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Highsnobiety Q&A December, 10 2012

A Conversation with Angry Lane’s Ben Barras

We first heard about custom motorcycle manufacturer Angry Lane shortly after they launched their motorcycle and fashion retail shop in Hong Kong. As the only ones doing custom bikes of all types as a full lifestyle brand, they’ve gained quite a cult following among locals and expats alike. We recently had the opportunity to ask co-founder Ben Barras a few questions regarding his passionate undertaking. Take a look below to find out how a few Europeans ended up opening a custom bike and fashion shop in downtown Hong Kong.

How did the idea come about to open a custom bike shop as a full lifestyle brand in Hong Kong?

My brother Guillaume (G) and I have been distributors of motorcycle parts from the Japanese company Easyriders since 2009 and James Dixon, our partner, contacted us for his bike project back in mid 2011. G and I have been in the fashion and graphic design industries for more than 10 years – known as the Barras Brothers – and have always wanted to set up a lifestyle shop/workshop/brand around custom motorcycles.

We talked to James about this idea and he shared the same passion, so we started working on a plan that gave birth to Angry Lane. People’s perception of motorcyclists has changed a lot in the past few years – it’s no longer restricted to these big bearded bikers covered in tattoos or speed freaks fully geared. We come from a  surfing/windsurfing/skating/ snowboarding background so riding a bike is more or less about that same feeling of freedom.

So why Hong Kong? Because it’s where we’ve lived for years; it’s also where all the factories are and is the door to the biggest market in the world – China.

How do the Western bikes you guys sell fit into the Eastern landscape?

Hong Kong has always followed Japanese trends so the country started to become aware of the custom motorcycle culture through brands like Neighborhood (which get its inspiration from motorcycles). There is also a local club of guys passionate about the British Cafe Racer culture. They get together, clad in studded leather jackets and aviator caps, and ride with each other like in the UK during the 60s and 70s.

Taiwan is right behind Japan in terms of trends and culture; they have plenty of really good builders, painters, and pinstrippers. Hong Kongers live on a tiny space so they travel a lot and see what’s happening out there.

The other crowd is the expats. Lots of them ride Italian motorcycles although tailor-made bikes are becoming more and more popular. We get a lot of attention from them as well as through local papers who want to find cool new things happening out here most people might not know about.

What kind of custom bikes can we expect from Angry Lane? Bobbers, cafe racers, speed bikes?

We are able to work on any bike really. We team up with a British mechanical engineer and fabricator who also races in the Mainland so speed bikes are no mystery to him. Our biggest interest is still more the Cafe Racer and Street Tracker based on Yamaha SRs or Kawa W650s.

Personally, I’ve always been crazy about bobbers and the Japanese style with nothing besides the absolute necessities, narrow, and easy to maneuver in heavy traffic. My ride is a Daytona Triumph from 1973 – we will celebrate its 40th birthday soon! My brother G rides a HD 883cc which has been modified to a 1450cc as a chopper. Our partner James has an SR Cafe – that’s how we met – and our mechanic rides a Ducati.

We’ve also been working on our first collection of tees along with much more which should be available soon!

Are most of your customers based in Hong Kong or in neighboring countries?

Most of our customers right now are expats based in Hong Kong. Locals are just now discovering the idea of riding a personally customized bike, so it looks like we’re in the right place at the right time! The neighboring countries have also started paying attention to us here as the general belief is that we are far behind them which is simply not true. Just an hour ago I got a phone call from the guys at Taiwanese magazine FreeBikers who had seen the Black Needle Triumph and were very interested in knowing the story behind it.

Lastly, where is your favorite place to ride in both Hong Kong and the world at large?

In Hong Kong it’s more about going from the center to the beach as the city is very small and crowded. It’s best to go during the night and head toward the New Territories which are close to the border – there are a few good roads there. Apart from that, we are French and British so I would say riding in our own countries and Europe in general is pretty cool!

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