Costa Mesa, CA
I'll be the first to tell you that the beginning years of the young builder's career can be some of the most frustrating and stressful years of his life. The never-ending need for new tools, shop equipment, and the continuous study of the craft is quite overwhelming. Add an angry customer in the mix, and you may run very far from the art. If a builder says, he hasn't experienced that to some degree he's lying.
That was me about nine years ago and what seems like two decades. Originally I had bought a CB125 for 300 dollars and dragged it out of a backyard in Riverside, California. My only intention was to build something that I could ride to work and back. I enjoyed building that bike so much but underwhelmed by the power it made. The amount of noise that came out of the thing made it at least sound like I was going fast. That bike was built entirely on a wobbly milk crate using a 40 dollar stick welder I bought off craigslist, and a toolbox that was far from the definition of organized. I loved every minute of it.
I sold that and bought a CB360 looking for a little more power and opened up a whole other world of problems I would have to solve. The 360 got me around the streets of DTLA in 2013 at the ripe age of 21. Young and ambitious, I decided I wanted to try my luck at building what I thought at the time was a t-shirt "motorcycle" inspired company. I used the $4500 I made from the bike sale and bought a single press screen-printer kit for $3k and spent the rest on 500 blank t-shirts. At the time, I was living in a one-bedroom work/live loft with 4 of my buddies separated by four wooden built bunk beds. I guess you would call these my college years. I set up shop and printed 400 of the 500 t-shirts underneath where I slept using a broken flash dryer I picked up second hand. I used my roommates as "models" and shot some photos of us riding around the city.
I sold the t-shirts here and there to friends and people who followed my small Instagram page but realized my bikes were gaining a bit of traction. I built a CB750 that started to get shared around social media, and I thought nothing of it until the question was asked: "Can you build one for me?" From that point on, I focused on building.
I had a bit of mechanical knowledge from my days of racing motocross. At the age of 3, my dad had me spinning laps around the pw50 track at Glen Helen raceway. Growing up, that was all I wanted to do was win races. We raced all over the country, intending to turn professional. The crucial timing for my career landed dead center in the 2010 economic downfall, and it didn't make sense financially to race anymore—a tough pill to swallow. I packed up and moved to Los Angeles for a change of pace. I learned how to do top ends and perform basic maintenance jobs at a very young age. I expanded my motor knowledge over the years by reading manuals, forums, buying better tools, and learning from others, with small stints of working as a service assistant at dealerships. Today my motors are built to the highest standards leaving no aspect in question. Every component is measured, inspected, and assembled precisely in almost a surgical fashion.
During these early years, I was working full-time jobs in LA and spending the majority of my money on building and buying tools while still trying to keep a girlfriend happy. I'm sure many of you can relate, haha. A significant tool purchase followed every bike sale. It was a slow progression gathering a collection of tools that allowed me to obtain better finishes and fabricate more intricate parts. Tools are an essential aspect of building, and it's a never-ending battle between your wallet and your want to progress as a fabricator. These days I am looking into purchasing CNC machines and lathes I didn't know existed ten years ago. I have recently picked up designing in CAD and am utterly obsessed with the entire process of machining parts. Hopefully using them in my future builds.
My bikes today are a product of obsession and study of multiple facets of building a high-end motorcycle. Whether it's metalworking and fabrication or motor work and performance, I enjoy refining my abilities in all of them equally. The days of building on a milk crate may be a distant memory, but you have to start somewhere.
There is still much to learn, and my love for learning keeps me plenty busy. I look forward to the life long pursuit of mastery working with my hands.
My goal for the future is to continue building motorcycles and introduce a line of products that I can share with all of you.
- Kyle Vara