It was a great night at the Hammarhead x Dunderdon collaboration event — the first in a 3 week series of Thursday nights at the Dunderdon SoHo shop. In speaking with James Hammarhead about his bikes and design ethos, I was struck by this over-riding Germanic sense in his DNA that translates directly to his incredible bikes — strong, spare, focused, and above all functional. We cut the conversation when an internal clock in James’ head triggered that it was now time to get to business. He assembled the Hammarhead crew and the naked 2008 Triumph Bonneville, that will be morphed over the next 3 weeks into an original Hammarhead Industries creation, was wheeled-out right onto the sidewalk where James went to work cutting and cleaning-up the frame. James admitted that the design is more or less unfolding organically as the event and bike literally come to life over the the next few weeks at Dunderdon. It’s important to James that his work and his bikes be accessible, so he works hard to keep the price range to 15K-20K. In building a bike of this caliber at that cost it forces you to make everything count and to forgo the superfluous. Every inch of a Hammarhead Industries motorcycle is built with purpose in mind — bottom line. The result is an honest and capable motorcycle built for a rider, not a sissy-ass showroom.

Hammarhead x Dunderon collaboration unveiled in SoHo, NYC — Image by Hammarhead Industries

2008 Triumph Bonneville selected for this Hammarhead build — Image by Hammarhead Industries

James Hammarhead lets sparks fly outside on the sidewalk outside of Dunderdon’s SoHo shop as he pares down the 2008 Triumph Bonneville’s frame — Image by Hammarhead Industries

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The Blackbird event— a collaboration between TSY, PRPS, TRIUMPH, and friend & photographer Scott Toepfer in celebration of denim & machine. The Blackbird jean was inspired by the 1953 Triumph Blackbird. Handmade of super rigid & raw 14 oz Japanese denim– these jeans are not for the faint of heart. The black hardware and Thunderbird (tail) inspired stitching on the back pocket pay homage to the iconic motorcycle. The event was held on 4/13, as only 13 pairs of the Blackbird jean were made. Why 13 pairs? As a tribute to “The Wild One” starring Marlon Brando, that was based on the epic motorcycle clubs– 13 Rebels and The Boozefighters. Anywho– it was a helluva night! Thank you to Fast Ashley’s and everyone who came out! You winners out there that have my babies– please keep me posted on how they’re wearing, and send postcards & photos to info@selvedgeyard.com !

The Blackbird jean hangtag blown up poster-size for the event at Fast Ashley’s Studios in Brooklyn –photo by The Vintagent

The scene outside on The TSY Blackbird event at Fast Ashley’s Studios in Brooklyn – yep– lots of bikes, Triumphs, a Ducati or two and plenty of other nice rides. Donwan Harrell of PRPS even drove his 440 6-pack Road Runner! –photo by The Vintagent


The iconic bike that inspired it all– the 1953 Triumph Blackbird at Fast Ashley’s Studios in Brooklyn –photo by The Vintagent

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I hope to see you all there for what will be an epic night. A night that was born many months ago when Donwan (of PRPS) and I decided to collaborate on a limited edition jean run of 13 pairs of badass jeans for The Selvedge Yard called the Blackbird. What was the inspiration? The iconic ’53 Triumph Blackbird motorcycle, a sexy-as-all-hell Thunderbird offered for the first time ever by Triumph in all black. Also– the 13 Rebels MC, who inspired 1951’s The Wild One starring Marlon Brando who rode his own Triumph bike in the film. The Blackbird jean is handmade in Japan from the best selvedge denim you can get your hands on – 14oz raw chunky goodness that may out-live us all.

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Matt Smith & JP check out a ’65 Triumph Bonneville T120C rebuild at Matt’s shop Quaker City Motor Works in West Chester, PA. –Image by Ashley Smalley

My Friend, Matt Smith, vintage Brit bike restorer at Quaker City City Motor WorksSmoke and Throttle, has joined forces with some very impressive talent–  avid motorcycle collector and racer John Lawless, ex-dirt bike racer and experienced filmmaker Ed Buffman, and former director and editor at NBC Shel Brown. The result is this great little trailer for a television show being pitched that Matt would host, called– “Retro Moto”. I’m really excited about it because it’s exactly the kind of show I’d want to watch– all about classic bikes, their history, and the people who love to ride ’em. Check it out after the jump and let us know what you think.


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Gary Nixon started racing when he was 15-yrs-old– professionally at 17. Short and wiry at only 89 pounds– his slight size gave him an advantage over many of his bigger and more experienced competitors. Nixon would have his break-through year in 1963– winning his first AMA National road race, following-up 3 weeks later with a convincing victory in a short-track National race. He would finish the ’63 season ranked sixth in the Grand National Series.

