“I’ve been cutting and changing things since I was old enough to hold a screwdriver,” says Rick Hannah, owner and founder of Dirty Dick’s motorcycles in London. “Growing up with Lego and Meccano was probably a big influence, but I come from a very long line of engineers, so it’s in the blood. “
“I lived in what was then an underdeveloped neighborhood in Johannesburg, South Africa. There were so many off-road motorcycles exploding around the place, ”Hannah recalls. “I was probably about three years old when I had a plastic motorcycle to ride! “
Finally, his mother bought him a 1998 Suzuki DS80 off-road motorcycle for his 10th birthday. “The world has changed,” Hanna says. “I was no longer confined to the yard. I could travel the world! The world as I knew it was about 10 square miles of bushes around the house, but it changed my life when I was 10 years old. Honestly the best thing I ever owned, I even used to drive it to school when I was 18.
“Lawless, loud and fast. South Africa in the 1980s was a gasoline head’s dream. The race series was all about winning and the streets were the same, ”continues Hannah. “Local automakers have been building crazy cars for homologation, stuffing V6 engines into tiny Alfa Romeos, squeezing 3.3-liter inline-6 BMW engines into a 3-series, even Ford stuffed a V8 Mustang in a Sierra. Everything was penalized, and it was all about winning on Saturday. The 80s, to me, smelled of tarmac and gasoline. Every day as I rode my BMX I would see Suzuki Katana, CBX1000 and Z1000 ripping the streets. Being an oil tanker was inevitable.
Migrating to London, Hannah made a living outside of custom motorcycles. However, this did not stop him from pursuing the dream after perfecting his art. Hannah started her customizing career on a 1997 Ducati Monster 750. The process was simple: “Once you start to understand how things work, you only have a moment before you start to understand how they could be. improved.
Eventually, he founded Dirty Dick’s Motos. “It’s easy to build bikes when it’s for a friend or cousin. You can take your time, knowing that you will be paid in beer, and there is no rush. It was always a “best efforts” exercise that I got tired of. It was just time to stop building and modifying bikes as favors and start doing it with real effort.
“I wanted to build with a compromise as close to zero as possible and freedom of movement in the process,” says Hannah. “I wanted to start building from scratch – basic builds with a fully done design to work on. “
“The name is just a play on me always being covered in motorcycle dirt,” says Hannah, answering a frequently asked question. “Filthy Rick’s Motorcycles don’t sound quite the same. That, and if you leave the apostrophe out of the name, it gets pretty funny!
This is not unusual among builders of custom motorcycles, Hannah has a deep appreciation for motorcycles from different eras, as he explained to us.
“For me, I like to pick a bike from each decade as my favorite. It’s too difficult to reduce it otherwise. From the 60s, I think it would be impossible not to choose the Honda CB750. Clean lines, as fast as possible for the time, and timeless beauty. Things of the 70s are getting a little more difficult, but I should go for the 1979 Honda CBX1000. The noise, that Ferrari V12 sound, the engine as large as a building, the insane torque and the abominable handling! A no-budget design masterpiece that looks pretty good even today.
“The 1980s were a strange time, but not without interest. For me it’s the 1986 Suzuki GSX-R750R. Short, chunky, garish colors and ridiculously fast. The Katana gets an honorable mention. For the 90s, it can only be the Tamburini Ducatis. Very little came close to the original design of the 916 in terms of sheer beauty. I know Honda fans will describe the use of NR750 design snippets, but there really is no comparison. I have a Ducati 748R with a Senna body in my garage that I sometimes just sit and watch.
Hannah doesn’t apologize for her inspiration. “The past,” he said. “Everything has already been done in one form or another. Life is about taking something good and making it better. I think the expression is something like, “It’s not where you get things from, it’s where you take them that matters.” So I take ideas from the past and try to bring them back to the present, improving form and function as I go. It makes me look old! The truth is, I prefer the simplicity of the past, when the form of something was half of its existence, when a product was not designed by accountants. Form should always follow function, but the two can coincide in a beautiful thing if done right.
Dirty Dick’s Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled 2 Motorcycles is the sequel to his most prominent build to date, a beautiful blue W650 Desert Sled nicknamed Minty.
