Monday, January 9, 2012

Royal Enfield bobber is the product of careful design

Royal Enfield bobber, "The Machismo" seems to flow from one line to another.
The beautiful Royal Enfield bobber in the photographs shown here has something special. I suspect the source of that something special may be the extra thought that went into making it.

Named "The Machismo," the motorcycle is the work of Russell Hamilton, an American associate professor of Art and Design at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.

"It has taken two seemingly long years to finally have this build come together as I envisioned. I spent many months researching custom and bobber bikes, the history of stripping down a bike, and the various styles both historically and contemporary," Russell writes in his blog about the project, My Royal Enfield Bobber.

The Machismo will eventually wear the Russell's "Hamilton" logo on the tank, paying tribute to his own unique heritage. Full details are on his blog, and in a YouTube video you can watch,  but here are his answers to questions I posed:

Is this your first customization of a motorcycle, or are there other "Hamiltons" out there?
Yes, this is the first bike I have designed. I am now going to do the same to my 2009 Bonnie, so there should be a second "Hamilton" soon. I plan to do more of the customizing work myself this time around. I would have done more this time, but I did not have access to a full shop. It took me several months to find the right person to work with me on this project. I finally landed at Motorcycle City in Dubai where I met Edward. I shared many images and designs with Edward, and we talked through different aspects to the build. It is different working on design with someone else, as it creates new ideas and ways of seeing (something I am actually used to in a teaching environment). We didn't always agree on the same direction, but that is what made it interesting. I will say that he took some creative liberties that turned out very nice!

"The Machismo:" Is it from the past?
Is "The Machismo" your name for the machine, or do you mean to indicate that the starting point for the motorcycle was a Royal Enfield Machismo?
Yes, I thought to pay homage to the original name, especially since they stopped production of the Machismo in 2009.

Can you tell me the source of the springer front end? I take it you were pleased with its quality of manufacture?
I sourced the springer front end from a vintage manufacturer in India, and yes the quality is good.

A custom Royal Enfield that retains the outstanding Royal Enfield tank.
It looks as though you managed to preserve the hand-painted pinstripes applied by the factory, as you hoped. That must have been very tricky. Nice touch painting the helmet to match!
Thank you. Yes, I have a great source for painting at Solar Power Automotive here in Abu Dhabi. I had to sit with them and describe exactly what I wanted, and they listen and do well. As I mentioned in the blog, I had seen a video of how they hand paint the tanks and it is truly amazing! So I thought I had to leave some of that "skill" in place on the custom bike. I thought it would be nice to have a matching helmet paint job. Glad you like it.

How does a project of this sort relate to what you teach as a professor of Art and Design? Would your students be surprised to learn that you had built a bobber motorcycle?
Well as a visual artist /sculptor and designer, it relates quite strongly. I tend to have a visual aesthetic about everything around me, and I love to work with my hands and actually make "stuff," so it naturally works its way into my passion for motorcycles. Perhaps one day I will open up a small customizing shop, and work on a series of bikes from design to completion. My students know I am an avid biker and that I enjoy riding and now designing bikes. I plan to be teaching an intermediate level design course co-taught with one of my colleagues who is an interior designer/architect next year; students will design and build a motorized vehicle from the ground up (not including the engine, which we will purchase), work in teams and then race each other for charity.

Small lights in headlight look as though they belong there.
It is a lovely machine and very tasteful. I particularly like the headlight (with its added lights for turn signals and neutral!), the bronze ring around the headlight and your customized saddlebag. Is the round container under the seat a toolbox? 
The headlight is a vintage Lucas headlamp. I could not find a speedo I liked that had the lamps placed in them, so opted for a simple speedo without lamps. It was a late design idea to add the lamps to the headlight, one of Edward's ideas! I got the chrome ring separately as well as the chrome ring for the speedo. The "fake" oil tank houses the battery and some of the wiring.  The rest of the wires pass through the piping and under the tank.

Have you decided what to do about the logo yet?
Yes, I have a new logo that I designed, and should have it on the bike shortly. I have a very mixed background to my heritage. My great grandfather was from the Pequot tribe of the northeastern U.S., so that is where I got the idea of the arrows; it is also something that has been running as a theme in some of my recent artworks. So, it made sense to use it in the logo design of my first bike.  

