Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Matt Tobias interview...

So yeah... Matt Tobias is the man.
His lightweight super skinny swingarm sporty is one of my favorite swingarm bikes of all time and I still think it is totally cutting edge. Love his work.
He recently ditched his swingarm Sporty to build a Big twin Attack chopper which his is in the middle of right now
(follow his progress on Chop Cult here:)

So a while ago Matt and I did a quick little email interview and we had always meant to do a little more with it, but hey... life gets in the way.

SO, I am just going to post what we had got done so far, it's short but it's still full of awesome Tobias-ness.
Great guy, great bikes, great thinker.... Matt rules... can't wait to see how his Big twin Attack chopper turns out!
Go Matt!

Bird: Where do you live and what is the geography like there?

Matt: I live in Chandler, AZ. We have a lot of awesome mountain roads nearby, but in town its all flat, layed out in a grid. Not very fun for commuting riding.

Bird: what kind of riding do you do?

Matt: Fast. I like to bomb as fast as I can everywhere I go. Its a compulsion. I basically have a contest with myself everytime I go somewhere to see if I can "just beat yesterday's time". LOL

Bird: What is your mechanical background?

Matt: My dad was an Aerospace engineer/helicopter crewchief and funny enough I never got into wrenching until my 1980-something Dodge D-50 pickup blew up its engine when I was 16. It was my fault. The water pump went bad while I was driving, and I thought- "I'm only 4 miles from home, I CAN MAKE IT!". I made it all right. I pulled up in front of the house going like 9 miles an hour(struggling, at that) and it died in a huge puff of smoke. Figuring out what all broke on it got me fascinated.
When I was 18 I enlisted in the Air Force and became a Firetruck mechanic- very cool. I did that for 10 years and now I'm a plumber in the family business.

Bird: How did you get started riding and building bikes?

Matt: When I got separated from my first wife I was stationed in England. I thought it would be a cool way to piss her off and bought the Sporty. It was brand new- a 1998 1200C. I thought it was so cool. I didn't know anything about Harleys back then. Looking back at it, I like the fact that I wasn't influenced by any media bias or any of the bad rap Sporties get from all the douchebags out there. I just thought it was the baddest looking bike in the lineup, and it was lighter, and faster! What’s better than that?!? Then I started reading more and more chopper magazines and the fire was lit. After I got back to the states I started picking up other projects to work on. Japanese, American, none of that matters, just the end result I have pictured in my head.

Bird: How important is performance to you?

Matt: It is important, but I don't have to have ALL of it. As long as my bike has the Oh-shit! factor, I'm happy.

Bird: Describe your concept of performance... when you say a bike has a high level of performance, what does that really mean to you?

Matt: Everything works in conjunction. The total package. Weight, TORQUE, brakes, handling, sitting in the bike rather than on it. I want the bike fluid man. I don't want any part of it to feel like a hiccup.

Bird: What sort of priority do you put on weight savings in your projects?

Matt: It is a priority, however, I try not to get TOO wrapped up in it because you will drive yourself nuts, seriously, it becomes this mad obsession.

Bird: How much did your sporty weigh in the last swing arm configuration?

Matt: About 455lbs.
Bird: Outstanding! Very nice!

Bird: You are in a pretty unique situation: You took a stock swing arm sporty, then you turned it into a rigid, then you went to custom swing arm setup, and now you sold the bike and are building another rigid framed chopper.
Can you walk us through the motivation for doing so, the way you did it, and the way it worked for you in those different setups?

Matt: Well, I built the rigid because ever since I became interested in bikes I've wanted a rigid. Unfortunately, I didn't build enough ground clearance into my rigid and crashed because of it. So I hit the drawing board again and decided that I'd rebuild it into a swingarm bike with tons of ground clearance. That all worked out great, EXCEPT that when I went back to a swingarm, I got back tons of vibration, and lost that razor sharp feeling that the rigid had.
Not to mention, I don't like extraneous bullshit on my bikes. The sporty has always been a compromise because of two things- no kickstarter, and a battery.
So my next bike will be built with all of those things in mind- kickstart, no battery, ground clearance, fast, good handling, ease of maintenance.

Bird: You and i talked a little on the phone about this and you said you preferred the way the rigid frame handled to the swingarm setup... can you share a little more with us about that?

Matt: Well, the rigid just felt, sharper, razor like. I just thought about it and it went where I wanted it. When you accelerated it just shoved you forward. Just awesome. It felt a thousand times more connected, more fluid like I mentioned above.

Bird: Is it true that you have an intense seething hatred for all batteries that burns hotter than a thousand suns?

Matt: I just don't like them, they cost a shit ton of money over the years and are a compromise, they weigh a bunch and never, ever look cool. LOL

Bird: What is your next rigid chopper going to be like? Goals for that build?

Matt: EVO powered big twin, 80 to 96"
5 speed kick start
magneto fired
points ignition
39mm front end
mag wheels front and rear
GOOD tires(not that vintage crap)
narrow bars
higher mid pegs
rigid wishbone frame modified for a couple of inches more ground clearance
at least 3 gal gas capacity

Bird: What is your favorite material to work with

Matt: Aluminum, steel, leather, titanium, nylon?)
Steel, aluminum, and leather.

Bird: How important are ergonomics to you in your builds? I know we talked a bit about the struggle you have with foot peg locations and the pain that can ensue from 1-2" of deviation in the wrong direction.

Matt: VERY important. I get so bummed out by bikes that look good but can't be ridden without killing yourself. I've been through sooo many seat concepts figuring out what feels good.
I want to be able to put miles on my bikes, I don't want to be crippled from riding it just so I can look cool.
Bird: You have your hands in quite a few projects, tell us some more about what else you have going on.

Matt: a 1974 Honda CL 360 that I hope to turn into a trackbike.
a 1983 Katana 750 that I'm turning into a streetfighter
a 1978 KZ750 twin that I'd like to make a cafe racer/street fighter
all of them stripped down as much as possible.

Bird: Didn't you tell me you drove a hopped up stroker VW Beetle for a daily driver also?

Matt: Yes, thats my other baby, her name is Josie. I've taken her to Japan and back, I love her dearly. She has a 2.3L stroked and bored engine with 48IDA Weber carbs. Oh, to hear those babies scream when she's at full throttle, nothing like it!!!
She's currently off the road at the moment. I just got some parts in the mail today to get her engine put back together after some upgrades. I can’t wait!

Alright, that's all the further we got folks, maybe sometime in the future I can sit down with Matt and have a more in depth interview but for now... keep the faith Matt, good luck with the new project and thanks for the interview!

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