Getting Weird At The Austin Hand-Built Motorcycle Show

There is a slogan seen around Austin, Texas, that says, “Keep Austin Weird.” The Hand-Built Motorcycle Show takes that suggestion to heart. The show is the brainchild of Revival Cycles, an Austin-based custom motorcycle institution, who produce one-off custom motorcycles and restorations. Like the show’s name implies, the bikes on display are unique, thought provoking and many times, downright weird. They are crafted by professional mechanics, race tuners, fabricators, backyard tinkerers, father and son teams and, I’m guessing here, performance artists. The resulting bikes are as varied as their creators. That’s what makes the show great and weird. Click on any photo to get a better look.

Best in Show: I hate it when reports hold the Best in Show until the end. So here you go. Motorelic’s Sean Skinner and his wife Cassie win my unofficial Best-in-Show blue ribbon for this creation.

Careful with that throttle, Eugene: It would not be a great ideal to grab a handful of throttle on the YamaRay. Things could get sideways quickly. This bike deserves (demands?) to be shown a lot of respect by its rider.

Powerful cocktail mix: Take a Schwinn Stingray, add a Yamaha XS1-650 engine and shake vigorously. If you are not smiling right now, you’ll never get it. Congrats to Motorelic for winning the Jimmy Mac On Two Wheels Best in Show award. Sorry it doesn’t come with a million dollar check.

The Old: The 1971 Harley-Davidson FX Super Glide (with Willie Davidson’s fiberglass boat tail and Evel Knievel inspired graphics) is a sought-after collector’s bike but drum brakes and jackhammer engine vibration makes it more fun to look at than to ride.

The New: South Dakota’s Joe Mielke (a true renaissance craftsman) took his love for the old FX Super Glide (above) and wrapped it around a 2021 FXST Super Glide. Where do I sign up?

Down and dirty: I’ve never been into the Jesse-James-Orange-County-type choppers that are chromed, overplayed and exaggerated. Choppers should look lean, mean and scruffy. This is my idea of what a chopper should be. A 1942 Excelsior powerplant inside a hardtail frame can accelerate way faster than it can stop with only a rear drum brake. A panic stop means you jump off or look for a soft spot to hit.

Book report: I’ve tried to read Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance three times and failed miserably each time. Guess I’m dumb. Anyway, there was a diorama of his workshop. That’s Central Texas Restorations’ Lance Sallis next to Robert.

Flat Out Cool: Parr Motorcycles built this stunning Honda dirt tracker replica that is street legal! Parr is all about garage-built motorcycles with modern performance and retro style. Nice.

Beauty queen: I like them rough. A motorcycle doesn’t have to have fancy paint and lots of chrome to get my attention. I wonder how many ankles were broken kick starting this old gal?

Clean and simple: This Yamaha single would be perfect to ride on the curves of Mulholland Drive in the Santa Monica mountains (except on the weekends when every squid is out there).

British Elegance: This stately Triumph build goes where few customs have taken the famous British brand. It should be used in an episode of Downton Abby or The Queen. Hey, that same lady in the white top was in my shot of the 1971 Harley-Davidson above.

Concession: I was stoked that the show was selling Jimmy Mac On Two Wheels T-shirts along with their Revival swag. Merch is a big deal at motorcycle events and shows. I should have bought one.

Stained glass: The paint on this chopper must have taken months. If I owned it, there would have been a red-velvet-rope barrier surrounding it to keep people out of finger-touching range.

Young men are coming to the canyon: Another drool-worthy canyon/cafe cruiser using a Honda power plant and serious front brakes. You gotta be a jetting genius to get these things to run properly with foam filters.

Patina Yamaha: This paint treatment is the exact opposite of the stained-glass creation above but it may have taken just as long to get that perfect worn-but-still-brand-new look.

Parking lot find: Always walk the parking lot at a motorcycle show or race to find hidden treasures. Bosozuko bikes have over-sized fairings, straight-back bars, high-backed saddles and loud exhausts (or in this case, multiple air horns). This is the first example I’ve seen in person. The bike looks like a cartoon, but the culture surrounding it is of a violent and outlaw nature. I warned you.

I like inventive, innovative and ridable custom motorcycle designs. I lean towards customs that are practical and sporty with mechanical features that look simple, elegant and fast. Sure, I make exceptions. The Jimmy Mac On Two Wheels’ Best In Show Yamaha Stingray is certainly not practical but the bike makes up for its lack of practicality in creativity, nostalgia and whimsy. Try to look at the YamaRay and not smile.

Not so with all the bikes in the hall. Some customs gave me the willies (on a side note, the saying “gives me the willies” came from a family killed in a landslide in 1826. Never knew that!). There were many bikes that I could not or would not imagine riding. No doubt that these bikes are a testament to the builder’s ingenuity and skill, but to my eyes they are two-wheels art projects. These bikes are like elephants. They are fun to look at, but I wouldn’t want to own one.

Art is in the eye of the beholder and I don’t mean to take anything away from these creations. They just don’t do it for me.


Related posts