Posts from the Quinn Dang Category

What inspired you to build the bike you built?

I’ve always wanted to build a cafe or brat style bike ever since I first saw them. The LNSPLT build off actually inspired me to do it in the first place. I planned to sell the project Honda Shadow I had already built to buy a bike that had more of a “cafe” styled frame already. It wasn’t until Brian showed me a few examples of the Shadows he had seen floating around the internet that I really started thinking about using the Shadow as a cafe build. He has a Shadow in the works himself, so it gave me inspirations to incorporate a cafe racer design cues wherever possible on my own Honda cruiser.

What were the challenges that you faced during the build?

There were more complications with his build than I anticipated; where do I even begin? The greatest challenge was figuring out how to build the sub frame to give the bike a straighter line. There weren’t any parts made for converting a Shadow into a cafe so I essentially fabricated everything. Through the time effective method of trial and error, I ended up with more scrap metal at the end of this build than what actually went on the bike. Another challenge was trying to actually fit a shock made for a BMW s1000rr into a bike never made to have a shock with a piggy back.

What did you enjoy most about this build?

My favorite part of the building process was the comradery. It felt like the days I first got into building bobbers, my buddy Brian was over everyday wrenching his brainchild right next to mine. Other friends would come by and we would sit around, drink whiskey, and talk bikes. We didn’t get much done those days, but those are the moments I remember from this build. My favorite moment was when I got her to fire up and idle correctly. That was the night before the competition. We really worked down to the wire. Young and Dennis rode beside me for my maiden voyage. The joy I felt was indescribable.

You came from a bobber background. Do you like the cafe style? What are your plans for this bike?

This bike has to be the most beautiful bike I have ever built. It’s just so goddamn pretty to look at. Riding it, however, wasn’t my style. I used to ride sportbikes so I am no stranger to an aggressive seating position. Having a great suspension set up really made it feel like I was riding on clouds (compared to the hardtails I’m used to riding.) It just isn’t as fun to ride as my bobber. With my bobber, you feel the road when you ride and it just puts you that much more in the driver seat.

You’re one of the few with a cafe/brat VLX. How do you feel about that?

Sometimes when I say it aloud, I feel proud. But in all honesty, I don’t see it as anything too crazy. There are so many crazy builds out there and I am just a garage builder. I had no fabrication background besides the hours i spent on youtube and sitting there practicing what I just tried to absorb from a monitor. All I can say is that my work is a reflection of how much I put into it. I couldn’t be any happier with the way the bike came out.

Tell us a little about your born free 8 experience

Every year we go on a trip called “Born Free” and I always have the time of my life. A band of brothers riding down HWY 1 on custom bikes, camping midway down to attend one of the largest custom chopper/bobber shows–what could be better? I saw it as an opportunity to show off all of my hard work. Right off the bat, I lost my GoPro Hero 4 when its mount broke. Not the best start, but I didn’t let that phase me. Everything was how I expected and my head was in the clouds…until I crashed. We had pull off the highway in Hollywood and we were about an hour away from the house that we rented for the weekend. I was eager to rendezvous with the rest of the crew.

As we were getting back onto the freeway, we started merging over to the carpool lane. The car ahead of me had a few good car lengths so I check my shoulder to merge over. I must have missed something because when I turned my head around, it was too late. All I saw was the backside of a white Corolla. I tried to swerve to the left but clipped his bumper. My buddy riding behind me said there wasn’t traffic ahead and didn’t know why the car was applying his brakes. All I know is that what was likely only a couple of seconds, felt like an eternity. My heart sank as I saw that car. I hit the pearly white Toyota going about 70mph.

It was like a slow motion movie scene. I saw the front tire from an angle I was unfamiliar with. I don’t know how many times I flipped but I recall landing on my feet for a split second, before being thrashed head over heals again–and not in the good way.

The last thing I remember was sliding chest down across the asphalt. I tried to get a grasp the pavement, desperately trying to stop myself. When I finally came to a stop, the first thing I could think of was my bike. In my mind, there was a great weekend to be had still! I had a mild concussion and limped across the lanes to get out of the highway. Luckily for me, a stranger on the road stopped his truck to shield me from traffic so I could move out of the way. He then gave me the last of his water and helped me take off my helmet. Faith in humanity restored! Like a knight in shining armor.

My buddy Jonathan, who was right behind me, drove against traffic to help me muscle my bike out of the middle of the freeway. I sprained my ankle pretty badly and had a lot of road rash, but luckily, nothing was broken. My denim vest absorbed much of the abrasion from skidding across the asphalt. The driver? Continued on their merry way. Maybe they were awful human beings, maybe they didn’t realize they were hit by a motorcycle traveling at 70 miles per hour.

