Supplying bikes to the owner of The Bike Shed Motorcycle Club has really seen things take off for D&O. Never has a custom bike shop name been further from the truth. These boys are on the up
"Metal fabrication is our business and nothing scares us. We're that diversified that we can build anything and make it look the bollocks because that's what we do"
Down and Out
Barnsley / England
Down & Out Cafe Racers’ workshop is a hive of activity. Carl’s stripping bits off a Sportster that’s just come in for a bob-job. Hiding behind the custom-painted mask, Bez is welding a stack of saddle-bag brackets to fit Triumphs. Dave is sanding away the imperfections in the alloy surfaces of a pile of shorty front mudguards. And the gaffer? Shaun’s juggling his time between spannering a new build, taking delivery of new parts and answering the phone.
As custom bike shops go, this place is frantic – it has to be to turn the amount of interest these boys get into hardware. They’re averaging three new bikes a month and trying to cope with a huge number of orders for their bolt-on bits.
“We’ve got a great team and we’re all grafters,” says Shaun Walker, who runs D&O. “Metal fabrication is our business and nothing scares us. We’re that diversified that we can build anything and make it look the bollocks because that’s what we do. We’re not set in our ways so we can adapt to market demands.”
Shaun’s been building bikes for near on 15 years and playing around with them for even longer. “I’ve always had bikes, from a Honda 90 field bike when I was a kid. Bikes are all I’ve ever lived for.”
He went through a phase of building custom scooters – even managing to squeeze a Suzuki DRZ400 engine into one – but scooters paved the way for custom Harleys and Down & Out Choppers.
“I don’t remember how I got into building scooters, I never really liked the things,” says Shaun. “My first custom bike was an Exile-replica Harley with a chop shop in Chesterfield. That got me into Harley builds. But the chopper scene was always too cliquey for me.”
During the time he was building Harleys, Shaun bought a BMW and planned to build a bobber with it but adverse reaction from people within the scene led him to shelve the project and build a Harley cafe racer instead.
“Dutch from The Bike Shed saw it on a forum and asked if I’d submit the story and pics to their website. That was in the really early days of The Bike Shed. Then I did a TR1 cafe racer. I liked the look and had a go at one after I saw a bike for £800.
“When you consider even a cheap Sportster will set you back £3500 and cost £6-7000 to build into a bobber, the TR1 cost peanuts. I bought a few bits for it, fabbed a sub-frame and we were away.” Down & Out Cafe Racers was born.
“Carl and I built three bikes for the first Bike Shed event – a Honda CB450, the TR1 and a Suzuki Tempter that we found for £600. Going to The Bike Shed opened a whole new world up for us.
“Then Dutch bought a BMW from us and things really took off. With the experience gained from the scooters and the Harley, we knew how to finish off a custom bike – the all-important attention to tiny details.”
Initially, D&O found the market crying out for Bavarian boxer twins but now it’s all about Triumph. “The market for customised, Hinckley-built Triumph twins is huge – and I think it’s going to get even bigger now Triumph have launched the new Bonneville. I hope we can be one of the first to get the new bike and put our spin on it.”
Shaun puts the success of D&O down to one thing: “We’re successful right now because we have a formula. We don’t just build bikes, we also make parts for sale. The parts have been designed by us and are used on bikes we build so we know everything we make fits perfectly when a customer bolts them on his bike.
“Using templates to make parts means we can build new bikes quickly and that’s the only way to make money in this game. We’re building around 30 bikes per year. All the fabricated stuff is made in-house.” D&O isn’t resting on its laurels.
“We’re already planning a Ducati Scrambler build,” he says. “Not just a bike, we’re making a range of bolt-on parts to suit it. Our Scrambler will be launched at the Bike Shed next year. I think we’ll go with wider yokes, new side panels, things like that. We’re doing a range of parts for it – and the build will be something special.”
But what of the future? “We aim to be here for a long time yet,” says Shaun, “but, I know from experience that scenes come and go. I’ve never seen anything bomb like the chopper scene did.
“In the final year of us building choppers, I sold one for £26,000 and another for £19,000 and was in the middle of a £21k build when the market died overnight. I lost £11k on it.
“Bobbers are still popular but the really expensive builds are a thing of the past. A chop shop near us used to employ eight people. It’s down to him and his lass now.
