A health crisis tested his resolve and challenged every fibre in his body. But from this life-changing event, rose something much more than a custom motorcycle.
Who knew that growing up in small town Canada would lead to a lifetime quest for motorcycle perfection? I have been fascinated by motorcycles since childhood, and really anything with gears and wheels. Blasting down the road has given me my only addiction.
When I wasn’t tinkering around in my dad’s workshop I was drawing designs I wanted to one day build. Of course not having tons of resources available to me as a kid, I would search flea markets, auction houses and any basements for parts and modern artifacts that I could adapt in some way to my designs. Now as an adult my passion has grown though my love of searching or making just the right part hasn’t changed but has instead developed into an art form. I can now make or find anything I need to build my rides.
I would now like to tell a story of personal triumph—made from a BSA. I had bought a frame and motor, basket case for whatever might be next. At the time I was busy in a stressful day job like everyone else and had not made the time to get another project going. So it sat waiting in the corner of my overflowing workshop. I didn’t realize it would be waiting more than a year. How time flies.
One day, I suffered a major genetic heart failure, which led to a month in hospital and open heart surgery on my birthday. Although lucky to be alive, I was still not sure what lay ahead. In fact, I would spent the next year in rehab just trying to get my life back on track. It was a very difficult time and I needed to go slow. I was broken.
Everyone around me encouraged me to go back to my workshop. At the beginning it took all the energy I had to simply drive there, unlock the shop door, look around and literally get back in my car and drive home. I had no energy or motivation, it was depressing as much as anything else. I can’t say that I was particularly inspired mentally but was working hard physically to do my part in the recovery. I knew I just had to get on with my new life.
As the months passed I got stronger and the unlocking of the door turned into clearing space and then pulling the basketcase BSA out of its dusty corner. My outlook had changed so much. As corny as it may sound I felt like I had another chance in life. So I started to do what I always do. Tinker.
This process helped my recovery immensely. Working only a few minutes to start, then leading into an hour or slowly two. I started by changing the design that I had originally planned. It just didn’t seem to fit me anymore. I had changed and “Soul Asylum” was born. Its roots are a 1968 BSA A65 basketcase.
With the remnants of the bike I started in the same place my own new journey had begun: its heart, the A65 motor. I began to rebuild it with the help and encouragement of a friend, replacing and upgrading everything, new pistons to make it strong and valves to make it breathe. I had so many good ideas and wanted to make it better than it was in 1968.
Once that was done it was polished to a mirror and man did it shine! Liking the colours and texture of many metals the use of copper, brass, bronze and stainless steel became part of the vision. I even used glass to make the see-through oil tank. Next was copper leaf on the tank and fender. I painted these parts so I could see the design that was in my head and this really started to give it life.
Sorting the frame came next and, for me, a hardtail was the only way! I decided to make a jockey shift and a sissybar as I never had a bike with either. The front end was a revived 1973 Harley Sportster setup and 12-inch apes, which were also new for me. I made 7/8 inserts for the bars to accommodate the British controls.
For the electrics I sourced Old School cotton-covered wire of many colours from an old elevator and wrapped it in clear shrink tube to keep it clean and exposed. The kick pedal is an indigenous-style hawk face I designed and fabricated in brass. The rear wheel came from an old Triumph to which I added a crazy machined brass wheel spacer. The head of a walking stick placed in front of the engine brings the dragon alive.
There are many more small details that mean something to me and my recovery. They are hiding throughout the bike as small reminders of this period in my life. I still have a long way to go, but am receiving assistance and motivation from family and friends to help ease hurdles along the way.
The machine came to life before my very eyes and it definitely has some of my soul. Its creation was an important stage for me as I am still fighting with my health but my mind was alert and my hands alive as the work continued. After cresting the hill the finish was in sight and the remaining details were thoughtfully put into place. As a finishing touch I made the kickstand from titanium, (a metal that sings when touched by a tool) and mounted on it the foot from an early 1900s piano stool with a ghostly face holding a glass sphere. This final piece is internally lit, allowing Soul Asylum to stand on its own.
By Robert Lund, Canadian Biker Issue #350 (2020 : Vol 5)