John Ryland was an ad man – until the bottom dropped out. In March of this year after spending more than a decade as an art director and writer, Ryland got a pink slip which turned things slightly upside down.
Ryland had to find something to do, and preferably, something he actually liked to do.
That’s when Ryland and his wife Betsy hit on an idea. They’d put their full effort into building custom motorcycles and crafting handmade, made-to-order lamps from discarded shock absorbers and parts from old motorcycles. The couple actually opened up Classified Moto two years ago when Ryland still worked at the ad agency. For kicks, he built and sold motorcycles on the side.
“We take things that aren’t good to begin with and make them cool,” Ryland said.
Ryland is working on nine bikes in his workshop behind his Henrico County home – and here’s the good news – the initial bikes were so popular he’s got a waiting list for the next generation of his custom machines.
“We don’t have any notions of what is a proper bike to own and enjoy, so we work with what’s available to create unique recycled motorbikes that transcend their humble beginnings,” Ryland said.
Ryland takes bikes dropped off by customers or bikes or he finds ones himself, redesigns them, and then applies his signature look while giving the bike’s guts a mechanical update. He says that while he has a definite preference for the design and engineering elements of customizing motorcycles, most of his time is spent with a wrench in hand.
“I spend a lot more time doing the mechanical work than I like,” Ryland said.
But what about those cool lamps?
His wife, who also works as a jewelry designer, creates the lamps from old motorcycle parts and they’ve become a hit as well and have sold to customers all around the world.
So is building bikes and making excellent lamps the end of the couple’s aspirations? Not hardly. Last month, the Ryland’s launched a website aimed at marketing and selling Classified Moto’s output, and they also plan to sell T-shirts and gear featuring with the company logo. If that’s not enough, their long-term vision includes plans to open up a Classified Moto Café, a sort of restaurant, gift shop and viewing area where visitors can see the bikes being created.
“We want it be a high-end place where a biker would feel comfortable hanging out,” Ryland said.
Insuring your collectible or vintage motorcycle
You can spend a lot less, but if you plan to ride the bikes in your collection, the above pricing is a reasonable approximation of what you can expect to pay.