Workshop Visit | Hide Motorcycles
Words & Photography Luke Ray
The first visit of our 2014 Japan trip was to the south western suburbs of Tokyo for the Hide Motorcycles workshop. Hide-san is well known for his custom work, and has rightfully won many awards along the way such as Best of Show - Yokohama Hot Rod & Custom Show 2007, 2nd place - Jammer Cycle Awards 2007, 2nd place - New Order Chopper Show 2008 and top ten in the AMD European World Championships 2077. After some initial planning and a strong recommendation from Geoff our Tank Moto editor, HIDEMO went to the top of the list. Sadly, we only had time for one motorcycle workshop on this trip, so of all places to go to, this was ‘the’ one!
After some head scratching and pointing at signs and maps, we jumped on the Tokyo train network and half hoped that we were headed the right way. Fortunately, we were and after a 30-minute journey and a short taxi ride, we arrived at HIDEMO.
Having not been to Japan before it was hard to know what to expect in advance. Were the workshops to be fairly large single level units on an industrial estate, like here in Australia? As it turned out, absolutely not. Quite the opposite in fact. Hidemo is located on a busy two lane road with mostly residential buildings. It’s narrow, just the width of a traditional high street shop front, and after walking in, the floor space was about the same. But it’s in height where the business expanded, not floor space. On ground level there were work in progress bikes lined up. Some customer projects, others Hide-san’s own builds from previous years. There’s a neat, compact social area in one corner with a handful of ornaments on a shelf and an ashtray on the communal table. One of Hide-san’s colleagues was working on a project on the shop floor in a space not much bigger than the bike itself. But it was above and below where things got really interesting. Above went up to a top level complete with office, extensive part storage, with a mid level mezzanine serving a similar purpose. There are carefully labelled drawers containing parts and tools, and things hanging in alignment, all making perfect use of the space available. Not so much human activity up here, but it’s all there for as and when Hide-san or of his staff need something.
Downstairs in the basement is where the real magic happens. The first thing that hit after descending down to the lower workshop was the BMW RnineT project that Hide-san and his team were working on. Seeing bodywork in raw aluminium is always a treat, particularly on a work in progress project, and this was no exception. From what I could see, the aluminium forming was pretty much complete, and Hide-san at the time was working on fitting the fairing panels that had only recently been moulded.
There was a member of the team in a small side room polishing a wheel rim and another working on a lathe in the corner. For such a tight space, there was a remarkable amount of creativity and craftsmanship being produced. The amount of English conversation that we achieved was limited, but it was enough for the group of us to share thoughts and ideas between us as. At the end of the day, we’re all enthusiasts appreciating high-quality work and design, and that’s exactly what Hide-san and his team are producing from the HIDEMO shop.
When did your lifelong love for motorcycles start, and how did you find this interest?
I was always interested in motorcycles at a younger age. At that time, I read a book called ‘Rockers’ by John Stuart and I was inspired by their style. Then I bought a Yamaha SR when I was 18 years old. Race replicas were a big trend in Japan in the era, so I guess I was seeking something different from trends or other people.
What was your previous work history before HIDEMO, and how did HIDEMO begin?
I started working and learning about custom motorcycles at a custom motorcycle shop in 1996. I had a little private garage, so I worked a part time job during the day and fixed and customized my friends’ motorcycles at night for two years from around 2001. I got more bikes to work on as I got more customers who were introduced to me by my friends. They got to know my shop by word of mouth. My garage became too small for the number of motorcycles I was working on, so I moved to the new location that I have now. It was then that I started HIDEMO.
Introduce your co-workers and tell us what roles they have in your workshop.
We are 3 people including me:
Watari, mechanic. He's been a mechanic for fifteen years. He graduated school with a major in sheet metal work. He is a very talented mechanic and metal worker.
Tōru, mechanic. He worked for Suzuki as a mechanic for ten years before he joined us.
How would you describe the styles of bikes that you build?
I don't build new genres or new styles of bikes. When I build, I think about the owner's style and what genre he wants. Basically, I tend to build more of cafe, bobber, and chopper style, but adapted to the HIDEMO style.
Do you work with all brands of bikes, or are there ones that interest you in particular?
I don't really choose the brands, so I can happily work with all brands. However, I mostly get Harley Davidsons to work on, so I'm more specialized to Harley just because of that.
How do you begin a project? Where does the inspiration first come from?
I decide the size of the rims first, then modify the frame if needed. After that, I decide the height, and make a rolling chassis. Then, I usually start making the gas tank. I get inspired by 1940s - 1960s racers a lot. There are many inspirations to refer to in those bikes, but I especially like the wild mouldings and fairings of those days. Not only classics though, I also refer to new parts of modern GP racers etc. I sometimes go to the Honda museum in Motegi to see the old to new collections of bikes to get some ideas and inspiration.
Do you have a plan before you begin a project? Or do you start and develop it as you go along?
I have plans in my head, but not on paper. So, it's like I embody an image in my head of the bikes as I go along.
Do your clients give you free reign to do as you wish, or do you work together with their ideas?
Most of my customers know what style they want, but not so specific. So, I discuss with the customer and get ideas.
What are you working on right now?
I'm working on a 1966 Shovelhead for the Yokohama Hot Rod & Custom Show in December.
The BMW RnineT project looks great. Please tell us all about that.. how it started, what you are doing, what is the style?
I started it because I was luckily approached by BMW Motorrad Japan to do this project. They invited me to customise an RnineT in whatever style I like, so I built ‘60s racer RnineT.
This article first appeared in Fuel Magazine issue 18.
Follow Hide Motorcycles: @hidemotorcycle.