Alan Stulberg, of Revival Cycles, sat with his wife, Jenna, on a display crate like a king and queen holding court. In this case “court” happens to be the Second Annual Handbuilt Show in Austin, Texas.
Alan is currently explaining to me how he met his friend and business partner, Revival’s head engineer, Stefan Hertel. Alan was friends with Stefan's aunt and she wanted Alan to meet him when Stefan was passing through Texas.
"I couldn’t have cared less," Alan said. "All I could think was, this guy is gonna come down here from cheese country all clean cut and corporate and I am gonna have to deal with him.”
Instead, Stefan rolled into town on a $700 dirtbike sporting a mohawk and a thirst for adventure.
“He was about to start an engineering grad program and decided to take off and ride this dirt bike to Guatemala or somewhere. I don’t know. All I know is that’s where this all started.”
By “this all” Alan is referring to Revival Cycles, their motorcycle shop located in Austin’s tattered and tattooed East Side. Revival is responsible for some of the best custom and restoration projects in the motorcycling community to date. They tackle anything from vintage Brough Superiors to modern BMWs and everything in between. They are also responsible for Austin’s Handbuilt Motorcycle Show.
Held on the same weekend as the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas MotoGP round at the Circuit of the Americas, the show is a celebration of some of the best custom motorcycle builders in the game today. 2015 marks the second official show put on by Alan and Stefan with the help of sponsors like Moto Guzzi, Rev’It!, Circuit of the Americas, as well as many others.
“This isn’t just my show,” Alan said, “However, I am a designer by trade and I can be a huge pain in the ass if something doesn’t have a look that I find aesthetically appealing. Stefan has a huge hand in this. All of our team at Revival has their hands in this. From the builders, to the guests, to the sponsors, this is our vision of what a motorcycle show should look like.”
From where I was sitting, it looked good.
Kids were wandering around striking poses in front of bikes while parents snapped photographs. Builders fired up bikes on the floor without hesitation; exhausts cracking eardrums and shaking the rafters. Baby Boomers mingled with 20-somethings, passing on life’s lessons to a new generation of riders. There were just as many polo shirts tucked into khakis as there were sleeve tattoos poking out of well-worn plaid work shirts. And there was no shortage of alcohol flowing from multiple bars.
From the beginning, Revival set out to create a show that was inclusive as opposed to exclusive. They wanted to create a show where builders of all types could display their work, and motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike could come and appreciate their efforts. They wanted to create something that could bring the motorcycling community together while leaving the door open in an effort to welcome curious outsiders into our weird and wonderful world.
I struck up a conversation with a young couple in their early 30s after I accidentally backed into them, causing the woman to spill her drink. After I apologized profusely and offered to buy them both another round, we got to talking about the show.
“We don’t know anything about motorcycles,” the woman confessed, “We were just looking for something different to do on a Saturday night and this show offered us a nice change from the norm.”
It’s clear in talking with Alan that this was intentional. To him, Handbuilt is more than just a motorcycle show. Rather, it is a way to give back to his home and the community he loves.
“I was born in Houston, but Austin is my home. I love this place,” he said looking out over the crowd. “I want Revival to be more than just a motorcycle shop, I want it to be part of what’s happening in East Austin. Handbuilt is part of that”
The tone of the Handbuilt Show is more akin to a street fair than a motorcycle show. You can stop in, drink a beer, mingle with friends, check out artwork, talk to the builders, walk around with your kids, or simply sit outside and watch the array of bikes that pull up and park out front. There is no cover charge and you are greeted by hosts eager to help point you in the right direction.
By holding the event as the same weekend as MotoGP in Austin, Revival has ensured an eclectic crowd. From racers, to industry insiders, to celebrities, to that couple living down the block who simply want to see what all the fuss is about, Handbuilt welcomes all with open arms. This is what stuck with me more than any particular bike in the show. It’s about the people.
It’s a place where you can have a beer with Alan Stulberg and listen to him tell stories of getting smoked on the track by Roland Sands while testing the new BMW S 1000 RR.
“I’ll get him next year,” he said with a grin. “Just wait until next year.”
I already can’t wait until next year.