Culture Stories

Shige Suganuma- 1970s Kalifornia Dreamin’ and MOONEYES

Story: Mike McCabe

Images: Shige Suganuma

California culture has always been associated with the impulse to move. The possibility to move faster got complicated during the 1960s around cars and motorcycles in youth dominated Golden State moto culture and permanently changed the world. Key creative personalities Dean Moon, Kenneth Howard (Von Dutch), the Barris brothers, Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth and others merged krazy fabrication ideas with “Hey Daddy-o” hipster lingo to create a new Hell on Wheels, Kustom Kulture individual.

Ed Roth’s Rat Fink image became a weirdo alter-ego mascot for a generation in need to reinvent itself. Roth said, “Whenever I looked at that drawing (Rat Fink), I felt I was looking, for the first time at reality, my reality. The world that my parents, teachers, and responsible type people all around me belonged to wasn’t my world. Why did I have to be like them, live like them? I didn’t. And Rat Fink helped me realize that.

Today in Japan, Shige Suganuma and his Yokohama based MOONEYES has dropped nostalgia, style, velocity and sense of self into Kustom Kulture overdrive, but his story stretches back to 1977 California. At twenty-one years old with little English language ability, Shige boarded a flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles for a three week trip in search of parts for his 1960 T Bird. He traveled LA free-ways and was completely overwhelmed (kid in a candy shop) by the scale, historical depth and diversity of California moto-culture. He was literally surrounded with the shiny, iconic, preserved cars, vans and bikes of his dreams. Dizzy from the intensity of the situation, Shige pulled over more than once to catch his breath. His camera documented everything: he thought without the photos, friends back in Japan wouldn’t believe a word of it.

Shige somehow found his way to a drag strip where he witnessed the drama of high octane fuel elimination racing for the first time and met an enthusiast also from Japan, Chico Kodama (who would later become president of MOONEYES USA). Shige returned to California in 1978 as an exchange student until 1981

History writes itself sometimes── a young, motivated Shige followed his gut into Dean Moon’s shop in Santa Fe Springs and became an inquisitive regular visitor. Shige learned Moon was a legend in SoCal drag racing culture and had designed a twin carb fuel block system of increased fuel delivery and horsepower. Moon’s marketing flair combined innovative ideas with a sense of the showman to sell his products. His funky barefoot shaped MOON gas pedal and small 3.5-gallon MOON dragster gas tank (A front mounted system using natural rear-forced gravity to literally push the fuel into the twin carbs), MOON Disc wheel covers (to reduce wind drag and shave off time) quickly became must-have hot rod accessories and sold in the thousands. Shige also learned the double eye MQQN logo started at a local drag race during the late 1950s: Dean’s car was numbered 00 but as a joke, somebody painted in eyes and the MOON EYES logo had been born.

During the Korean War, Moon was in the Air Force photography unit and he was skilled with a camera. The walls of Dean’s Santa Fe Springs MOON Equipment shop were covered with his framed black and white photos of cars at local drag strips but also on the dry alkali lake bed at El Mirage and on the salt at Bonneville. El Mirage was only one-hundred miles from LA in the western Mojave and a favorite destination for illegal street racers who congregated there instead of being arrested on LA streets. Speed trial culture at Bonneville had long been legendary since the 1930s. These photos became a pictorial history lesson for Shige about how Dean’s ingenuity, speed products and personal sense of flair influenced the early days of California hot rod culture with mythological status. Dean took the enthusiastic Shige under his wing and guided him through the horsepower learning curve. Soon after, Shige became a fixture at the shop and good friends with both Dean and his wife Shirley.

Dean Moon passed away at 60 in 1987 and Shige and Chico purchased the company in 1992. They split the company with Chico maintaining the original MOON Equipment shop in Santa Fe Springs, California and Shige developed MOONEYES in Yokohama, Japan. Shige sensed there was an opportunity to nurture interest about exotic California hot rod culture and the MOON brand. Mathematically, the physical force of horsepower could be reduced to the cold, simple equation: H= T x rpm/5252 (horsepower equals pound feet of torque multiplied by rpm and the constant 5252). Dean, and now Shige and Chico understood there was a deeper emotional preoccupation not explained by that equation.

“This growth of interest in Kustom Kulture has been an interesting thing to watch,” Shige said. “Japan is an interesting place in terms of how it processes cultural information from the outside world. In Japan, there has been this unique relationship with America among many young people. The myth of space and freedom and driving that is seen as an act of transformation has always fascinated me. Japan is a small place and the culture has strictness to it. Young people in Japan see America as this place that is big── big, powerful, cool looking cars; long highways that go across huge expanses of space like Route 66 through the desert. The whole thing is a dream to Japanese young people.”

Within a few years Shige developed a calendar of well attended hot rod, motorcycle and car accessory events and his annual Yokohama Hot Rod Custom Show (30 year anniversary 2021) served to educate and empower a curious Japan and world. The process has come full circle for Shige── international moto-subculture is intrigued by the same California mystique he explored and photographed as a kid during the 1970s. MOONEYES Yokohama now boasts of a deep collection of iconic cars and motorcycles that express the relationship between humans and their kustom life.

Welcome To Kulture Fest!

Ever have one of those visions, you know the ones you talk to your friends about for years and years?  Kinda like how your gonna save the world, or something they just know you will never get done?

Well first I would like to say thank you to the select few who have engaged in my rambles and visions like only good friends would do, I’m sure the torture at times was unbearable.  After at least two plus years in my head, I actually feel my vision will hit the pavement this summer!  The reason why I use the word “feel” is that I am one of those people who believe it’s not real till that fat lady sings, as they say.  But with that said, I welcome you to KULTURE FEST!

