A Q and A With Cyril Huze
Cyril Huze has developed a reputation for designing some extraordinary custom bikes and turning his love of motorcycles into one of the most popular blogs around. Here's how he got started and some insights into how he approaches a build.
How did you get involved in riding motorcycles? What was the first bike you owned?
It was the mid-70’s. I was living and working in advertising in my native city of Paris, France. The person I admired the most professionally was a young, well-known and high paid Art Director with no car, but he rode a superb 1973 Harley Electra Glide. He was crazy about everything related to the U.S. The bike was his outside. We became good friends, and he told me lots of stories about Harley-Davidson and how upset he was, like many, at the purchase of Harley by AMF. In 1975, he sold his bike and only one buyer was possible. Me, at a big, big price… Six months later, it was stolen from me, and I can say for sure that it’s only at that time that I realized my strong attachment to the brand. Addicted to this day.
How did you get involved in building bikes?
I immigrated to the U.S. in 1987 and settled in Florida. I was able to live in a very safe neighborhood in a big house equipped with a 3-car garage. I had no reason not to indulge myself with motorcycles. The in-house tinkering of my bikes quickly turned into full custom jobs with the help of a mechanic friend. When my three personal Harleys were fully redone, I decided to trail the bikes all over the country to the main bike shows. Not only did I discover my new country, but I won almost all of the major bike shows where I competed, including the Official Harley Show and Rat’s Hole Show in Sturgis and Daytona. From Willie G. Davidson to the most respected professional custom builders of that time, I was encouraged to continue this path, but I had absolutely no intention to open a custom shop. These three bikes went on to be featured in Easyrider, the magazine named me “Master Builder”. That’s when I began to receive calls from prospective clients. It took me almost one more year of requests before I decided to become an official custom builder, working more like a design studio producing bikes than a traditional motorcycle shop.
What was your most complicated build?
They were all very complicated because the objective is not only to imagine - maybe the easier part of the job - but to execute perfectly something that the competition has never tried. There is no easy build because if it’s easy, you didn’t dream big enough for your client.
Where do you get your inspiration?
From the client’s life experience, passions, successes until we agree on a bike theme exciting for both of us and appealing to the public at large. I always spend a lot of time with clients before starting anything. I need to know how they live, where they like to vacation, the decoration of their house, their preferred movies, etc.
A Cyril Huze custom from his website gallery.
What other builders do you like?
They know I like them. I don’t want to hurt the others.
If you could build a bike for anyone, who would you build it for?
All builders wish to be able to build bikes without the constraints of budget, style and time. So, they love first to build for themselves. But we need to make a living.
The current craze seems to be Scramblers and Trackers. What do you think the next one will be?
As in fashion, there is no more a unique big craze lasting a few years, but several ones living in parallel with a fluctuating popularity.
There's a lot of discussion lately about the future of the motorcycle industry since it doesn't seem to be attracting enough younger riders right now to sustain it. What do you think the industry needs to do to counter this? Which manufacturers, if any, are in a better place to do something about this trend and why them?
Truth is that a great part of the industry is made of aging boomers not really interested in rethinking all their business for a Millennials acquisition strategy. Their retirement is too close to bother. They just try to last in the best financial condition for themselves. Unfortunately, they play the clock. I am convinced that aside from what is currently tried to attract younger bikers (more affordable motorcycles, easy to handle in an urban environment, requiring almost no maintenance), only electric motorcycles will win a brand new generation of bikers. I expect a total of 5 years of transition between now and a new re-energized motorcycle industry. I predict that an electric Indian and the electric LiveWire Harley, and others, will be on the road before 2 to 3 years. It will imply new or recycled part vendors, motorcycle shops, etc. So, a few tough years, then a motorcycle industry renaissance.
What prompted you to start your blog?
Starting in 2006, there was a huge exodus of readers and subscribers from print magazines. They were looking for a place offering news the way they consume it. It didn’t exist under a daily form with possibility to comment and to exchange opinions with others.
What do you think drove its initial popularity?
Being credible as a well-known custom builder. Being an insider with great sources. The absence of censorship.
What do you do to keep it relevant?
Hard work 24/7 to get the news first and to publish the most relevant ones with nice pictures in a nice layout. Reading the news must equal pleasure.
What does the future looks like for Cyril Huze?
Sorry, this I can’t say.
We were trying to find some last words that might sum up Cyril and his overall philosophy. We came this from a list of 12 he has posted on his custom build site:
"A good designer is not the one who takes you from 'what you have' to 'what you want', but the one who takes you from 'what you want' to 'what you didn’t even know you wanted.'