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Friday Edition


The New Matt Hotch

Bike Builder Extraodinaire

By Paul Garson
4/19/2007 12:11:14 PM


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While he builds hi-visual impact motorcycles, some people call California Master Builder Matt Hotch “The Invisible Man” thanks to his ability to make lines and cables disappear to create a totally uncluttered, seamless design.

Growing up in Minneapolis, he was up on two wheels by age 10. “My Grandfather was one of those guys who came back from WWII and was in one of the early motorcycle clubs, one of those guys who hit all the hillclimbs and sorta terrorized the local communities. He and my Dad had all the tools up on peg-boards in the garage, and since we didn’t have much money, we were always dragging junk home and making something out of it.”

”I got my first car when I was 12, a VW, and went through 60 of them by the time I was 17. I’d buy them and part them out.

”If you work on VW’s you learn how to fix about anything.”

In the same time frame he traded a VW Baja bug for his first Harley, a ’69 kick-only Sportster. “It was straight out of the ‘70s chopper with two square headlights,” Matt said. “I lowered it, added forward controls, and drag bars. As far as working on it, I’ve always jumped in feet first. My friends brought me their bikes. I’d screw them up and learn how to do it right for my own bikes,” laughs Matt.

By 18, he had already done a couple frame-ups, and at 20 he opened his business, Hot Match Custom Cycles in Fullerton, CA and tried to make a living building bikes. His shop was down the street from McMullen Publishing, at that time home of Hot Bike magazine and several other mags, and by 1996 he was doing a lot of tech articles for them. “I also got some good direction at the time from Skeeter Todd and Jesse James as far as parts and stuff. I got some of my first patents and starting selling my parts and just kept building crazy bikes.” (His current patents include his flushmount gas camp and springless kickstand.)

Over time Matt’s line of parts prospered and he was able refocus his full creative attention on the kinds of bikes he really wanted to build. “I was in a position where I could express my full creative instincts without worrying about catering to economics and any other restrictions. No one else touches them except me, and they’re warranteed for life,” says Matt. “Even after the customer sells it. I can do that because I only build four or five bikes a year and charge a lot of money.” (For those that want to join that rare company, the minimum entry fee is $150K, the average a cool $200K and there’s a 4-year waiting list.)

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Asked how he’d describe his style of bike, Matt replies, “The thing that got me noticed was hiding all the cables, the ultra- sanitary look. I saw a lot of nice customs being built but they all had wires and cables just dangling all over the place. I’ve always built my bikes around the components, around the cables and wires; even if I could just find an inch, it would be make a difference. As far as Old School, New School, I’ve always liked the look of old choppers and bobbers, because that’s the school I’m from, so I guess you could say I’m New School or Retro. But I guess you’d call my bikes Super Radicals and they’re bought by customers with a lot of money but who also appreciate the bikes as works of art. They give me free rein, exactly where I want to me.”

About two years ago Matt moved to new facility, a 16,000 sq. ft. building on the historic registry circa 1924, originally an orange packing house and that features 24-foot ceilings and oak floors. “When I walk in here, it gets my creative juices flowing.” The place is divided into a 4,000 sq. ft. showroom and office area, the remaining 12,000 sq. ft. filled with his fabrication tools and assembly benches. When you walk in you see Matt’s eclectic collection of “toys” from dirt bikes to go-carts to golf-carts to hotrods to electric wheel chairs. Asked about the chairs, he laughs and says, “We souped up a couple of them and screw around on them just for the fun.”

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A recent slate cleaning of staff and business attachments has seen Matt’s business turning into a family affair, his father who had retired and his sister-in-law and wife now composing the “staff,” while Matt’s in the middle of the 12,000 sq. ft. workspace doing his thing seven days a week, although he’s often on the road because of his “celebrity” status.

Asked about that, Matt, who’s actually not a limelight kinda guy, says, “I guess a measure of that is our 18-wheeler truck and selling T-shirts. We’ve got a whole line of clothing plus we do the bike tours and shows. I actually like the smaller events in the Midwest and East Coast. They hire me to make appearances and I sit there signing posters 12-hours a day. For some people that might get old, but I realize this means a lot to the people who support you, who come to the shows and stand in line for your autograph and to buy your T-shirts.”

Matt’s also signed up to endorse various products including a line of Hardchrome exhaust pipes as well as promoting a company called Formotion that offers a line of motorcycle mounted clocks and watches including the special $9000 diamond encrusted watch, he’s morphed into his recent Biker Build-off project. He ended up incorporating it into the bike’s gas cap.

A $9000 watch might seem extravagant, but not when compared to the selling price of the completed bike…$250,000.

Matt rather humbly says, “I’ve always been the most expensive. When I hit the $100,000 mark, everybody else started charging more money, so I had to keep raising my prices. I have a pretty strict interview process before someone can buy one of my bikes. All my costumers become very good friends, we hang out, go on vacations together. I have to be able to work with them for a long time since I warranty my bikes forever. Just because they have a lot of money doesn’t mean they automatically get a bike. Most of my costumers are in their mid 30s. They love the motorcycle for what it is. They come from all over the world. In fact, I have one guy from Ireland who discovered the cure for Mad Cow’s disease. My customers are really interesting people and buying one of my bikes is like joining a fraternity, so we have a lot of fun.”

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Part of the pricing is a response not only to the bike’s appearance but to its drivability. “I never deviated from buying the best materials to build a bike. It’s a handbuilt bike that’s forever, so every element that goes into it reflects that principle. For example, one bike I built had a one-off motor, a 140-inch Delkron 4-cam round cylinder engine with a Patrick Racing top end. That and the Discovery Bikes obviously put me in a whole different league.” He laughs and says, “The first Discovery deal was pretty stressful. I actually lost hair over it. I have long hair and got stress baldness, loosing a patch of hair in the front, but fortunately it grew back.”

Matt’s built two Discovery bikes and is “the Reigning undefeated Champion” after winning both his individual and the overall competition two years in a row. He’s sold a “bunch of bikes” as a result of the TV shows and is also conjuring up his third Discovery bike, a major departure since it’s based around a classic British Vincent V-twin, but with a 26-inch front wheel and as Matt puts it, “a bunch of crazy stuff.” As for the choice of the 1950s Vincent, the fastest production bike of its time, Matt says, “My grandfather had one when he was a hooligan and hillclimbing.”

Filming is set for August and Matt’s teamed with his friend, Roger Goldhammer. “I always wanted him to be on the Build-off .We have mutual respect. I think he’s the best, and he thinks I’m the best. We decided to race at Bonneville and not each other, so it will be a lot of fun. It’s open to the public and will be at the BUB Run What You Brung event in September.”

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The other big news is that Matt and his wife are enjoying their first child, a boy born on Christmas Eve. His name is Ryder Josef. “It’s the most amazing thing that’s ever happened. I just can’t wait to share everything with him.” Asked him if he’d already bought him his first bike, Matt says, “I’m building him a truck, a Bronco rock crawler.”

Matt, a major golfer, is off to the Playboy Golf Tournament then to Puerto Rico this summer for their big island paradise event, along with his bike building buddy Eddie Trotta, then hunkering down for the next Biker Build-off. To check out his schedule of appearances and for a look at more of his radical machines log on to www.hotmatchcycles.com or www.matthotchdesigns.com.

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