What is Kulture Fest you may ask?  To me it is several events rolled into one, or maybe two.  On Aug 20th this summer at Culture Lab LIC, which is a beyond cool not for profit art gallery located in Long Island City, New York we will have what I am calling the ultimate Chill Fest!  NYC being the melting pot of American, I have always felt how cool would it be to bring the 3 worlds I love the most under one not so crazy event and have a one-of-a-kind special day. And for those of you who do not know these worlds, they are motorcycles, art, and music.

So let me try and break it down.  First the main theme is motorcycles, motorcycles, and motorcycles.  This is the main vibe of the entire day.  Bikers, riders, or whatever you wish to call them come from all sectors of life.  They are the rich, the poor, the black, the white.  The bagger, the chopper, the sport bike, and now even the electric!  Regardless of who you are or what you ride you are welcomed!  And if you don’t ride even more of a reason to just check out the vibe on a nice summer day one block off the east river. 

three very cool competitions !!

baggers represent !!

The fist will take place sometime early afternoon, this will be the Bagger Showdown!  Two classes with only 15 spots in each class.  There will be a $1000 prize for each class (there is a registration fee for this competition).  The two class titles will be Best in Sound & Best in Show!  Now I have heard a lot of talk from this neck of the woods and the best I can say is that talk is cheap!  Can’t be number one unless you beat number one is what I have been told!  So, if you think you have what it takes, I say step into the snake pit!  And just for the record judges will have no attachment to anyone in the competition and will be announced as the date gets closer.

the invited!

I am hand picking some of the best builders I know personally who have only mad respect from their peers.  This competition will be also judged by three selected judges to keep it clean and fun.  Prize… $4k and I don’t mean a TV!  As the weeks go by, these builders will get an invite in the mail which they will have to accept and post on Instagram!  They are not being asked to build something new, just bring your best! So far, I think invites will go as far as Maine, Michigan, the Boston area, and of course New York will be well represented.  Should be interesting.

the open!

Now the final competition will be what we will call: THE OPEN!  Best chopper, best modified, best FXR, and best in show!  This class will be judged by the invited builders. Prizes have yet to be determined so stay tuned.  Also let it be known all the competitions will have trophies.

 It’s the heart of the summer in NYC! Bring down your ride and just spend a very relaxing day among your peers and leave all the drama behind just for one day. 

Now we do have to keep you entertained beyond the bikes so stayed tuned as we drop other things that will be going on.  Of course, there will be great music and I have even heard that Screaming Rebel Angles will be taking the stage as one of our live bands!  We hope to pack the place with vendors galore!  If interested, please be sure to hit us up for a spot.  And to top it all off we hope to be raffling of some very cool stuff!  The best part about this is that all money raised from the raffles will be given back to gallery just because it’s the right thing to do!

Bikes, music, food, vendors, and raffles… sounds like a regular carnival to me!  And I am sure the gallery will be open to for viewing which will lead me into part two!  On Sept 3rd we will have an opening night of a 25-day motor art exhibit with bikes not only from a few legends but a timeline that should take us from the early 1900’s to modern day.  Accompanying this timeline will be the works of some special friends that will grace the walls and more. But we will get back to that story in the next release.

On a closing note, none of this would be possible if it was not for Culture Labs LIC and our Super Sponsors: Liberty Safe NYC & Dell&Dean Attorneys at Law, and Animal Rescue CBD!  They will all be present so be sure to show your support even if it’s just a tank you!

The site will soon have a new page with all the needed information on how you can get involved!  Until then stayed tuned and choose kind cause we all know we can kick ass!


MotoStuka.. Leather & Motorcycles… Perfect Together

Story: Robert Howe

Images: MotoStuka Nation

There are very few constants in life. Relationships die, jobs get lost, pets run away, etc.… But, if you’re lucky, you have something that you are so passionate about, that you can always count on it to ground you when the whole world seems to be a swirling shit show. For me, since I was 8 years old, it’s been motorcycles.  

The end starts a new beginning...

Rewind to late December 2011, while working as an industrial designer for a big U.S. consumer electronics company, a facility wide “meeting” was called. Our entire department sidled into the enormous conference room that, up to that point, was used for parties, news events, or whatever. It didn’t feel like a party that day. No, it felt a little like we were being led to a cliff. So that day, a few days before Christmas in 2011, this huge American company that espouses its dedication to its employees and “keeping jobs in America”, eliminated our entire development team. It was a fucking gut punch, and after HR dropped the bomb, a mob of 50 or 60 engineers, designers, admin and support staff ran back to their cubicles and started making the sad phone calls to friends and colleagues at other companies in the hopes that they had positions available. This was not the first lay off I had experienced in my 17 year career, and to tell you the truth, I was angry. I didn’t call my friends to grovel for a job, I didn’t get to work on updating my resume, no, I started MotoStuka. 

At that time, I had no clue how to start a “brand”. I had little or no skills needed run my own business. What I had was a passion for motorcycles, and the burning desire to never again give control of my life to the “suits upstairs”. Creating a moto-lifestyle brand, in theory, made perfect sense.  

                I built a studio in my backyard and got to work designing a line of soft good for the DIY bike-builder. I chose that segment of the bike industry, because I’m a member of that segment. My thinking was, “If I think something is cool, my customers will think it’s cool as well.” 

I had a severance package, and my wife had a good job, so the kids weren’t going to starve while I developed product designs, materials, graphics, finishes, etc. And I managed to have a product line designed in about 6 months. The line consisted of tank bags, travel bags, tool kits, shop wear, and of course, gloves.  

