T-shirts, prints and shop fronts, it’s all go.


At the time of the last post I’d just sent the second batch of t-shirt ideas over to my contact to see if he would go for any of them. I didn’t have to wait too long this time for a reply, he picked the one shown here. It would be tempting to be a little disappointed with this result after all the work that’s been done, but this is outweighed by the knowledge that I learned a great deal during the process, and have actually ended up with some images that I really like and can do something with in the future.
So, one of the things that I’m going to do is create some hand made prints. This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time. With all these fresh images to now play with it seemed like as good a time as any to have a go. The way the designs have worked out, in very obvious black and white format, they will hopefully lend themselves very easily to a basic printing process.


To be honest with you I haven’t done anything like this for a very long time. Wondering which printing process to try led to lots of questions, the answers to which became self evident quite quickly. There are lots of different approaches to take ranging from the utterly basic to highly involved, simple block printing through to complex etching processes. I plumbed for the simple and settled on having a go with lino cut printing. The last time I dabbled with this process was back at school many years ago, so any learning that I had gained back then was gone and forgotten. Again, another opportunity to learn something new. The shot here shows my starting point. On the left is the design I wanted to transfer onto the lino sheet ready for cutting, on the right is it drawn out onto said lino. I have reversed the image, so that it will print the right way around and started to make some tentative cuts into the surface to create the relief to take the ink. This is as far as I’ve got for now and I’ll update the next steps in a subsequent post.


The final image here is something else entirely. Regular visitors to the blog may remember that back last summer I designed some t-shirts for my local bike shop, Bill Bunn Motorcycles, here in Ealing. It’s great to report that they’ve been selling well and the guys there wear their shirts religiously when working in the shop. I visited there a couple of weeks back only to find that they have undertaken the next steps in their shop refresh and gone and had new front signage made based around the shirt design. I had to take some pictures. They tell me the box signs are back lit, so at night it’s all illuminated which I’m looking forward to seeing sometime soon. I’m immensely chuffed that they have considered the design good enough to take it to this end. A big thanks to them for boosting my confidence and paying my work such a compliment.

No.8 and a trip to the Tate.

Matchless cafe racer by Jon Tremlett

This is number eight, the penultimate picture in this series and for me one of the best ones. Finding that the limits of my embedded knowledge were being reached I had resorted to flicking through one of the many reference books here in an attempt to top it up a bit. I find with great books that each different viewing often reveals a new set of surprises. In this case a lovely picture of an old Matchless jumped off the page and at once demanded to serve as inspiration for this picture. As with all these drawings the final picture is never really a true rendition of the reference, they all get pushed and pulled about a fair bit to suit the original vision, but this one’s got a bit more truth behind it than some. One detail in particular stands out, and is one that reveals how an utterly simple approach can be just as effective as a far more complex solution to the same problem. The simple curving shadow line along the fuel tank, to delineate reflection, very clearly says “polished metal” without the need to apply any more shapes, shadows or colour areas. A triumph of less being more, and oh so simple.


Yesterday I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the Roy Lichtenstein retrospective currently running at the Tate Modern Gallery in London. Although a fan of various aspects of Pop Art, I’d never really considered any of his work other than the large comic format pictures repeatedly paraded in front of us like Whaam! So it was very interesting to see a much more varied collection of pictures across a number of periods which followed the development of his unique style and approach. From his early experiments with abstract expressionism, through flat graphic interpretations of objects and on to landscapes inspired by chinese scroll paintings, with a fair bit of work in between, it proved an enlightening journey through the canon of an artist many might dismiss as a one trick pony. The landscapes and seascapes in particular, were both surprising and stunning, his Benday dot screen technique combined with some fantastically bold colours producing images that were both strangely mechanical and oddly dreamy at the same time. If you are  anywhere near London and the show is still running I would recommend going to see it. Rumours of ticket non-availability proved wrong, we got some without any problems. It’s on until May 27th.


The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.

Ready for the Gentleman's Ride.

Getting togged up for an autumn sunday ride normally involves donning your favourite jacket, picking out some warmer gloves, pulling on those comfy old boots and changing the helmet visor for one not so darkly tinted. It does not usually involve pressing a clean shirt, selecting an appropriately coloured neck tie, applying polish to shiny black shoes, fiddling with cuff links and putting on a suit. But this is exactly what I found myself doing last Sunday as I prepared myself for the London staging of The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.


Initiated a few months ago by a bunch of guys in Australia in an effort to bring Cafe Racer and modified bike riding people together, the event has spread across the globe encompassing groups in cities across Australia, North America, Europe and beyond. The basic idea, to dress up nice and smart and gather at a pre-arranged location, before setting out across town together for a gentle ride to a destination where we can all park up, have a good chat and enjoy a drink (no-alcoholic of course).


