In the window of the Clique Customs are a variey of new Mutt motorcycles and what looks like a comprehensive range of clothing and trinkets – plus a barber shop. Down the side of the pristine whitewashed building bearing the stark Clique logos is a really cool Honda RVFC single with a well-worn gold CB250 gas tank, flat bars, and skateboard rear fender. Its Gnas decals denote it to be the work of local bike builder, Ben Langwith.
We’ve not even had a chance to really check out the interior of the Truro shop and introduce ourselves to owners, Tom and Andrew, when there’s a rumble of bikes outside – a black Norton Commando with clip-ons, a tasty period Norton Model 50 and a couple of 125s. Nice mix. We’re gobsmacked when the guy on the Commando peels his pudding basin off to reveal Glen English – one of the top classic racers in the world! Then we recognise a couple of the other dudes from our visit to Chris Ryan in Hale last time we were this far south (see Built #6).
Big greetings all round. We’ve barely finished the ‘WTF are you doing here’ chats when a really neat Yamaha TR1 custom blats into view. Blimey, it’s Simon Gillette, the former owner of Donington Park. He’s ridden in from near Wadebridge. And there’s a guy on a Thruxton R, and another on a really tricked-out Bandit.
Within ten minutes, space is running out for places to park on the side of the road. Double yellows are hidden by motorcycles. A slow-moving cop car susses there’s no bad shit going down and keeps rolling. A bus driver threads slowly past, giving smiles and thumbs up to our snapper Gary. They’re a friendly lot this far south.
It’s obvious how much of a hub for the local bikers Clique has become. And the place only opened just six months ago! But spare a few minutes with Tom and Andrew and you realise how these two laid back, engaging guys have made this place work so well.
They’re in conventional black fashion gear but the barbers shop section is closed off and the guys are putting on white shirts, bow ties, waistcoats… WTF? Turns out Levis, one of the barbers, is getting married today but everyone is so keen to welcome us to the shop, they’ve stayed open so we can take photos. They’re all a bit hungover from the night before, have the pressure of a wedding to get to and here we are holding up the big day, talking shite about bikes…
So, Tom, how did this business start?
Andrew and I were plumbing and heating engineers. That wasn’t what I wanted to do long term and we always spoke about doing something that fitted us as people, something more creative. Andrew had experience building cars and bikes in the past, I’m really into fashion and wanted to develop a clothing line inspired by motorcycles and the culture that surrounds them. We had the idea of bringing the custom motorcycle scene into a more accessible market. We started building C90s, 125s and established a relationship with White Knuckle who were importing Chinese 125s. We took their bikes, swapped out some parts and developed the clothing line alongside it.
When was this?
Three years ago and it was completely online. I was in the shower thinking of a name for the new business and how we wanted to develop the brand as a whole, and came up with calling it Clique Customs, primarily because we never wanted to be part of a clique – we didn’t want it to be exclusive anyway.
So what happened next?
We developed the clothing line over six months, working with so many samples, trying to get the right feel. We wanted clothing you could work in, live in, ride in. We wanted strong products with strong graphics and real quality. So this was the start of Clique Customs as an online business. We began selling product all over the world and went from full-time plumbing, to four days a week and three days a week working on Clique Customs. I began focusing on how we could take this into a physical space. That space was always going to be called just Clique, housing everything we loved, all under one roof.
So do you have a bike mad investor behind all this? Or a fashion guru?
Neither. We developed this business with no money. We just put the brand out there and used social media to spread the word. It put us in front of people we probably didn’t deserve to be at that time because the product was still developing but we realised there was a market.
How did you make Clique a “destination” as well as a shop?
We’re a genuine Cornish brand and we live and breathe what we do. All day, everyday. People come in and see it’s not just a shop but also has a community feel to it. When we first opened, amazingly the only brand most people knew was Dickies. We sell Dickies Life clothing [not the new wannabe biker clothing brand – Ed] and we’re busy educating people about all the other brands we have to offer. It’s not just fashion clothing or motorcycle clothing – we’ve got Uppercut Deluxe, an Australian grooming product company, Mariner Jack beard care products and Bloody Mary Metal jewellery. It’s important to have an amalgamation of internationally-known brands and local brands. It’s funny, people come in and think we’re a chain.
