de Bolex

Finest cus­tom house name ever? Quite pos­si­bly. The bikes are cer­tainly up there with the best

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Built - www.de­bolexlon­don.com

Calum Pryce-tidd is 25 and owns de­bolex Mo­tor­cy­cles. After build­ing his first Honda cafe racer in 2011, he es­tab­lished de­bolex in 2012 and has quickly built an en­vi­ous rep­u­ta­tion for clas­sic-look­ing cafe rac­ers with a mod­ern twist. Calum’s south Lon­don work­shop is pretty much what you’d ex­pect from a well-groomed, well­spo­ken young man who turns out pris­tine, stylish and exquisitely-en­gi­neered cus­tom bikes. It’s a clean, tidy, well-ordered space, with a sprin­kling of the old school ma­chines re­quired to per­form ev­ery func­tion of an in­house bike build.

His first jobs were Honda CB750 fours but he’s now done a W800 Kawasaki tracker and we find Du­cati and Moto Guzzi V-twins in the work­shop too...

We’ve seen your builds at The Bike Shed in Paris and To­bacco Dock and the Malle Mile. What are the lat­est pro­jects?

I’ve got an­other Honda on the go – but this one will look dif­fer­ent with wire wheels. I’m also do­ing a Du­cati 749S for a cus­tomer and a Guzzi racer that’s my own.

How about the project with the Swedish mo­bile app de­vel­oper?

We built two iden­ti­cal CB750S for the app de­vel­oper be­hind agreat­day.tv and the Bones­heart app. It was quite a project be­cause we had to repli­cate ev­ery­thing. The plan was to build a se­ries of CB750S, with a lot­tery com­pe­ti­tion to win the bikes and take part in an epic road trip with the or­gan­is­ers. We’ve tem­plated the Hondas so we can build them on a pro­duc­tion line but I’m not that ex­cited about do­ing re­peat work. I like do­ing one­offs. We’ve also shaken hands on two Har­ley Sport­ster track­ers with him but I’m still wait­ing for the go-ahead. I’m busy un­til April now. I’ve got the two bikes here, plus a Buell and po­ten­tially an­other build ar­riv­ing.

How did you get into build­ing bikes?

Dad owned the garage and the de­bolex work­shop was orig­i­nally his paintshop. I was al­ways hang­ing around his work and at 17 years old I started build­ing an Anglia hot rod. It took two years but taught me how to build an engine, fab­ri­ca­tion, paint, ev­ery­thing. I put a Lo­tus twin-cam engine in the Anglia to re­place the 1172cc side-valve engine. Ini­tially, I took the car off the road for three months to do the work but it took me two years to build it. I stripped it bare, put in a new floor, fit­ted the Lo­tus engine, which meant cut­ting bulk­heads etc. It kicked me off into a new world. I es­pe­cially en­joyed the metal fab­ri­ca­tion.

Did you al­ways see your­self end­ing up in the mo­tor trade?

I didn’t re­ally want to be a

‘my grandad has a rapide. my dad has a black shadow’

me­chanic but I was in­ter­ested in the cus­tom stuff – but at the time there didn’t seem any kind of mar­ket for it.

So I de­cided to train to be a pi­lot. I had the Anglia on the road for five months – it was wicked to drive – but vir­tu­ally the minute I had fin­ished, I wanted to sell it and move on to new project. I sold it to pay for my PPL (private pi­lot’s li­cence) and planned to fol­low up with a com­mer­cial pi­lot’s li­cence. The week I got my PPL, I lost my bike li­cence so I went travelling. I al­ways wanted to go ski­ing so off I went for a sea­son. The plan was to pick up the fly­ing when I got back but the cost of a com­mer­cial li­cence is around £80-100,000 grand. There are schemes, but there were no jobs at the time.

How did you get into build­ing mo­tor­cy­cles?

When I came back from the ski­ing trip I no­ticed The Bike Shed – I sup­pose that was 2011. I was at a loose end, back from travelling, liv­ing at home. Dad said he’d help me buy a CB750 for me to build Mk1. I took it to The Bike Shed, a guy saw it and bought it. That was my first bike build but at the time – I had no vi­sion of it be­com­ing a busi­ness. I’ve done nine builds now and th­ese two – the Honda and Du­cati – will be Mk10 and 11. I have to fo­cus one thing at a time on a build. So for the Du­cati 749S I’ll do the belly pan first then work on the ex­haust, then move on to do the tank and seat.

Where does the in­ter­est in bikes stem from though?