The rest of the trip is hazy to me. I was so drugged up on muscle relaxers and painkillers that I don’t remember much else after that point. Big shoutout to Jonathan for what you did. I would have never been able to pull that shit out of the road. Also big thanks to my girlfriend Lyn, for not killing me when she found out I wrecked. She nursed me back to health and dealt with my crybaby ass.

Why do you still ride after all that?

People always ask me why I still ride after that, and I tell them simply: because I love it. I still ride because there is no greater feeling than being free on two wheels. I’ve met some of the greatest people, and I’m sure I  will continue to meet great people on wheels. All of my senses are heightened when I ride. Trees look greener, the wind feels smoother, even the air smells nicer. You overlook so many scenic views and forget how beautiful our world is when you are looking at it from behind the glass of a car. It’s so easy to be on the phone, or engaged in conversations, that you miss out being present and enjoying the ride. Sometimes I catch myself just smiling for no reason. “We all die, but only a few of us live.” This is me living out loud.

What’s next?

Next on the list would be building myself a Harley. I will always have my shadow bobber but I would love to add a Harley into my stable.

Photos by Vu Phan

You can ride your bike to every letter of law, but nothing is unavoidable. You can’t prevent an accident from happening, only minimize the risk of it happening. There’s risk involved with everything in life, even driving a car.

When it comes to riding a motorcycle on public streets, being safe will always be more beneficial than being skilled. Even MotoGP class racers will agree on this.

A lot of young riders get into the lifestyle thinking they’re invincible until life inevitably shows them that they’re not. Seeing my leg hanging from a muscle definitely made me aware of my own mortality, but I consider myself lucky because a lot of my riding brothers and sisters don’t ever get to wake up from a crash.

Riding safely on the street involves a deep understanding of traffic, psychology, and the driving forces of human behavior at large.

On the smaller scale, riders need to understand that they are on motorcycles, and a padded suit and helmet helps if you slide off your bike or make contact with a stationary object, but not if you end up under a minivan. Understand that drivers are human beings, and just like us, they will try to find shortcuts. Driving sucks, can you blame them? Identify when they will take those opportunities, and make sure you are clear of their path.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s useful to have some awareness of your geographical location, and the social dynamics at play. I live in San Jose, California. In the heart of the Silicon Valley, drivers here are aggressive, and more dangerously, in a hurry. People who are not in a hurry do not run red lights.

Motorcycles offer an unparalleled feeling of freedom, but it’s easy to forget that as a rider, you are at the mercy of traffic, you do not dictate it.

When life puts you in a helpless circumstance, you’re given time to think. Not many circumstances are more helpless than being immobile in a hospital bed, so I had my fair share of thinking to do.

I discovered that I had a massive support system that I had built over the years just by being who I am. From close friends and family to strangers that I’d shared one good conversation with at a party, everyone reached out in various ways to remind me that I wasn’t alone. I put my thoughts on all of my social media channels to discover that I had not only awoken a new way of thinking in my own mind, but in that of others as well.

I realized that I had been looking at life like it was a destination. As if I were an imperfect version of myself on my way to where I was really supposed to be. And I shut myself out from everyone so I could focus on getting there to show them that perfect version of me that I was sure existed all along. I lost sight of who I was because I was too busy thinking about who I was going to be.

I didn’t realize that the real me, perfect or not, had the power to change people’s lives. I could influence them to think, and feel. And if I could do all of that from the confines of a hospital room, I reveled in possibilities of what I could accomplish the day I walk out into the world.

One of the most dangerous survival reactions we encounter as motorcyclists is target fixation. When we lock our eyes onto a central object, we forget to deeply analyze a situation before making a decision. In the world of motorcycles, and in life, doing so is bad for your health.

Always keep your eyes open, scan the road, and enjoy the ride. As the age-old motorcycle adage says, “Happiness isn’t around the corner. Happiness is the corner.”

Creating custom motorcycles is like crossbreeding the majesty of art and the precision of science. It’s the duality of sacrificing functionality or fashion for the overall improvement of a final product. Sure, all bikes have quirks that make t916hem memorable (SV650, I’m looking at you), but building a custom to me is about getting back to the basics. Before all the bells and whistles, not that accessorizing is discouraged, but prioritizing instead on just making a good bike that’s balls to the wall fun to thrash around on with your buddies.

