WHEN BEER MEETS BIKES

Budvar and BOLT motorcycles are teaming up to create a custom ‘Budvar Bike’. We hear from BOLT’s Andrew Almond

What was the idea behind BOLT?
Motorcycling is an ever-evolving culture and I wanted to create a new type of store that resonated with the current scene of motorcyclists emerging in London. At the time there was a new wave of custom culture taking shape using relatively affordable vintage motorcycles and along with it came new types of riders. What appealed to me was the accessibility and creativity it inspired. The scene grew globally and at that time there was not a place for it in London. Traditional motorcycle stores held little interest for me; they essentially stocked practical garments that lacked the style and quality. I wanted to curate a store that brought together items that reflect the styles of clothing I wanted to wear, proper leather jackets, vintage inspired helmets and independent motorcycle owned brands. There was also a need for a social space as riding bikes is as much about hanging out with friends and building communities. I wanted to create a space the progressed the scene, to host events and exhibitions and champion the scene as well as the rich cultural heritage that preceded it.

Were you a Budvar drinker before the project came about?
Yes. My favourite has long been the Budvar Dark, which balances the strong flavour typically associated with stouts with the freshness and lightness of lager.

Why did you choose the Jawa bike?
There was really only one option for the Budvar Bike, it had to be a JAWA, a classic Czech design. Originating from Prague and starting production in 1929 they grew to exert a huge influence in the motorcycle world. By the 50s they were exporting to over 120 countries and new overseas factory were introduced in India. With typically small capacity engines, they reflected the economies of their time providing an affordable means of transport. They really stood out in racing though, coming into their own in Motorcross and Speedway.

What are your plans?
I really want to showcase the range of crafts that are at the heart of everything we do at BOLT. It is a great opportunity to utilise our network of collaborators for each aspect of the build, from a hand-fabricated frame to hand-painted design and hand-tooled leather seat. I’m not sure if I have ever seen a JAWA exhibited in a custom motorcycle show, so I really want to build something that changes people’s perceptions. It’s the ugly duckling story! The JAWA we have is a very utilitarian design but there is real beauty hidden within elements of its design, we want to showcase these aspects and create something truly original and stunning.

We’re really only keeping the engine (which will be overhauled) and the wheels. The frame will be chopped and remade to a hard-tail design – this means removing the rear suspension in favour of a rigid rear-end. Being 6′ 4 we need to adapt the frame to fit my proportions, stretching it out while being careful not to dwarf the engine which is just 250cc. We will custom make a tank, fenders and seat pan to fit, using vintage parts and following the styles of the 1930s JAWAs. The overall design however will be very contemporary, referencing the past but looking to the future.

What are the main challenges with the build?
Time is the challenge as this involves managing many different people working on different parts and ensuring it is all brought together on deadline. The other main challenge is building a bike that is both a show bike but which will handle a 1000-mile road trip, this is especially the case considering the small capacity two-stroke engine. Anyone with experiences of JAWAs will tell you they are best ridden with a tool roll in hand, so it will really be a test of our skills to make this bike fit for the journey.

Who are you using for the specialist fabrication and sign writing?
We work with some of the best crafts people in their fields and this bike will really be a joint effort involving many of the BOLT Family. This is the fun part for me, involving lots of friends in one project, bringing together different elements in a distinct vision. Jake Robbins who traditionally fabricates impossible to find parts for early motorcycles will be handling the fabrication work. I always like to give Jake projects that differ from his day-to-day work; he is real creative at heart and has a great balance of form and function. We work with Jake Collier for our leather work and he manages the costumes for major films, making everything from hand-carved centurion breast pieces to the latest Marvel character costumes. Dapper Signs is a traditional sign writer with a distinct style who will hand-paint the bike.

You visited South Bohemia and the Budvar Brewer recently for some inspiration of the build. What did you take from the trip?
It was great to get a sense of the area and the brewery. We took a chairlift up in the snow to the top of a mountain overlooking a medieval town. The landscape there is beautiful; the castles and architecture give South Bohemia this amazing timeless feel. Visiting the brewery was really enlightening too – far from the big commercial operation that you might expect. It felt more like a family business. I was surprised to find the things used to brew the beer, like the huge copper brew kettles, were actually incredibly beautiful. All these things come from an approach to brewing that hasn’t wavered over the centuries, a belief in staying true to principles and techniques and in doing what it takes to create a beer of the best quality. I often feel that I put business interests aside in order to do things that I am truly passionate about, and it was inspiring to see that ethos at work in a large brewery too.

And what about the beer? How was drinking Budvar straight from the tank in the cellars in Budweis?
The experience of tasting the beer from the tank was a real surprise. I genuinely did not conceive that beer could taste that good. While the flavours came alive, it was the freshness that really amazed me. It was like drinking spring water! You could literally throw a pint down in one. During what I am sure will be a gruelling journey, the idea of the running down to that cellar for a celebratory pint will be a big inspiration.

Finally, you’re riding the finished Budvar bike through Europe to the Budvar Brewery in the Czech Republic. Where are you going and what are the challenges going to be?
We’re planning a route that avoids any major roads or motorways as the bike will not be able to cope with the high speeds. This is the exciting part: the road less travelled. I’m looking forward to passing through the towns and countryside as we ride our way across the different countries. Motorcycling for me is very much about friendships and I plan to stop off and show off the bike as we go. We will drop into fellow motorcycle stores Hermanus in Bruges and Rusty Gold in Amsterdam and hopefully pick up a few riders who will join us too. The main challenge will be not to blow the engine, running at high speeds for long times can be fatal for two strokes which prefer a more varied tempo. I expect the journey to be a real challenging but that is the adventure! It will not be easy, by any means, but the harder it is the better the first beer will taste once we arrive!