The gloves we produce, Shanks, have become the flagship product for MotoStuka. When I first started making them, I had no idea they would become the catalyst for huge positive changes in my life. Shanks are the reason I don’t have to wear khaki pants and dress shirts every day. It is because of these gloves that I have been able to feed my family, send two kids to college, meet amazing people, and travel all over the world! I think they’re cool, and fortunately, so do my customers.  

Today, we make most of our products in our studio/workspace outside of Austin, Texas. We wholesale them to moto-lifestyle shops around the globe. The vast majority of MotoStuka sales goes to Europe, we have retailers in Russia, and as far away as Australia. Thanks to the globalization of E-commerce, I am frequently shocked at where our products end up.  

In 2022, MotoStuka turns ten years old. I’ve been doing this longer than any other job I’ve ever had. I work almost every day, but I don’t feel consumed by my work. I mean, I’m obsessed with making the best possible products I can, but I don’t dread Monday mornings like I did when I was a cog in the machine. And I’ll NEVER lay myself off a couple of days before Christmas!  

I hope this doesn’t come across as boastful or arrogant. Rather, I hope that my story inspires someone to break out on their own, to plot their own course, and pursue a passion that keeps them up at night.  

It’s great if you have lots of experience and the skills needed to build a successful brand. But, after ten years, I can say the greatest assets you can possess are unrelenting determination and the ability to control fear. In the end, it’s not about making money, it’s about being proud of what you do, and being free to make choices.  

I honestly believe that there has never been a better time to create something all your own. Taking that first step is a little scary. And it will be the hardest work you’ll ever do, but that’s why it’s great!  

The Wild Life – A Golden Time in Brooklyn

Story: Michael McCabe 

Images: Michael McCabe &  Bobby Gary 

Before the shift to trendy upscale, motorcycles were a part of the wild DIY (Do it yourself) lifestyle mix on N.14 Street and Wythe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Brit bikes, Harley, German, Japanese: A bar-hopping, two wheeled blast around town, day to day similar to the Ton-Up days in London. Work all day at your studio doing creative stuff, then scream off to Ray’s Union Pool, Jessie’s Lady Day’s or Erik’s Matchless Bar to tip a couple pints with your lads. Life was good.

That alt-creative scene hit its sweet spot between 2007 and 2012 but then big developer money moved in, fucked everything up and imposed a ruthless zero sum game tipping point of rapid gentrification. Creative people who lived and worked on the cheap in big, rough, cold in the winter, unorthodox studio spaces were immediately priced out. The whole place went to shit with luxury condos and clueless interlopers who tried to suck up the last authenticity. Today in Williamsburg a middle-class luxury condo life demands a yearly salary north of 200K.

Bobby Gary had a studio at Works Engineering on North 14th where he painted fine art canvases and also utilitarian commercial signage for business owners. He surrounded himself with his art and his motorcycles

Bobby reflects about his bike and his Brooklyn DIY life… The history and culture of his machine.

“Motorcycles are an esthetic thing. I can be objective about it but there’s something about these old bikes- The castings, the chrome that they used; the engineering. They are beautiful. Old tools are the same way. A machine like this is the epitome of all that. I have had this bike since 1988. I started riding when I was in my early twenties. The first bike I had was a 1972 Sportster.

I built this bike. The frame is original and the motor is a 1966. I built it from a bunch of parts. In my mind I built this bike to look like what a Sportster is supposed to look like. It’s tough, it’s fast and it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful mean machine.

Old tools and old metal. The shape of it. For me this look comes from the era I grew up in. I was always fascinated with cars and motorcycles. My Dad had a 1961 MGA. I used to work on that with him. We did all the work on that together. The first car I had was a 1949 Plymouth. I bought it for seventy-five dollars. The compression was gone so it couldn’t go up hills. I pulled the motor out, got a manual and learned about that engine by wrenching on it. There’s something about a continuum in my life with old motors and old cars and motorcycles that just feels right. I came from a family that was gifted mechanically.

My Dad was a chemical engineer. A smart, talented dude. Ace mechanic and an amazing artist. He was a WWII fighter pilot. He raced British motorcycles when he was back from the War. My grandfather had a cabinet shop. I worked in it as a kid. I have always made a living doing things that I learned as a kid. So there is something that ties me to working on things like this motorcycle. A life-long love of it. Painters from the WPA period. The esthetic goes back and this motorcycle’s design is a part of that era. The shapes of it, the way it rides. I have lowered it about four inches by switching the rear shocks and rear tire size. That decision has to do with outlaw style bikes.

I was brought up in the south and all we ever rode was Harley Davidson’s. The chopper and bobber style bike. That whole esthetic was a part of my growing up. Strip it down to the bare essentials. Louder, ruder, meaner. There were some groups down south and in the old rust belt states that helped to form the outlaw styles. We would see these guys and their bikes. These guys had seen bikes from the west coast. The style traveled with the bikes. Today a lot of this has been reduced to a “look” but one of the things I like about this motorcycle is that it predates all the bullshit.

This motorcycle represents how I feel about the whole thing. It is nuanced and subconscious but when I made it I was really just thinking about building a bike that runs. Something that I could use to get out there on the New York streets that runs mechanically and safely and is in tip-top shape. Particularly if I was going to ride the hell out of it and that’s how I like to ride.

Riding in New York is an intense thing. I like the intensity of it. Jamming the bike, splitting lanes; it’s exciting. The adrenaline pumps. It gets hairy. So many close calls. It’s constant. I always have this thought of breaking down in the middle of the Holland Tunnel. Riding through that tunnel is actually pretty nice. It has this long curve and late at night or early Sunday mornings when there’s no traffic it’s quite nice. Or I’ll take the FDR to the Harlem River Drive and then down the west side. Make a big loop all the way around Manhattan. That’s a real good ride. I appreciate things like that and this Sportster helps me to appreciate things like that.

