Ian Halcott is the founder of Twinline Motorcycles, based out of Seattle, WA. His unique custom builds have been featured in shows such as The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show and in various media outlets across the internet. 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 Twinline Motorcycles get started?
Ian Halcott: I had been working on my granddad’s ’67 Honda CL160, trying to get it back on the road. I was riding a sportbike as my daily commuter, but had been going back to the old bikes and riding them more and more. I liked the way they look, and wanted to get them back on the road. There weren’t any shops around to take old bikes to, and I had always wanted to do custom work, so I used it as a chance to do something new. I found that I like exploring different styles and types. A lot of my inspiration comes from bikes made in the 60s; I think that era produced the most beautiful motorcycles. But I still like modern bikes, and want to get more into working with that world. I like to think about where I’m going instead of where I’ve been. I want to have my own approach to building a custom motorcycle.
BC: What inspired you to learn how to start working with your hands?
IH: I can’t just sit on my butt and stare at a computer all day long and feel like I’m being productive. I have to make things that are three dimensional and real. There are other jobs that definitely pay better, but I’m not interested in pursuing them. You know you’ve made it in motorcycles when you can’t get out of it; I’m not going to be able to get out of doing this process.
BC: Where did you learn all the skills necessary to build a custom motorcycle?
IH: I learned everything over a number of years from a number of people. I used to hang out in a lot of old timer’s shops where they had a lot of racers and flat track bikes, where I met many of my mentors. I listened to anything anyone had to tell me, because it was as much a community effort as it was anything else. The process of learning mechanical work to welding to everything else was all trial and error, and I just had to tackle everything and learn it the best that I could. If you work at it, you can eventually get to the point where you can literally build everything.
BC: What are your thoughts on where the custom motorcycle scene is going?
IH: I can’t really say. The community of builders has gotten really strong. It definitely wasn’t what it is now when I opened my garage. So many people are contributing to it now, and it seems like a new shop opens every five minutes. Of those shops, some will make great strides, and others won’t make it, but the community will still keep moving forward.
BC: A number of your builds have been cafe racers. Why is that?
IH: Honestly, I really suck at racing, but it’s what inspires me. I love things that are so streamlined and minimalist — racing bikes don’t have anything more than they need, and I’ll take any advantage I can get on a motorcycle. It’s the closest thing to aviation.
BC: You’ve built a number of bikes that are very different from most custom motorcycle builders, with regards to some of your builds using modern sportbike platforms. Do you have any preferences as to what kind of system you like to work with?
IH: Not really, actually. Every motorcycle has its own specific design for what its set up to do, and I respect that. There are things I like aesthetically about air-cooled bikes, and there are reliability advantages that I like about liquid-cooled bikes. But there is something about having a relatively maintenance-free motorcycle with a lot of horsepower like today’s bikes. You don’t have get same power-to-weight ratio anywhere else. In the end, I don’t really care about the configuration: if it has wheels and a motor I’m on it. It’s all about how you utilize the platform you’re on.
BC: What are you going to bring with you to The One Moto Show?
IH: I’m building an ’04 Yamaha R6 I’m calling The Legionnaire (#thelegionnairemoto). It’s my own creation, and I wouldn’t call it a street fighter or a cafe racer. It’s my vision of a modern bike with some 80s sportbike mixed with 60s TT styling. It’s a bastard, to say the least. I’m leaving everything on it raw, and I built the subframe, seat, tail section, and full aluminum fairings. Next year though, I plan to bring my granddad’s bike to The One Moto Show, since it’ll be the 50th anniversary of when he bought the bike.