At the 2014 gathering of the One Show, on the second floor of a Portland warehouse packed to the rafters with the nation’s finest custom motorcycles, one bike clearly stood out: a bike known as “The Imposter.” A BMW R NineT project built by controversial Galician collective, El Solitario Motorcycle Club. Attendees were giving it a wide berth; everything about it was different. It was raw, visceral and mechanical; it defied convention and classification. For some onlookers, it defied logic. Some said it looked like a rusting shopping cart. Others called it “the world’s most hated motorcycle.” It defied convention and broke every rule.
In the three years since the Imposter was unleashed at the One Show, David Borras and his crew at El Solitario MC have continued to keep the custom industry on its toes. Their builds are the farthest thing from cookie-cutter. They aren’t looking to cash in on trends and they don’t care if they set any: El Solitario is the true ethos of custom, embodied.
Their latest project is their most ambitious yet. It involved transforming a trio of 600-pound Harley-Davidsons into highly capable desert sleds meant to best 2,500 miles of the Sahara Desert. We chatted with Borras to get his thoughts on the industry and to see what boundaries El Solitario might be pushing next.
Q: What are your thoughts on the custom motorcycle world right now?
It bores me to death. But I might know too much and I’m getting grumpy with age — I just wanna ride.
Q: Are there other builders you look to for inspiration or admire?
I love what comes out of Michael Woolie’s workshop at Deus Venice
. Jeff Wright
kicks me in the nuts every now and then, when he finishes a bike. Maxwell Hazan
is also very impressive and intriguing.
Q: What inspires your creations?
Attitude and life itself.
Q: Form or function, which is more important, in your eyes?
One cannot exist without the other and we understand that science and progress are the real drivers of humanity but there are already too many bright brains enrolled in those activities. [El Solirario] is more interested in the exaltation of radness.
Q: Is there such a thing as perfect balance between the two?
A knife or an ax are the perfect examples of this principle. As Shinya Kimura
said to me many years ago, bikes do resemble such primitive artifacts, as it takes just a motor and two wheels to propel a human at high speeds.
Q: The Harley-Davidson Sportsters from the Desert Wolves project are almost universally loved. Are you still making the World’s Most Hated Motorcycles?
I hate tags and avoid them fiercely, but when Paul D’Orleans coined the World’s Most Hated Motorcycles, it was so funny that we had to cash on it. In reality, I just try to make my dreams come true and will keep doing that while I manage to have fun.
Q: How do you feel about the industry’s use of terms like “scrambler,” “bobber” and “tracker?”
It’s disrespectful and cheesy, in my opinion, but that’s what happens when you let the untalented and the suits run an industry that should be run by innovation and passion.
Q: Is there an OEM that you think is doing it right?
A: Alta Motors
in California. I love everything they do and how they are approaching the motorcycle and its ethos.
Q: You’ve also established yourselves as designers of motorcycle gear. Why move into this world as well?
We were born that way. In 2010, we came out with our first motorcycle — the same year we presented our first in-house design, the Bonneville Coverall, a jewel made in denim that is still one of our best-selling classics today.
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