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The Full Throttle Life: Matthew Camardo Of Camardo Customs, In His Own Words

Matthew Camardo Of Camardo Customs, In His Own Words

Matthew Camardo is the founder of Camardo Customs. The first motorcycle he has ever built won the Pit Crew Award from Brixton at The One Moto Show 2016. This is his story in his own words.

I’ll be damned if I ride a machine that I can’t fix.

I bought a Royal-Enfield with a sidecar that was made in India as my first bike, and it immediately died. Because it was a Royal-Enfield with a sidecar. But that was more the fault of the rider than the machine. The transmission went out just after riding it for a couple miles. I didn’t know motorcycle mechanics at the time, but I thought I’ll be damned if I ride a machine that I can’t fix. So I decided to pick up another bike to learn how to work on them. I work in the marine industry, so I started looking after I got off the fishing boat. On shore, I was working at an old school net shed that made rope nets by hand, and I told my manager I was looking into buying a bike. He told me about some of the motorcycles he had in his barn, and he described one as a two-stroke, 5 speed, stock redline of 10.5, 50cc, disk braked bike. And I was fascinated. I looked it up and saw a picture and knew I needed that bike. It was a 1982 Honda MB5.

Three years later, that same motorcycle is the one that won the award at The One Show.

One of the reasons I wanted it was because I’m a model maker, and I thought it would be so cool to build a model of the bike, and then to have the actual bona fide machine. The build started with working on a 1:6 model MB5 that had everything on it. So before I ever even touched the motorcycle, I knew it from the frame up because I had spent 6-8 months working on the model. While I was building the model, I was also doing research on how engines work and how they come together. A forum specifically for that bike popped up at the same time, and I was one of the first members.

My motorcycle was born at The One Show.

Funny thing is that the bike that won the show is actually a parts bike that I was only getting running to use for the bike that I actually want to show. And I took that as a cue that I’m on to something.

I’m three years into it, and by this point I consider myself pretty learned in two-stroke mechanics. The engine is stock, but I’ve hotrodded the tuning. I’ve hopped up the top speed from 37 miles per hour to 63 miles per hour. It does wheelies, bro. When I told Thor about it, he was like, “What? That’s insane.” I’m having so much fun on this little tiny bike because I’m constantly challenged to keep it in the power band and the tires on the road, which makes it extremely rewarding to ride. I built this bike to run around town for grabbing parts, because the bike I want to show is a carbon fiber faired 125 cc bike that uses an MB5 frame. A while ago I bought two motors using Google translate to get them from the Dutch version of Craigslist, and kept my fingers crossed the guy would pull through for me. I ended up only receiving one motor, but it’s 80ccs and bolts straight into the MB5 frame. My partner shook her head at me for the risk I took, but the receipt is stapled to the wall. There’s a 115cc head kit that I can bolt on to the 80cc engine. I can only imagine what a 115cc hotrodded engine is going to do on a 190-pound frame. It’s so much fun! I want to shake things up at the show because there are so many big bore bikes there. To put it in perspective, I have a 22cc weed whacker that’s half the size of my motorcycle that I’m doing wheelies on at 60 mph, bro. It’s been a crazy trip.

As for the One Moto Show itself, though. Right now I have a regular-ass deskjob, and I got off an hour late to drive up to Portland. I drove to The Show with my piston in my hand, and after volunteering for a few hours I pulled an all-nighter in the See See shop reassembling the whole bike and redoing all the wiring. I went to sleep, and woke up a couple hours later to go back to volunteering. I literally finished the wiring and bike in the rain standing in a mud puddle by the light of a Coleman lantern behind the portapotties. I met the most interesting people back there who were looking to get away from the show for a minute, and they brought me food and beer and I had chairs for them and we talked and it was awesome.

My motorcycle was born at The One Show. I wanted to pay homage to the energy and enthusiasm of the show, because the first time I went to The Show I was inspired by the bikes there because they were my jam: they fit my lifestyle and my budget. My bike is an extension of The One Show. I just turned 32, and I finally have a validation for my being, and my lifestyle. In the mainstream world, I’m completely rejected. What an amazing thing to be able to be yourself there, and everyone loves it; you can even win an award for it. I don’t want to stand around and talk shit on women and minorities, I just want to talk art and bikes and be myself and be accepted for it. The only disappointment of the show was having to be outside building my bike while the Prince cover band was playing.

I like to live full throttle.

I want to pay everything forward to the universe. I detailed the entire build on the forum so that anyone else who wants to build the same bike can do it.

The final adventure of the trip took place on my way back home. I ran out of gas in the middle of the night along the I-5 on my way back, since I hate getting gas in Portland proper because they have attendants that come out and pump your gas for you and it weirds me out. I was a mile and a half from the nearest gas station, so I grabbed a 5 gallon jerrycan I keep in the back of my van and hopped on my pedalbike. The whole time on my way to the gas station and back I was just looking over the edge of these two foot-tall barricades they had keeping me from falling off all the bridges as I’m riding my bicycle in the rain while balancing this jerrycan, and I was just going as hard as I could the whole way. I like to live full throttle. It reminded me of the time when I was working as a commercial pilot and this skydiver I took up got caught on his way out the door and was dangling out the window suspended by a tangled rope and I had to cut him loose with my pocket knife. There’s a YouTube video of it. It was crazy.

Reading next

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