Tom Konecny (22) and Pablo Steigleder (25) are a couple of city kids and have known each other for ages. They drive for good reason into the countryside, but then only on nobby tyres. These two guys from Munich prefer to tear around the city’s ring road at night through the tunnels while listening to A$AP. Café Racer Reloaded. CRAFTRAD went to see them and asked them about their new bike. The article below is from CRAFTRAD
How did your first conversion come about, the blue BMW? TOM I bought the BMW when I was 17, when I didn‘t even have a driving licence, and started to dismantle it in my parents basement. In those days, I had been getting on Pablo‘s nerves constantly trying to persuade him we should do it together. But he didn’t really want to ... PABLO That‘s true, but a couple of years later things started. We brought the bike out of the basement and converted it together in my father’s building yard warehouse. The idea originally was to build one for Tom and then one for me. The blue bike was finished last year in time for the BMW Motorrad Days. We slipped through the entrance gate onto the site in Garmisch with no delivery note and simply parked next to the Motodrom. The bike attracted attention immediately and so it was clear that we should continue. The first one financed quite a lot here in the garage. We are students and money doesn‘t grow on trees. The blue bike was also one of the first to have this clean and radical look that was different to previous Boxer conversions ... TOM That’s right, we’d looked at countless mopeds on the web and discovered lots of details that we would have done differently. In the case of the two-valve BMWs, this tank/pillion combination is always difficult. We gave it some thought before we were able to come up with the line we now have. A friend of ours who is a graphics designer later placed the Golden Section over it on the computer and it was almost a perfect match! However, to be perfectly honest, that was a lucky punch, since we knew nothing about such things then. With the second bike, we made further improvements, this time making sure that more components, including such things as the shock absorbers, lie along the line.
Your approach would seem to result from the fact that you have a different background and feel happy in another scene – presumably because of your age? Our mopeds are designed so that they can be parked outside an ice cream parlour and be surrounded by a cluster of people. A Suzuki DR 650 was the donor bike for the DA#5 T. Guys having a midlife crisis guys get hold of any old moped and convert it to suit their own style, we do the complete opposite. The difference is course that we are young, don’t listen to Johnny Cash, but to A$AP – then we produce something quite different. Bike tours are not important to us, bikes only have to look good. We have different goals and a different sense of purpose. As I said, our mopeds only have to go as far as the university or the local ice cream parlour and have people take photographs of them. That’s what the bike is there for, not to travel 150 kilometres at a stretch. We once took off on the blue bike as far as Dachau, that‘s some 60 kilometres there and back, and afterwards I could hardly move. The second is a much better ride, but that‘s not what we‘re aiming for. That’s been around in the car scene for 10 to 15 years. These people don‘t drive their cars more than a hundred metres because of the dropped suspension and wide rims. And they’re quite prepared to do such a thing. That doesn’t inspire us at all ... … Does that mean that you get your inspiration primarily from the car scene? TOM In the U.S. and Japanese scene, there‘s a lot being done that we wouldn’t attempt here. We intend to do it with motorbikes and will probably be the first to do it here in Germany and perhaps even in Europe. But that also applies to other scenes whose ideas we would like to transfer to our mopeds. Having two different rims on the blue bike, for example. I hadn’t seen that before, but the inspiration came from Japanese drifters who have different rims on the front and rear wheels of their cars for the simple reason that the tyres on the rear wheels, which they constantly burn out, are much cheaper in those sizes and can therefore burn them out frequently. I had never seen that before on motorbikes and thought to myself, well if they can do it with cars, then we can also do it. Do you know of any good examples? TOM For me it‘s the Japanese scene, but for Pablo it’s often too much and too crude. Take Liberty Walk, for example. Now there‘s a guy who saved up for 25 years to buy himself a Lambo and then, with the last money he’d saved, sawed up the Lambo and then bolted on a super body kit. You think to yourself, please don‘t do that, but it was such an unbelievable success and now he’s become a millionaire with his body kits. We are trying to go one step further by upgrading the entire design – and not just painting the tank a different colour and then bolting on parts taken from the accessories. We’ve also seen that with the Japanese R nineT guys, who, compared with our tuners here in Europe, are really creating something quite different. It all comes from the same mindset, which says, fuck it, will make it completely from scratch and file the part from a full piece. As far as the manufacturers concepts are concerned – are you on the ball and actually doing something about it? TOM Obviously we are keeping an eye on what other customisers are doing. But you also have to accept the fact that manufacturers have to please the masses and not just one person, the way we do it. In this respect, it‘s just gloss really. They do have some cool approaches, after all they’ve been doing it for longer than we have. It’s all very general. We can go to even greater extremes. It has to please us and ultimately the person who would like to buy the bike. Any of those guys on the web who speak disrespectfully in blogs don’t concern us. We have to like the result.