Recently I went on a night ride with Ray (Abeyta). We hit the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway) and Ray was gone. I was probably going sixty miles an hour. I could still see the potholes and I was dodging them, my eyes were tearing and all I could see was Ray’s tail light off in the distance way ahead of me.

The stance of this Sportster is important to me. I have rear shocks but they are tied down and have no travel. There is a reason why this works. When it is lower down in the back like this, the front end changes the angle and gets a perception of a little bit of rake. When I hit the throttle with this bike it squats down like it is getting ready to leap. I don’t know if you can articulate that but that’s what it looks like.

The look of early outlaw bikes looked like this and this was a statement. These guys were exploring how to make things look fast. They might not have been able to put it into words but this is why they were doing it. These guy’s bikes looked like they were going fast even when they were standing still. They looked like they are going to blast-off. Like when you look at an old photograph of a race car driving around a track. All the cars are always pitched forward. So these San Francisco outlaw stance bikes were exploring this same perception of velocity. They might not have been able to talk about it but that’s what they were doing. This had to do with blood knowledge and muscle memory. These guys were riders and they were building fast bikes. They knew what it felt like when they hit it. So they were building a bike to look like that. They had an internal knowledge about this and blood knowledge of what the machine should look like.

So then, were these guys in San Francisco thinking about what and how they were making their motorcycles? Maybe; but maybe not. They just made them like they wanted. I just made my bike like I wanted. But the stance and the look of these bikes had come from someplace. Nobody could even talk about it but their machines just affected people in deep ways. 

In terms of motorcycles, people will talk about east coast-west coast styles and I think a lot of the east coast style is in New York. Narrow bikes that you can cut through traffic with. But that style goes back to the California outlaws and their bikes. Frisco style tanks. The Sportster tank was the prototype for that style. There is no motorcycle tank that comes close to it. Two and a quarter gallons of gas. I can run for about an hour and then I need more gas.  You can change the tank a bit. Raise the cap and add a petcock so you get about a half-gallon more gas. Guys in San Francisco invented that style tank. That’s an esthetic I like.

I finished building this bike about five years ago. It took me more than four months to build it. My friend Billy Phelps the photographer was working on something for Harley. He called up Ray and me and asked us to meet him over on Front Street. He did a photo shoot set up of us and our old bikes and he sent it to Harley. So, Harley went for his idea and then he set up a big shoot for the advertisement. There was a tractor trailer full of new Harleys that he used in the shoot. The representative was there from Harley overseeing the shoot. My bike was parked there and the representative looked at it and said, “Ah, there’s that bike- Whose bike is this?” The rep said that he had showed a photo of my bike to the president of Harley and the president said, “This is what a Sportster should look like. This is it.” 

I am a southerner; I love to ride down south. That’s where I grew up riding. Country roads with smooth surfaces. It’s relaxing. I am very aware of my connection to a region. And from that I have an understanding of other regions in America- southwestern, Appalachian culture. As a kid I hitch-hiked all around the country. I am acutely aware how in America there are these great epic stories: Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick, John Steinbeck, and the Civil War. I am aware of this and I try to explore this narrative approach with my painting.

My painting style and how I like to paint has a lot to do with craft and a sense of tradition. My Sportster also has a lot to do with a sense of craft and tradition. I’ve been drawing and painting for a long time. I’ve been making pictures with people in them since I was nine years old. Now I see a lot of this kind of thing disappearing. I have done all these paintings of people and places in New York and it dawned on me sometime during the process that I was painting things that were going through a process of disappearing.

This space at Works Engineering where I had my studio was an important place. There were some creative people there. It was a golden time. A lot of the mood that surrounds motorcycles is going through a gentrifying process now. But the people at Works were just living their lives. That place was a stronghold for the people that worked there. There was work being done there that was really creative. It was not a part of the ham fisted ham-bone motorcycle sensibility that is out there.

A few years back I went down to South Carolina to take my motorcycle license test. I talked to the gal in the window and she asked what kind of bike I had. I told her a 1959 Harley Davidson. Everybody in the office got all excited. The motorcycle trooper lady who gives the test said she wanted to see my bike. She took a look and asked me to turn on my head light. I told her I had to kick the bike over to do that. “You don’t got a switch for the light?” she asked. “No Mam, all I got is a magneto,” I replied. “Where’s your turn signals? I don’t see none,” she asked. “I don’t have any.” I replied. “Well I don’t know about that.” she said. She asked next, “Where’s your speedometer?” I replied I didn’t have one. “Well I don’t know about that.” she replied.  She asked me to toot my horn. I told her I didn’t have a horn. She asked me how the heck I was expecting to pass this test? She said she was going to call her office and see how to handle this. She came back in 10 minutes with a big smile on her face and said, “My supervisor up in Columbia just told me that if you want to take the test on a 1959 Harley Davidson then you deserve to take the test even if you don’t have no horn, no speedometer or no turn signals.” “Thank you Mam,” I said. She passed me on my test and stamped my license. As she was giving me my license she looked at me real serious and said, “That’s one fast looking machine; I bet it runs fast as hell.” “Yes Mam,” I said.” 

