Foundry Motorcycle’s owner, Tom Simpson, has a background in art, blacksmithing and industrial design. Melding these skills together in his workshop near Chichester, England, Tom creates some of the most interesting custom motorcycles out there.
“My family has a history of using their hands so that’s the way I like to do things,” Tom explains. Sketches on paper and big metal hand tools are Tom’s deal. “I have nothing against those who want to use a more automated process, but that’s just not our way.”
More and more customisers and riders are focusing on back-to-basics bikes, tweaked to suit their style. Originality is key these days and Foundry is helping provide riders with that fix.
“The culture has changed without a doubt,” Tom says. “Biking used to be much more inaccessible as a community – it was either an off-the-shelf bike or an airbrushed chopper – but today it’s a more open and friendly environment. People of all backgrounds are into bikes.”
“I grew up loving motorcycles but I never had anything directly to do with them until my early teens – blasting around on a 50cc in the fields. I spent a couple of years in college doing graphic design and then I was a blacksmith for a while. My experience in tinkering with motorcycles is all self-taught and didn’t come until a bit later.
“During the financial crisis of 2008, people weren’t looking for the decorative metalwork that I used to do, but a few friends of mine were asking for custom motorcycles. A couple of years later, Foundry Motorcycle was born.”
Using his blacksmithing background, Tom likes to get his hands dirty. “We don’t have a mill or any CNC equipment here,” he explains. “At the moment we’ve got a Victorian lathe, tig, mig and gas welders. Most of our bikes aren’t bolt-together. We like to have an organic flow to our motorcycles.
“Our latest Triumph T100 build was made for a guy who had been coming to Foundry for coffee for about a year. He showed me a picture of a SoCal bike called the ‘Miler’ and we had a lot of talks about what his custom could look like.”
Although most custom shops are using CAD these days, Tom likes to scale things back: “I sketch out all my designs – it’s probably the illustrator in me! We then set about casting in aluminium to create the extra body work to make it a proper flat-track style bike.”
“I don’t want to expand as such but rather keep things small-scale. To be able to put a bit of expression into my bikes; I’m keen not to automate anything. It’s also about making sure it’s always enjoyable – it’s got to be fun.”
Although without a doubt Tom has a penchant for the rusty and retro, he’s no backwards-thinking petrolhead. “I like a thumping petrol engine as much as anyone else, but I’m pretty excited about the possibilities with electric bikes. There’s so much potential to create a really cool-looking electric bike – if someone wants one, give me a shout as I’d be up for it.”
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Photos: Christopher Lanaway, Conrad Tracy