Ellaspede is a Brisbane-based hub for motorcycle culture owned + operated by Steve Barry and Leo Yip. Whilst I have to admit I know nothing about the intricacies of motorcycles (or the generalities for that matter) there is something I find inherently beautiful in their design so when I was recently invited to attend a launch party for Ellaspede's new servicing and repairs division I jumped at the opportunity.
I was lucky enough to be able to pin Leo down to answer a few questions...
You guys have created a pretty unique offering in terms of Brisbane's motorcycle culture. Tell us how Ellaspede came about?
Ellaspede came about through a mutual interest and enthusiasm for all things wheel and motor based. Steve and I are both motorcycle enthusiasts so it only seemed natural for us to utilise them as a canvas for our expressions of functional design.
Steve and I met at university (Queensland University of Technology) and developed a friendship. We each moved into professional roles after graduating but remained in contact and after a number of years in the industry we both decided to leave our jobs to start something that encompassed our interests. So was born Heluva, an industrial design company, and Ellaspede a custom motorcycle and clothing company.
My passion and love of motorcycles developed from a very young age however I was not allowed to get a motorcycle until I was in my early 20's. In retrospect, probably a wise idea by my parents.
We found our premises at 8 Greer Street, West End after 8-12 months of looking for a space. The building underwent some pretty serious changes including space partitioning, amenities, installation of a driveway, exterior paint and internal flooring. The space is under continual change as we bring in more design projects as well as custom motorcycles, this generally means moving walls, going vertical with storage and making use of every piece of square meterage.
Steve and I can't say we have necessarily based our business on an existing model. In fact we are probably not very good businessmen, we are definitely designers first and business second. We follow the motto that so long as we concentrate on the things we do well and we do well by our clients, customers or end users the business side of things will look after itself... we'll see if this works, life's just an experiment.
For those of us who are motorcycle novices, what exactly is a cafe racer?
For those who are motorcyle novices a cafe racer is essentially a type of custom made motorcycle that was born from stripping away the superfluous and building a machine capable of racing from cafe to cafe. It is probably important to note that at Ellaspede we do not only build cafe racers, although they are part of what we do, we create machines that cross varying styles of custom motorcycles including bobbers, cruisers, trackers, restorations and many more.
Can you give us an overview of a typical customisation process from go to whoa?
Generally a client comes to us with a bike they already own, alternatively they come to us with a particular idea in mind and request our assistance to choose a donor motorcycle. From there we generate sketches and design a motorcycle. We see this as a collaboration between the client and Ellaspede, hence the varying types / styles of motorcycles we build and specific touches that make the bikes unique to the client.
From there we assess the build and provide the client with a quote. Then the physical fun begins, tearing parts off, redesigning parts, purchasing some off the shelf parts and fabricating others. We try to do as much in house as possible however we definitely leave some things to the professionals such as coatings and paints. Once a majority of the new parts have been made or sourced we start the rebuild process. By this point the client is very excited and ready to jump back on the bike and ride off into the sunset. A lot of our clients have become friends during the course of the builds and it's always lovely to see the bikes back in the shop when clients drop in for a coffee or service.
Also, it's important to not that clients do not have to get us to do full builds we are just as happy doing small custom projects or even just change a light bulb. We're always happy to meet another person who is into motorcycles!
Ellaspede isn't just about the bikes, there's also a clothing and accessories range, a cafe and custom parts design and production service. How do you juggle it all?
Haha we find a magical set of hours between midnight and morning. In all seriousness, despite some occasional long hours we have the type of job that most designers would be envious of, we are able to create the things we want, whilst dealing with fantastic clients. Steve and I could not do this on our own, we have a very dedicated team of multidisciplinary designers + fabricators. Our latest addition is Phil our 10+ years mechanic who has also gone back to university to up skill himself to become an engineer.
When you do get some downtime, how do you spend it?
My downtime generally consists of DVDS, movies, art galleries and hanging out with friends and family.
Finally, which other creatives are inspiring you at the moment?
I think there are probably too many to mention. I would just have to say design in general and access to design and designers has never been as prevalent as it is now through online media.