The Hamilton; a unique logo.
UPDATE: The logo in place.
Well, I am forced to ask you about the Pequot heritage!
My family has a diverse background, from Dutch and African to American Indian (Native American). My strongest connection seems to be with the Native American background; seems to be a big part of my sensibility and interest. My family is from Connecticut, and that is where my Pequot background comes from. My grandmother always talked about this, and did an extensive family tree showing the history of our family.

I am an American citizen living and teaching in the UAE. I am originally from the east coast, but grew up in Minneapolis, Minn., and went to school in Seattle, Wash. I also taught as a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit, and lived and worked in New York City. My father, being an academic and university professor, had sabbatical leaves, which afforded me the opportunity to live (not just visit) in Brazil, Europe, and extensively throughout Southern Africa.  So, I have always been traveling and living in various parts of the world; in a way it seems natural to me.

As you may know, the UAE has a very large population from India, so the Royal Enfield was introduced to me through a local dealer who is from India. I was looking for an alternative to some of the more common bikes here. I had owned several Harley Davidsons and had just sold them to get a Triumph Bonneville. So, once I saw the Royal Enfield, I was taken with it — such a beautiful machine. I rode it for one year, even bought a Cozy sidecar for my kids to ride with me. Yet, I wanted something more to do with it; my creative instincts took over and it made sense to customize it, at first simply by changing the rear fender, stays, tail light and turn signals, even handmade leather grips and foot covers. Yet I needed to do more, so thus the chopping and bobbing came around.

In fact, I love to ride, but I love to work on the bikes even more! I stopped by at the Harley Davidson shop in Abu Dhabi and ran into a some of guys I used to know when I owned my HD's.  We talked about The Machismo and the build, and they mostly seemed to like the bike. When I rode off from the shop I thought to myself; I can not ride as fast as them, nor can I expect the same handling, but I know my smile when I am riding is much bigger than theirs!

From a land far away? From a time long ago? From the imagination.


  1. Matt Law1/09/2012

    Beautiful...I have a girder/springer front end much like this,and was considering putting it on my '99's good to see that it works,and looks great,too...and the headlight design,with ammeter,switch,and indicators,totally eliminates the need for a dash/instrument panel...brilliant! I'll be keeping the swingarm,though...maybe just extend it,the chain,and my age,I just can't ride a hardtail anymore!Great work,and thanks for the ideas!

  2. Horrid.

    Is it supposed to be one of those hill climb bikes?

    Are there no bends in the States at all?

    A vintage front end - with a disc brake! lol

    And the colour? Is that phlegm?

    To my eye it's a good bike ruined, but it's not mine. If the owner loves it then great, and hats off to him for doing it. I'm sure he's bigger enough to take no notice of me!

  3. russell hamilton1/10/2012

    Matt, you are welcome. Thanks for the kind and positive feedback on the bike. At 49 yrs old, I have sympathy with you regarding the hardtail... I can only take the bike out once a week! I look forward to seeing what you do with your bike. Please keep us posted.
    Ride safe.

  4. russell hamilton1/10/2012

    lol - phlegm?
    1. To each their own
    2. Yeah, something like a hill climbing bike without the feature of a swing arm/rear suspension.
    3. I do not live in the states.
    4. Thought about a drum, but used original.
    5. No, Olive Green, but you are correct that one color of phlegm is greenish, usually signifying an infection.

    People have the right to voice their opinions. Yet, I will say it is hard not to take notice of such comments, especially when one is excited about sharing something they find meaningful, but that is the nature of people today; the need to state something that has no real benefit and is probably better left not stated. No worries here as I am not offended, especially after I read your statement;
    "bigger enough". lol

  5. Anonymous1/24/2012

    Wonderful work .. I recently got my classic chrome .. Hope I had enough skills and craftmanship to create such piece of my own .. I would love to add some triumph rocket 3 looks .. Hope some day you will visit Hyderabad to help me ;)


  6. Chandler1/27/2016

    Honestly this is the best looking motorcycle I've ever seen. It was after seeing a picture of your bike on Instagram a year that made me want to build a bobber of my own. I'm glad I finally found the actual owner to give my props. Great job!!


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