by James C. Moore


While the fearless Moto GP riders were scraping their knees on the asphalt with 100 mile per hour turns on the Circuit of the Americas track near Austin, the lovers of motorcycles as art were gaping in awe at works of beauty displayed at the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show. Our guess is most of the people in attendance at the Fair Market event downtown probably had no idea who won the big race, but if you are interested, the results are pretty handy. You are probably also interested in what people built with their hands, unique motorcycles that appeal to the aesthetics of form without sacrificing the joy of function, which for most of us is speed and handling. You might like to look good on your bike but we find that an even bigger thrill is having our bike look good.

The wonderment at the Handbuilt show isn’t just the chrome and custom paint and wheels, but an appreciation for the work and dedication that is required to create some of these motorcycles. There must be thousands of hours of detail, design, fabrication and assembly involved in bringing one of these customs to the floor of the show. That doesn’t mean, of course, we’d be willing to fire up and ride everything we looked at but we could probably be convinced without much pressure to roll back a throttle or two.

The handbuilt show is a product of Revival Cycles in Austin, a group of artisan bike builders, mechanics, dreamers, and even poets who have focused their creativity on motorcycles. Their exhibition included offerings from numerous custom builders, but much of the work, and certainly the inspiration for the endeavor comes from Revival. In a city where the weather is consistently warm and conducive to motorcycling, why not make it not just a past time but an expression of self, and a job that you like commuting to? See those people sitting in the traffic jam next to you? They aren’t driving to a shop to make beautiful motorcycles.

Also, these people at Revival are poets, not just mechanics and builders of machines. They can express themselves with words almost as well as they do with steel and rubber and paint.

“As our collective existence slips further into digital abstraction, we at the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show believe something has been lost and it is time to revive the culture of physical craftsmanship. Although in today’s modern mass-produced world few young people are taught how to do physical work or are encouraged to embrace a trade, there remains a universal attraction to the beauty that can only be formed by human hands.”

I think that’s what Thoreau would’ve written if he’d ever straddled a motorcycle and hit the road.

Below are some videos of the manifestations of their inspired motivations, and those of their friends. We’ll post more in the coming days. Get yourself down to Austin next year and do some cycling and dreaming.