Carl Bjorklund is the co-founder of the custom motorcycle garage Super Rat, where he builds unique custom motorcycles and land speed record bikes that he races on the Bonneville Salt Flats. The documentary Out of Nothing is about the bikes he has built to pursue his passion for speed on the Salt Flats. He was invited by Thor Drake of See See Motorcycles to put his latest custom motorcycle on display at the 2016 One Moto Show in Portland, OR.
British Customs: How did Super Rat get started?
Carl Bjorklund: My brother and I became motorheads in the 70s when we started getting into hot rods. All through high school we were huge air-cooled VW fanatics, and at one point we had more than twenty VWs we were hot rodding. We were both in wood shop and auto shop, and loved working with our hands. Our parents strictly forbade us from riding motorcycles, but my brother bought a Harley anyway and convinced me to get one too. We started out as Harley and Triumph guys out of high school, and got into wrenching on bikes. We always wanted to run a shop, and always did a nice job fabricating things, and when a friend of ours saw a bike we made he said, “That’s not a rat, that’s a super rat!” So that’s what we started calling the shop from then on. Since then, we’ve grown from making custom street motorcycles to building bikes to chase world land speed records on at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
BC: What does it mean to you to be able to do things by hand?
CB: I like challenging myself. I like to see if I can take a bike out of storage and make something polished out of it. Built instead of bought. The ultimate goal is to see if I can set a world record at the Bonneville Salt Flats with a bike I pulled out of storage. I’m working on such a build right now actually.
BC: How did you get into land speed racing and building land speed bikes?
CB: I’ve always been a horsepower fiend and loved building turbos, and Bonneville has always been this sacred place to us as gearheads. Seeing all these big names and race cars competing there made us believe that it wasn’t accessible until we saw a land speed bike at a show once and got to talk to its owner. He ended up inviting us out to Bonneville, and after we went to watch once we were addicted. There isn’t any promotional anything at the Salt, just people who are dedicated and committed to racing. It’s a tough place to go to, and just to get to. The landscape is brutal. But it’s 100% racing there.
BC: Do you have any preferences about what kind of platform you like to use when you’re building a bike?
CB: I’m really into Ducatis for their horsepower. I tried to hit 200 mph on a cafe racer built with a Ducati Desmosedici engine once, but it gave me some trouble when I got it up to 170. I like singles and V-twins for their torque too. But I have a passion for antique motorcycles, and have been working back by the decades. I’ve been working on bikes that were made in the 60s, and am looking forward to working on bikes from the 50s, and then the 40s, and so on.
BC: Where do you think the custom motorcycle scene is going?
CB: I think that many of the common genres of bikes like speedway bikes, speed bikes, street trackers, and cafe racers are getting tired. I think builds are going to get more and more complex because there are so many talented builders out there and it’s getting harder to set yourself apart.
BC: What kind of bike are you bringing with you to this year’s One Moto Show?
CB: It’s a Harley Shovelhead crossed between a few genres. It’s pretty unique, and I’m pretty excited about it.