You just can’t ignore the influence of BikeEXIF on the cafe, brat-style, flattracker and modern custom scene. Chris Hunter’s personal passion for beautifully built and photographed custom bikes has turned an engineering art form, into a creative and social art form too, inspiring a whole new breed of biking aficionado, and acting as THE source for what’s new and what’s cool in the world of custom bikes from the likes of Deus, Wrench Monkees, Roland Sands, Walt Siegl, Cafe Racer Dreams, Jesse Rooke and a few others, who regularly grace EXIF’s weekly pages – including our own Spirit and Untitled M/C.
Down in the Shed Chris’s way of doing things has of course been an inspiration, so we got in touch, bonded over a few shared ideals and asked him a few nosey questions…
Dutch von Shed: So, Chris – let’s start with a bit about you – What’s your day job? What else inspires you apart from bikes, and how do you integrate family life with biking?
Chris Hunter: I used to be the creative director of an advertising agency in Sydney. Now, I do Bike EXIF full-time. Being out of agency life means I get a lot more time with the family, and more of a connection to ‘real’ life and things of substance. I’m inspired by many things: great design, architecture, fine food and wine, music, Islay single malts and almost anything from France.
Clearly a man of good taste… Make mine Unchillfiltered Please.
Dutch von Shed: Ever regret leaving the UK to live in paradise? (ok silly question, but elaborate anyway)
Chris Hunter: I had a wonderful time in the 90s in London. A great bunch of friends, and a hectic social life in a city that was on peak form. We worked hard and partied hard, clubbing twice a week and recovering in the pub. But that was then, and this is now. I’d probably be dead if I still lived in London! Sydney was a wonderful city to live in too — a marvellous climate, very family friendly, a public transport system that works, and beautiful surroundings.
Dutch von Shed: What bike tipped you from being just a biker to a bike aficionado?
Chris Hunter: There are several stock bikes I’ve always had a thing for. High on the list would be the Ducati SportClassic 1000 and the Moto Guzzi Griso. (I’m a relatively recent convert.) Of older bikes, I remember being stopped dead in my tracks the first time I saw a BMW K1.
Dutch von Shed: As a biker, what – if anything – makes your blood boil?
Chris Hunter: I hate seeing another biker pull off a manoeuvre that endangers other road users — like crossing onto the wrong side of the road on a corner, or cutting up cars. Also offensive clothing, Nazi helmets and the like. I don’t like things that damage the image of motorcycling in the eyes of the general public.
Dutch von Shed: Bikes vs Bike Pics – where does your heart lie, and how to you untangle the two?
Chris Hunter: I love both. To me, it’s a marriage in heaven. I think a beautiful motorcycle deserves to be shown in the best possible light. I’m always surprised when a builder spend tens of thousands of dollars on a bike, and hundreds of man-hours, and then records all that hard work and skill by walking round the bike taking shots from eye-level with a $199 compact camera. The art of creation deserves a quality record for posterity.
Dutch von Shed: How many unsolicited bike pics do you get in any week? Do you have a polite way of saying “no thanks”?
Chris Hunter: I probably get around 100 bikes a week sent in. I try to respond to most emails, but I don’t have a ‘stock reply’. If I get an email has been cc’d to a whole load of other websites I don’t reply.
Dutch von Shed: Is there just too much use of brown going on amongst the custom illuminati right now? Brown seats, grips, paint…
Chris Hunter: Now that you mention it, possibly! It’s certainly a trend. Could it be the controversy to finally replace pipewrap and vintage tires?
Dutch von Shed: Who is our favourite bike builder, and why?
Chris Hunter: I don’t have a single favourite builder. There are quite a few remarkably talented guys out there. I have been privileged to meet Matt Machine several times though, and I have a soft spot for his Le Mans custom.
Matt Machine’s Guzzi Le Mans
Dutch von Shed: Beauty vs rideability. Does it matter if people build showroom display machines, or should bikes always get ridden?
Chris Hunter: I reckon it’s horses for courses. Practicality always varies from bike to bike. It’s just like concept cars: I love looking at a Lamborghini motor show prototype, but I’d rather drive my Audi to the the shops. (My kids might disagree with me on that one, though!)
Dutch von Shed: What’s the most exotic/best bike you’ve ever ridden?
