This is the first contribution from Kevin Warren of 5downmotographica.com who is one of the best moto writer/photographers I know. Hey Kevin, I couldn’t agree more. Motorcycle shops ARE cool…
To see the trip photo gallery, click HERE
Words and photos by Kevin Warren
When you’re a motorcycle photographer who rides, sitting out a ‘Polar Vortex’ winter in Atlanta where it should be 60 degrees, the call of the West is a strong one. So, a skype to a friend in SoCal to see if he has any shooting going on and another to secure a campsite for the Sprinter RV, it’s time to get some work done. At least that’s what some would call being lucky enough to get paid for what you’d do for free.
This is one of those trips I’d also hoped to take advantage of the Sprinter RV, making stops along the way to SoCal. The first night out, having left around noon on Super Bowl Sunday to take advantage of quiet roads, I hit a wall of rain that lasted six hours. Later that night at around 10 pm I pulled into a Flying J truck stop to sleep for the night. When I awoke, sensors where going off on the dash indicating I had no ABS, no Traction Control nor anti slip. Luckily a quick search on my smartphone revealed a dealer 15 miles away. The rear RPM sensor was culprit and off I went in 3 hours. Ah, cruise control and power breaks, such little luxuries. Unfortunately that night I hit another batch of bad weather with fog, rain, sleet bringing about my warning lights again. Not so lucky this time I ventured on, no stopping, to SoCal sans cruise, abs, power brakes and traction control. Fortunately this old school setup was a familiar one from my youth.
SoCal means lots of things to different people when it comes to motorcycling. Great riding, dirt, road courses, scenic public roads but where do all those bikes come from? The dealer or custom shop that’s where and the L.A. Basin area is chock-a-block with great dealers and workshops. For me, visiting shops from an early age with my grandfather on the back of his ‘60s HD Glide was mega. The bikes, the building going on in the shop around back not to mention the magazine rack with all the latest pictures.
But what of the shops today? There are changes going on in bike technology, electric, old styles of the cafe and bobber are making comebacks as the new breed looks to the old school for influence. That is what I found during this trip. Century Motorcycles, the oldest and family run dealer in the L.A. area has a totally different vibe then Deus Ex Machina up the road at Venice Beach. BA Moto on the other hand is the old-new breed cafe racer type shop started by friends who turned a hobby of building bikes into a career of passion.
What I love about the Century Motorcycles shop is its history. Some of the bikes I saw at age 50 in Century are the same bikes I’d seen at age 8 on those weekend rides with grandpa stopping at shops along the way. The back shop at Century is so full of engines, tanks, exhaust, frames and everything 100 years of existence is capable of holding onto you could walk into the shop and build a complete bike just out of what’s laying around. If you’re a fan of the television show American Pickers this would be a dream pick for those guys. If you’re a motorcyclist who just loves the history of motorcycling then this is for you as well. Something about an old Vincent next to a Norton, next to a BSA that just stirs the soul.
Speaking of stirring the soul, there is the anti Century Motorcycles known as Deus Ex Machina. Deus is new breed, branding wrapped around custom bikes. This is the new independent model. Start by building well done cool bikes that make good photos. Next add technology and branding to create that uber cool GQ biker vibe that focuses on the broader, themed, lifestyle of a motorcyclist who lives in a hip cool beach town. Deus surfboards, Deus wet suits, Deus Custom bikes, Deus old school themed t-shirts and a coffee shop with wifi. New school with an old school vibe all wrapped up in a nice pretty bow that can attract financial backers. Ace Cafe meet Deus Ex Machina. In a world of how real can you be, BA Moto is real where Deus is Park Avenue.
At BA Moto, Nate and his boyz up on Signal HIll have a very cool shop that is full of bikes being worked on. You know, like a motorcycle shop that wrenches for a living. Again a wonderful mix of vintage and modern, chopper and stock Triumph. Service pays the bills and the customs show customers why they should work with the BA Moto crew. Now that they’ve been working the kinks out of shop ownership for a while the team at BA is also stepping into the racing scene, AHRMA Thruxton Cup Series, with some very nice Triumph’s. The crew at BA likes to ride as much as they like to wrench, that’s such a good thing for the bikes they make.
So, what are you waiting for? I’ve made some great friends along the way on this journey and Tim, Nate and Hiroshi will certainly see me again on my next trip to the L.A. Basin and SoCal. Get on your bike, go for a ride and make some new friends at a dealer or shop near you. This my friends is where every great motorcycle lifestyle begins, the point of purchase where you get your first motorcycle. Should you end up wrenching, working at a shop or just riding, motorcycle shops are cool.