Monday, February 25, 2008


Last Friday, amid the mild chaos of friends, beer, and the buzzing of Ian's work on the Dyno (article to come on that), I endeavored to interview Isaac, Ian's only paid employee so far. Isaac started at Twinline Motorcycles a month after Ian opened for business in 2006.

"I wasn't into motorcycles when I was a kid," Isaac said. "I was more into racing RC [remote-control] cars. They have little gas motors, and they can get pretty fast. I had to rebuild the engine just about every race, so I learned the mechanics of them and what went into building a good motor."

Then Isaac's buddy bought an '86 250 Ninja that needed some fixing up. It was the first bike Isaac ever rode, and he decided to fix it up.

"My parents were totally against it," he said. "I had to mow lawns for-fuckin'-ever. I got a big ticket on that bike for riding without a license, speeding, no mirrors . . . . I didn't know the cops were behind me. They didn't use their sirens. They called it evading and all this other bullshit, so I couldn't get my license until I was 18."

Isaac finished the 250. Then another buddy, doing some backyard cleaning, asked if Isaac wanted a little 125. Yep, Isaac did.

"So he dropped that off at my house," Isaac said. "It was five bucks for the title. I was going to sell it just to get some money, because I didn't have a job and it was in pretty good shape. It had a bent valve, though, so it wouldn't idle or do anything under 5,000 rpms."

"What's a valve?" I wondered. I'd heard of valves, but that was about the extent of it.

I got a good description.

"As the piston's coming down," Isaac said, "the intake valve sucks in air and fuel. Then the piston comes up, compresses them, and goes boom. The piston goes down, and the inertia of the crankshaft brings the piston back up. The exhaust valve opens and lets all the exhaust out, and that's how the exhaust goes into your pipe."

My brain's intake valve sucked in this new information and, I'm sure, will soon convert it into enough power to dominate the world (but don't tell anyone).

"When the intake valve closes," Isaac continued, "the pressure builds up. So when it's cracked open a little bit, it doesn't seal up and cause combustion. You don't get very much power. So I tore into the bike, and I found out the problem. It was no big deal. I ordered a new valve, dropped it in, and called it good.

"Then I started playing around with horsepower tricks. I smoothed out the passageways from the carburetor to the intake valve, because usually there are a whole bunch of bumps in there from casting that the factory doesn't smooth out because it would take too long.

"Then I cut the exhaust pipe to make it louder. A bike like mine is so small, most people can't see it, so it's better if you hear it.

"I started cafe-ing it out. I dropped the handlebars. I moved the rear sets from the swing-arm to the frame."


"The swing-arm is what the rear wheel attaches to," Isaac explained. "It's called the swing-arm because it swings with the suspension. The sets were mounted on that, which feels kind of weird when you're riding. You hit a bump, and your feet come up. So I put them on the frame in the same spot, with a different connector."

The more Isaac worked on the bike, the more he loved it. He did as much as he could without a license, up to riding around the block. He took an Auto Body class.

"I didn't want to paint car parts," Isaac said, "so I decided to bring the bike in and paint that. While I was in there, I also made a cool-ass seat. It was a whole bunch of pieces of steel that I just kind of bent around. I welded them in and cut off what I didn't want. Most of the time, seats are fiberglass, but I didn't know how to work with fiberglass."

This is right in line with Twinline bikes. A Twinline bike usually gets a tunnel seat: a piece of sheet metal bent into a tunnel shape, which is aerodynamic and has room for a taillight under it.

"So that's basically how my love affair with cafe bikes started," Isaac said. "I had no idea what was out there. My parents split up, so my dad and I moved out to West Seattle.

"I was out looking for a job at Delta Marine. They make kick-ass boats--really expensive ones--but their hours weren't going to work for me. I was driving home and got lost. I drove by here and saw a whole bunch of vintage bikes! So I tried calling, but Ian was never here because he just had his baby. Matt and John didn't know what was going on about a job opening, so I decided to stop by and hang out. I brought my truck down, and everyone loved that. It's a '63 Ford Econoline--a van with a truck bed on it. It's pretty cool. Orange and black. I brought my bike down, and they loved that even more. Then I got to see all of their bikes, and that was awesome. Then Matt and John asked me to go hang out with the Cretins. It was totally eye-opening to see all these other people with cafe bikes. I didn't know that anyone in the Northwest was doing it. Georgetown is the right place."

"Tell me about your differences with Ian," I said.

"Ian and I butt heads about everything," Isaac said, "but it's not a bad relationship. Our creativities are on totally different levels, but it's not in levels of quality. It's all just in levels of taste, like the Bat Seat. The Bat Bike is growing on me, though."

"What are your plans for the rest of your life?"

"I want to do this for the rest of my life. I'm so young right now that I don't really get all the credit for what I do. People are like, 'Oh, this kid's building motors. He's only 20 years old. What the fuck does he know?' But if I put enough bikes out there . . . ."

Isaac now owns four bikes, including his white Transformers bike, which is coming along, and his next big project: a bike he's building for racing.