HB: Is the designer, Ed Jacobs still part of the process?
MC: Ed still works with us on an as-needed basis and that will continue but we’ve actually brought in a new designer that we’re not ready to release to the public just yet. When I tell you, you’ll know who he is. It’s going to be cool. Not to take anything away from Ed or any of the previous designers that we’ve worked with, but this is a real pedigree guy that’s been around the industry and really is quite the genius.
HB: How long to build one X132?
MC: It takes one guy about a week for just the assembly process. The way the system works is there’s a procurement team responsible for the quality control of all the parts, which are brought to either Jason or Rich and it’s their duty to basically build the bike. There’s one other gentleman, Chris White, who does the sub-assembly. But it all begins with all the pieces coming together by procurement, which is what we call the preferencing of the bike, and that comes with the owner’s name, and then the assembler builds the product. We do a little bit of machining in-house. We have a machine shop that’s operating at all times, but I’d say about 10 percent of the machining is done in-house and a gentleman in North Carolina does the rest. We fabricate the headers, frame, and the swingarm, which is a bonded part. The tanks are made in California and when they come in we do the finishing work. After that they go to paint. We have a good relationship with a local painter that does it all.
HB: Give us the scoop on the involvement of S&S’s X-Wedge.
MC: I always felt that the centerpiece—or the soul—of the motorcycle is in the crank. I watched with great interest with the huge investment S&S made with that huge motor, but I never saw that motor as being right for a custom motorcycle. My vision was that basically they were making the perfect Confederate motorcycle engine. I just don’t see it as looking right in a typical custom bike. Jesse James is a pretty good friend of mine and I asked what he thought about that motor with the plain bearing bottom end, he didn’t think it was aesthetically pleasing. I thought he was exactly right. But when you tighten up that format, and you put the frame around it as tight as it could possibly fit, and you really accentuate the muscularity of the package by shortening the center-to-center distance using billet material to highlight the power then I think it becomes really industrial chic like a well-designed power plant or refinery. When you look at the advantages of the [X-Wedge]: one-piece crank and 50-pound flywheel, that baby’s gonna last forever. It has the better oiling system and valve geometry. The whole package is so much more robust; I’ve wanted it since 2002! If you look at the motor and the way we’ve packaged it, looks like a giant Vincent motor. We did it to echo the wonderful work of Phil Irving and Phil Vincent who we have always been in awe of at Confederate. They were way ahead of their time.
HB: How much emphasis is placed on form over function or vice versa?
MC: The idea is that the motorcycle will tell us what it wants to be. Some of the stuff on a deep level is a listening process. Listening to the machine, which takes time and requires quiet and reflection. It’s that hour a day where you go off by yourself and you think of your motorcycle as a meditative experience to really get in touch. The process for us in the beginning, middle, and end, the intent has been to simplify and minimize the quiet, to bring a noise-free transparent clarity to the motorcycles that we make. Obviously decisions are made, and some are right, and we work on a best efforts basis. Skeletal minimalism is a theory that we speak of internally and the idea is to fuse simplicity with a sense of transparent clarity to give a product where someone who doesn’t know much about motorcycles or care much about them could say, OK I understand what you’re going for. And then when you get on it, it essentially needs to feel the way it looks. When you strap it on, the look and feel need to be in perfect harmony.