The Lowdown On Biltwell Inc.
was found in 2006 by a couple of friends with over 40 years of combined experience in the action sports industry. Burnt out on working for other people, they looked for a change and came to a realization that custom motorcycle parts
and accessories were way too expensive and over-styled. With that in mind they set out to create beautiful and functional stuff that would speak not only to them, but to like minded motorcycle enthusiasts around the world.
Biltwell started out as strictly a hard parts company, but it has transcended that humble beginning. Bringing style, functionality and purpose to the market at a reasonable prices, Biltwell is building future classics in the motorcycle world with products like their famous Gringo helmets
, comfortable Kung-Fu grips
and their stylish custom motorcycle handlebars
. With slogans like "Ride Motorcycles, Have Fun" and "More Rollin’, Less Scrollin’”, the brand is embracing a positive lifestyle filled with riding, wrenching and adventuring. The company does its best to create and support grass root events that give their customer even more reasons to get out and ride.
"Despite an economic meltdown the likes of which the world hadn’t seen in 80 years, this wild hair from 2006 has managed to survive. We are quick to give credit to the legion of riders, garage builders, indy shops, vendors, employees, family and friends who have supported us from day one. McGoo says it best: “If Bill and I had actually known anything about the custom motorcycle business before we got into it, we would have run the other way. Fortunately, there were enough people out there who liked what we liked, and we built a small business around them. There’s something to be said for being too stupid to know better. Biltwell is the proof.” Our team has grown substantially, but our original goal to design and manufacture timeless motorcycle parts and gear that a regular Joe can afford and be proud to own has stayed exactly the same. Surrounded by our crew of talented, hard-working people, who knows what the next decade will bring?"
We sat down with Bill Bryant, Co-founder of Biltwell Inc. and asked him the tough questions about the history of the logo, the R&D process, the meaning of some of their product names and even forced him choose some of his favorite staff members via some fun questions. We wanted to thank Bill again for taking the time out to answer these and we hope you enjoy.
Bill Bryant, Co-Founder of Biltwell Inc. racing in the "Circle of Death" on the EDR.
The Interview with Bill Bryant
Name: Bill Bryant
Company: Biltwell Inc.
Title: Co-Founder / Brand Manager
Location: Temecula, CA
First off, Who came up with the name Biltwell, what is the story behind the name?
B: I was deployed in Iraq in 2004/2005 and would bounce emails back and forth with McGoo when I had a chance. I remember we were sending lists of names back and forth and I was always thinking about it. I ended up at a British camp and used one of their bathroom trailers and the urinal had a neat little name and logo. I don’t recall exactly but it was like Made-Rite or Done-Well or something along those lines. I don’t remember which one of us actually came up with it, but once we settled on Biltwell, we both really liked it.
Has the logo always looked the same, were there trial and errors of logo and name when you first started? Was there ever a different name in the running to possibly be the name when you guys were making the company?
B: The logo has been exactly the same with one exception. Originally the color version was only red and white. To avoid any confusion or association with HA we added the black outline around the shield shape. Otherwise it has been the same. We have tons of other logos and graphics for things like apparel but that shield and anvil one is our core one and is a registered trademark. We didn’t seriously consider any other names and there were a few other rough designs but this one made the cut.
Friends help friends get to the ice cream.
Todd showed me one of the very old Lowbrow Catalog the other day, it was a handful of Black t-shirts on a pretty large one piece of glossy paper, folded in fours, extremely crazy to see. Your catalogs these days are insanely high quality and so awesome to see, what was one of the first catalogs like for you guys?
B: I think around 2009 we did this one with a mostly naked girl holding a Slimline riser on the cover. If you look at the reflection in the riser (upside down) there is my friend Erik “Rudehog” from Vegas. I had a copy of a selfie he took in front of a mirror without a shirt, belly hanging out and all. Hardly anyone ever noticed and when they did it was always a crack up. Thankfully old Rudehog had a great sense of humor and thought it was funny.
A page from an old catalog in 2009, Biltwell Inc.
Erik “Rudehog” taking a selfie.
Biltwell has a really strong presence in the motorcycle industry when it comes to offering some of the coolest accessories, riding gear and apparel but I feel like there is much more to you guys then just what you sell. You guys give off an inspiration factor that not a lot of other companies do. Can you talk a little about the “life style” and or “vision” aspects of Biltwell and how it’s just as important as your products.
