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You recently built a bike for Jenson Button. Tell us about that project.
Obviously Jenson is a huge ‘petrol-head.’ He loves his cars and bikes. His eye for design and style isn’t bad either. I’ve known him for some time now and he always wanted an extreme custom Harley. We worked together on some concept ideas but he is open minded and not restrictive in design. I’ve always mixed the styles of two of my passions: Customizing bikes and Motor Sports. Whether in style or components. So this was the direction we were taking this project. The bike is an awesome mix of Formula One, MotoGP and HarleyDavidson.
What’s hot right now and how do you see the next year of the custom bike world?
Up until now there has always been a trend. Metal Flake Choppers, Stretched Lowriders with outrageous paintjobs. Then everyone wanted a 300 rear tire. It’s slowly been coming back to the retro 70s look over the past few years and the Cafe Racer has even made an appearance. But now there seems to be a mix of styles. There are a lot more established designers and builders who all want to do their own thing and create their own different style. So this could be the reason why we’re seeing a variety of designs now. It’s a good thing.
Any real difference in styles between Europe and The USA?
You see far more newer Harley-Davidsons (Twin Cams and V-Rods) being customized in Europe than in the US. We’ve also been doing a lot more with H-D Sportsters than the US. In Europe there tends to be more experimenting and combining styles of bikes, culture and lifestyle rather than the traditional choppers and bobbers of the US. I’m not saying that one is better than the other, though!
Customizing isn’t just for the rich and famous... but how accessible is it? What sort of budget do you need?
The beauty of what we do is that there are no rules to follow. You don’t have to build a bike in one attempt. It can be a process that moves slowly over time. You can drip feed your passion and hobby as, and when, you can afford to. You can do it yourself or bring it to someone like me.
If I had a Sportster and say 5,000 euros, what could you achieve with that?
You would first need to install an Akrapovič full system for a Sportster!! I’d go for a pair of ‘Tracker‘ style bars and I’d make you a Cafe Racer seat unit. A high flow air filter and Stage One remap/tune. Custom paint. And nitride coat the front forks and Öhlins rear suspension. You would have a totally cool Sportster!!
“... You can drip feed your passion and hobby as, and when, you can afford to. You can do it yourself or bring it to someone like me. ”
Why do you use Akrapovic exhausts?
I grew up watching my heroes in World Superbikes and what is now MotoGP. The top teams run Akrapovič systems so even before I was educated in why they were the best I always wanted to have them on my bike. I remember cutting out an Akra logo from a magazine to make a decal for the exhaust on my TZR when I was a teenager! Akrapovič make the highest quality exhaust systems. No one else comes close. The style is great and the sound is incredible. It’s almost a shame that my customers don’t get to fit the exhausts themselves......they would appreciate them even more when they see the work that has gone into creating each little piece of the system. Every part is perfection.
Describe the process from start to finish when you do a custom bike.
My head is always jam-packed full of ideas. So I usually start by trying to persuade my customer to go with something I want to build! Not in a bullying way though, ha ha. I’m fortunate enough to be trusted by my customers and so they usually let me run away with the design. However, I always ask them to create a vision or inspiration board. This will have images of everything they have an interest in. From cars to bikes, watches to shoes, colours and textures. And if I don’t already know the customer I’ll spend some time to get to know them in a casual setting. That way I get a feel for the person and can be more personal when it comes to the design. Some of them then want a design sketch...others are happy to watch how the design comes together as the project develops. I never try to nail down the design in the beginning. I’d rather just have a direction and then keep redesigning as I go. That way you’re always going to have something fresh.
“... I never try to nail down the design in the beginning. I’d rather just have a direction and then keep redesigning as I go. That way you’re always going to have something fresh.”
For further information Charlie Stockwell, Head of Design & Custom Warr’s Harley-Davidson Europe’s oldest Harley-Davidson dealership Group 2012 Salon Privé Winners 2010 XR1200 British Superbikes Champions Find more content on Web: www.warrs.com the Akrapovič Lifestyle eMagazine iPad app! Facebook: www.facebook.com/warrscustoms Twitter: www.twitter.com/warrscustoms Instagram: Bubble_Visor +44 (0) 207 736 2934