The Nagoya Twist- Junichi Shimodaira’s Triumph Speed Twin- “Psicodelico”

Story: Michael McCabe 

Every aspect of building a motorcycle has gone global─ Junichi Shimodaira straddles two worlds at his Paradise Road kustom car and motorcycle shop in Seto, Aichi, Japan (Nagoya region). One foot sits in his area’s impressive kustom scene, the other in SoCal Cholo low-rider building culture. The mid-sized port city of Nagoya is Japan’s auto manufacturing hub; the vibe is working-class and down to earth compared to glitzy Tokyo and historic Kyoto── People in the Nagoya region are not afraid to get their hands dirty. During the early days of post-war globalization, Nagoya became the sister city to both Los Angeles, California and Mexico City, Mexico. Over the last thirty years, SoCal inspired Cholo style kustom car and motorcycle building has become the life-blood of the city’s moto-culture.

so it begins..

Many of Japan’s talented builders live and wrench in the Nagoya region and most would agree that Junichi Shimodaira and his “Low and Slow” Paradise Road shop, that he opened in 1987 has been one of the key inspirational players. The shop focuses on rebuilding and kustomizing less emphasized car and motorcycle models. Junichi founded the Pharaohs Car Club in Nagoya, borrowing the name from the cult film classic American Graffiti. It is now the oldest kustom car club in Japan.

During the late 1980s with “nada” English language ability, Junichi followed his gut and visited LA and iconic kustom builder Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Roth returned the favor in 2001 with a visit to Junichi’s Nagoya shop and blew the doors off the shop’s mild mannered but growing reputation.

Junichi’s kustomizing cred was firmly established after his 2002-3 RODriguez kustom rebuild of a 1930 Ford Model A Tudor sedan won best of show at Shige Suganuma’s MOONEYES 2003 Hot Rod and Custom Show. Five years later, Junichi dropped a 1959 Chevy 348 ci big block, triple carb V8 onto the rebuilt rails of a 1927 Ford Model T Roadster, added some over the top body stylizations and his Galaxian took best of show at the 2008 MOONEYES event. These cars pushed other builders in Japan and the kustom movement continued to take shape.

“In 1987 I quit my truck driving job and went to LA,” Junichi said. “When I came back I decided to open a shop. My first shop was small, I sold American antique car toys and smuggled car and motorcycle parts. The shop became a place for car and motorcycle guys to hang out. More people in Japan were becoming interested in Low Riders and motorcycles. 1987 was the first Mooneyes Tokyo Street Car Nationals show. It was good timing. Shige Suganuma at MOONEYES brought together a lot of car and bike guys for the first time in Japan.”

The combo of Junichi’s growing building rep and his SoCal sensibility started to influence people. His open door policy invited the curious into his shop and introduced them to what was for young Japanese a very mysterious, exotic and cool cross-cultural experience. At that time before the Internet, Japan was still an isolated and conservative culture. Young Japanese wondered about the outside world but had limited access. Within a few years, Paradise Road with its ‘crazy’ cars and motorcycles became a go-to destination.

Psicodelico !

“For many years I was deeply involved in the Nagoya Low Rider scene,” Junichi said. “Then 2004 I was looking around YAHOO and found a pre-unit Triumph 500 Speed Twin. The bike was very bad shape. Everything broken, nothing worked but it was a full original bike. I started a new project to create a new bike── Psicodelico. I stood the bike up under the lights in my workshop. For a long time I had saved a red plastic drinking cup that had cool shape. I was saving this cup to make a cool tail light. I held the cup over the rear fender… It was like an inspiration. To rebuild the bike so I can use the red plastic cup. Make a cool, perfect kustom tail light from this cup.

“I took the bike apart and broke it down,” Junichi said. “I had different sections of my workshop for every part of the bike. I had to keep everything organized. It was like a cool puzzle── engine here, transmission there, frame against the wall, no seat, front forks next to frame. Electric was 100% throw away.

“I opened up the engine cases,” Junichi continued. “Wow! What a mess! Everything was bad. The flywheel, the rods, the pistons, intakes… I took apart the transmission and it was dried out solid. I knew this was going to be a big project but a good project. Bring back this great motorcycle. It took me three months to clean up this bike and rebuild the major components.

“Paint was important,” Junichi said. “So I asked my friend at Freddy’s Custom Paint in Nagoya to do the paint. It is real Cholo style. Very flashy colors combined together and many different layers. Some brush, some spray. Thick lines and very thin detail lines. This is Cholo. I really like this style. It’s a very deep way of doing paint design. Motorcycle does not have much space to make a statement with paint. I talked with Freddy about making tank paint statement. Has to be perfect but tank is small. I think this tank is good statement.

“Rear fender was important,” Junichi said. “I had to fit my red plastic drinking cup tail light to fender. I had to cut shape in the fender and cut cup so everything will fit. I made a jig and carefully cut the angle of the red plastic drinking cup. Had to be careful. Had to be perfect.

“I wanted to balance bold tank color with fork chrome,” Junichi said. “Balance shiny to paint color. If no balance then bike look won’t work. I brought the forks to guys at local plating shop. We did many layers of chrome to give forks good look.

“It has been many years but I still add to this rebuild,” Junichi concluded. “That’s OK. Kustom build projects never finished. I bring the bike to shows and everyone likes to look at the bike. Everybody likes the paint colors. These are bright colors and designs from a far-away place but this doesn’t matter now. Our world is connected. Psicodelico makes a connection.”

Road Grub Throwdown: Motorcycling Meets the Munchies

Story & Images: Mark Masker

Several years back while I was freelancing for Hot Bike and breaking into food writing, I was lucky enough to be a judge at the World Food Championships in Las Vegas. I was even luckier to find myself killing time between rounds by talking to Ray “Dr BBQ” Lampe at a bar. It came up that he had it on his bucket list to emcee an event at a motorcycle rally. Naturally I started working on bringing the worlds of barbecue and custom bikes together in new and exciting ways after that, because really, how cool would that be?

