How Was Biltwell Founded?
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.
The Development of Biltwell
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 ics 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 Scrolling’”, 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 customers 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?"
-DicE Magazine, Issue #59
Let the Interview Begin
Location: Temecula, CA
The Meaning of Biltwell?
- Friends help friends get to the ice cream.
Biltwell’s first Catalogue
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.
- Erik “Rudehog” taking a selfie.
Biltwell’s Culture and Vision
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 than 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 “lifestyle” 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 lifestyle 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- "Ride Motorcycles, Have Fun" - Biltwell inc.
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.
- Gringo S in the shadows.
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.
- 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: Haha. Another McGoo one. It means Black Man in Spanish. I don’t get it either but thought it was funny.
Biltwell and the Past Memories
- Flynn and Bill riding together on EDR.
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.
Biltwell and the Future Plan
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.
- Some of the Biltwell staff enjoying a little P.L.T.
Biltwell's People and Interesting Secrets
- Otto about to slay a cone.
B: McGoo hits the sack the earliest and AZ Nick sleeps in the latest.
- Mcgoo always makes everyone laugh with his intelligence and crazy humor.
B: West’s XS650 is pretty neat and he hammers the shit out of it.
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..
B: EZ is hand making some bad ass knives now. it’s not crazy by any means, but I think it’s super cool.
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!
B: Ballast Point Brewery just opened a restaurant and I can’t go there without bumping into some of our guys.
- "More Rollin, Less Scrollin" - Biltwell Inc.
Biltwell People's Champ 2019 - Biltwell Special Competition
- "More Rollin, Less Scrolling" - Biltwell Inc.
We’ve said it before and I’ll we’ll say it again, I we love the People’s Champ party. Doubling as the kickoff party to Born Free, attendees convene on the Cook’s Corner Bar a few miles away from the grounds of Born Free, to witness who will be crowned the newest champion of the people.
Who are these builders? They are up and comers eager to prove their ability by creating a one-off custom motorcycle to then have their work judged by the partygoers. This year's 6 pack of finalists James Juarez, Matt Pontano, Suzy Pilaczynski, Ben Jefferies, Caleb Denton, and Nick Busby.
This year’s event changed hands from Show-Class Magazine to Biltwell. With the new organizer at the reins the presentation was upped and the party went off without a hitch. A little bit of wet weather couldn’t stop the crowds from showing up and riding in.
Per usual the whole intersection was swamped with bikes parked along the country road. People packed the restaurant, outdoor bars; show area and the picnic tables above until the winner was announced. Nick Busby took it all home this year People's Champ and $7500! The very next day I even got an invite to Yokohama from Mooneyes. Also, congrats to the runners up of this year’s competition, they all took home a runner up prize of $500 each.Read the full story coming out in Lowbrow Customs Weirdo issue 8 coming out at the end of summer.