B: I think a brand should have character and personality that reflects the company’s actual culture. This isn’t like some marketing plan or focused strategy–it’s the way we live. We love motorcycles; building ‘em, riding ‘em, racing ‘em, buying and selling ‘em, all of it. We also like a wide variety of bikes, it’s not all choppers or whatever. Some of us have FXR’s and dirt bikes, cafes, etc so we’re kind of all over the place. We also come from a design background so we enjoy crafting the aesthetic, whether it’s a product, a sticker design or a website. One of the characteristics of the brand that I’m proud of is an honest humility, which to means keeping things inclusive and down to earth. There are tons of people fighting for that uber cool, super hard-core, VIP, expensive, tough guy space and we just stay out of it by admitting that we are just nerds that love motorcycles and inviting anyone to participate with us. Our products and prices are always a good value, stuff that a regular guy can afford and be proud of. There’s cheaper stuff out there and tons of way more expensive goods, we choose to be somewhere in the middle. The events we throw are a reflection of this philosophy; generally free and ride-oriented.
Continuing on the life style aspect, Biltwell has put on the El Diablo Run for a long time, before there were any other real cool, small rider events going on especially in the chopper scene. Can you talk a little about the roots of EDR and what it means to you and Biltwell.
B: Back around 2001 or so, I rode a CB550 down to San Felipe in Baja after reading about some CB750 chopper dudes who rode down there every year. I asked ‘em if I could tag along and they agreed. I had a blast. We drank beers and smoked dope and hung out on the beach and worked on old motorcycles. I got bored after a day or two and rode across the peninsula to Ensenada. I was really familiar with the routes and stuff because of my previous trips down there for surfing and desert racing. I remember thinking at the time “Man, I finally figured it out. This is what I like to do.” I liked riding a shitty old bike somewhere far, camping and having a good time with neat people. It reminded me of surf trips in my teens and was much more interesting than the one bike night I had bothered to go to before that and the one rally I visited. Those things were just not my cup o’ tea, but riding and camping–that was fun. Keep in mind that back then most events were huge rallies or custom bike shows with trailer queens. Of course groups of people were riding and camping and partying since the dawn of the motorcycle and we surely didn’t invent it, but I think we might have helped expose some people to the idea.
Palapas, tents, palm trees and lots of motorcycles, at EDR.
Who’s the biggest idea contributor when it comes to product development at Biltwell? Where does the inspiration come from?
B: It’s all a team effort and sometimes ideas come from within and sometimes we are asked by shops or distributors to consider something. McGoo and Westy run product development so that’s their lane. I jump in and help shape a lot of the stuff, but they do the actual work with engineering, factories, etc.
This was an oil tank idea with a screw off cap to stash stuff in (they never ended up using it).
Who’s the crash test dummy for your guys stuff? haha just kidding, but seriously who’s in charge of R&D and testing out your products before you release them to the masses? What’s that process like?
B: I’d say that’s Westy. He’s a great product guy and very talented rider. He and McGoo manage that stuff and generally a few of us put plenty of miles on things before they are released. It’s always been a very organic operation but that’s getting tightened up and we’re implementing more processes to make development faster and smoother. We’ve killed plenty of projects without ever releasing them because we weren’t happy with the performance or pricing.
"Ride Motorcycles, Have Fun" - Biltwell inc.
What has been the longest or most challenging product in development for you guys?
B: Right now we are working on a helmet called the Lane Splitter
. Getting ECE approval so they are legal in Europe is a challenge. It’s not that the testing is too hard, the helmets will pass the tests pretty easily. It’s navigating the red tape that takes forever. For instance, the owner’s manual that has to come with it is nearly 100 pages. Who would’ve thought you’d have to explain how to use D-rings on a helmet strap? it’s a real thing and there are a lot of detailed regulations that have to be adhered to.
B: Originally we rode in old 70’s open faces because they were cheap and looked cool. So we came out with our novelty open-faces as a better solution. When we hired our GM, Mike Ellis, he pretty much insisted on doing a DOT helmet. Having had experience working in retail at motorcycle shops, he knew that most legit shops were just not going to touch non-DOT lids. So it progressed from there.
Same question but about the Gringo and Gringo S?
B: Same kinda answer. Chopper dudes were wearing old full faces like Bell Stars because they were goofy and cool. We thought it would be a good way to expand the helmet line with a model unlike anything else out there. Now there are a ton of knock-offs, but we definitely brought the idea to market first. The Gringo S was just a logical extension as our customer base grew from chopper dudes and began to include more mainstream motorcycle riders who wanted a little more practicality and comfort.
Gringo S in the shadows.
