Hand Crafted. In Austin it's a high art. Only in its second year, the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show is an invitational showcase for hand crafted motorcycles that has rapidly set the custom bike builders' world on its ear by raising the bar for custom shows. Builders from across the USA assembled in Austin during the MotoGP weekend to display their work in a three day event that's a mecca for the top talent the motorcycle industry has to offer.
There is no theme of specific motorcycle brands represented, with the display ranging from the truly unexpected – a custom Motus – to the usual suspects of customization – Triumph, Harley Davidson and Honda. In fact, if any sort of theme did emerge, it was the surprising number of Ducati builds. The Italian brand, known more for it's racing history, seems to have captured the imaginations of this creative crowd.
Organized by Revival Cycles, a private motorcycle shop based in Austin, the show is free to the public and generates its own scene of interesting customs and personal statements which ride in and out all weekend. From private owners with an eye for style to budding builders looking for customers, the ever changing parade ranges from rat bikes to stretched scooters. The street outside is almost as interesting as the show.
With 100 display slots available and many more builders than that vying for a chance to show their wares, the branded leather invites were coveted and the Revival panel could afford to be fussy. If you were lucky enough to be invited, when your bike arrived it was photographed and then individually spotlighted on a stand making the event more of a pop up museum of motorcycle art than what normally passes for a free weekend bike show.
Load in started Wednesday and was a builders who's who. In this crowd t-shirts are the new business cards, making it easy for builders to spot, and meet guys (and girls) whose machines they all knew, but whose faces were maybe not as familiar. In an age where "friends" are often people you have only met online it was a priceless three day opportunity to share tech tips with other designers in person and really look for ideas and inspiration.
It really was a field of dreams. Guys like Alex Earle, who has the enviable day job of big time automotive designer, but dreams at night of his own line of high-end, limited edition Ducati specials, were here looking for advice, ideas, and ultimately buyers, without which this dream cannot come true. Or Zeke De Zeeuw, a 12 year old budding builder who brought the Honda race bike he built for the Naked Speed reality TV show with him. Before you meet him you might think it was just a stunt for TV. After you meet him you know it wasn't. Zeke is going to be a builder and my bet is he will be a good one. In this group he's already well known, well liked and more importantly, respected. He spent some of the weekend with the show sponsor Lincoln Electric, learning how to weld. All while his proud dad (who brought the Motus custom) looks on.
And it wasn't just motorcycles either. Artists prints and photos were on display and out back in the fenced yard was an old fashioned Wall Of Death, a carnival show with its origins in the heart and soul of this culture.
At night the party moves to the back lawn where the Wall of Death performs till late (Photo: Vicki Smith/Gizmag.com)
For gearheads, the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show is the sort of show you go to more than once, the kind of place where it's common to strike up an interesting conversation with a total stranger.
It's absolutely mechanical magic. Check out our gallery and see for yourself.