Shail Sheth Of Bombay Custom Works Gives The Regular Bike A Cool Update
Having secured a bachelor’s degree in automotive design from UK’s Coventry University, Shail Sheth began working in a company in New Delhi but always harboured a secret desire to branch out on his own. In possession of an ancestral space in South Bombay, Sheth gave in to the whisperings of his bike customising ambitions and decided to utilise a small section of his father’s office — which used to be a godown where paper bundles were stocked — to allow his creativity to thrive.
Sheth did not hit the ground running. Early days saw him managing his custom bike shop with only a fabricator and a painter besides himself, and his first, self-imposed project involved dismantling an entire bike, studying the skeleton intricately and giving it an impressive makeover. We spoke to the man with magic fingers about customising bikes in a way that’s clean yet mean.
Why did you decide to start customising bikes?
“In 2012, not many people built motorcycles, especially the smaller blocks. Having studied automotive design and knowing a little bit about bikes, I always thought building my own motorcycle would be a really cool thing to do. It was quite challenging to set up a custom bike shop in India since the customisation scene in Indian was at a very nascent stage. There was no guidebook to follow — I had to write the rules all by myself.”
What sets you apart from your competitors?
“When we first started out, I had around ten guys building motorcycles; today, there are close to 100. As custom bike builders, we aren’t really competitive because there are so few of us and customer requests are of such a unique nature. But in terms of build, we like it old school. We do a lot of hand-stitched leather work and retro pinstripes to make it look like a grand affair.”
Which is your favourite bike to work with?
“A Yamaha RX 100/135 is my ideal choice of bike to work with. The bike has been around for many years and is a great model to explore and experiment with. Besides, it’s one of the easiest bikes to build and very much fun to ride.”
What has been the most creative request made by a client?
“We participated in a competition where we had to build a bike for from whatever scrap was left over in the shop. We created ‘Barood’ based on a 1986 Royal Enfield and it won Best Custom-Built Motorcycle at the Royal Enfield Rider Mania in 2015. One of the most challenging requests we had to accommodate was to fit a leaf spring suspension on a motorcycle instead of coil springs since the former was usually restricted to cars.”
What is the approximate cost of getting a bike customised by you?
“It starts at 50k and can go up to 5 lacs. There are different levels of customisation so you don’t have to build a whole bike from scratch to incorporate your preferences.”
How would you describe the Indian consumer’s aesthetic these days?
“Like I mentioned earlier, the custom bike scene in India has only started coming into its own. I’ll reserve my comments for now since Indian consumers need to go a long way before they are completely aware of how they can tinker around with their bikes. At the moment, people choose from what is available at the shop so it’s all very basic, but it’s changing and growing every day. I’m still waiting for a request that will blow my mind away with its ingenuity.”