If you've visited the Discommon Blog before, you'll know that I'm in deep (possibly drowning... but I'm kicking hard) with a 1970 Honda 350 motorcycle build. When I take on a new project, I tend to try and absorb as much of the world that surrounds the project as possible, it broadens my horizons, teaches me and gives me the opportunity to find new fascinations.
The custom vintage bike scene is such fun. The price of entry can be what you want to make of it - $200? Dive in! $20,000? You're welcome too! There are talented builders popping up around the world and a thoroughly astonishing support structure of forums and parts companies out there for the weekend garage crusader.
One of the stalwarts of the custom cafe and brat scene, is the Australian company Deus Ex Machina. I say company, but at this stage in their adventure, it is more appropriate to call them a brand. With a comprehensive clothing and accessories line, shops in California, Indonesia and the headquarters in Sydney, they are a long way from the grease and grime "authentic" 3 man shop that people like stand behind, champion and push as "the real deal". I have heard derogatory remarks directed at Deus..."Oh yeah, Doos, that hipster shop in Venice, right? They make a bunch of t-shirts and stuff?". T-shirt company? I hope not, their custom bikes can draw upwards of $20,000, on a bike that stock might set you back $4000 if it was very clean. I hope this brand I think is cool has some sustenance and isn't just a facade of style...
Authenticity in any environment is really important to me, so on a recent trip to Australia, I contacted Dues and was invited for a good old fashioned poke around their HQ. Walking in, I have to say I was a little taken aback. I was greeted by a store that wouldn't be out of place as a flagship in NYC's hot Meatpacking district. Espresso bar, pretty girls, rockabilly boys, and a FULL helping of clothing.. jeans, jackets, shirts, dresses, the gamut. Shiny bikes, too - the kind that you walk around but don't get within a foot of, because you are not quite sure if you are allowed to.
So... umm... where's like, the authentic bike stuff? Where's the welding and the oil and the hard work? Where do you guys earn your cool? Luckily, Mike's face lit up when I challenged him and I was whisked off into the back where I arrived at what I wholeheartedly call a shop. Everyone take a breath, these guys REALLY build bikes, right there, in back of this fancy store. Reassuringly, Mike had greasy hands to prove it and walked me extremely knowledgeably through the current projects, sure to eventually end up on the posters for sale out in the store. We chatted about design lines, tricks to hiding batteries, elusive vintage parts, jetting carbs with those troublesome velocity stacks, scouring Japan for that one halo piece and indeed, simple geek stuff like clocking the screws to all line up.
I was then taken to the second shop, accessed through a maze of storage containers and housed in a false back to a warehouse. In here lives a brain bending volume of parts, ready to be picked through for the next build. Walking back, I saw the parking lot where the locals meet for group rides, where Deus host swap meets and where they plan to have build teaching days in the future.
Conclusions? Honestly, I was just plain impressed by everything they achieved. Sure, their bikes are expensive, as are their clothes, and well, everything is.. but I'm wearing their chinos right now and don't have a single complaint. They are my go-to travel pant and come from a motorcycle company. So why some of the hate? People like to bitch, it's a universal fact, so it's just too easy for people to question Dues's authenticity because they have grown bigger than the cafe culture wants to allow them to. They have become successful in other avenues, so some might see them as sell-outs. Bullshit, it's just bloody good business. Would I have them build me a bike? No, I'd rather build my own, but if I had no time and enough money, I know I'd be guaranteed a classic if I dove in with Deus. When you are supporting your local shop and wishing them every success and hoping you'll be part of them growing bigger, are you also planning to ditch them when the owner decides he wants to grow and build his brand?
The authenticity was sealed for me, when sitting in a restaurant nearby, Mike roared down an alley on one of their bikes, kicked the tail out with the rear brake, rode the slide and pulled it into a wheelie round the corner he was taking.
I wear my t-shirt proudly.