Leo Yip and Steve Barry, owners of Ellaspede custom motorbike design studio, are today’s featured artisans. Together they demonstrate how businesses can still work even after they deviate from the original plan.
Leo and Steve first met when they were industrial design students at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. They were having dinner one night and got into a discussion about their love for custom motorbikes. When they first started their design studio, Helluva, custom motorbikes were nothing more than a shared hobby. In fact, Ellaspede, the custom motorbike company they set up, was originally supposed to just develop a couple of bikes for their own personal use.
But the “unofficial” brand drew a loyal niche following, prompting the two designers to commit more time and effort to Ellaspede—a decision they were perfectly happy to make. Both Leo and Steve have a strong passion for motorbikes. Even as a child, Leo was fascinated with celebrities like Steve McQueen, James Dean, and Marlon Brando, each of whom were pillars of motorcycle culture. Leo was also entranced by the sight of bikers on the highways of Australia, and he grew to fall in love with the lifestyle.
Art on Wheels
Ellaspede’s core concept is building bikes that are high fashion with a retro feel. Most of the “raw” bikes that come into their shop are older model cycles from the 70’s to 80’s, which they then have to repair as well as refurbish. Steve and Leo often have to source new engines and other essential motorcycle parts from suppliers, making sure that these new parts can be properly mounted onto these older chassis. It’s like being both a heart surgeon and a plastic surgeon at the same time.
In an effort to set them apart from other custom bike shops, the Ellaspede crew designs and produces most of the parts and accessories themselves. They take great pains to match the customizations with the bike owner’s personality, which goes a long way to explaining Ellaspede’s success. Another factor is Ellaspede’s preference for “essential” customizations. No useless frippery like tassels or horsehead busts here—every part included in an Ellaspede bike has a purpose, but is polished, painted, and custom fit to exacting specifications. Ellaspede bikes are lean, powerful, and beautiful.
A Roaring Culture
The Ellaspede shop has become a hub of Australian motorbike culture. They hold shows and events that put their most prominent projects on display for other motorheads to admire. They have even been invited by an Australian Artisan Gallery to place bikes on display.
In addition to their custom bikes, their on-line and in-house store features many other custom-designed products (remember, they were originally a design studio). They offer clothing, apparel, wallets, duffel bags, and gloves in addition to motorcycle parts and accessories.
Not bad for the product of a dinner conversation.