As I write this, it’s approximately 20 weeks since I began the #SalzmotoBonny build. Looking back, I wanted to capture where the project started because in those beginnings are the start of Salzmoto itself. As I get closer to completing this project, I’m filled with equal parts excitement and curiosity. How did I get here, but more importantly, where does Salzmoto go next?
In October of last year, I traded three bikes to Motoworks Chicago in exchange for a brand new 2013 Triumph Bonneville. Those bikes included a Honda CM400, a Honda Elite 250 and a Triumph Street Triple R. The idea behind the Bonneville purchase centered around shared practicality. Having a modern, reliable motorcycle in the fleet makes it a lot easier to tinker with my vintage machines as well as take on more ambitious custom projects like my GL1100. If things got involved on one of those projects, I’d still have something to ride. The Bonneville also provided an easy-to-ride option for my wife, should she want to go riding on her own, which she does from time to time. The Bonneville is small and light enough to make a superb city bike, and at the time there was free, unregulated motorcycle parking very close to my office. Practicalities aside, I’ve wanted a Bonneville of my own since about 2008, so finally acquiring one was particularly satisfying.
Yet not a month into Bonneville ownership, my life changed dramatically. Part of the drive behind that three-bikes-for-one trade was that space was very limited in the Salzman household. My wife and I had moved from Evanston down into Chicago proper, and with that move we’d gone from a two-car garage to a one-car garage. Fitting seven (yes seven!) motorcycles and scooters plus my tools and supplies wasn’t going to work in a one-car garage. At least not if I wanted to actually do any work. I had to rent a storage unit a few blocks away to park the overflow of bikes and equipment. Not an ideal situation.
Long story short, no sooner had we moved, I began looking for people with whom to share a bigger garage space. That search netted out in connecting with Dave “Moto” Mucci, who was also looking for space. He and his business partner, Scott, were essentially looking for a handful of people to help increase their rental power on an industrial space. Where they had actual business to do out of the space, I simply needed more room for my recreational moto pursuits, and having a dedicated space to that end was a bit of a dream come true. Dave had room to rent, and I needed space something awful. If I had dedicated room to work, my small fleet of bikes could actually fit in my garage. Sheer awesomeness aside, “the shop” as it came to be known, solved some serious logistical problems for me. Best of all, it was only four blocks from home.
We moved in on November 1st — Dave, Scott, myself and my moto wingman Bree. Bree and I split one quarter of the shop space, with Scott taking another quarter and Dave using up the remaining half. To say that process was a bit chaotic would be an understatement, but it was also thrilling. At first it was all hands on deck to get the shop workable so Dave could start on a rather ambitions project: a custom Honda Dream 150 that he was building to exhibit at The One Motorcycle Show in Portland just three months later. We hung shelves, built workbenches and hastily optimized the space knowing that if we didn’t take some basic steps towards structure and design, the shop would just be garage full of four people’s random stuff. The result was a basic space, with some real visual interest, and a significant amount of matching, custom furniture. Not bad for four guys (and a lot of help from Dave’s friends) in a month’s time.
Longer story shorter, over the following months Scott and Bree got less involved in the shop, each for their own good reasons. By April, I was Dave’s sole renter and I’d taken on that full half of the shop. With that added privilege of space came the responsibility of a much larger rent bill each month, but more than that, a desire to give my use of the space a lot more purpose. Sharing my moto adventures both on the road and in the garage has connected me to a lot of interesting people through my personal blog. How could I extend that? How could I put those personal and professional moto stories and the professional motojournalism I do under some sort of common umbrella? That’s how the idea of Salzmoto was born.
With Salzmoto, I could continue to share those stories, but with more purpose. I could use that name to connect with people through the work I do, both recreationally and professionally. I’d be lying if I said I knew exactly what Salzmoto would become when I started it. I’d also be lying if I said I know that even now. What I do know is that I’d started something, and that something deserved more than just an Instagram feed. It deserved a proper kick-off project. With a design already in the works, the #SalzmotoBonny was born.
The crux of the project is simple: take an affordable bike and do something remarkable with it using off-the-shelf components and a bare minimum of custom fabrication. Every day garage builders and tinkerers craft their motorcycles into something new, yet for so many, building a remarkable bike feels intimidating and out of reach. It feels like more than a mere mortal can undertake — something only for professionals. With the #SalzmotoBonny I wanted to show what was possible with basic tools, a good shopping list, and some attention to detail. Most importantly, I wanted to highlight what’s possible with a little bit of sequencing — when you look at the big picture instead of focusing on just one detail at a time.
I moved the Bonneville into the shop and began collecting parts for the project. At the same time, I began creating the content and framework for this website. Looking back, it’s amazing how much the two have informed each other. The project has been an exercise in doing things out of order. Had I set out in the beginning to create some sort of moto builder brand, I would have built the site first, designed t-shirts and done lots of teasing and other nonsense. Instead, this exists because I can’t not share the things I’m up to, the #SalzmotoBonny included. I would have done something with that bike anyway, that’s for sure. At least with this project, I can hopefully share that adventure with a wider audience and hopefully inspire people to take up similar projects of their own.
So stay tuned as I recap the #SalzmotoBonny build leading up to the full unveil. If you’ve been following along on Instagram, that’s great. You’ve seen the progress in photos along the way. Now it’s time to tell that story, and all the stories that come next.