Cool, yes. Easy? Not so much. The closest precedent for what I wanted to do were the chili cook-offs at Harley-Davidson dealerships. Whenever someone comes up with an idea, no matter how obviously good they believe it is, bringing it to fruition is always the big challenge. Luckily for me, the time I’d spent working for and being mentored by Dave DeWitt and his National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show and insights from John “CaJohn” Hard and Brent Bolton gave me enough knowledge to get started.

getting it done!

First you have to figure out exactly what you want to do, then when and where to do it. Oh, and then there’s convincing other people that it’s a good idea, too. After much thought, soul-searching, and a mountain of planning over several years, I’d laid the groundwork for what is now the Road Grub Throwdown: a big outdoor cooking festival held at motorsports events like, say, the Black Hills Motorcycle Rally (aka Sturgis). Which is when and where we’d planned on running the 2021 event. However, like a lot of other events for this year, COVID and the economy caused us to postpone until 2022.    

It breaks down like this. The Road Grub Throwdown is going to be a series of food competitions held at some of the largest motorsports rallies in the country. Competitors pit their culinary kung fu against each other in their choice of one or more events held during each day of the event. You don’t need to bring your own rig; just ride up with a bag of ingredients, fire up your grill at go-time, and cook up your creation for the judges before time runs out. We even provide the grills for you to cook on.

A Road Grub Throwdown consists of 10-15 contestants cooking food for time to be judged by a panel of three judges. The theme for each day changes; one day may be steak, one may be hot wings. Regardless, our goal is to have competitions you won’t find anywhere else, so expect the unexpected.

Each entrant gets a 10×10-foot space for setup and uses the outdoor cookers and utensils provided. Prizes are awarded for the top three entries in each competition, each day. A Grand Prize is also awarded at the end of the five days. Additionally, we’re also holding daily eating competitions and cocktail competitions as well.

it gets better!!

But wait, there’s more. All of these competitions are well and good but the show also presents a golden opportunity for riders and outdoor cooks to sharpen their skillsets with demos and workshops. Plans are in the works for some of those to be conducted by our sponsors, too.

Attendees can also get their own eat on at the VIP tent and bar area where they’ll enjoy awesome food from culinary talent serving great grub of their own. Our VIP dining experience will have an Old West theme and a special VIP tent saloon. This is in addition to our bar area for the general public. Our 2022 event takes place August 5-9 at the Days of 76 Complex in Deadwood during the legendary rally in South Dakota. Plans are also in the works for adding other events in 2023. And hopefully once we get the show established, we can help Dr BBQ cross that item off of his bucket list finally in a year or two. You can keep up with Road Grub Throwdown on our website, Facebook, and Instagram.


Be sure to click on the Road Grub logo and follow Mark as he brings home the bacon!  This is sure to be game to a cant miss event!  If there’s one thing the Rally crowd wants after a good long day on the road is a cold beer and good food!

Speakeasy Motors Open House

Story & Images: Mark V

On October 23, 2021, in Wallkill, New York a very grand and special event took place among countless friends.  It was the annual Open House and 10th Anniversary of Speakeasy Motors! 

As with every Speakeasy Motors Open House, all the proceeds for the day went to Autism Speaks!  This year I am very happy to announce that a new milestone was reached.  At the end of the day, or should we say a very long night $10K was raised for this very special non-profit charitable corporation. 

Donations, donations, donations!  I have never seen such an overwhelming number of prizes to be raffled, I think in total there were 75.  You would think with so many prizes I would have walked away with something, but this day lady luck was not on my side, but it was still a joy to see people win everything from helmets to the customs painted mailbox that I really, really wanted that Evan himself won!  Hey Evan, Christmas is coming you can always re-gift…ha!

Fun was had by all both young and old.  Custom bikes and cars were everywhere as people just showed and parked. It was great to see the kids out in the open air running free and just being kids and getting dirty. 

 It was also great to see such a mix of people who attended the event.  The great thing about the custom car and bike community is that they truly support and leave all the nonsense this world brings at the side of the road.  It was truly a great day! 

The food was great, and the Speakeasy Motors American Whiskey was even better! 

I have been lucky enough to know Evan for almost as long as he has been in business, as far back as his dirty Jersey days.  Ten plus years later with the help of an amazing support system (I love his mom!) this young man has done amazing things, but we will talk about those in an upcoming Cover Story here at Rubber Culture. 

His biggest accomplishment, or should we just say the best thing that has ever happen to Evan is his darling wife, Jaclyn.  This event truly would never happen if it was not for all the behind the scenes work and endless effort that Jackie puts in to make this such an amazing event every year.

If you missed this year, I suggest you keep an eye open for next years grand event!  It’s a can’t miss!

There are too many names thank and mention, you all know who you are and all I can say is well done!

for more in the know

Keep tabs!

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Shop Until You Drop- Kazuo Matsumoto Photographs the 2021 Custom World Japan- Hiroshima

Story: Michael McCabe

Images: Kazuo Matsumoto

The custom motorcycle movement in Japan continues to turn heads on the global stage. People who follow bike building recognize the refined abilities of top Japanese builders as they deep-dive into their builds, and work skillfully across the different brand platforms.

It had never been done before in Japan, but undeterred by the challenge of Covid, top builder Kengo Kimura (Heiwa Motorcycles in Hiroshima) wanted to create an exhibit of custom bikes in the setting of a shopping mall─ He thought this would be an opportunity outside typical bike venue to open a door of visibility between the general public and the rarified world of Japan’s top builders.

