When it comes to vintage motorcycles there is growing demand for technicians who have the drive and the knowledge to actively take a role in preserving these machines for future generations to enjoy. Some might even go as far to say that shops that specialize in just vintage motorcycles are a dying breed and in a way they somewhat are. There are only so many of them out there and the ability to get your vintage bike into one varies depending upon region and time of year. One thing is for sure, the individuals that operate garages and shops that specialize in vintage iron are a rare breed and we were honored to sit down with one such shop right here in the Midwest to discuss how they began and where they fit into the mix of keeping vintage Japanese and European motorcycles on the road. For a couple years we had began hearing more and more about the restoration projects coming out of the Indiana based shop called “Hoy Vintage Cycles.” Not far from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the town of Brownsburg, owner Steve Hoy took his love for vintage motorcycles and got it out of his home garage and into a full time shop where alongside his senior tech Kim Wroblewski, Mike Hubert and Ron Cole, an impressive 80+ years worth of knowledge and skill combined to bring a real service to the vintage motorcycle community. We visited their shop on a few occasions this fall to get the feel for what they are all about and in the process even learned a thing or two from watching the insight they have with their love for early CB750’s as well.
So you currently have 2 early SOHC CB750 full restorations ongoing in the shop (1970 and 1972) as well as a later SOHC CB750 and '79 DOHC CB750 supersport. Do you care to talk about why you guys enjoy working on the early CB750’s so much?
Steve- It’s the predecessor to all these bikes you see today, all the inline fours, that’s great grandpa right there. It’s just an iconic bike all around. It was the beginning of the sportbike era. I mean throughout the 70's pretty soon the Kaws came out and beat these of course, especially the Z1 no problem, but then came Suzuki shredding alongside Kawasaki and now you’ve got these Busa’s that will do 200 mph and that’s all awesome but it’s just kind of neat to see the history of where it all started and how that’s progressed and when it comes down to it the CB750 just started it all.
Where did your love for these bikes really start out for yourself before the business began?
Steve- I bought a Honda dream about 12 years ago and that was my first “vintage” motorcycle I owned. It was gonna be between that and a Sears Puch allstate and I found the Honda dream first. Then from there I just started buying bikes out of sheds and barns and anywhere I could find them, getting them running and back on the road. Then one day I found a 1972 CB750 and I fell in love. I was just like, this bike has everything and its just classy and its been my favorite ever since. Then it evolved into building a CB750 restomod each year to go down to Deals Gap and ride the tail of the dragon with it. For the last 3 years I have gone down with specifically a CB750. This coming year Ive already got everything to build a new “tail of the dragon bike” and possibly going in with a friend Les Holt to do a turbo version this year. For sure though this year will be an 836 kit, CR race carbs, GSXR front end and most likely Ohlins rear suspension. Everything you would need to take on the dragon.
That is really cool, we love the fact that you've chosen CB750's for that every year. So, let's talk about another vintage motorcycle challenge that you have been doing recently that was just featured on the local news here in which you were calling it the "Hoopty 500 challenge?"
Steve- It takes place in Crawfordsville, IN and it's at the "Ironman" which is an every year event there and the pros race in the afternoon for the national pro circuit. It's the last race of the season. There will be 800 riders show up to attend out there. It's pretty wild but basically our portion of the event was a challenge we came up with to go buy a vintage dirtbike for $500 or less and make it run and ride and then run it in the Ironman which is a 2 hour woods race that this year just happened to be completely in the mud. We started a page for it online just to see how big it could get and how far we could all make it on these bikes. This first year I was on a 1979 DT250 that I git for $350, made it run and ride and got it out there. I think there was only like a dozen or more people crazy enough to try it because of the mud, it had rained for 2 days straight beforehand. The mud was insane, in two hours I think I only made it 10.5 miles. It was the hardest thing I had done on a bike but I loved it.
So lets’s back up a little and get some backstory on how you and your senior mechanic Kim Wroblewski came to be working in the capacity you are now?
Steve- Basically my “hobby” began to turn into a business when more and more people started hearing that I was out here working on these old bikes. As they started calling and bringing them to me I was joining some of the community pages online about vintage bikes. From that I found out about a Tuesday bike night and I began going often which is where I ended up meeting Kim and we blossomed a great friendship and an ongoing dialogue about vintage bikes. Around that time I had made the decision to quit my full time job of 29 years and just devote all my time to doing this full time out of my own big shop. I found out that Kim was retiring soon and next thing you know it, Jan 1st 2017 Kim came on board and started wrenching with me. I probably wouldn’t be in this space without Kim, I would probably be at my home shop just doing my thing but with Kim’s vast years of knowledge of other models we were able to expand our reach of people we could help even further than just my own specialty which was 60’s and 70’s Hondas and Japanese bikes.