Nixon’s speed, strength and skills accelerated, and the wins kept coming. In 1966 he was AMA Grand National runner-up to Bart Markel– and took the top honor of National Cycle Champion for 1967 & 1968. Nixon was known as one of the most tenacious and tough competitors ever, who often rode injured. For three years he raced with a battered leg held together by an 18-inch rod of stainless steel. The injuries would soon catch-up with Nixon, and he would be limited to mainly road racing. True to Nixon’s legendary skill and determination to win, he became one of the best pavement racers on the scene.

The history books should also reflect Gary Nixon as the 1976 World Formula 750 series champion, and the first American to win this honor– but Nixon was screwed by the bureaucratic governing board’s late decision to throw out a controversial race during the season. This would cost Nixon precious points, and ultimately the title.

Gary Nixon will not only be remembered  as a great champion who earned the respect and admiration of teammates, competitors, and fans alike– he was also one of the most colorful characters to ever grace the sport.  RIP Gary Nixon.


“Back in the day, you had to do like everything– dirt track, road race, TT, short track, mile, 1/2 mile…  when I was a young kid, I was kind of a sports freak. I liked playing baseball, and playing football– but then everyone got big and I stayed small… Then, playing baseball, I got hit in the head with the bat– and I thought, man this is not it! So, I’d seen a couple [motorcycle] races, and some pictures in magazines, and I thought– Well, I want to do that, you know! Then, it just so happened that a guy came into town and had a bike that needed a rider…”

–Gary Nixon


Gary Nixon, 1967 National Motorcycle Champion– who held the AMA #1 plate in 1967 & 1968. “To those who follow the sport, Nixon is the American dream, the champion– and that’s what earned him the right to blur around tracks this year with No. 1 displayed on anything he rides.” –Baltimore Sun, Sunday Magazine, 1968

“Gary had the ego of a racer, and you need an ego to be a racer. He was known to go to the starting gate before the start of a race and say, ‘Which one of you is coming in second?’ He rode injured, and for his size was a strong man. He did one arm pushups for strength. He said, ‘If you want to go faster– you have to brake harder than anyone else when going into curves.’ And in order to keep the bike from wobbling, he had to have strong arms.”

–Robert Glick

Arguably one of the most iconic and loved images of motorcycle racing legend Gary Nixon. Taken at the old Ascot Park Speedway back in 1967– Nixon, tongue out, sliding into the half-mile oval track turn.

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It’s Better in the Wind” by Scott Toepfer (shot mostly on Super 8mm) chronicles the freewheeling life of adventure on the road.

Scott was kind enough to bless TSY with a look at this masterpiece, featuring his good buddy Chuck Ragan who’s contributing some original songs for the soundtrack– which is a combination of music and spoken word. I’m pretty stoked to see the completed work.

For me, “It’s Better in the Wind” is the essence of leaving the hassles and drama of the 9-to-5 grind in the dust– where it belongs. That’s the vibe that Scott captures so beautifully.  It’s not about posing, man.  It’s about showing. The images crystalize the adventure and joy of hitting the road with good friends– to inspire themselves, as well as us, to never stop living for the day– not the man.  Hell yes.

Image by © Scott Toepfer

Image by © Scott Toepfer

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In all of history it has happened only once. Only one man has ever won the World Championship in both motorcycle and auto racing– John Surtees. In 1956, at the wee age of 22 yrs old, he became the 500cc motorcycle World Champion. Then in 1960, he switched full-time to auto racing, and was crowned Formula One World Champion in 1964. At 26 yrs of age, he’d become the only man ever to win a World Championship on two wheels and four. There has been no one since, and perhaps nevermore.

Grand Prix motorcycle racing career
Active years 1952 – 1960
Teams Norton, MV Agusta
Grands Prix 49
Championships 350cc – 1958, 1959, 1960
500cc- 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960
Wins 38
Podium finishes 45
Pole positions N/A
Fastest laps 34
First Grand Prix 1952 500cc Ulster Grand Prix
First win 1955 250cc Ulster Grand Prix
Last win 1960 500cc Nations Grand Prix
Last Grand Prix 1960 500cc Nations Grand Prix



May 10, 1964 — Ferrari designer Mauro Forghieri (ITA) manages a yawn as driver John Surtees (GBR) prepares for practice to begin in the pits. Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo — Image by © Phipps/Sutton Images/Corbis


Formula One World Championship career
Active years 1960 – 1972
Teams Lotus, Cooper, Lola, Ferrari,Honda, BRM, McLaren, Surtees
Races 113 (111 starts)
Championships 1 (1964)
Wins 6
Podiums 24
Career points 180
Pole positions 8
Fastest laps 10
First race 1960 Monaco Grand Prix
First win 1963 German Grand Prix
Last win 1967 Italian Grand Prix
Last race 1972 Italian Grand Prix


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Gilda Texter on a Honda Scrambler in the epic film “Vanishing Point”, 1971.


