Local bike builder unveils latest bourbon-fueled creation

The bike at an ABC store in Midlothian. (Jonathan Spiers)

The modified 2007 Triumph Speed Triple 1050 bike at an ABC store in Midlothian. (Jonathan Spiers)

A custom motorcycle maker is getting another shot of a bourbon-fueled promotion for one of its two-wheeled creations.

Richmond-based Classified Moto was once again selected to take part in Rebel Yell Bourbon’s “Rebels Uncaged” promotion, which was expanded this year from four to six builders from across the country.

As it did last year, the company made a one-of-a-kind bike to showcase at motorcycle shows en route to this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. The bikes will be awarded to winners of a Rebel Yell contest in October.

To promote the contest locally, Classified Moto’s bike – a modified 2007 Triumph Speed Triple 1050 – has been on display at area ABC stores, including Carytown, Forest Hill and Midlothian. Classified Moto’s John Ryland will be signing Rebel Yell bottles at the 11108 Midlothian Turnpike store this Friday from 4 to 6 p.m. before taking the bike back to apply finishing touches.

Ryland said last year’s inaugural event was such a positive experience that he made his interest known about participating again. He and his crew of five have been working four months on the bike, which Ryland valued at more than $35,000.

“They really let us do what we want to do,” Ryland said of the St. Louis-based bourbon maker. “We’ve done quite a few builds for corporations at this point, and at first I was a little bit reticent to do it, because you don’t want to feel like you’re selling out and doing something for big corporations. But it’s actually awesome, because they picked us because they like what we do and just let us do whatever we want.”

John Ryland

John Ryland. (Classified Moto)

Builders selected for the promotion were each given about $30,000 to cover parts and labor to build their respective bike. While Classified Moto’s exceeded that budget, Ryland – a former copywriter and art director at The Martin Agency – said the overrun was worth it for the promotion’s publicity.

“It’s like advertising,” he said. “Sometimes you build something because you want to make money and pay the bills, and other times you’re doing it for the bigger picture. This is definitely one of those bikes that is working out in our favor so far.”

Ryland launched Classified Moto in 2011 with his then-wife and co-founder Betsy Ryland, who remains involved in the business. He said the company averages about 12 to 15 bikes per year at its undisclosed downtown-area space, where it set up shop four years ago.

The business got a boost in 2014 when one of its bikes was featured on “The Walking Dead” TV show. Its client roster has included “Walking Dead” actor Norman Reedus, “Battlestar Galactica” actress Katee Sackoff and other buyers, both domestic and international.

The company specializes in blending old and discarded motorcycle parts with modern components in not only the bikes that it makes but also other items such as lamps.

Ryland couldn’t attribute any additional business to last year’s promotion, but he said that’s not the point. He said an Instagram video featuring the bike got picked up by Rebel Yell and others and ended up getting more than a million views.

“The brand has gotten to a point where even if we’re too busy to be nurturing it every day, it kind of carries itself and things will happen that I don’t even know about,” he said. “It’s not like we did (last year’s) project and all of a sudden the phone’s ringing off the hook and people are beating the door down, but it’s just cooler and almost higher-value things that come from it.”

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2 Comments on "Local bike builder unveils latest bourbon-fueled creation"

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Philip Riggan

*Motorcycle or motorbike. I don’t care what motorcycle people want to say, they are not bikes because they have a motor. Real men and women ride metal machines powered by muscle and sweat. Headline should say “Local motorbike builder.”

(BTW, great for them and good article.)

Bert Hapablap

And the Politically Correct have chimed in. Bike is a figure of speech that has been around longer than you’ve be alive. Let it go. SMH