Vintage Steele is a custom motorcycle garage in Brattleboro, VT founded by Josh Steele and Chris John. Vintage Steele started as a hobby shop run out of Josh Steele’s garage, until they opened a storefront and grew their business into a full custom vintage motorcycle shop and repair shop. They were invited by Thor Drake of See See Motorcycles to put their latest custom motorcycle on display at the 2016 One Moto Show in Portland, OR.
British Customs: What do you believe is the heart and soul of The One Moto Show?
Josh Steele: It’s just like what Thor said at the show: the builders are what bring the show together. But it’s Thor and the team of volunteers that make the show successful. With all of their hard work they’re able to generate such an amazing turnout and event. Such an extravagant show like The One Show is possible because of people like Thor bringing people together and making it happen. It’s amazing people like Thor have the energy to pull something off like that.
Chris John: The amount of love and admiration going around the room, and the fact that builders look at each other’s bikes and give each other props for their craftsmanship is what makes The One Moto Show the One Moto Show. It sounds cheesy to say there’s so much love in the air at that event, but it’s true. There just weren’t any bad vibes in the room, just a deep sense of community.
Whether you’re a motorcycle builder or an enthusiast or just curious at The One Moto Show, you get the sense that we’re all in this shit together.
BC: What is your methodology when you approach a build?
JS: It varies. The coolest thing is that you can approach it from all different angles. We’ve found that we’ve approached each build drastically differently. And that makes it unique and different every time. Especially when we’re working with clients. Out of the 15 bikes we’ve built, every single one was approached differently. We have our system for mocking up a bike, but the way we approach a mock up is always different. Every bike is a different animal, so every approach is going to be different. You need to have an objective perspective on how you want to do the build. If you can’t think outside the box or think about how you want to do something differently, it’s going to be hard to come up with something new.
BC: Where do you think is a good place to start for someone who wants to get into customizing a bike, but doesn’t know where to begin?
JS: What we see a lot is people wanting to get a low profile look by changing the lines of their motorcycle. But that’s a process. Start small. Handlebars are pretty straightforward, but creating a new subframe and making a new seat is a project. Go buy a cheap motorcycle and explore it. It keeps your initial investment low so you can learn without having to drop a bunch of money right away.
BC: How hard do you think it is to take the first step towards customizing your own bike?
JS: One of the things we do is err on the side of caution. Do your research before chopping up a bike: make sure it isn’t a super rare bike, because we’ve seen that happen. It’s all about having the desire to customize a bike, and then it’s all about finding the willpower to do it. Once you’ve done something once, you can move on to the next higher skill set because everything is less intimidating.
CJ: The thing that we tell people a lot is that no project is ever as straightforward as you think it’s going to be. When you do one thing on your bike, you’re going to end up doing and learning a bunch of things. Even just changing your handlebars will turn into something more than you expect, but you’ll pull it off and you’ll realize you can handle that. And that gives you the confidence to move on to the next project.