Austin, Texas, that is, where the annual Handbuilt show coincided with the US MotoGP at Circuit of the Americas. I didn’t make it out to the GP, but I did make it to the unveiling of an exciting new BMW, onto a tour of Revival Cycles and into their shop on Congress St. (above), into the Handbuilt show, and all over some delicious cuts of Texas cow at a couple of swanky restaurants. Austin is everything you’ve heard. If you live in California and are considering the move, I recommend you do it immediately.
Hey, I’ve been on the road a lot lately, and all that time on airplanes makes you appreciate a nice, clean well-appointed bathroom. We’re totally done up in here in ’70s car, bike, and girlie magazine wallpaper. Inspiring and relaxing, the only thing we’re lacking is the Toto Washlets that spoiled me everywhere in Japan when we went to ride the new Katana last month; I fear the Washlet may be the #1 reason why the Japanese have become such an industrially complacent people lately. Anyway, the cleanliness and attention to detail paid to the whole work environment would allow me to entrust my precious vintage motorcycle to Revival (if I had a precious vintage motorcycle).
I didn’t remember to ask if this is or was really His Kevness’s 916, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is. One night when Revival’s founder was tearing his hair out looking for big tires to go on the Birdcage (see #2 below), Schwantz dropped by the shop. With a quick phone call to his old friend Mike Buckley at Dunlop, Kevin caused a pair of prototype 23-inch tires to magically appear four days later. Perfect.
Everything in here says, “you’ve arrived,” but only if you’re kind of a geek and the time of arrival was circa 1974. Motorcycles in the office, stacks of vintage McIntosh stereo gear and a lovely wet bar not suitable for publication in a family motorcycle website all make for a happy workplace. Reportedly, consulting the wet bar a few times led to the mental breakthrough that resulted in the Birdcage prototype’s final form: The back ridge had to be symmetrical, but not the rest of the ’cage.
Ten years ago Alan Stulberg lost his corporate job, was sleeping on friends’ couches, and building a few custom motorcycles with hand tools in their Austin backyards: “It wasn’t long ago I had one little Craftsman toolbox and an angle grinder. In 2008, I didn’t have a home.”
After touring Europe for a while, blasting along the autobahn at 90 on a KTM single, he came back to Austin and decided to take the plunge and open a small bike shop. From there, the shop just expanded – no doubt due to the attention to detail you see everywhere you look in Revival.
For one thing, Alan says, “We don’t specialize; we do everything and work on all kinds of motorcycles. We’re nerds, we work on stuff that’s not cool along with stuff that is. We’re technical nerds for all kinds of stuff – and all along the way I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to hire people more skilled than me.”
Being in the right place didn’t hurt business either. When Circuit of the Americas got built and the MotoGP crowd began showing up, Austin started to become a motorcycling hotspot: “When I grew up, you didn’t see that many motorcycles around, except for my Dad’s Triumph. Now things are much different. We didn’t come to the party; the party came to us.”
Now Revival employs 23 people, including a couple upstairs in the leather goods department.
Meanwhile back in the online store, Michael Mallett’s biggest seller is the Motogadget M-unit blue electrical controller, that’ll turn your old CB-whatever into a modern motorcycle. Electric-wise, at least. Nerdy but smart.
Now, says Alan, “the most satisfying thing is watching people get inspired by what we do and building their own. Little kids who never touched a tool now show up at our shows with bikes they’ve built. We grew up repairing stuff. I watched my dad pull the motor out of my mom’s car when he was 70. He wanted us to learn that competence. Figuring out how a machine works is deeply satisfying, and we want to pass that on.”
It’s amazing to see what the professionals come up with, but I’m usually even more impressed with what people working on a limited budget can do with just their imagination. Case in point: this Buell Blast Liviu Alexandru Maslin (desmobibu on Instagram) built in his Chicago apartment, just after moving there from Romania. Total cost for the build was less than $10k says Liviu, including the front end he had built to his specs by Chassis Design Co. Truly, a poor man’s Supermono.
Hariomoto’s Hario started out cheap, anyway, as an ’82 Yamaha 920 Virago, before becoming a bit more involved than first planned. Major upgrades include an XJR1200 gas tank, GSX-R fork, R1 brakes and swingarm, etc. Read all about it here.
This isn’t the first TZ750 dirt-tracker Jeff Palhegyi has built, but it might be the first one with a handbuilt frame, along with many other custom touches. It’s almost as cool as an XSR700.
I don’t actually know if Boris Loera is a professional or not, but the Rotrex supercharger on his Thruxton R looks that way. The bike went from 96 hp and 82 ft-lbs to 156 and 132. Interesting.
Revival found time to build this interesting Honda CBX also…
… certain design elements of which, including the cross-frame handshifter, found their way onto (into?) the Birdcage.
Texas ones are sublime, whether grilled, barbecued or simply admired from an airplane. I was too busy eating to shoot photos, though, so this is Miyazaki beef from Japan last month. Spanning the globe to bring you the latest motorcycle news. Late-ish.
What the?! The RK Bearing Bike from RK Concepts made me have to hit the bar to settle my nerves. I think what’s going on here is that the rear suspension is mounted to the outer race of the main frame bearing, and the front attaches to the inner bearing race – and both play off of each other via that expensive Swedish shock on top. Naturally, it’s powered by a practical CR500 Honda two-stroke; seat by Freddie Krueger. More information is difficult to come by at this time. Maybe it’s better that way.
Full disclosure: BMW sponsored my trip to Austin. But even if they hadn’t, I would’ve thought an all-new 1800cc boxer engine is a tremendously big deal. Either a stroke of genius or a titanium girder bridge too far. After next year, we’ll know. In case you missed it, we already speculated wildly about the new BMW engine here.
I don’t ever hope anybody crashes, but when they do I hope it’s Marc Marquez. This one was triply enjoyable, as he highsided picking the bike up postcrash, Laurel & Hardy style, then fell off a third time trying to restart the Honda – all after crashing out of a big lead. By this time I was back home on the ancestral couch, and Modelo Blanco shot right out my nose. Oh, who’m I kidding? I hope Marquez crashes some more this season, and Valentino makes it to championship #10. Without hurting himself of course. Or anybody else.