“We’ve survived because we’re small and have diversified into cafe racers. Ninety percent of our business is Triumph right now – plus BMW boxer twins. We’ve got our work cut out. We’re fabricators at the end of day. The secret in this game, is to go with the flow.”
The gaffer's Triumph
“I love big, chunky motorcycles and, having built a chopper a few years back with a 200 x 16 front tyre, I wanted to build something as radical using the Triumph twin,” says Shaun. “I’d built a more conventional tracker – my blue Triumph T100 which was used on one of the Bike Shed’s posters. That had a 5.00 x 16 front tyre but this time I wanted to go for a full-on low, mean fat sort of look.”
Shaun wanted a 5.5in rim, which was then laced to a Harley hub with stainless spokes and shod with a Continental TKC 80 180 x 17 front. Forks are from 2011 CB1000RR with the extra wide yokes made by Fasttec. Triumph 1050 discs are used with one-off spacers to fit.
The stock Triumph rear hub is laced with the same size 5.5in rim, shod with a matching Continental TKC. The frame is stock but the sub-frame was cut off and a shorter loop added. Crash bars are welded on, with a Bates-style running light. Carl and Shaun’s custom exhaust is a work of art – topped off with an end can from an auto jumble.
Bear trap foot pegs, Motone gear lever. Full stainless exhaust system. Alloy front mudguard and stainless steel mounts, alloy rear mudguard and stainless steel mounts. Shorter seat. Alloy mudguard with stainless bracket, stainless number plate mount, stainless steel side rack. Rear loop conversion. Bates-style headlight and stainless mounts. Built in indicator mounts with micro indicators
Custom alloy 5in rims, 120 x 17 powder coated black front and rear with Continental TKC 80 180 x 17 tyres. Wider yokes. CB1000RR forks and brakes. GSX-R master cylinder and clutch perch. LSL handlebars, risers and master cylinder, Motone micro switchgear, custom wiring loom with all wires inside the handlebars. Motogadget speedometer. YSS shocks. Renthal sprockets. Stainless steel rear indicator mounts. Motone gas cap. Motone carburetor finned tops, aluminum intake bellmouth and choke knob. JVB side panels. LSL ignition re-locator. LSL chainguard. All paintwork by Pro Kustom.
This R80-powered hard-tailed BMW was built to showcase D&O’s engineering skills
“There’s more work in this bike than in some of the choppers we used to build,” says Shaun. “You don’t see how much effort went into spacing the rear wheel so the shaft drive could run properly. By comparison, Harley builds are all mapped out for you. We even had to lace up wheels on this BM in a special way to get clearance. To get it all working wasn’t easy.”
Motor is a 1980 R80 BMW that’s been fully rebuilt. Brand new 36mm Dell’Orto carbs. One-off custom frame. Rear wheel is BMW hub, laced to a 3in x 16in Harley rim. Alloy wheel spacers. Shinko tyre. Dummy oil tank is one-off and is purely for show. One-off battery box and stainless mounts. Sportster tank has Crime Scene Choppers gas cap. Forks are Harley replica 45 springers. Brembo caliper with a one-off bracket. Disc is Harley. Front wheel is Harley hub, laced to a 3in x 16in rim, with Shinko tyre. Harley low springer ’bars. Internal throttle. Micro switches with wiring inside the bars. Cable to hydraulic master cylinder mounted on frame down-tube. K-Tech master cylinder. Levers are Shovel replicas. 1936 headlight with one off stainless mount. All wiring through the ’bars and frame. One-off custom seat and mounts. Mudguard from Fenland Choppers has been reformed and cut down. Stainless exhaust system is one off. Stainless brackets. One off number plate/taillight with LED lights.
The kit bike
Buy it complete for £9500 on the road with all the work done – or buy the bits separately and create your own. The only fabrication required is cutting off the sub-frame and welding on the replacement loop.
Short alloy front mudguard with stainless brackets. 7in Bates headlight with stainless brackets. Integrated micro indicators. 1in Tracker bars. Shorter side panels made by D&O. Sub-frame loop conversion. Short custom seat. Alloy mudguard with mini Bates taillight. Stainless mudguard brackets. Megaphone pipes with stock headers. LSL chainguard. LSL ignition re-locator.