I’m not sure if every generation that hits my 20-something age range sees a sudden spike in its demographic getting tattoos of daggers, huffing light-blue American Spirits, and stocking up on vests of various materials, but these things all lead that group pursuing the next coolest thing they can do beyond not giving a heck what you think, mom. That next thing can be any number of things from knitting to custom motorcycles.
Motorcycles have always been cool, and my generation appears to think so, too. I see lots of old friends from middle school etc. slapping iron crosses on whatever they can and flipping off their friends iPhones for Instagram. A bit silly, but I’m not trying to rant about these folks because they’re having fun I hope, and that’s all that matters. But I suspect that my age and advanced understanding of being a “hipster,” supposedly, is why I was sent in to infiltrate a cool-guy custom-bike show in Brooklyn, complete with metal bands, tall cans, and on-site tattoos, in the most gentrified neighborhood of New York.
The Brooklyn Invitational has been carrying on for nine years as an intimate and highly curated show of invitation-only bikes from builders across the U.S. that have been selected by the academy to present their creations at Root studios, a warehouse-like venue on the edge of one of the coolest parts of Brooklyn known as Williamsburg.
The show lived up to its surroundings, with a blend of classically styled cafe racers and exotically difficult-to-ride-looking choppers, bobbers, and vintage bikes, propped up in every corner of the studio. With legends featured like Walt Siegl and his completely aluminum Ducati “Leggero,” the show provided much for bike lovers to feel confusing feelings about. Some of the coolest features were often hidden in the nooks of these machines, like the peep-hole-infused gas tank with a pirouetting ballerina in it, or this top secret MotoGP-extracted throttle system by Christian Sosa.
But enough about all of that boring shit, let’s talk about… ahem, the coolest part of the show. Indian Motorcycle. Taking helm as the title sponsor of this year’s show, they wanted to show off the unlimited customization of their new 100-hp “STRIP IT DOWN” motto’d minimal cruiser, the Scout Bobber. Announced just this last July and tested by MO’s Ryan Adams, it is a solid foundation for the customization kids crave.
With the proof being often submerged in the pudding, Indian selected three builders, each given only a few weeks to do absolutely whatever they wanted to the bike, a chance to show off the lengths to which the Bobber can be modified. Onboard for this project were Roland Sands and Steve Caballero (skateboarding legend and bike connoisseur), Keino Sasaki, founder of the Brooklyn-based Keino Cycles, and Satya Kraus, founder of Kraus Motors, a Santa Rosa-based custom-bike builder and aftermarket parts manufacturer.
Prior to the doors to the show being opened to the public, Indian herded the haggard group of meek, confused, and borderline homeless-looking motojournalists into a back room with the promise of free finger sandwiches, but in reality, once they locked the doors from the outside, it was to unveil the custom bikes one at a time.
First up was the collab team of Roland Sands and Steve Caballero. Roland, he’s a famous bike builder I’m betting you’ve heard of before. Steve, he’s a skateboarding legend. Named skater of the century in 1999 by the skateboarding bible, member of the famous Bones Brigade, character in five Tony Hawk Pro Skater video games, and inventor of tricks that I won’t attempt to explain. Roland and Steve came together and decided to keep the bobber heritage and classic look of the bike intact but improve the riding position for Steve’s motocross background. With a narrower flat-tracker tank, mid-set pegs, Renthal FatBar plugged up front, larger 19-inch front wheel, custom RSD-designed 2-into-1 exhaust, Progressive suspension, alongside numerous other facets of the facelift, including hand-painted pinstriping, badging, and numbering (360, get it?) by Steve’s longtime friend Sonny Boy.
Next up was Keino Sasaki, who was completely new to Indian’s Bobber. He enjoyed the compactness of the cruiser and its surprising power, and with this turned to his own drawing-filled sketchbooks and various coffee table books for inspiration that reflected the Indian’s character.
One of the books he became fixated with focused on ’50s streamliner trains, an era reminiscent of Indian’s roots and radical design. Google “streamliner train” and you’ll see some creepy Metropolis-looking shit that wants to eat your cat. Anyway, with this Sasaki began designing smooth and rounded drawn out lines of brushed aluminum. Keino ended up concocting a retro-future cafe racer equipped with some interesting fairings, aircraft-style Beringer inboard hub-mounted disc brakes, rearsets, and a custom chopped exhaust.
Last up was Satya Kraus, a dotcom-era branding and design man turned bike builder and purveyor of performance-forward parts for performance-challenged American bikes. Satya doesn’t like to categorize his bikes but rather make things that are fun to ride. He had been interested in the Scout Bobber since its launch, eyeballing it as a great middleweight canvas for redefining American motorcycles, and he took this opportunity to do just that. With the lifted chassis for greater clearance, mid-set pegs, and, here’s a damn list:
- Inverted Öhlins Fork
- Beringer radial brake caliper and master cylinders
- 320mm Brake Tech rotors
- Rotobox carbon fiber wheels
- Clearwater LED headlights
- Linear steering damper
- Kraus Isolated Risers
- Moto Style Bars
- Rizoma Mirror and Lever Guards
- Custom Seat by Saddlemans
- Billet Rear Shock Mount / Fender Struts
- Öhlins rear shocks
- Chain-drive conversion
- Rear radial brake caliper and oversize rotor
- Mid foot controls using Rizoma components and Beringer rear master cylinder
- Taylor Schultz paint
- Stainless Steel 2-into-1 scrambler-inspired exhaust by Fab28 Ind.
A scan of the modifications above and you get the gist that this was very much a performance-oriented build that got lots of attention at the show for its radical pivot away from the traditional Indian cruiser. Roland and Cab were just as excited as the rest of us about it. It was interesting to see that builder-to-builder respect and genuine excitement for pushing the envelope and making something that looks like it chews rocks and spits them out.
The Brooklyn Invitational is an unpretentious and intimate bike show, in one of the coolest and more exciting places I have been in the States. It’s good to see things are going well for smaller and creative shows like this, and that my generation is coming out to support them for one reason or another that doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. I recommend checking it out. And I applaud Indian for not only supporting a show like this but supporting and encouraging bike builders to do whatever the hell they want with their bikes. Sure, it’s a marketing strategy, but it’s good for all of us, and I’m okay with that.
Check out more photos and stay tuned for other stuff at my Instagram: @baws_hogg_mo