Chris Hunter: I’d say my Guzzi V7 Classic is the best, but then I would, wouldn’t I? I haven’t ridden many bikes, and the V7 has the best mix of rideability and handling. I suspect a fully kitted-out SportClassic 1000 would top it, though.
(Dutch von Shed: Yes it would, dude, go buy one)
Chris contemplates the effect that Firestones would have on his V7’s turn-in 😉
Dutch von Shed: So you like the V7? It looks ripe for mods – will be getting the hacksaw out anytime soon?
Chris Hunter: I love it. It’s already lightly modded, with Ikon shocks, Mistral reverse cone mufflers and an O2 optimiser. I need to get a couple of dirt bikes for the farm soon, so any spare cash will go towards those rather than the Guzzi.
Dutch von Shed: How do you feel about electronic rider aids. Does it de-skill the art of proper biking, or is it safety nirvana?
Chris Hunter: In general, I think they’re a good thing. Most ultra-high performance cars are loaded with driver aids. No reason why motorcycles shouldn’t be. I personally prefer older or ‘raw’ bikes, but if I was still using my bike for commuting and was faced with the prospect of wet weather or bad roads, I’d want the odds stacked in my favour.
Dutch von Shed: What bike sites and sources do YOU follow? MotoGP, CafeRacerTV, BSB, Pipeburn…?
Chris Hunter: Not so much the motorsport sites, with the exception of Motorsport Retro. I follow all the custom blogs, and I know the guys from Pipeburn and Return Of The Cafe Racers from my days in Australia. In the US, I admire Wes and what he’s done with Hell For Leather, Trent Reker of BikerMetric and Alicia Elfving of MotoLady. These three all have very unique voices and approaches, something that is missing from many other ‘alt’ sites. Otherwise it’s mostly the more obscure blogs I read, I have hundreds in NetNewsWire.
Dutch von Shed: If someone built you a bike from scratch, what would it be, what engine, frame, chassis configuration, etc…
Chris Hunter: Oh God. Where do you start? One solution would just be to give $20,000 to Richard Pollock of Mule Motorcycles. You’d get a great mix of components back. For something a little more relaxing, I’d pick a Moto Guzzi engine, Ohlins suspension, Excel rims and Brembo brakes, and leave the rest to the builder.
Dutch von Shed: Apart from biking websites, what other blog/sites grab your attention and why?
Chris Hunter: I love Le Container, Loudpop Voyager, The Selvedge Yard, A Continuous Lean, Them Thangs, Kottke, The Fox Is Black, ISO50 and Wanken. I drop by Cool Hunting, The Cool Hunter and Cool Material regularly. I’m also the new custodian of a lovely 1970 Land Rover Series IIa 88-inch, so I have been loitering on vintage Land Rover forums lately.
Dutch von Shed: As your success builds and your site becomes a potential marketing tool for big business, how do you keep it real?
Chris Hunter: I’m already in touch with marketers from most of the larger motorcycle makers. In our dealings, there’s never been an awkward moment. These guys seem to respect Bike EXIF for what it is, and like it for what it is. If someone’s advertising with us, then we’ll help integrate their products and messages, but I’ve never been pressured, and I’m thankful for it. I’m sure the day will come at some point though.
Dutch von Shed: Where next for EXIF and the custom scene? Are we a flash in the pan, or here to stay, and at what level?
Chris Hunter: I think the custom scene is stronger than ever. It has changed radically over the past few years, away from the billet and bling chopper scene and ape bars, and it’s got a new lease of life. I’m planning to keep Bike EXIF in the vanguard: it’s mostly a one-man operation at the moment, but the future probably requires collaboration and investors. That’s something I’ll be looking at over the next few months. There are also a lot of other sites moving into the same space, some of them from owners with more of a ‘pro’ background and more resources behind them. Competition is good and will grow the scene even further. I’m not sure whether some of the ‘newer’ sites have the passion, or whether they’re more interested in the advertising dollars. Personally, I think you need the passion first. That will always be at the core of Bike EXIF.
Dutch von Shed: Thanks Chris… and thanks for leading the way.
If you’re here on the Shed, there’s almost no doubt that you already follow Chris’s site, but just in case, here’s a link – and if you’re not subscribed, you should be.