RSD Interview Gary Inman

Sideburn is a magazine made every few months (in the UK) by Gary Inman, Ben Part and some of the best freelancers in motorcycling. It's a dirty bike lifestyle magazine inspired by oval motorcycle racing, and covers flat track racing, speedway and the road bikes loosely inspired by the racers plus the heroes and zeroes we love. This is a link to the blog of Sideburn . If you like it, maybe you should buy a copy or subscription to the magazine!
When did you start paying attention to the custom bike scene, both in Europe and over in the US?
When I was 15, back in 1986. I grew up in Leeds in the north of England and lots of lads, a year or two older than me, had Vespas and Lambrettas. They were the people I looked up to. The scooterboy scene was pretty big. There were clubs of lads in their teens and early-20s who’d ride all over the country for the weekend, go an intimidate a seaside town, get drunk, sleep in a tent, ride home on Sunday. I bought one, with money earned doing a milk round, the week I was 16 and legal to ride.
It seems strange that such an aggressive and tough crowd would choose to ride 125 and 200cc commuter scooters, but it was a brilliant and dynamic scene at the time. A lot of the most extreme customs had gold plating, engraving, full mural jobs. Then there were a load with race-style metalflake paint. At the other end of the scale there were lads who'd have a bit of sign writing and cut all the bodywork off
That got me into two wheels and customising. I ended up spending a ton of money on Lambrettas before I got into motorcycles through the magazine Performance Bikes.
The next custom scene I was really into was the Streetfighter scene of 1990s. It turned into a cliche of itself, but back then it was new and innovative. I ended up editing Streetfighters magazine when I was in my early-20s. Before that I worked in engineering.
What magazines have your worked for and what are you working on now?
Lots of bike magazines all over the world. I've been freelance for 12 years and edited a couple of magazines before that. The biggest ones I contribute to are/were Cycle World, Bike, MCN, Aussie MCN. I've written for Vogue, Arena, Men's Health; a ton of car magazines; I had a column about bikes for two years in Italian GQ, then moved to Italian Rolling Stone, who I write for now. I write for some cool independent mags like Cafe Racer in France (the proper Cafe Racer, not the American one...), Rev in Portugal and Fast Bike in Germany. It's the Brit mags like Bike and PB that have been good to me. I only work for mags I like. Then there's Sideburn...
 Sideburn is such a cool project, I think you have a pretty dedicated following. What makes flat trackers so important that you dedicate and mag to it and the lifestyle surrounding it?
Sideburn is a magazine I make with Ben Part. It's A5, what I think Americans call digest-size, 100 pages, full colour, very nice paper and print, but with a fanzine ethos. Ben designs it. He's never designed a magazine before and breaks a lot of design rules, so the mag looks different to newsstand bike titles. We call ourselves 'The World's Greatest Go Fast, Turn Left' magazine.
I was going to publish a book of a friend's writing, but he was picked up by a big publisher, so I had this money burning a hole. I knew magazines, I raced flat track, I read Dice magazine, I was inspired. We made issue 1 in 2008 and people liked it. So we made another. Now we're up to issue 11. We make three issues per year. We’re not making much money from it, but people like it, so we keep going.
What do you think is the next big thing in custom bikes?
It seems what is now called the cafe racer style still has a lot of life in it. After that? I don't know. The thing about the internet, it's made scenes seem old before they've even had chance to get established. It used to take people years to build a bike they were proud of, I'm talking about normal owners, not people in the business. Now someone puts a skinny seat and a different tank on a bike and they're lauded as master builders. A month later their bikes are being called old hat. Scenes will keep splintering and feeding off other influences for a while – track day Harleys, rat café racers, period correct CHiPs bikes on knobblies, that kind of thing.
I’d like to see people start building big, tough, first and second generation superbikes from four cylinders - GPzs, GSX11s, air-cooled Z1000s, even Zephyrs.
I’ve known you for a quite a while now, what was it about RSD that brought you to our doorstep back in … what 2006?
2005, I think. I came with Fly the photographer to do a feature on you for Performance Bikes. I'd read about you when you built a cool Sportster with clip-ons that was featured in Hot Bike a long, long time ago, maybe even the late-90s? Then I saw your stuff on the PM website in 2005, but I can't remember how I came across that, maybe Cycle World. I loved how you mixed different genres, putting Öhlins on a Harley and gold leaf on a Busa. Of course, other people had built Harleys with good suspension, but I thought you did it best and then rode them hard.
And that green goat curry we went for was memorable.
 You live a life surrounded by bikes and those that share a similar interest, why is that?
I love motorcycles.
Favorite all time racer?
Scott Russell, Guy Martin, Peter Boast, Dave Arnold (a mate of mine whose attitude encouraged me to start racing flat track at the age of 35).
Favorite all-time street bike?
Stock, off the showroom floor, I think the GSX-R1000K5 takes some beating. I like a lot of GSX-Rs. I like the BMW Megamoto and Bimota SB2, too. I don’t want a stock bike though.
Favorite tracker?
Tough one... Ricky Graham and Bubba Shobert's Honda RS750s are something else, but so is Kenny Coolbeth's all-black XR750. I love my own Wood Rotax as well.
Favorite cold beverage?
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Tea is my number one beverage of choice.
What’s your current bike project about? Ti pipes, stubby tail… looking fun.
Oil-cooled GSX-R1100 bored out to 1216 with CP pistons, Keihin FCR39 carbs and Racefit Ti pipe in a one-off chro-mo duplex frame with an aluminum swingarm and an alloy bolt-on sub-frame. I bought the chassis for about $450, when the previous owner gave up with it and had a new one made. I had to have all the engine mounts cut off and rewelded. I've fitted a GSX-R1000K5 front end; Braking wheels and discs; Nitron twin shocks; RCD rearsets; GS1000 tank with an RCD endurance filler... It's going to look like a pumped-up 1981 AMA Superbike.
Fairings or Number plates?
On the road, neither, on the track, number plates.
Slicks or nobbies?
Maxxis DTR-1s.
Knee sliders or Steel Shoes?
Steel shoe. Just one.
Twin or mono shocks?
Twin shocks.
Last time you scared yourself?
When I crashed a BMW R1200GS in South Africa last year. I wasn't concentrating fully on the job in hand. I killed the BM, but walked away with ripped jeans and a smashed helmet. I was scared after, not before.
Worst injury obtained on a motorcycle?
Broken tib and fib when I was T-boned by another bike on the way to the 1996 British GP. Other than that, just scrapes.
Motorcycles are finicky creatures, split seconds are what separates a crash from a near crash. How would you explain that split second?
I crash on dirt tracks a lot. So often that I even enjoy it in a perverse way. I don't have a lot of natural feel for a dirt bike, so every crash takes me totally by surprise. On the road, I've crashed twice in 15 years or, about 120,000 miles on two wheels. One was on ice, the other was because I was screwing about. There wasn’t another vehicle involved either time. A split second might be the difference, but there's a British saying 'A miss is as good as a mile'. You didn't crash, so learn, move on, forget about it. The split-seconds you’re talking about is when the skill you have, the experience, the clarity of thought and the foresight to see or sense it happening before it was too late comes into play.
Get your head up, look where you're going and you've bought yourself a lot more split-seconds.
Of course, if you're talking about a self-inflicted crash, on a bend or a corner because you were pushing too, you've just got to know your limits. But if it all goes wrong, chicks dig scars.