How the Masters Design Custom Motorcycles

We dive into the moto-builder’s bible to learn the four tenets of designing and building your own motorcycle
June 9, 2016Words by Robert Hoekman Jr.

When it comes to spurring on our dreams of two-wheeled trips down Highway 1, there's nothing better than our current read, The Build: How the Masters Design Custom Motorcycles. In this excerpt, the author calls out the adventurous motoheads: pick up your own wrench or seek out a custom moto builder before you settle for a cookie-cutter dealership design. Brap brap.

It's your ride. Do what you want.

Motorcycling is an exercise in individualism. It’s about looking down at the asphalt beneath your feet, seeing those dashed lines blur past, and knowing you’re living your life the way you want, on the machine you want to live it on. No style has hard and fast rules. They evolve. They have their pros and cons. They work better in some environments than others.

They earn funny looks from bystanders in the wrong context. Pay no attention.

It’s your ride. Do what you want.

Only an individual can build something individual.

It’s this mindset that makes it so difficult to walk into a dealership and find the exact bike you want. Even if manufacturers could keep up with trends, owners would still want to customize every detail. Individualism trumps trend, and individualism can’t be churned out in bulk. To get what you want, you have to pick the parts yourself. You have to turn the wrenches. You have to twist the screwdrivers. In doing this, you achieve something no corporation can. If you’re still on the fence about building your own bike, this is what you need to understand:

Only an individual can build something individual.

Outliers over suppliers.

If a mass-ufacturer was to rise up to meet the current trend, it would have to be via a choose-your-own-adventure platform with a never-ending line of aftermarket parts and a YouTube series. No one is succeeding at this.

When it comes to flexibility, individuality, and even collaboration, artisanal motorcycle builders are in a better position to scratch a customer’s itch than any manufacturer. Likewise, motorcycle buyers who ache for custom are going to have better luck with an artisan than the guy behind the parts counter at the Harley-Davidson dealership. He may know a thing or two, but he’s not going to teach you how to weld, and he’s not going to craft the one-of-a-kind red leather seat you’ll be planting your ass on for the next two years.

It’s simple: outliers over suppliers.

Trend isn’t the point. Individualism is.

And that’s why this book doesn’t focus on a single style or trend, but rather a collection of unique voices in custom motorcycle design.

Yes, you will notice themes in the images in this book. Don’t bother worrying about them. When a lot of individual choices are made, themes invariably appear. Trends are just an effect of those themes. They’re a result. They only become homogenized when enough people stick to them.

Don’t be one of them. Trend isn’t the point. Individualism is.

This book presents the concepts, the ideas, and the elements of motorcycle design so you can find your own voice. It’s not about picking apart what makes a café racer a café racer – it’s about picking the brains of some of today’s most iconic motorcycle builders to pull out a model you can use in your own garage to create the thing unique to you. [H]

Pick up a copy of Robert Hoekman Jr’s The Build on the Octane Press website.

Robert Hoekman Jr. is a contributing editor and columnist for the motorcycle culture and lifestyle magazine Iron & Air. He lives in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, and has has logged more miles on motorcycles than in cars.


Images courtesy of Octane Press


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