What’s the barber shop idea being part of a bike/fashion store?
The barber shop was always part of the dream. We wanted to develop Clique into a multifaceted business. The key to the success we have had to date with the barber shop lies in the guys we have in there. Levis, our head barber, and Dan. We needed people who understood the brand ethos, the direction we’re going and who knew we wanted to be different in our approach. The barbering industry is such a strong market and we’re really proud to be part of it. We have massive plans.
What’s your background in bikes?
I used to play professional football from the age of 16-22. It was a dream as a kid. I also desperately wanted to ride motorcycles but my football contract prevented that from happening. When I reached 30, a lot of things changed in my life, and I decided to follow my dreams. I’ve got a custom V7 Guzzi and a GSX-R600 trackday bike, which I’ve put back on the road. Because it’s been such a busy year with Clique I only got in two trackdays last year at Silverstone and Brands. I’m hoping to do more this year.
Why Mutt Motorcycles ?
Initially we wanted to continue doing our own thing with bikes. We’ve created this business on our own, but it means our workshop time is limited. So we were looking at other options. Mutt approached us and they are a really good company, with Benny [Thomas, design chief at Mutt and famed builder with Boneshaker Choppers] having an enviable reputation in the custom bike world. It fitted well with Clique. We still have a number of projects we’re working on and have teamed up with Lawrence from Yokai Motorcycle Engineering in Manchester.
It’s all about good relationships...
Exactly. We’re a business and have to make money but we like to work with people like Mutt who have the same ethos as us. I’m proud of how we work with other companies. The shop is sponsored by Dickies Life, we’re backed by Sailor Jerry Rum and we’re in partnership with Harbour Brewery from Bodmin. It’s good to develop brand partnerships, and with the barber shop we can branch out on either side of the business.
So what about your own brand of Clique Customs gear?
Our clothing line consists of tees, hoodies, sweats, shirts, a new coach jacket, beanies and caps. We aim to have between 21 to 30 pieces. Then there is our Expression Series. We worked with Seth Thompson aka Bill Da Butcher, an LA-based artist, to design a collection of tees. We met him at Bike Shed, and did an interview which I then posted on our site. We’re doing the same with Sarah Grace, a Brighton-based freelance illustrator. We have a collaboration with her called Grace, a death moth with deconstructed motorcycle parts making up the detail of the wings and have another project with her next year. We work with a number of different artists.
And have you got plans for your website?
We felt this scene is relatively untouched down here – lots of cafe racers, trackers as well as classics but it needed something to bring it all together, and that’s what we’re hoping to do with Clique. With our website we want that to be a reflection of the shop, a go-to website where you can delve into the various features and articles as well as check out our clothing line.
Andrew The Perfectionist
I grew up in Perranporth, with the airfield nearby. I lived at the bottom of the green lanes around there and used to dick around on DT50s, 125s etc. Growing up involved a lot of naughty riding.
My mechanical side developed when I used to work on old cars. My old man had a 1974 Triumph Stag V8 which I now have and am currently rebuilding. I went onto sportsbikes but my best mate died on one in mid 2000 and that put me off. I got into cars but eventually got back into bikes with a 110cc pit bike.
I used to have so much fun ragging that pit bike. I’d lost the speed thing by then though a mate had an Aprilia 1000 that I rode occasionally.
As Tom said, the whole point of Clique is accessibility. So the small bike market was attractive to us. I love building them, but I’m no massive bike builder. I service them, and customise them into something I like to see. I like to be creative and I’m self taught.
My dad was involved with the Austin Healey and the Stag owners’ clubs so I got used to hopping into the cars for a ride and loved the quality finish, such perfection. I suppose that’s rubbed off. Even in our plumbing business we tended to do the high-end work. I also did a spell of plastering and was working on Grade II listed buildings. Same with our bikes. They may look ratty on the outside but inside they are perfect.
We don’t do anything because it’s cool. We do it because we like it. We talked about continuing our own builds, and having them in Clique, but we realised how big the job we have taken on is – it made sense to do a deal with Mutt.