Woman riding a motorcycle

That’s a woman on that gnarly chopper!


1982, Sturgis, South Dakota — Hells Angels at Sturgis — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

June 17th, 1977, Cleveland, Ohio — Plumber Sam Green drives his customized Harley-Davidson motorcycle on a tree lined street in Cleveland.  Green added hundreds of lights, horns, and chrome balls, as well as a television, canopy, CB radio, and tape deck. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

April 17th, 1974, Daytona Beach — They’ve got all kinds of names for members of the younger generation. At Daytona Beach, at least, it might be termed the relaxed generation. Some youngsters from Ohio rest on their motorcycles after arriving in the area recently. Daytona Beach is one of the few resorts in Florida where vehicles can be used on the beach. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

March 9th, 1968 — Cyclists are Sought in Murder Case.  Cleveland, Ohio:  Their bikes are their most prized possessions, say the Animals.  Shown working on their motorcycles are (from left):  V.C.; Gabby; and Tom (only nicknames given).  In foreground is an unusual three-wheeler.  Local authorities are looking for the motorcycle riders who killed two men in a cafe on February 28th.  Three suspects in the case are former members of the Animals. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

Dec 3rd, 1966, Las Vegas — Hordes of teenagers cruise the Las Vegas Strip on motorcycles and in cars at night. Traffic along the strip is bumper-to-bumper every weekend as youngsters arrive to observe and be observed. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

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One of motorcycle racing’s first true superstars– Geoff Duke, known simply as The Duke” by his circuit peers and fans, was a six-time World Champion (racking up 33 Grand Prix victories along the way), who dominated the ’50s racing scene, winning three of his titles on Snortin’ Norton bikes.  After bringing home the championship three years in a row for Norton (’50, ’51 & ’52), in ’53 he moved on to race for Italy’s Gilera– not exactly an endearing move with the British fans and press, but nonetheless ‘The Duke” continued his winning streak, and would eventually find himself racing Nortons again down the road.

Duke’s racing prowess was a boost for Norton, who struggled to regain their racing foothold against the evolving postwar technology as their single cylinder machine was up against the advanced, more powerful multi-cylinder engines being cranked out by the Italians and AJS on home soil.  What Norton did get right was their legendary shock-absorbing “featherbed” racing frame.  The name was coined when Isle of Man TT racer Harold Daniell was quoted as saying that it was like “riding on a featherbed” as compared to riding on a “garden gate” when compared to conventional racing frames.  Their featherbed frame technology, with a lower center of gravity and shorter wheelbase, combined with finessed engine placement to further maximize bike handling, were crucial in keeping the Norton Manx competitive– the mother of all badass cafe racers that are still loved today.

Ultimately, Norton frames were paired with Triumph engines by motorheads looking to create hybrid bikes that became known as Tritons” — effectively combining their respective strengths to create fierce racing machines.

1952– The legendary Geoff Duke astride a 500cc Norton bike at the Dutch TT, Assen, the Netherlands. via


1951, Northern Ireland, UK– The line-up for the start of the Senior World Championship motorcycle race in Ulster.  The winner was British motorcyclist Geoff Duke (No. 55) on a Norton bike. –Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis


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A cool piece on Steve McQueen rating six bikes for Popular Science magazine back in November, 1966–

“First of all, I don’t set myself up as an expert on either setting up machinery for racing, or in the actual sport of racing itself.  But after 25 years of desert riding in Southern California, TT scrambles, Hare and Hound, and a bit of racing in the wet Six Days Trials in East Germany n 1964– I sure hope I picked up a little bit about motorcycles and riding along the way.” –Steve McQueen

At the end of the day, McQueen heavily favors his own hybrid desert-rippin’ beast that he put together with the help of the Ekins brothers–

“I used a Rickman-Metisse frame– a revolutionary piece of equipment that does away with the oil tank. The oil circulates through the tubes of the frame, which keeps it cool…I used a 650cc Triumph engine as the powerplant for this bike.  The drivetrain and gearbox are also Triumph.  It has Ceriani forks with 7 1/2 inches of travel for a real smooth ride, and a BSA crown.  The fiberglass fenders and tank hold the weight down to a notch under 300 pounds.  The rig is the best handling bike I’ve ever owned.  And the power– it’s like supersonic.” –Steve McQueen


“If you can’t cut it, you gotta back out.”  –Steve McQueen

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