“What happens when you try and turn a hobby into an occupation?” I ask.
“Don’t,” responds Adam Kay, co-director of Untitled Motorcycles, which performs customised automobile design and engineering for motorbike enthusiasts.
Adam and his business partner Rex Martin started their small business after Adam’s success customising his own bike, using Rex’s workshop in 2010. After researching customised bikes on the internet, and decided he would be better off doing it himself; and found happened upon the elusive gap in the market.
A long blog to success
The venture took eight months, and Adam started a blog to track its progress, posting regular updates and photos. He gained a loyal following on social media. The end product was obviously a success, though Adam jokingly refers to it as his ‘mid-life crisis bike’.
At the end of 2011 the duo received two bikes on spec, and decided then and there to start a company then “see what happened.” Both are long-term experts on motorbikes; Adam asked for his first bike at 16. Though his parents vetoed his teenage request, he bought one almost as soon as he left home and rode bikes on and off until his forties.
Despite the popular reception on social media it took a year to sell the bikes; early requests were mostly for superficial cosmetic adjustments but soon they received commissions for bigger projects.
Now the average price for a bespoke renovation is £13,000. They are currently working on their 27th build; that's an approximated turnover of £350,000 in two years!
I ask Adam what has been his biggest engineering challenge. He replies that meeting the customer’s request can be problematic, because the mechanics have to work within the parameters of what is physically possible.
For example? “Well, one client wanted to put the exhaust pipe underneath the seat.” Sounds dangerous. “A lot of people do this in sketches and it looks very nice, but… there’s not enough room. The wheel would hit the seat. You’d either have to raise the seat – which people don’t want – or move the exhaust somewhere else.”
One newly popular adjustment is installing a data board, the Motogadget, of German origin. Integrating the modern electric component into traditional bike styles, which use a standard analogue system, is another technically demanding alteration.
Revving up expansion plans
As regards future expansion, they plan to move into creating tailored parts on demand, to ship overseas. This will let them access motorbike enthusiasts in foreign markets, who “obviously can’t send their bikes from Australia.”
In addition, they may be opening an outlet in San Francisco, as one of their former employees has moved there and wants to extend the franchise.
Untitled Motorcycles is scheduled to exhibit at the Bike Shed, a well-known trade show, where three of their bikes will be on public display. This year it is being held at the grade-one listed Tobacco Dock, two miles south of Shoreditch near Tower Bridge on the North bank of the Thames.