I've noticed some of your names for products look like they come from movies, songs, or artists, I can’t put my finger on it. If I list a few products do you think you could tell us where the names came from or how the name came about?
B: Ha. I mentioned we are dorks, right? We literally just brainstorm for something goofy and decide on something that we think sounds cool and isn’t already in use.
B: Named after the only guy to ever kick Philo Bedoe’s ass. Google it if you don’t know that character from Clint Eastwood’s Every Which Way But Loose.
Walter Barnes as Tank Murdock Vs Clint Eastwood as Philo Bedoe in "Every Which Way but Loose".
B: They are thick and chunky. Gordo means fat in Spanish.
B: We were running out of ideas on that one…
B: GI Joe had a Kung-Fu grip and that was a big deal to kids growing up in the 70’s.
B: They are between our lighter and heavier-weight gloves. (Boxing reference)
B: This was a McGoo name and I don’t really remember if it had any significance.
B: Haha. Another McGoo one. It means Black Man in Spanish. I don’t get it either but thought it was funny.
What’s been one of your all time favorite memories from your years with Biltwell?
B: It’s gotta be building a rigid Sporty with my son Flynn last year and riding next to him on the EDR.
Flynn and Bill riding together on EDR.
I heard you have an Evel Knievel Tattoo can you tell us the story behind that?
B: I met him at a bicycle trade show in Las Vegas in 1997 when Mat Hoffman was doing an EK signature bike. He was just as cantankerous and awesome as I expected. He’d been a childhood hero of mine, as he was for nearly any American kid growing up in the 70’s. So when he was signing a few autographs before the show opened I asked him to sign my arm. I bailed to the first tattoo joint I could find on the strip and had it inked in.
What next big project or plans do you personally have in the works, any big trips or builds going down?
B: Shit. So many. I’m leaving in the morning to go help an old friend race the NORRA Mexican 1000 tomorrow morning. Flying back in about five days and hoping on my FXR to ride up the coast to work our Nor Cal Cycle Swap in Sacramento. Then I'm taking the long way home. As soon as I get back the paint and chrome should be done and I’ll start assembling the Mile Muncher project we are building with Lowbrow, Drag Specialties
and S&S Cycle
What’s the next big thing for Biltwell? Where do you see it going in the near future and what new products can we look forward to carrying that you are stoked on?
B: Other than the Lane Splitter, we don’t have a lot of new stuff in development. We’re working on refining and improving every product we already have. Right now we have a huge line of stuff and more isn’t always better. We decided a year or so ago to step back and make sure that quality is absolutely as high as possible on everything we have before adding anything new. We’re in this for the long haul so there’s no rush.
Some of the Biltwell staff enjoying a little P.L.T.
And last but not least, some fun. Here are some questions about your amazing staff! Who eats the most on a road trips?
B: Otto for sure. He should weigh 300 pounds but he’s always pedaling that mountain bike to maintain that sexy profile.
Otto about to slay a cone.
Who sleeps the most on road trips?
B: McGoo hits the sack the earliest and AZ Nick sleeps in the latest.
Who is always on? You know the funny guy of the company?
B: McGoo and Otto for sure. Definitely not me.
Mcgoo always making everyone laugh with is intelligence and crazy humor.
Who has the best bike at Biltwell? Be honest and you can’t choose your own.
B: West’s XS650 is pretty neat and he hammers the shit out of it.
Who has the best 4 wheeled machine (car)?
B: I defy someone to come up with a better vehicle than my 2010 Toyota Tacoma, but Ellis is working on a sweet old van. Hayden’s CUCV Blazer is an absolute monster. Doc’s Elco rules. Flynn just bought a new 370Z, his is probably the nicest. Kenzie had a sweet WRX, but sold it recently. Sorry, that wasn’t one answer..
Who’s has the craziest hobby or coolest thing they do that is not motorcycle related?
B: EZ is hand making some bad ass knives now. it’s not crazy by any means, but I think it’s super cool.
What kind of music is constantly playing in the warehouse, or is everyone using headphones these days?
B: Our warehouse staff rules and they take turns with the radio. It runs the gamut and could be anything from old school punk, to screamo, to the Smiths, and even some classic country. Once in a while some lame modern stuff, but mostly pretty good music!
What’s the majority of the staffs favorite go to spot when it comes to food?
B: Ballast Point Brewery just opened a restaurant and I can’t go there without bumping into some of our guys.
Who smashes the most ice cream?
B: Probably H8ter. He’s not on staff, but he volunteers to help out all the time. He can mow down some frosty treats.
"More Rollin, Less Scrollin" - Biltwell Inc.