All of this passion comes from someone whose mechanical experience doesn’t extend outside of oil changes, cosmetic tweaks, and basic wiring. I bought a 1976 Honda Rebel 250 from a friend for under $200 bucks. It was taken apart, but he told me the engine had good compression (because the Internet told me that was important), so I bought the thing and started aimlessly tearing it apart.

After I took everything apart, I realized I hadn’t the slightest clue on how to put everything back together. I didn’t label any parts, take any pictures, and I ended up with a completely parted out bike. I left it out in the backyard where it was abused by a long rainy season, and finally decided to drop it off at a junkyard. In hindsight, I probably could have made my money back by selling the parts.

But! It wasn’t in vain. By taking the bike apart piece by piece, I learned a little bit about “what makes it go”, and really that’s what it’s all about. Learning how parts works with each other to make the bike move. I observed microinteractions, like how throttle cables interact with the fuel delivery system, or how cotter pins held certain bolts in place. It’s been an entire year since then, so I’d probably have to tear another bike apart to reacquaint myself with the process, but with structure and a community (LNSPLTBLVD, represent) I hope to learn enough to become a builder in the future.

I am an ambitious person, and the only reason I want to do anything in life is to do it better than everyone else.

At 25 years old, I know there are guys who have mechanical chops that would take me decades to learn. People who can weld better than me, people who can repair better than me, who have trade skills that I do not possess. But when you’re at a disadvantage, the best you can do is search for ways to make that disadvantage work for you. Kind of like getting sympathy from girls when you break your leg in a motorcycle accident.

I think I have the other half of what it means to build a custom motorcycle. I have the art. I have the eye. It’s such a labor of passion that shapes what a bike could really look like. How to express your observation of style and show it through choices you make in your product design. And it’s so achievable without breaking the bank. I feel all I need to successfully start building bikes is the know how. Ironically, the hardest part, no big deal.

My favorite builders include Rough Crafts, Hazan Motorworks, and Walt Siegel. All of them radically different from each other, but I’ve crafted a style inside of my head just by taking design cues from them.

Based in Taiwan, Rough Crafts specializes in building V-twin bobbers. Their style is refined in a sense that their bikes always look well put together. It’s a combination of their use of space and confining it all within long, cradling pipes that contributes a signature secure look. Edges are always polished for style. It’s that attention to detail that makes the company so balanced with regard to style and functionality.

Hazan Motoworks borders on the extreme sides of that balance scale. Cosmetically, his bikes intelligently use negative space. Anything that isn’t an integral component isn’t there, but the empty housings remain. His bikes feel visually organic, because you can see where the vital organs are. And by default, his bikes are forced to take a simple mechanic route. Nothing fancy, just something that works. It’s extremely minimalistic, which is an important when designing anything.

Lastly, Walt Siegel just wakes up the inner Ducatisti in me. This one is admittedly a guilty pleasure. The man is all about style, and it bleeds through his work. Powerful color schemes complement and contradict his builds, and the bottom line for him seems to be, “just make the bike look like a bikini-clad supermodel on the beach”.

With all of these in mind, the style I’ve created in my head is an industrial look. My philosophy is that we dress up motorcycles to look a certain way, and in the process we anthropomorphize them, even giving them names. Not that it’s a bad thing, but after my accident, my priorities shifted and I realized that my life is still in tact, and the bike is just a machine. And so I would design them mechanically—to make them look like what they are. I’d build them methodically as well, taking design cues from all three of my favorite builders to contribute to my vision of style and art.

The beauty of bike building is that the guidelines are rigid. With tools and know how, anything is possible. But, as they say, just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

The pain was instant. Time didn’t slow down. I didn’t have any flashbacks. I felt my leg snap before I even touched the ground. I hit the pavement on my chest and skid across the wet gravel. My helmet stopped just before hitting the sidewalk. I couldn’t breathe, and I had to wrestle my gloves and helmet off in a desperate attempt to provide some kind of relief. I screamed and screamed hoping the pain would go away, but it only amplified with every passing second.

I looked over at the intersection to find the driver who had just hit me parked in the middle of the intersection. His wheels began to turn, and my heart stopped. He nearly took my life, and he planned to leave the scene. I screamed, “YOU MOTHERF—-R!” Knowing full well I was in no position to follow him or grab a license plate number. It must have awoken something in him, because he stopped and got out of the car.

There were two drivers perpendicular to where the crash happened, and I looked over at them. They made eye contact with me, so I know they saw me, but their lights turned green, and they drove away. It was without question the loneliest moment of my life.