Pablo And that‘s the difference. We don’t want to please the masses. There are lots of people who like what we do and there are lots of others who say you can’t do that, it’s completely ugly. But that’s precisely we want, not something in between, nothing lukewarm, either the whole thing or nothing at all. TOM With the second bike, we often heard things like: ”That won’t work, stubby tyres and stub handlebars…“ … Isn‘t it the same with you, do you hear that kind of thing: “That won’t work!“? Pablo We don‘t feel insulted any more, and it’s getting worse from bike to bike. TOM That‘s true. At the beginning, we used to think that way about a couple of things. It was that way with the DR and the use of camo for the tank – we‘d already had the idea for the blue bike, but then decided it was overkill and would have been too much. What we say today is: “Who cares, put it on!“ The same with lowering the suspension. We initially thought 12 or even 11 cm would be enough and now were at 18. What we now say is give me the grinder, hammer in the sleeves … When you do that often enough, it becomes the normal thing to do. It’s the same in any other business. It’s often the case, however, that people themselves don‘t notice how they are letting themselves be slowed down by old rules. In other words, the Japanese car conversion scene has shown you that things can be done differently? TOM Yes, that‘s precisely what I mean. At the beginning you have to find your own signature and your own style, you set yourself narrow limits left and right within which you are free to move. It makes no difference whether we’re inspired by the Japanese or by other designs or not, we implement what appeals to us in our own particular field, with our own signature. And we want to continue doing that: you see those three bikes standing next to each other and it must become clear that we built them – with no sticker or nameplate. People who do a bobber in a day, then a street fighter and possibly a trike, are completely inconsistent in our eyes, they stoop too low. You have the benefit of youth in having no financial obligations … Pablo Yes, that‘s true of course, since it enables us to build just so many bikes, but by the same token, we are consistent in terms of the shape and the line. That’s what gives this scene its impetus, the fact that small garages like you can build bikes that are consistent … TOM Between garages like us and the industry, there is a broad mass out there who – let’s say – pick up an R nineT and then bolt on half the Louis catalogue. The scene also lives a little from that as well of course, since they support this impetus. These are the 90 per cent, albeit not our customers, but they say to themselves I don’t want to be totally crazy and I don’t want to do it myself, but I want something individual, a one-off. Which is perfectly okay, each of us today wants something individual. They are the kind of people who want to buy a mirror from us or a rear end. Other customisers will do that, but we want to do a complete conversion. Do you think there are other manufacturers – such as BMW and Ducati – who are showing you how to do it with new products in niche markets they have not covered? TOM I don‘t think so. It obviously depends on the brand, because if you look at brands like Honda or Kawasaki, they sell so many of their bikes that they are not at all interested in those guys with beards and jeans riding bikes that have been reduced to the bare essentials. Do it if you like, we do what we‘ve always done. That’s also what I meant earlier when I spoke of this enormous 90 per cent of the masses that we don‘t even notice. They’ve been riding around for decades with their adventure rides and their Touratech panniers. But niche products will continue to increase. In other words, customise from a catalogue or change your order with a mouse click. That’s the way it is. There are lots of people in their Edwin jeans who go out and fit other blinkers to their RedWings and then regard it as their own individual taste. Which manufacturers and bikes would be the most interesting for you? Pablo Undoubtedly the R nineT, that thing is red-hot, I’ve been riding one now for years when I go on an adventure ride. The concept, low and small – it‘s ideal for the city. TOM We actually have one here for a customer‘s order and of course we‘ve tried it out, but I like the scrambler better every day I ride it and particularly because there are no really cool conversions. The base for the conversion is super, chassis and engine are super, all you have to do is make some changes to the look of it. That’s something I’d like to try some time. The Suzuki is perhaps another bike for you, no order yet from a customer? Pablo Right, the blue bike is now in New York, the second bike has also been sold and we always need a bike that we can use for promotional purposes, one that we can show to customers and at events, so that they can recognise our signature. Why did you take a DR for promotional purposes? TOM It was standing around here doing nothing… (laughs) Pablo A conversion of this kind shows very clearly what can be done. You have to first show that to the people and potential customers so that they have an idea of what can be achieved. That’s why we took an Enduro and converted it so that we could use it with our signature for promotional purposes. We wanted something for the city again, no bulky boxer, but a single cylinder, small and nippy. Why didn’t you convert a K, as so many have been doing recently? Pablo I just hate Ks, that‘s a car engine and is completely out of place in a bike. The large number of conversions has resulted from the fact that the base bike was inexpensive. It used to be the CBs, then the two-valve BMWs, which cost twice as much today with cafe racer tax as they did three years ago. Today, people are going for the Ks, because they are still a large number of them standing around in garages. When you consider the cost and effort you need to invest in such a base bike, the frame and the design, and the low value that is generated as a result of the effort, then to my mind it just makes no sense ... … But what does “generating value“ mean to you? Does that result from the base bike you take or the one-off that you have created? TOM I haven‘t given it much thought to be honest. If you look at mobile.de on the web and see converted BMWs going for a grand, then you have to do some haggling to get the price down for the conversion time you need ”because otherwise you won’t cover your costs “. A conversion is dead money. That‘s a valid argument. On the other hand, there are people who will pay, and are prepared to pay a lot of money for a conversion. I don‘t really quite understand it although the world goes round on this principle. What’s the point in spending 40,000 euros for a converted moped simply because the customiser has a big name? One last question: e-bikes? Pablo I think it‘s super and quite interesting to have a C evolution conversion compete at the Glemseck festival! To a certain extent, that‘s my neck of the woods, because I used to work for Segway. But an e-bike is really out of place in the custom bike scene. It has to be loud and it must smell of bikes. That’s part of the character of the event as far as I‘m concerned. There is also something missing in the case of a K, for example, with a four-cylinder in-line engine – a boxer engine shakes, and it moves and has character. One of those e-things may be efficient and can really take off, but something’s missing. As a means of transport in the city, on the other hand, I can imagine it has something to offer. TOM There isn’t a good base yet for a conversion, either in terms of its form or its price. On the other hand, if we could get a base bike, then I think it would be very interesting. Things will certainly happen in the future. … What about developing your own concept? Pablo I think that would be a great idea, but the development time is enormous and if we were to do that, then it would only work in cooporation with a manufacturer. On the other hand, who knows what will happen in the next few years. They have had concepts and products on the back burner for a long time now and are only waiting for their other cash cow to be taken off the ice.
(c) Hermann Köpf