clearly knows no boundaries.

First Place, Overseas

Though our judges were inspired by many of the groundbreaking ideas and performance upgrades favored by the many US-based shops and designers who entered, both Jay and Sean went for the extensively modified Continental GT cafe racer built by Rajputana Customs from Jaipur, India. The well-staffed shop recently celebrated their 11th year in business, tackling all manner of Enfield alteration and fabrication work on a variety of models. Their 500cc and 350cc singles have won Rajuptana’s head man Vijay Singh a room full of awards in recent years as the air-cooled thumpers are transformed into seriously lean, retro bobbers, some replete with girder front ends and hardtail rear chassis conversions. Their winning entry is known as The Vigilante a cafe racer with the sort of high-end engineering that caught Skinner’s trained eye. He particularly likes the single-sided swingarm from a Ducati 848 superbike cleverly grafted onto the Royal Enfield chassis. “This is seriously what anybody would call a custom motorcycle,” Skinner said of the track-ready 650 that also runs a set of inverted 43mm Showa forks from the same Ducati twin, a one-off duel exhaust treated in black heat-proof Cerakote and 17” Marchesini magnesium wheels front and rear. The subtle dark gray metallic paint with graceful gold trim lends the GT a very Euro superbike appearance, as does the sleek, half-fairing with partial engine shroud. Detailing is world-class from the custom rear frame loop with mesh-covered LED taillights, gold-tipped exhausts and a black/gold finish on the Ohlins TTX racing shock.

Creating a streetbike that could easily pass muster at a superbike race was part of the shop’s brief, Singh says. “I wanted it to resemble a superbike racer and on the track, and in the corners, the suspension and tires worked beautiful, the power delivery is so linear. It’s so flickable, you can just drop it into a turn it felt really planted,” he said after the Vigilante’s first track session. Choosing to test a one-off custom on India’s biggest, fastest racing circuit reveals the level of confidence the Rajputana team has in their two-wheeled creations and proves there’s a burgeoning market for seriously go-fast Enfield racers.





American Ingenuity

When it came to sheer imagination and technical prowess, we’ve seen few customized motorcycles of any brand that have been as thoroughly re-worked as Mike Lopeman’s Royal Enfield Bullet diesel. Yes, the North Carolina rider’s vision for the venerable 500cc single involved removing the factory-installed, gasoline engine, chassis and ignition system, replacing it with a clattering, smoky single-cylinder mill from a Chinese farm tractor, no less. Madness? Divine inspiration? Or maybe a bit too much time to tinker during the Pandemic? Lopeman says his project, which won him the coveted Wildest Engineering trophy at the most recent Cafe Racer Reader’s Ride-In Custom Show, involved equal measures of all three factors. “I bought the bike in its original form for $225 in August 2015. The seller did not have a title and said that in had been in a building fire. The seat was ruined, the motor locked up and the wiring fried,” Mike recalled.

Aware that the trashed single would require a serious commitment, Mike got busy stripping the paint from the tank and fenders and realized “that was all that was holding it together.” Friends shared contacts for a Richmond, Virginia Royal Enfield shop who helped source some stock replacement bits while Mike decided to upgrade the Bullet’s suspension both front and rear by adapting forks and shocks from a newer model.

The original owner had already installed a six horsepower diesel engine and modified the chassis to utilize the engine as a stressed frame member. Mike saw the need for additional power and sought out a 13-horse diesel mill from a Winsun WS188F series tractor, of all places. The newer engine displaces 456cc and required a subframe to be incorporated into the existing chassis for strength. There was also the need for extensive modifications to the primary drive. Today, Mike’s unique Bullet may be the only one on the roads designed to be pull-started with a cable, though he’s also ensured it will fire with a kick or electric starter.

Though Mike’s Enfield is built to ride, with all the curious fans the diesel Bullet attracts, Mike spends plenty of time with the bike parked up, answering questions. “This project took most of my spare time for three years and more money than I’m willing to tell my wife,” he jokes.


Look for more in the April/May issue of Cafe Racer magazine, on sale Monday, April 8.