Eventually, my howls woke up the neighbors and they came running out to help me. Even with the situation at hand, I remained socially aware and put on my public face as they arrived on the scene. I slowed my breathing, and answered their questions with the understanding that cooperation would only expedite the process of getting me into an ambulance.

When the paramedics arrived and hauled me into the van, I snapped right back to my usual personality. I poked fun at people in the ambulance and made jokes where I could. I wasn’t going to let some broken bones stop me from self-medicating with laughter.

I remember the paramedics were cutting the pants off my leg to identify the wound when I stopped them and grabbed everyone’s attention. “Hey!” All eyes were on me. I said, “It’s really cold and rainy so don’t judge me on the size.”

They did their jobs professionally and gracefully, and we laughed all the way to the hospital. I like to think that it was the most fun anyone has ever had in the back of an ambulance.

When I started riding bikes, I quickly fell in love with it as it gave me an activity to stimulate my mind during one of the most boring moments that life has to offer: driving in traffic. It was fun. I could wave at strangers, direct traffic, and flirt with girls. Riding a motorcycle to work provided me with a method of endless physical expression.

As a result, I abandoned driving altogether, sold my car, and started riding everyday. Rain or shine.

I’ve had a total of four crashes in my short two years in the saddle. Some say I’m a slow learner. The first three did not involve exterior traffic, and they all occurred due to my own miscalculations of weather and road conditions. I walked away from all of them scratch-free. The fourth involved another driver, and was exponentially more painful.

I was on a large upswing in my life. I had just graduated, received a salaried promotion at work, and my love life became simpler as I switched from monogamous to casual dating. Life was good. But, life is also full of colorful ironies. I learned in an instant that you don’t always go just because the light is green.

It was my first day at my new job and it proved to be a tiring but exciting experience. I had the power to throw my weight around as a supervisor, while remaining cognizant that the only thing that changed was my role in company. I put in eight hours just to shadow a supervisor (who had pulled for me to get the job) and clocked out at around 11 O’ Clock P.M. I had every reason to leave the building and go home, but I decided to stop and talk to my new boss. I’m the type of person that understands the importance of establishing relationships, so I popped into his office for no real reason other than to chat and thank him for the position.

Then, I got on my bike and rode home completely high on life. Everything was right in the world. I had my headphones in and I was swerving the bike left to right with the music whenever I hit dry patches on the highway.

I watched bewildered drivers stare at me in disbelief while I passed them with my super fashionable high visibility rain suit. Drivers always watched as if I was teetering on the verge of catastrophe at any given second, but riding in the rain never presented any real danger to me. And I’ve ridden through some pretty gnarly torrential downpours.

Eventually, I exited the freeway and meandered through some residential intersections when I saw a silver Corolla in the lane to my left. A small part of me wanted to grip the throttle and blow past him to avoid having to merge after the next light, but the roads were wet so I opted to ride more conservatively and merged behind him. We coasted at a reasonable speed, and I tailed him to the next intersection where I followed him through the green light, when a Mini-Cooper in the opposing left-turn lane decided to blow the red. He pulled into the intersection thinking he could save a couple seconds after the Corolla had passed, but surprise, surprise, my happy ass was right there waiting for him.

I swerved right, but saw the concrete median and light pole and realized, “That’s going to hurt a lot more.” So I straightened the bike, took the hit, and went flying.

It kills me to think that this wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t just pop in to say hi to my new boss.

Hi, my name is Quinn Dang. I’m 25 years old and I got into motorcycles about two years ago on my 23rd birthday. A part of me always romanticized the concept of piloting an open cockpit on public roads, but I never really entertained the idea until I started going to college. I’d see bikers pull up into designated motorcycle parking spaces, and tear off their helmets as if they’d  just returned from a war-torn country.

To put it plainly, I wanted to ride motorcycles because they were cool, and they made people look cool.

I convinced myself that I was doing the practical thing with the usual newbie arguments, like saving gas, insurance, and time, but I didn’t expect to fall in love the way that I did. The first thing I discovered was that it was definitely not a cheap hobby if you wanted to really learn about it and get good at it. But that didn’t stop me, and I’d put off eating out with friends just to concentrate my money and energy on learning as much as I could about bikes.

The beauty of discovering a lifelong hobby is that it will teach you things about life. Among many things, it will teach persistence, patience, and it will further your ability to learn in all other facets of life.

Before motorcycles, I was the kind of person to pay fifty bucks to get my oil changed at SpeeDee. I never turned a wrench, and the only reason I ever found myself in a garage was to tell my dad dinner was ready. The second I put my hand on my bike and started fixing (and breaking) things, something clicked. I started to learn how things worked.