As you can see I elected to take the 250, being the most modified of my two bikes. After a quick polish on the Saturday, and resplendent in its new fork gaiters and mini Bates style headlight, it certainly looked the part. The little bike performed perfectly, managing to hold its head high amongst a sea of much larger, more eye catching and certainly more noisy machinery. There must have been about sixty of us in total.


It would be impossible to estimate the number of photographs taken on the day by various attendees suffice to say that various albums are now posted on various sites. Anyone interested can find them at the excellent page for The Bike Shed here http://www.facebook.com/BikeShedMotorcycleClub  and at other various locations like the Sideburn Blog here: http://sideburnmag.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/distinguished-gentlemans-ride-photos.html .


It was an excellent day and a huge thanks must go to Adam and the guys at the Bike Shed MCC for putting in the effort to organise a brilliant event. Great people on lots of great bikes. Roll on the next one, it can only get bigger.


Every once in a while.

Today I was going to post about the next phase of metal bashing for the 250 build but, I’ve changed my mind following a visit to the Ace Cafe yesterday. It was another sunny Sunday in a chain of bright spring weather we’re having here in London, and a short spin up the road was called for. As it happened it was Italian Bike Day at the Ace and I decided to drop in on my way to nowhere in particular and back. I’m glad I did as there is almost always something to be seen up at the cafe that stirs the soul.

I’ve always tried to avoid the temptation, and will continue to resist it, to turn the blog into an endless catalogue of images of stuff that interests me without much comment. There are plenty of those around already for our delectation. But yesterday I was prompted to think that on occasion, when I come across something on my travels that catches my eye I’ll reach for the camera and share it with my readers. So here’s the first one.

First things first, this is a Moto Guzzi that belongs to a sculptor called Ed who lives in south London. Ed put the bike together himself over a number of years and in my mind you can assuredly say that it was built for a purpose by a man with a vision. I love it. It’s a fantastic combination of old and not so old, all wrapped in a patina that one can virtually smell.

It was initially parked quietly on the edge of the “display area”, not attracting much attention unlike the collection of shiny and immaculately turned out exotica that invariably fill the car park on a day like Sunday. It was only when he wheeled it out to centre stage that peoples attention was alerted and a small group of admirers gathered to fire questions at its happy owner. I wandered over, liked what I saw and reached for the camera. For some reason only known to my subconscious it wasn’t important to know the size of the engine, it was big, nuff said, or where all the various parts had come from. It was just a great bike to look at, a true “bitsa” in the best interpretation of the word and displayed an unashamedly honest approach to its engineering and finish. There was nothing flashy about it but Ed’s sense of, and attention to, detail was a breath of fresh air after nearly an hour of shining Ducati specials armed with expensive aftermarket components, and concours standard Laverdas.

It seemed obvious that this Moto Guzzi was built to do the three main things in a bikes armoury well: go, stop, and carve round corners. As I said, I didn’t ask many questions but from the look of the front end, taken from a Ducati Monster perhaps(?), equipped with two huge discs and a pair of Billet 6 callipers it was a serious tool. The front wheel was capped in a wonderfully curvaceous carbon fibre mudguard, it was virtually the only shiny bit on view, though you could still admire the carbon weave below the lacquered surface. Its high tech origins a fine counterpoint to the headlight mounts fashioned from aluminium angle and the double seat which seemed perched atop the frame rails. The whole bike is covered in lovely touches. From the repeated pattern of cut outs on the cylinder head protectors and the battery support plate under the seat, to the small adjustable tie bars that secure the carb tops to the rocker box covers. I can only assume these are to stop the carbs rattling themselves to death. From the modern radial master cylinders for clutch and front brake to the discrete little oil pressure gauge atop the left clip-on by the tachometer. I liked the fact that the fluid reservoirs didn’t match and that the rear tyre didn’t need to be the size of Sussex to look utterly purposeful.

Time and again my eye returned to the frame. I don’t know the history of it but the colour is what I remember most, a lovely kind of duck egg green. Such an unusual colour and it had something aeronautical about it. It reminded me of trips to the RAF museum at Hendon in north London where peering into open undercarriage and bomb bay doors one gets a eyeful of the inner structure of some of the planes, their very skeletons, and they are invariably covered in a coat of greenish paint. So in a way very apt for a big bike frame.

The whole bike though was dominated by the engine and the enormous polished fuel tank. One doesn’t appreciate how big a big Guzzi engine is until you’re up close and personal like this. It’s a fantastic thing, a true statement of engineering purpose and when equipped with two huge carbs and a pair of the most extreme bell-mouths I’ve ever clapped eyes on, one that intends to make the very earth shake.

I could go on. Needless to say I had to go before hearing the beast fire up but, I’m sure this won’t be the last time I see this bike. I’ll be looking out and listening out for it. It was great to meet Ed and learn a little about his fabulous motorcycle, a true testament to the values of creativity and individualism that many of us admire. He says he’s thinking of another project and if it turns out anything like this one it’ll be a cracker. Good luck with that Ed.