Japanese and Pinoy bike building styles may be very different. But they can come together in a beautiful way as demonstrated by this entry at the recent Moto Builds Pilipinas, part of the recent Makina Moto Show.
I'm talking about The Quago, a 2016 (or 2017) Yamaha Bolt 950 V-twin entered by Ylagan Kustom x Masa Mark. The duo also built the winner of the chopper category, the #53 Royal Enfield Classic 350 by Ylagan Kustom x Masa Mark.
The Quago is the work of Masa Mark Muto, hailing from Kawaguchi, a city in the Saitama Prefecture, Japan. Muto's entry is part of his efforts to help and influence the custom bike culture here in the Philippines.
By doing so, Masa-san hopes to get Philippine bike-builder culture up to speed with the rest of the world. Japan's custom bike culture has had more time to develop and grow than ours. It started with Bōsōzoku culture, started by biker gangs in Japan in the 1950s, gaining even more popularity in the 80s and 90s. It's still around today, but this early exposure to bike customization has helped Japan learn the vital skills and trades to appreciate and adapt to more modern styles today.
As for the Philippines, custom bike culture is still in its infancy. Pinoy bike builders may have been around for some time, but it's only recently with Zach Lucero's efforts to formalize their gathering with the Moto Builds Pilipinas event that has really put them at the forefront.
As for Masa Mark Muto, his passion for bike building was stoked when writing and shooting photos for a Harley-Davidson dedicated magazine in Japan when he was just 17 years old. Then at 23, he started his own shop dedicated to customizing motorcycles in the Kawaguchi area. Since then, he's been competing in 18 out of the 27 years of the Moon Eyes Hot Rod and Custom Show in Yokohama — an event that attracts the best custom bike builders from all over the world — and has made a name for himself in Japan.
His entry, The Quago started out as a 2016 (or 2017) Bolt 950 V-twin from Yamaha Motor Philippines. Its name is a stylized spelling of the Filipino word, kwago (owl). Working with the team of Pong Ylagan of Ylagan Kustom, they painstakingly stripped it down and worked on it 2 weeks, day and night.
While building Quago, Masa-san said he was inspired by his beloved mother, who was an owl doll maker and the craft is a revered Japanese traditional art. Japanese doll-making requires sculpting a doll form from wood, painting it, and hiding the intricate structure that allows them to pose realistically with very elaborate and detailed painting or clothing.
Masa-san took on the same approach to building the bike, sculpting intricate forms like the headlight and tail light housing, paired with attention to detail as evidenced by the uniquely-shaped seat.
Perhaps the most distinct feature of the bike is the artwork painted on the tank. It is a blue take on the Japanese rising sun, done by Noel Marfori. “This is a combination of Japan and the Philippines.” said Masa-san. The blue treatment pays homage to both the country's flags. It's evidence of his love for the Philippines and sees our country as his second home.
For Masa-san, attention to detail is very, very important when it comes to custom bike building: “I don't like brackets showing on the bike,” referring to the cable brackets and electrical work showing in the open. According to him, much work has been done to hide the electricals and eliminate all the brackets that were holding the cables and wires around the bike. That effort is evident in the very clean look of the bike.
Taking care of the exhaust note was Marks by Two Kool Hard Choppers (TKHC). They hand-made a straight pipe and coated it with a scratch-proof high-temp paint job.
For the rear, Masa-san says they have eliminated the shock absorbers and made the Quago a hardtail bike. This decision was inspired by the Japanese custom bike scene.
“Here in the Philippines, the hardtail is not a comfortable bike because of the road conditions but you will be hardcore, like Japanese hardtail bikes used only by hardcore riders in Japan.”
The Quago by Ylagan Kustom x Masa Mark is proof that Pinoy and Japanese still can be blended to make a beautiful bike. The Quago boasts of a clean and refined look that almost looks like it came off a showroom, yet with custom touches that you won't see in any catalog.
Japanese attention to detail has certainly leveled up this project and we can't wait to see what Masa-san has lined up next. Masa-san will be flying back home soon and will be preparing for the 28th Moon Eyes Hot Rod and Custom Show (aka Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show) this December. Will we see Pinoy custom bike builders there? We'll soon find out.