Hannah got a 20-year-old W650 that didn’t ride to begin the process of building a motorcycle reminiscent of the machines that raced in the California deserts in the 1960s: desert sleds. Although most of them are British bikes, we have no doubt that a few Kawasaki W1 and W2 have entered the fray.
After a complete teardown of the inert W650, Hannah began her rebirth. The frame has been sandblasted, chopped, buckled and stripped of unnecessary supports and the integrated luggage rack. The fuel tank also received the sandblasting treatment, then gloriously welded to remove stamped seams, then custom painted.
“In the shade, the paint is a very traditional British green for motorcycles, dark and brooding,” notes Hannah. “I felt this color was a risky move, as I generally prefer big, bold, bright colors, but I think it worked incredibly well. While it’s a deep green in the shade, barely emphasizing the golden accents, as soon as the light hits it, the paint explodes with multi-layered gold glitter in the green. It really is something special. A Motone customs The billet fuel tank cap visibly crowns it.
Moving into restoration territory, the suspension is updated to become fully adjustable via an Andreani cartridge kit for the brace fork and custom-length Hagon shocks bolted to a machined aluminum swingarm. Braking is enhanced by a Dirty Dick’s Motos brake kit featuring a billet six-piston caliper gripping a 320mm floating EBC disc up front via a steel braided brake line, with a Custom technology master cylinder holding court. The rear drum is a notable contrast. Vintage Akront style Morad rims in a 19/18 inch combination are shod with modern Continental TKC 80 rubber.
Internal engine mods were limited to new bearings and seals – remember this is a W650, not a W1. Still, Hannah couldn’t resist cleaning the wiring, adding a IgniTech ignition and exposed K&N air filters. High technology is found in the Axel Joost Electronics RFID token system to send signals to various devices. a Anti gravity the lithium battery powers the whole thing lightly, while an analog style Motogadget speedo keeps an eye on speed.
The style and finish of the Dirty Dick Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled 2 Motorcycles is exquisite wherever you look. Stainless steel takes a star turn in the tailpipes and swept headlight mounts, and it’s a Motodemia Lighthouse. The front fender is made of steel and lovingly hugs the Conti, with both fenders being made of aluminum alloy. The skid plate is drilled for weight saving and aesthetics. The custom seat is finished in Alcantara and leather. Finally, a subtly shiny touch is the brass kick pedal.
With the likely success of Desert Sled 2, Dirty Dick’s motorcycles will receive increased attention. As beautiful as Hannah’s builds are, building custom motorcycles is not yet his full-time job, and he describes himself as a “struggling builder.” We asked him to explain:
“I think anyone who started out as a custom builder of anything can relate to difficulty. The biggest difficulty isn’t the quality of your work or parts or anything related to building custom bikes. It’s in two parts. The first is exposure to a sea of like-minded people, and the second is differentiation.
“It’s very, very hard to stand out, no matter how good you are when there are thousands of others in the same game. Unless you are on Instagram, by posting 10 times a day, you get lost in the sea of influencers. When it comes to differentiation, with millions of café racers, what do you do to make people remember your name? This is the hardest part: creating something different. I would like to mention that it is very difficult to make profit in this business. There is no way I can build the bikes I make without two other jobs to support me, but the hard work and consistency will pay off in time.
“About two months ago I went to a Lake Run – a very small event, reminiscent of the old Cali helicopter races, but in England – around 100 people. I chatted with a few people, and one of them, a business developer, read the riot document to me. He recognized my bikes but not me, and knew nothing about me or what I do, just that he had seen my bikes in magazines or online. Why was I so unknown with the bikes I had built? What was I doing to advance the brand? Where was my line of merchandise? What events was I doing? Etc. I felt like a good plonker!
“I’m not very good at self-promotion, but I started working on decent products. I will never produce 20 bikes a year. It’s not for me. I want everything I build to be as perfect as possible, and that won’t happen with high volumes. I would like to get to the point where a customer can come and see me, and we can work on a design, and I can produce this bike in about three months. Four bikes a year is a good maximum for me. In 10 years, I would like to be in a position where clients come to me entirely based on my previous job, and I can stop doing makeup on Instagram!
So much for Rick Hannah who spends more time building the masterpieces of Dirty Dick’s Motorcycles and less time feeding the insatiable social media beast.
Photograph by Michael Jersovs, MJ Studio
Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled 2 Motorcycles Photo Gallery from Dirty Dick