Kengo reached out to a local high-end retail shopping mall where top brands like Prada and Hermes were represented, about creating a small custom motorcycle exhibit and yes… unbelievably… he got the thumbs up! Next step, he contacted his building friends; Yuichi Yoshizawa and Yoshikazu Ueda of Custom Works Zon; Shiron Nakajima of 46 Works; Shinya Kimura of Chabott Engineering; Kaichiroh Kurosu of Cherry’s Company; Hideya Togashi of Hide Motorcycles and Takashi Nihira of Wedge Motorcycles and again, bingo! They were all on board for the show. This unprecedented exhibit needed to be documented so Kengo contacted his friend, legendary photographer, Kazuo Matsumoto. Everyone, including the mall management agreed on establishing Covid protocol and the dates: 1-16 to 2-14 were set.

“It was exhibited at a department store,” Kengo said. “Simply to let people who don’t know about custom culture and custom motorcycles to see the world-class bikes.  And it’s free! People passing by were enjoying themselves; they had never seen anything like this exhibit. And many custom bike fans came from all over Japan.”

Most people no matter where they live, are not familiar with the private world of high-end custom motorcycles. There are associations between motorcycles and renegade culture that might discourage a natural curiosity about what are actually beautiful machines. But… Japanese culture is different… Japanese people appreciate a wide ranging view about aesthetics and beauty: For example: how you are supposed to fold paper or wrap five eggs and how you prepare a sushi meal with a sharp knife, and with Kengo’s help- how you appreciate a beautiful motorcycle as ART… This appreciation of craft and art is almost coded into Japanese culture. Ya, it was unusual to see a dozen custom motorcycles sitting on the floor of a Hiroshima shopping mall, but the beauty of the bikes attracted the curious shoppers like moths to light.

“Yes, people were passing through, walking around the motorcycles and were also enjoying themselves,” Kengo said. “And many custom fans came from all over Japan. This shopping mall contains high-end brands such as Prada and Hermes, and I thought it would be integrated into such a department store.  It’s the first attempt in Japan. I think the people had to realize these motorcycles were special. They had to know this when they looked at the bikes.  We are planning to hold this event once a year.  I hope everyone will get to know it little by little.”

The Builders

Photographer Kazuo Matsumoto walked among the motorcycles and builders in the mall and documented the event with a sense of purpose. He has been riding and photographing bikes for leading Japanese, Euro and American motorcycle magazines since his twenties.

“I got a motorcycle license when I was 20 years old,” Kazuo said. “I started photographing for motorcycle magazines while attending college. I have an H-D Shovelhead FLH. I bought this ride 20 years ago. I also have a Honda Super Cub, and I owned a Suzuki RF400R, a Honda Steed, and a Honda XL250 in the past.

“In my childhood, I really loved airplanes ever since I watched the movie, “TOP GUN”, Kazuo said. “So, I started taking photographs of my favorite fighter jets. After that, I moved to Fukuoka city, to study photography in college.

“The Motorcycle is one of the freest vehicles in the world,” Kazuo said. “I love both American and Japanese motorcycles. Many Japanese people often watched American movies and music from childhood and that’s why I think we are naturally attracted to American culture like Harley Davidson. Japan is a small Island country. So, many people have a longing to ride in the USA on a Harley Davidson.

“It’s hard to say why Japanese custom motorcycle builders like working with a Harley,” Kazuo said. “Almost all Japanese custom builders have a huge respect for American culture and they have the delicacy and unique creativity. Respect + creativity = Japanese custom culture.”

Kengo followed his gut to create an unprecedented custom bike event in a shopping mall; shoppers smiled as they strolled past the beautiful, custom motorcycles and Kazuo documented the new cultural possibility with his camera.

Tales From The Sidecar!

Story & Images: Mark V

In today’s world as we try to move forward in a post pandemic era getting on your bike and riding is a great escape to just leaving the world behind, even if it is just for a little while.  But like many, what do you do if you have children?

Many of us are finding it very hard outside our immediate family to find good and safe childcare, even if for a few hours. What happen to the good old babysitter!

the mission

With the riding season always seeming to be never long enough, this story which I hope spans across the rest of the summer and maybe longer is our solution to this problem, well at least for me and my girlfriend.

Over the winter we were lucky enough to get a hold of through one of my best friends a very clean 2012 Side-car Ural motorcycle.  The bike belonged to my friend John and was very well maintained.  With his boys in college, he no longer had use for the sidecar bike and his Ducati was all he now needed.  The goal for us, if we couldn’t get a sitter, she was hitting the road with us!

let the adventure begin!!

With that I say… welcome to, “Tales From The Sidecar”.  Through the eyes of a just turned teenager, this young lady will share her first-time adventures as she takes to the sidecar with her mom at the wheel!  The plan here is to strap her in the sidecar and let her tell her own story.  Be it good, bad, or indifferent the adventures will be told from her point of view and the images seen will those through her eyes.  My only role here will be to edit.

Let it be known, she has never been on a motorcycle, let alone on the road in a sidecar so this should be interesting! Short hauling is the plan as we rediscover our place called home Long Island, New York.

So let the games begin as they say! Wish us luck as we travel to places know with the unknown!  I’m sure if we play our cards right this can be a win-win for all, and how cool will it be to get the perspective of what we may take for granted from a different point of view and a set of new eyes.

Stay tuned as this story will next jump into Blog Central.  What will you read next? I have no clue! 

Passion.. Life Has No Instructions

Story & Images: Herman Verslag

Hitting Paydirt!

