Once a blacksmith, Foundry Motorcycle’s Tom Simpson specialises in brutally industrial creations, but admits it’s taken a while to get right
Crossing the threshold into Tom Simpson’s Foundry Motorcycle you’re greeted by the welcoming smell of roast coffee mingling with burnt engine oil and fresh petrol. Foundry Motorcycle was formed after Tom met Simon Lunn during his blacksmith’s course. “We got chatting about bikes and two years later we started this business together.
“But we discovered it’s not an easy industry to make money in and we reached a crossroads in 2014. Simon went off to do something else and I continued to do what I do here. I got lucky, timing-wise. The retro scene boomed and now I’m so busy that I’m booked up into next year.”
But the Bike Shed showed Tom that going to shows with commissioned bikes wasn’t a great business idea.
“If you go to a show with a bike that’s not already sold, people will buy it - but the minute you say it’s sold they disappear. They don’t want to discuss you building them an alternative. If it’s up for sale, they’ll buy it.”
As he found with the trick BMW he took to the Bike Shed show at Tobacco Dock last year. The R80, with the engine refurbed by Motorworks, is mad but somehow stays refined. Highlights include: stainless steel petrol tank, triangulated sub-frame, YSS shocks, stainless exhausts terminating in an underseat collector and a twin-choke Weber carb feeding the inlet tracts through sinuous inlet manifolds.
“People on social media have a pop, saying my bikes can’t be ridden – that they are only for show. I don’t bother to respond, but I’ve bought a Go Pro to use for road testing my bikes. That sets everything straight.
“The plan with the bike I took to Tobacco Dock was to build something for me but I got carried away and it came out super-shiny, super-sleek. So I’m building another similar café racer.
So, how does Tom define his style? “I think my smithy background comes through. It’s more organic than bolt-on. Most of the stuff on my bikes I make here. All the bikes I’ve built have a similar feel. I always make the exhausts flow in a particular way. I make all my own sub-frames. But each time I try to do something different. Making a carb manifold, for example, is much more satisfying for me than bolting someone else’s on.”
‘My bikes are organic rather than bolt-on’
Bespoke exhaust and subframe are works of art
This Foundry BMW R80 showcases the industrial, yet refined, look the firm is famous for Tom Simpson likes the organic look Foundry are well known for building banging BMWS