Andy Blaschko, better known on Instagram as @cb_builds of @CafeRacersOfInstagram (CROIG), stands outside finishing a cigarette while I rearrange the furniture in the British Customs lobby. If you’re into cafe racers but don’t follow him on Instagram, you should do something about that: he and co-founder David Chang document and share pictures and videos of some of the most beautiful, raw, DIY cafe builds we’ve ever seen on their Instagram channel. The channel took off when he and David went on a cross-country motorcycle tour in late 2013, but in less than 2 years they’ve gained 440,000 followers and counting. These followers have helped give shape to a community passionate about do-it-yourself motorcycle customization, and they continue to grow by the day.
Now Andy wants to give back to the community that helped get him where he is, and do some good while he’s at it. He came down a couple weeks ago from Minnesota, where he lives and works, to transform a stock 2015 Triumph Bonneville before heading out on the East Coast CROIG tour. Based on the community’s response, he’s going to make a Mad Max-inspired custom build that will be given away to raise awareness for Riders for Health, a charity that uses motorcycles to deliver life-saving medical supplies to rural communities in Africa. Donate and register to win here.
Andy Blaschko (@cb_builds), right, and his girlfriend (@rad_rau), left, on BC bikes.
It’s hot in the industrial district of Gardena, California where the office sits across from the site of the old Ascot Park speedway, and a warm breeze slips in when Andy opens the door and comes back inside. Andy looks like one of his own builds: lean, artful, industrious. He looks like one of the memorable characters we’ve all crossed paths with while out exploring the unknown on the back of our bikes.
He takes a sip of coffee as I ask him my first question: “What would you say is the feeling you get when you see an open road?”
Blaschko celebrating Wheelie Wednesday on the BC Tribute bike.
His lips stretch horizontally into a taut smile and he looks up. “Freedom,” he answers, in his hushed voice. “You can choose your path, you can choose where you want to go. You get the sense that there are no limits to exploring the landscape. I think that traveling in general gives you that feeling that you’re constantly experiencing something new, you know, like, ‘What’s over the next hill?’ or, ‘What’s around the next turn?’”
“You can choose your path, you can choose where you want to go. You get the sense that there are no limits to exploring the landscape.”
I look at the coffee table, at the door, at Andy, and back at the door again. “We need to move this to the shop,” I say with a grin. “I want to have some bikes around while we have this conversation.” So we go outside, shield our eyes, turn the corner, and enter the shop where we work on our custom builds. We pass rows of bikes in various stages of being built or stripped, hot skeletons of metal gleaming dully in the sun. I stop first and half-sit on a bike that’s so modded you have to check the VIN to tell whether it’s a Bonneville or a Thruxton. Andy pulls up a shop stool and drapes an arm over a bike on a lift that is only frame and engine.
Now that we feel more at home, I continue. “What inspired the first CROIG tour?”
Andy looks down and half-smiles. “The first one was inspired by a bad breakup. I was in a really long relationship, and when it ended I really needed to escape my daily life. I had some friends down in the Southwest, specifically in Texas, and I told David [Chang, his co-founder] that I was going to take off for a couple months and visit them and spend some time checking out the region. Since it was getting colder, I was thinking about taking my truck and throwing my bike in the back, and I’d go do some camping, do some reflection. He happened to be between jobs at the time, so he suggested that he join me, that we should do this trip together, that we take the bikes all the way down there and see what we find along the way. So we planned out a route with where we were going to be and when, and we reached out to the community and asked if people had places for us to stay or recommendations about where to ride, and it just spread like wildfire. Our inboxes flooded with emails: people saying, ‘Hey, come stay with us!’ or, ‘Come ride with us!’ or with this group, this club, this whatever, and it quickly went from being this casual, low-key kind of self-adventure to this bigger picture in the whole community of motorcyclists.”
Blaschko and his girlfriend on the BC Dirt Bike.
“How did your first tour shape your sense of the motorcycle community? You met all these different people, coming from all different walks of life, all coming together, all sharing the same bond of motorcycles. How do you identify within that sub-community as well as the greater community?”
“Almost as an ambassador of free will and exploring the unknown,” Andy responds. “People live somewhat vicariously through what we do by what we post when we travel. I think a lot of people get stuck in a routine and their mundane cycles of work and family or whatever else, and we try to just share and encourage this idea of getting out there and doing something, of just putting yourself out there and finding adventure.”
“Obviously, you have a background with Hondas, but do you find that it’s a natural progression to be working on Triumphs now?”
The British cafe racer scene is what started all of this. And now we’re reviving it.
Andy nods and responds, “Yeah, because the British cafe racer scene is what started all of this. And now we’re reviving it. And I think it’s a good combination to have a an old bike you can play around with and a more reliable modern bike for your commuting, because that’s not what you want to want to be doing on a vintage bike.”
“How do you apply your method of exposing a bike when working on a new production? How do we give it the Andy treatment?”
He laughs. “I think that bringing it fully down to the raw frame would be a shame. I think I’d concentrate more on the externals, like the tank and the fenders, the backbones of the motorcycle. The motor specifically is already beautiful, all black with its sanded fins; it already looks pretty bad. So, unless I were to do a full custom build on a modern bike, I don’t think I would take it all the way down. I think I would keep it more to just the outside of the bike.”
“Earlier you mentioned that there’s a revival going on, and I’m curious about why you think that’s happening.”
Andy shrugs. “I don’t really know. You can spend $300-$500 and get a bike that will almost run, and that will work with some new tires and cables and a few other minimal things. It’s very attainable. I remember seeing a picture of a CB550 cafe racer and it just blew my mind when I saw the stock comparison photo; I didn’t know how that could have been the same motorcycle. I didn’t know much about bikes, and that was the first time it entered my mind. Seeing something that’s radically transformed by just removing stuff that isn’t necessary, and putting your spin on it, by parts or paint or lack of, I think it’s pretty easy to make it your own, that’s where people really grasp on.”
“That personalization, that self-expression.”
Andy nods, runs a careful finger along the half-built bike in front of him. “Whenever I talk to people who are looking to do a build, I try to tell them to push the envelop a little bit, to question why you feel like you have to have it super shiny and nice. Leave it how it was. This dent in the tank happened for a reason. It has a story. Something happened.”
Like us, Andy is passionate about reconnecting motorcyclists with their DIY heritage, to a time when grandfathers and grandkids worked together on bikes during warm summer weekends with the tools they had in their garage, and to inspire riders to start personalizing their own motorcycles. So be sure to follow the Weekend Projects where we will documenting the process of building Furiosa and sharing how you can customize your own bike into a dream ride system by system using our factory-spec bolt-on parts.