If you take a look over your shoulder and look at the dust behind you from a year gone by it may sink in your head that life is truly short, and here for the living. I share these words as I have Van Hallen blasting in my ears thinking .. Wow ! Lucky me! I may say this every release, but for me this site is an example, a gift of life to be shared.  In less then one month I have connected with people from all over the world. People whom I would never, even by chance cross on my journey here on plant earth.  Before you I introduce my new best friend Herman from over the pond as they say.. Listen and enjoy the true definition of a thing called life. Yes I stole that line from Prince, and yes life can be good so find it!


my story

My country

Hi I’m Herman born 1991 (Hermanos.tattoos ) you can find me on Instagram . I have two passions Tattooing and motorcycle riding , oops ,  actually three , not to forget my beloved wife Eva of course😊

I’m based in the town Leopoldsburg, in the Flemisch region of the small west European country Belgium . At our borders you find Holland, Germany, France, Luxemburg and the North sea . Our country is divided by a virtual border (the Language border), at the south, they speak French (Wallonie).  At the north, we speak Dutch Flemisch (Flanders), and there is a small part where the people speak German, the East Cantons.

The Flemisch region is much more prosperous than the Wallon region, the Wallon region is much more rural. That means a lot more people live here on a square mile then in the Wallon . That also means that roads over here are constantly congested and there are a lot of traffic  traffic jams . Our region is also very flat .

 Wallonie is a different story, you have lots of curved roads lot less traffic and small mountains, a real  treat for the motorcycle rider . Especially the Ardennes which are adjacent with Luxemburg and the Eifel mountains and stretch out from the Ardennes to Germany .

The start of this  region is only  45’ driving from my home, so needless to say even when we only have half  a day off we ride into the Ardennes .

MY 3 passions

My Motorcycles

From childhood on I realized I want to ride a motorcycle, especially a big fat Chopper, the feeling never went away.  It started with customizing bicycles, small scooters until I reached the age that I was legally allowed to buy my first motorcycle.  A few years before I was old enough to drive I randomly got in contact with an older motorcycle enthusiast who fed my asperations. We’re still friends up till now and ride together on a regular basis. We both love night rides with our wide glides and call ourselves the NIGHTRIDERS, an exclusive club of 2 😊

My first motorcycle was a Harley Davidson sportster 883 cc from 2003 nicely personalized.

After a while I bought a 1200cc big bore kit to give it a bit more juice . 😊 I’ve  been driving this motorcycle  for several years when I decided to sell it to be able to buy a HD Wide Glide.

Reason, the Sportster was a single seater and the third passion came into my life; EVA .  I wanted to be able to do rides together with the love of my life.  And I consider a wide glide as a perfect travelling chopper.  It’s by the way the first Harley ever that was build with forward controls factory of , in 1980 with a shovel engine at that time.  Mine is an EVOLUTION  from 1994.  I was so lucky to find one with only 6400 km on the odometer in perfect mint condition .

 Because of weather conditions  and the smaller more curvy roads over here compared with the USA it was a sensible choice to buy the wide glide to put a lot of miles on the odometer .

But I kept craving for a more extreme chopper. So a few years ago I was able to buy the Triumph Bonneville T140 mounted in an Uncle Bunt rigid frame with a girder fork.  Could I be so lucky!  I consider 45° V-Twin engines from Harley Davidson  and parralel twin engines from English brands  the most beautiful in the world .

The Triumph Story

Eventually me and my father took up the plan to build a parallel twin chopper together. But unfortunately he became unexpectedly ill and he died much sooner than we could ever imagine.

I was  completely down at that time so along with my father  I buried the plans of building and customizing my own chopper.

A friend of mine was the previous owner of the Triumph, actually I went along with him at the time to buy it for him years ago. I impulsively said to him if you ever sell it I’ll buy it. It stood in his garage for years with engine damage and he never got the time to start repairing  it due to other restauration projects. Remembering my words he asked me if I was still interested in the bike because he wouldn’t sell it to anybody else. 

Of course I said YES, and  it changed from owner in a heartbeat  for a very nice friendly price.

Together with another friend of mine who is a gifted mechanic we restored the engine part ,so it could go back on the road  again and I  personalized it a bit  to my own taste.

Why do I ride a motorcycle?  passion, passion, passion,  does one need to explain passion.?

You can clear your head completely riding a motorcycle , it gives one the opportunity to leave all the worries an troubles behind  and gives me inspiration for my tattoo work . Especially  the laid back rides with the Triumph.

For the moment I ride the Triumph as it is, but we have plans for the future. With my late father in mind, my brother, my brother in law and myself we took up the plan to rebuild it together as a tribute to him, doing all the stuff ourselves .

My Work / My Art

From my  early years on I was passioned by art, painting, drawing, sculpturing, and creating.

At the age of 7 already I went to the art- academy, as it happens together with my friend the previous owner of the Triumph .

Creativity and drawing runs in the family , mother , sisters , brother and uncle are all gifted artists .

I was always searching for new mediums to express my art and  always came back to tattooing.

I consider it a huge privilege and honor if people want to wear my art on their body this way showing it to the world. 

Considering the limited options to learn the craft of tattooing over here I decided to do research and practice on my own. So I’m completely self-taught. The consequence was that my learning trajectory was perhaps a bit longer but I don’t regret it for a minute.

As tattoo-artist I lean towards the traditional style of drawing and electric tattooing.

All my drawings are done by hand  and come to life on paper and I prefer to work with coil tattoo machines.


Thank you for being the woman that you are, you always stood and hopefully will always stand by my side.

Final Words..

I consider myself very fortuned that I always could count on the support of my wife, family and friends who believed in my talent and inspired me  to take the bumpy road on becoming a tattoo-artist. I only regret that my father didn’t live long enough to witness the opening of my tattoo-shop. In his last moments he said to me “if tattooing is your passion, go for it”.