So I guess that is a good segway for my next question, what is the range of bikes you would say you guys focus on? Is there a bike you would say is too old, or maybe even too new?
Steve- Yeah I would say our breaking point would be the much older bikes usually Harley. Like 1915 up to 1940s we may or may not be able to persue a project on. Kim has worked on anything from Jawas to Panheads and we have even had as new as 2018 KTM and BMW’s but we like to try and focus mainly on vintage as our strong suit. We do a lot with vintage Japanese and European but we get a pretty good mix of everything.
Kim-We’ve been lucky to have some really great bikes in here and some quite obscure. A good example just recently is an all green 1952 Simplex that I believe you guys saw at bike night (OBB featured in a previous blog feature on Vintage bike night with shots of the bike). The guy brought it here non running and we were able to bring it back. That was a neat little project.
Steve- We’ve had some Ossa, Pioneer, Jawa, Balkan, Allstate, just all sorts of old stuff people brought in to save.
Well, I know aside from you there is not really around Indianapolis specifically a main shop where you can go that specializes in the 60’s and 70’s stuff so its nice to see you’ve opened yourself up to that market and even beyond Indy to the whole the Midwest. You’ve even mention before people bring in bikes from all over the country.
Steve- We’ve opened ourselves up more than we thought we would in the beginning and worked to become one of the premiere shops for vintage motorcycles. Yet we are not too proud to say “maybe this bike isn’t something that’s up our alley, but we know people that it could be up there’s.
Do you have a waitlist as of now if someone approaches you about a bike project?Steve- I do now, all summer we have been about two months out and so I actually had to start a waitlist. We had about 55 bikes in the shop during the spring and even more in the summer.
So how does that work for a potential vintage enthusiast to get their bike in? Do they essentially just make contact and get in the cue or what is the best way to describe that process?
Steve- A lot of times there is a good amount of work ahead of time in the form of sending us pictures and getting a dialogue started about what they want to accomplish. I really want to be realistic with people.. If it's something that is just way too roached(rusted and beyond repair) or just too far out of their budget then we try to steer them in the best direction. So that when they come up on the list to physically get their bike into the shop we get a full diagnosis and go over the process with them and figure out what its gonna take to get their vintage bike exactly where they want it to be.
Kim- To add on that we do try to take care of people when they are on the straights and sometimes move them ahead depending on how much they need done. Sometimes we get people that just simply show up at our doorstep that need to get back on the road and we aren't gonna turn anyone away.
Well aside from this obviously being a business, you are definitely providing a much needed service to the motorcycle community to keep vintage bikes on the road. You know there is so much nostalgia associated with these and so much fun in restoring these certain eras of bikes but in certain parts of the country I feel that there is a time where some people tend to just give up and throw their hands up because they simply don't have a resource like you available. So it's great to see shops like yours that give them realistic options and a second chance at preserving a lot of great bikes that otherwise might just end up in a bad spot.
Kim- We really have had people that have found us from all over the country that came as far as California and even Alaska to have their bikes restored.
Steve- Yep. We had an XS650 dropped off from Alaska on its way to South Carolina that ended up turning into one really cool resto mod project. That was a neat moment when we got it all finished up and he rode it around town and really was just grinning from ear to ear. It's always nice to see the final result on something like that especially from that far away.
Kim- There are of course other people out there that do this type of work but they don't always answer the phone and there are several cases like this one where we are glad that we do and we can help these people.
What you guys are doing here is certainly admirable and we are glad you are doing what you do and allowed us to shed a little light on it. As I look around your shop Old Bike Barn has sold parts for a lot of these bikes for years so it's definitely nice to see someone embrace taking those parts and putting them to use keeping these bikes on the road.
Steve- And we appreciate it cuz we have definitely bought quite a few parts from you guys.
Well at the end of the day we are all in it for the same reason, to help preserve this great era of bikes and keep them rolling down the road for as long as possible.
Well we thank you guys for all your time and sharing your story with us and we hope to see more great projects come out of Hoy Vintage Cycles in the future.
If you would like to find out more about Hoy Vintage Cycles please visit their website at HOYVC.COM or reach out the them at their instagram or facebook pages @hoyvintagecycles
Photos and Words by Mike Vandegriff