As you’re probably already aware of, we love cafe racers, very much. So when we come across talented builders creating innovative products for their clients, we’re always down for some Q&A time. The latest builder we had a chance to chat with was Arjan van den Boom, founder of Ironwood Custom Motorcycles. We’ve been following his work for some time now and were thrilled to pick his brain a little bit. Make sure to keep in touch with Arjan & IWC Motorcycles on their site and Instagram, links soon to follow, and enjoy some shop talk down below.
The story goes you’ve been turning wrenches since the age of fifteen. What first peaked your interest in modifying bikes and does your passion for tinkering stop there or does it carry over to cars and/or other hobbies?
I was always interested and fascinated by demounting stuff and putting it back together and if possible to improve or update it. From simple things to more challenging and…When I was younger this started with mopeds and later cars followed by motorcycles.
Many of your projects are commission-based so presumably there’s somewhat of a framework and inspiration to every build that is partly or largely a vision of the customer. How do you and the team manage producing the product the customer wants while retaining creative freedom over the build and really delivering a one-of-a-kind product?
We just don’t make moldings or parts to sell in order to keep each bike one-ff. Again, some are lower budget projects with less creativity or possibilities to knock it out of the park. It triggers us on any bike to work like this.
What’s your favorite part of the build process?
Making a design! Visualizing the outcome, think different and reinforce new technical solutions.
Of all the builds you’ve completed so far, which is your favorite? Either personally or through Ironwood? Why?
That must be my BMW R80 named ’’The Mutant’’, my personal masterpiece. After ’’The Renegade’’ my best and radical bike so far. Now working on their successor, ’’The Savage’’ which will drop in 3 weeks. This will probably exceed both as this will be a hell of a clean and sophisticated piece of art.
What’s your favorite bike straight from the factory?
The all new Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, it was at Eicma Milan last week and fell in love…
What’s one motorcycle you’re craving to work on that you haven’t yet had a chance to build?
A new BMW RnineT.
Stepping out of the shop for a second, what’s your favorite place to go for a ride? Do you go alone or with company?
Amsterdam is for me the place to be, love to conquer & discover this magnificent city repeatedly. Drive through some small surrounding cities first and end in the city for beer or coffee with a squad of friends.
You’ve got a new project that you’ve been commissioned for, what’s the creative thought process like. Where do you begin and what are some of the questions that immediately come to mind as you conceptualize the new build.
Either the customers know exactly what they want or I get carte blanch to tailor the bikes according to my own knowledge and expertise. Always trying to the find the right balance between drivability and looks. For me expression, singularity and appeal comes first!
What are some of the frustrating yet oftentimes unavoidable road-blocks that you run into frequently during a build?
Wiring, it’s like spaghetti… Each bike needs it of course, creating another head turner is much more easy without the electric parts haha. Especially the wiring harness and components, they always kill the look of the bikes and are my weakest link.
Talk to us about the color schemes and material choices on your builds. We haven’t yet seen a bike of yours that we didn’t think was on the money in a lot of ways, but specifically so in the choice of seat fabrics, metals, and materials all complementing each other nicely. What’s the thought process like when selecting colors and materials?
I like to use special automotive colors like Audi Nardo Grey, Mini Melting Silver, BMW Marrakesh Brown, Porsche Hell Grun or Lamborghini Aventador Grey…. And mix this with handpicked leather or Alcantara. Combined with new styles of stitching or set up it should be one of a kind on every bike. On each bike it’s about finding the best combination when it comes to matching the colors with the actual upholstery. Some need plain looks while others are more vintage or radical.
What are some of the design principles that in some way or another always find their way to every single one of your builds?
ABCD: Aggressive, Bold, Clean, Dazzling!
Ironwood: Redefine – Reimagine – Renew – Reinvent – Reshape
Customer aside, is the inspiration for every build the same in your mind or does it differ from project to project?
Each project has already been envisioned and built in my mind before turning loose a single bolt. Developing the raw creation into the flesh is gold for me. We do try to make each ride unique, some are basic and others outrageous. It also depends a little on the budgets involved.
Is there any bike or build, not any of your own, that left you jaw-dropped and was influential in how you build bikes now? What was so special about it?
I’m a big fan of Maxwell Hazan, ER Motorcycles, Hookie Co., Rough Crafts, Auto Fabrica, Clutch Motorcycles and Diamond Atelier. I or we do our own thing. I think this is key and separates us from the rest. Each ride that leaves the shop should speak for itself, even without an Ironwood badge. All what’s out their (online) by others influence me in making my next one-of-a-kind motorcycle. The bike which blew me away in former times is perhaps the CB750 from Hookie Co. for Nico Mueller. Its low and mean, clean and aggressive. Vintage mixed with new style!