I’ve al­ways loved bikes – I rode mo­tocross when I was younger – and bikes have al­ways been in the fam­ily. My grandad has a Vin­cent Rapide with over 250,000 miles on it and my Dad bought a Black Shadow 19 years ago. Dad used to ride on the back of grandad’s Vin­cent and I used to go on the back on my dad’s. Grandad can still ride but with the in­sur­ance com­pa­nies in­sist­ing on doc­tor’s notes for some­one of his age, he’s called it quits. And I’m go­ing to ride it!

How are you go­ing to push your skill set fur­ther?

I’m build­ing a Guzzi for my­self. I’ve got a race bike that has a Tony Foale-in­spired frame with a tuned engine, full of Raceco parts. I’ll re­build the engine and then re­make the frame, us­ing mod­ern, light­weight ma­te­ri­als, but us­ing the orig­i­nal frame as a tem­plate – but it’ll be more of a drag rac­ing or land speed style of bike. I’d also love to build a cus­tom ver­sion of a Du­cati Scram­bler. I’d like to be the first one to cre­ate a range of bolt-on parts. It’s beg­ging for it. But I’d also like to go down the arty route and ex­ploit my fab­ri­ca­tion skills. The Du­cati is go­ing to have a lot of sculp­tured al­loy body­work. But I’ve got my Guzzi too. I like to build bikes with a purpose and want to keep pro­gress­ing. I could do a Bonnie but most of what is out there is bolt-on. I wouldn’t get as much out of that, ex­cept per­haps money!

How about the name of the busi­ness? How did it come about?

[Laughs] The guy who helps me here part time used to say it a lot when he was mak­ing stuff. We’d look at things and go ‘that is de­bolex,’ but we’d say in a posh kind of way, with em­pha­sis on ‘oh’. It took me six months to de­ter­mine if it was okay to use it as a busi­ness name or not. The thing that con­vinced me was read­ing Richard Bran­son’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy (Los­ing My Vir­gin­ity, pub­lished by Vir­gin Books). He said he had reser­va­tions about the Vir­gin name but knew that once peo­ple heard it, they never for­got it. That made my mind up. We did some logo tests – I was still try­ing to get away from it – but I loved the way the logo looked, es­pe­cially the curves around the ‘x’ and had to go with it.

Where do you source in­spi­ra­tion for your builds?

I find a lot of in­spi­ra­tion from the Good­wood Re­vival. I went to the first one with my dad – he’s in­ter­ested in all that old stuff too. I al­ways take lots of pho­to­graphs on my phone at the Re­vival. If you look at other cus­tom bikes you end up copy­ing ideas from them and I don’t want to do

that. I also find in­spi­ra­tion from air­craft and 1950s and 60s cars – their body­work shapes and engine de­signs.

What does it for you the most: cre­ative en­gi­neer­ing or rid­ing?

Both I sup­pose, but if you re­ally push me, I’d say the rid­ing – but only with the right bike. I rode a stock Honda and got ab­so­lutely noth­ing from it. But take the Hondas we’ve built, or the W800 we worked on, and I’ve got a grin on my face all the time. It’s the same in the work­shop. If I’m build­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent, of course I re­ally en­joy it – mak­ing a fuel tank for ex­am­ple – but ser­vic­ing a bike isn’t fun at all.

You said your dad had a garage. Is that where you learned ev­ery­thing?

My dad builds en­gines so I learned my me­chan­i­cal knowl­edge from him – but essen­tially I just got stuck in. I’ve learned so much on the metal fab­ri­ca­tion side in the past three years. I could al­loy weld be­fore but mak­ing the tank and seat unit for shows last year re­ally taught me a lot. I’m al­ways learn­ing, that’s the beauty of this kind of work, and each bike has to be a pro­gres­sion. The whole idea of the tank was to learn, to prove to my­self I can do this and give me some­thing I can trans­fer to an­other build. I al­ways push my­self. I’ve not made that many bikes and I’m still learn­ing. That’s why I’m keen to do the Guzzi – to prove to my­self I can do it. And once it’s fin­ished it’ll rep­re­sent the busi­ness.

If money was no ob­ject and you had to­tal free­dom, what mo­tor­cy­cle would you build?

An MV – but it would have to be one of the old rac­ing en­gines in my own frame. I wouldn’t sab­o­tage a per­fectly good race bike just to build a cus­tom bike but I love those bikes – the engine de­sign, the sound, the style. It’s a bike with purpose. Or maybe I’d build a Vin­cent. I’d prob­a­bly have all the in­ter­est­ing en­gines I could get hold off and build some­thing dif­fer­ent around each one. I’d also have a Du­cati Scram­bler as a daily hack. And I’d want a salt flats racer – and a drag bike. There’s so many ap­pli­ca­tions – and I’d need a bike for ev­ery mood too. The Guzzi is close to fit­ting my needs. It will be cool. I can’t wait to get stuck into it.

‘i find in­spi­ra­tion 1950s/60s cars’

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