Queen Houng is the globally-acclaimed custom motorcycle builder known as ONEHANDMADE. He’s based out of Taipei, Taiwan, and has a remarkable story of how he got to where he is now. For Houng, it hasn’t been a stroll in park: he lost the use of his favored arm during a critical time in his development as a builder after a car crash severed his right hand’s nerve plexus. But he didn’t let that keep him from pursuing his dreams. With the unyielding support of his girlfriend (now wife), he overcame this difficulty that would have been insurmountable to most, and now produces exceptional custom motorcycles. The piece below is a translation of his story in his own words.
I have always been fascinated by things with wheels since I was a child. All of my toys, books, and models were related to the vehicles. I dreamed of becoming a racer when I was in high school (I’m still holding onto the same dream, if it’s possible). To learn more about cars and to fulfill my dream, I became an apprentice in a bike shop.
The starting salary in the bike shop was $100 a month. I knew that my boss wasn’t short of hands, and at some point, he would turn me away. But all I cared about was becoming a racer. It was worth all the stress and hard work to work towards my dream.
The bike racing industry was declining in Taiwan. Once, I randomly found a picture of a fixed-up custom bike in a Japanese magazine. That’s when I started to become interested in the custom industry. We didn’t have much information, and mostly only older people rode motorcycles in Taiwan. With the experience I gained from working in the shop, I started running my own studio at the age of 22. I studied machinery and watched videos on YouTube in my spare time in order to get answers for my questions. I watched the Indian Larry sheet metal video over and over again to make sure I didn’t miss any little detail in it. And I made good relationships with the local subcontractors. I learned to operate a lathe from them. I always thought that those who are learned aren’t unwilling to share their knowledge with others. What really matters is that if the learner actually showed his passion in learning.
The more I learned about how to make custom bikes, the more I found out what I needed to work on.
But as I worked hard with enthusiasm, I was unfortunately hit by a car while riding my motorcycle.
The accident broke the nerve plexus of my right hand. I will never forget what the doctor said. He said a terrible accident like that could have easily resulted in me becoming a quadriplegic or even dying. Despite rehabilitation, my hand would never fully recover.
A few days later, watching my withering right hand, I wondered if I would ever be able to ride a motorcycle again. I thought all my work and efforts came to naught, and that I would have to give up on my dreams.
I tried to adjust to my state in those days after the accident. My girlfriend (who later became my wife) went through all of the physical therapy treatments with me. She supported me as I refused to let go of my dream. Having difficulty eating with my single left hand, it was obviously even harder for me to create custom motorcycles.
Thanks to my girlfriend’s help, my life became so much easier. She helped me operate the welding rod while I welded, and she took me for a ride whenever I felt like going out for a ride. She said, “My hands will always be your right hand.” I will never forget that. It took me a long time to get used to using only my left hand. But I won’t limit myself because of that. I believe that my passion and the heart of never giving up makes infinite possibilities. And I was eager to enjoy riding my scooter again.
In order to ride again, I changed the throttle from the right hand side to the left hand side. It worked. I was so excited, and it felt like getting on a motorcycle for the first. At the age of 25, I went back home and started all over again. I worked slow because I lacked some of the machines, and, of course, I only have one hand. And yet customers couldn’t understand my difficulties, which upset me. To improve my efficiency, I added new machines to my studio.
At that time, the masses in Taiwan had just started to accept modified cars. And every city has its own consuming habits. The highest payment I received for a single build was $2,700. I didn’t think things would get any better if I stayed in my hometown, so I left for the city with my wife and child. It took a lot of courage, especially because I had no savings then.
That was when I changed the name of my business to “Onehandmade.” Most people misunderstand the meaning of the name. In fact, it’s “made by one hand,” instead of “one handmade.” What’s really interesting was that I trained myself to be able to do all this with my non-dominant left hand, and after a while my right hand could start to exert a little. I actually started working on sheeting metal after losing an arm.
After all, the accident neither broke my original intention nor brought me down to give up on what I love most. I started learning something new and holding onto my passion in order to make better builds. I was never satisfied with my work. It seemed like most of the time, my finished products were somehow affected by others’. My mind had been trapped in this small city. That was when I figured I should leave for something new.
I was 31 years old then. I borrowed money to open my own studio in Taipei. The studio looked a little shabby because of the lack of funds. And customers were hard to attract without having gorgeous decorations in a city like Taipei.
So all I could do was focus on my work. However, I found out that doing only sheet metal work is never enough. The design and the curves of the paint would both directly impact the result.
I’m still working on learning new things even now, hoping that every tiny improvement makes my work a little bit better. In order to make a greater distinction for Onehandmade, I changed everything to a skinny style after moving to Taipei. People started believing me and let me justify myself.
Finally, Onehandmade has been known by more and more people, even in foreign countries. I hope that I can continue working on better builds. I will maintain my original intention of loving motorcycles while sophisticating myself. And I’m hoping that one day I can join the AMD competition to test my limits. As for my dream of becoming a racer, I suppose it’s never going to come true. However, it’s still possible for me to get on the speedway and go for a ride.
It would be a fabulous experience, wouldn’t it?