POV

The Zen of Motorcycle Making

Like out of a magic hat, comes a beautiful, quirky machine.

Story, photos and video by Icarus Blake - icarus @citizenbrooklyn.com
Photo ©Icarus Blake

©Icarus Blake Walt Siegl Motobe

Walt Siegl was born in Vorau, a tiny Austrian village near Graz. He’s tall, skinny, and has the looks of an extreme climber. He walks a bit stiff because of one motorcycle accident too many. He built his first motorcycle at fourteen, assembling pieces from three different machines, the fastest in the village.

Photo ©Icarus Blake

©Icarus Blake Walt Siegl Motobe

Since then, first as a hobby, and now as a full time job, he has created over fifty unique motorcycles. They are eclectic mechanical puzzles of original parts, recycled ones, and others he makes himself in his workshop in New Hampshire. Like out of a magic hat, comes a beautiful, quirky machine.

Photo ©Icarus Blake

©Icarus Blake Walt Siegl Motobe

We meet in Williamsburg, the land of scooter driving hipsters. He is sitting on a cement block along the river and does not look happy. I just asked him to take one of his creations for a spin: the Walt Siegl Riviera, the first of three bikes he has sold to Tyler Hays, a well-known furniture designer, who has already re-sold one to Brad Pitt. So what? Gimme the damn keys, I’m not going to spoil your sixty thousand dollar motorcycle, kind of expensive for a Harley Special with a rear light recycled from a scooter.

Photo ©Icarus Blake

©Icarus Blake Walt Siegl Motobe

So Lady Riviera and I set out for a nice ride along the river. The bike feels very small and agile, sort of a miracle when you think how cumbersome the 1980’s Harley FLH Block is. Handle bar and commands are mostly hand built. It all feels incredibly precise and competent.

Photo ©Icarus Blake

©Icarus Blake Walt Siegl Motobe

I ride for a few blocks. This motorcycle has a loud, raucous voice. Hipsters raise their MacBooks over their heads at my passage to shield themselves from the noise. Then I see the sign for the BQE. Why not? Walt is waiting back at the river, but a spin is a spin. So here I am, dancing smoothly between lanes, east bound without a worry in my mind. Soon I enter that magic zone where your thoughts flow freely and you could ride forever. I look inside people’s cars and I try to imagine what their lives are about as I pass them. Most are talking on the phone or singing to themselves. They, also, are in their own zone, but a dangerous one if you ask me. They often drift into my lane, distracted from driving, but the Riviera gets me out of trouble with a slight twist of the wrist.

Photo ©Icarus Blake

This bike is a ‘she’ machine. There is so much human work into it, so much passion. It’s like going for a stroll with your beloved girlfriend, and I keep on riding. I understand why “Easy Rider” was such a hit. It portrayed the freedom of motorcycling in this vast country at its best. It’s all about the perfect cruising speed: the ideal combination of windblast, engine noise, and easy control. Not many rides can achieve that. Maybe it’s about the legendary Harley engines, something about the way they propel you forward. It’s not about speed, it’s about the regal soul. See? I can think all this and safely glide through without losing focus on my riding. It’s as if the bike knows what we are doing and takes over a bit of the driving.

Photo ©Icarus Blake

Blue lights are flashing in my tiny mirrors. Shit. I pull over and shut the engine.Suddenly the reality of the LIE jumps back at me:noise, dirt, traffic. The cop is young and buff, his bulletproof vest pulls on the buttons of his shirt. No, I don’t have any papers, only my driver’s license. I explain. He is not interested; he keeps walking around the bike looking down at the different parts. “Mmm, test-drive you said? OK, this is some motorcycle. Who’s the builder?” We go into an animated discussion about the different mechanical bits and other boring technical stuff. In the end, he lets me go. He just wanted to know about the bike. The party is spoiled and my secret dream to ride all the way to Montauk is broken. I head back and face the ire of Walt Siegl. His, is a world of precision, and my stunt is not appreciated. I stand there, looking at the Empire State building in the distance, being scolded like a school kid. I can’t wipe the smile off my face. And that, pisses him off even more. I’m thinking if I will ever be rich enough to afford a motorcycle like the Riviera. To achieve riding Nirvana, that is.

Photo ©Icarus Blake

©Icarus Blake Walt Siegl Special

Photo ©Icarus Blake

©Icarus Blake – Walt Siegl Riviera Special

Photo ©Icarus Blake

©Icarus Blake – Walt Siegl Riviera Special

Photo ©Icarus Blake

©Icarus Blake – Walt Siegl Riviera Special

Photo ©Icarus Blake

©Icarus Blake – Walt Siegl Riviera Special

Walt can be contacted through his website: www.waltsiegl.com
Following are the Tech Specs of the 2 bikes featured in this article. The Riviera is the one with a blue tank.
Walter Siegl Riviera Specs
Model: 1980 HD FLH
Engine 1980 cases, balanced and shaved flywheels, high compression pistons, dual plugged 1973 HD cylinder heads are ported and flowed.
Cylinders made by Sputh
Transmission 1978 4 speed box with high performance gears
Frame 1980 HD/Walt Siegl Fork, connecting rods Corillo,
1984 HD/Walt Siegl, Progressive suspension.
Sheet metal front fender vintage Ducati.
Rear fender and tank by Walt Siegl
Paint French Blue – Nate Weiner
Tail light Walt Siegl, (moped housing and lens)
Headlight from a 1945 HD/Walt Siegl housing and lens.
Wheels 18 Vintage stainless Dunlop rims, HD hubs, Firestone tires vintage thread.
Brakes front HD, rear brembo, nissin/mv agusta front master, nissin rear master.
Weight 210 kgs
5-5/8th bore

Walt Siegl Motobe
1980 Harley Sportster
Engine rebuild by Andrew Rosa
Body work by Walt Siegl
Chassis by Walt Siegl
Fork by Showa, shortened with Progressive springs
Indian Head shocks with Progressive springs.
Exhaust by Walt Siegl
Paint by Nate Weiner

Photo ©Icarus Blake

Photo ©Icarus Blake

Comments are closed.