This article was originally published in the December 1998 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

We get the letters, e-mails and phone calls all the time.

“My dealer says he can’t get those Fine ’n Shiney billet Johnson-rod covers you had in your last issue on that Honda. Where can I find them?”

“I need piiiiipes! Who makes pipes for my Firebreather 1500 Grand Especial?”

“Please send me a list of all companies making chrome widgets for a 1927 Buffalo Breath twin.”

"Hey, I was wondering if they make, like, customizing parts for Harleys?"

Jaroslav Panacek Shadow
By American standards, Jaroslav Panacek had to be very persistent and innovative to create this traffic-stopping Shadow.Bob Feather

As the T-shirt says: Being pretty isn’t easy. Because of a geometric increase in demand, production difficulties, or the simple fact that nobody makes the accessory you want, customizing your motorcycle isn’t always as simple as a phone call, a credit card number, the UPS delivery and a couple of hours in the garage twirling wrenches, then standing back to admire your creation. Even if you aren’t trying to create a one-of-a-kind custom, sometimes you have to beat the bushes and turn over rocks to find the particular components or idea you want. And when that doesn’t pan out, you’ll have to improvise, create a new plan, or maybe even make it yourself. The more unique your end result will be, the more time, effort and creativity you’ll have to put into that motorcycle to get what you want.

Now imagine you want to create something really memorable, but you're not in the United States—where every city worth an extra lane on the inter­state has a custom shop and a skilled bike painter. You're in Czechoslovakia—where getting a billet mirror is about as easy as having Denny Berg stop by Your Street, U.S.A., to help customize your cruiser.

Shadow Details
Clockwise from far left: Holland’s Highway Hawk (which has a U.S. office) made the covers for the overbored engine and the faux air cleaner. Painting a daily driver’s en­­gine white is a daring move. But this bike obviously wasn’t built by or for someone who shies away from the unconventional. Panacek designed and built the foot­peg and foot control arrangement. The miniature speedometer and tachometer snuggle right down into the custom-made pod without disturbing the lines of the bike.Bob Feather

Viewed in this way, Jaroslav Panacek's Honda Shadow 1100 has to be regarded as a labor of love, not just a project. To build a bike this detailed he had to be very devoted. Hell—he had to be devoted just to get the easy stuff, since most of the parts had to be ordered from the United States. His long-distance phone bill would have probably kept most of us in billet for months.

But half a glance tells you this isn’t a simple bolt-on bike. Panacek lowered his 1993-vintage machine by shortening the front and rear suspension and fabricating his own triple clamps. He bumped the engine up to 1150cc by boring it to accept Wiseco pistons. He lightened the flywheels to make it rev quicker, milled .4mm off the head to raise compression, and gave it a slicker valve job. The warmed-up engine breathes through a K&N air filter with mixture by Dynojet.

Arlen Ness Customization
Arlen Ness fenders, and Cobra pipes and front brake caliper radically alter the look and lines of Panacek's Shadow 1150.Bob Feather

Arlen Ness fenders adapted to the Honda, radically alter the bike's appearance. He personally fabricated the air dam, and the rider footpeg arrangement and associated brackets and linkages. The instrument pod and seat cowl were also homegrown.

Cobra supplied many of the shiny parts including the eye-catching exhaust system, billet handlebar risers, headlight, front brake caliper cover, license-plate bracket, stainless steel brake hoses, and a variety of nut covers. Other U.S. suppliers include Mustang (for the sleek saddle) and White Brothers (for the handlebar).

Skull Motif
The whimsical skull motif completes the bike's statement with a smile.Bob Feather

Many U.S. cruiser enthusiasts don't realize there is a large and growing aftermarket for cruiser accessories in Europe. In fact, Europeans were heavily involved in customizing Japanese bikes before Americans were. So Panacek did have some resources closer to home. The speedo and tach and a number of the engine covers came from Highway Hawk (a Dutch company with a U.S. office), and a company called Five Star supplied a number of dress-up parts—including the billet passenger pegs, tombstone taillight, low-profile turn signals, bar-end mirror, and chrome radiator cover. The brake pads are from SBS, and the tires are by Avon.

The white paint—which extends to the crankcases, cylinders and final-drive housing—was applied by “a friend of a friend.” The whimsical skull motif completes the bike’s statement with a smile. Panacek also cleaned up the wiring, which is now routed out of view and uses white plug leads. He farmed out the many pieces, including the swingarm and wheels, that were chromed.

Honda V-Twin
Panacek's 1150 isn't the only custom Honda V-twin in Prague, but we are told it is probably the nicest in Czechoslovakia.Bob Feather

Although his Shadow will turn heads anywhere, it can create quite a mob when parked on a street in Prague; which it frequently is because the Honda—thought by some to be Czechoslovakia’s nicest custom—gets ridden daily.

Next time you are irked because your dealer doesn’t know where to get that billet main jet holder you want, or that chrome drain plug you have been dreaming about is on back order, remember the persistence of Jaroslav Panacek—and the results.