Whether you're checking out a customised classic, modified retro or even a blinged sportsbike, if it's a quality build it's likely to have bolt-on parts sporting the LSL logo.
"My education came from riding on the back of a Rocket 3"
LSL Motorrad Technik
Krefeld / Germany
Whether you’re checking out a customised classic, modified retro or even a blinged sportsbike, if it’s a quality build it’s likely to have bolt-on parts sporting the LSL logo.
The Germany company has won favour among bike builders all over the world thanks to classy products that are beautifully made, look great and, most important, fit perfectly. But LSL has also earned a huge reputation for its Clubman brand motorcycles, registered as a marque in 2004, building immaculate one-off custom bikes spanning the cafe racer, tracker and scrambler genres. How good? Check out ‘Raise the Dust’ (main pic, p58) to see where Hinckley Triumph looked for inspiration to build their street scrambler version of the new Street Twin. LSL’s is better spec’ed!
LSL founder and company head Jochen Schmitz-Linkweiler’s biking interests go way back. He says: “At High School I had Latin and Greek qualifications but my core learning came from riding on the back of a BSA Rocket 3 owned by my good friend Hein Gericke (who went on to launch a chain of bike clothing and accessory stores you might of heard of). His Beeza was fully tuned, but looked standard – a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Jochen’s first bike was a BSA B25, which “broke, and broke… and broke,” he says. Which is not surprising perhaps since he used the lowly Starfire to tour virtually all of Europe. With few British bike outlets in Germany, the youthful Jochen used to buy the equivalent of a travelcard and come to the UK to buy parts to repair the ailing single. His link remained with Hein Gericke who, in 1976, kicked off the HG empire by importing 30 BSAs to sell. Jochen gained valuable work experience in one of the three HG BSA stores and after completing school, embarked on a four year automotive engineering diploma.
“I then had to make a decision: take a job with Mercedes or stay working in the motorcycle business. I did the latter and spent two and half years dismantling crash-damaged bikes for repair. Using my engineering background, I designed special machines to measure steering geometry and a hydraulic press to straighten frames – but the company I was working for didn’t progress so in 1984 I started my own in the same line of work.”
By 1987, LSL– standing for Lenker (German for handlebar) Schmitz-Linkweiler – had become a motorcycle component business. “I wanted to replace the low-slung handlebars on a Kawasaki to make the bike more comfortable to ride. I mounted a crude datalogger to measure the flex in the handlebars and discovered the loading on the bars was way above the German regulations.” Jochen set about making his own handlebars that were within the limits of the regulations. From one pair of handlebars, LSL has become one of the biggest suppliers of bolt-on motorcycle components in Europe, employing 25 staff, offering a catalogue of over 4000 individual products, with an annual turnover of 4.5m Euros.
Jochen’s engineering attention to detail continues to this day, with LSL using one-off, laser-guided measuring kit to ensure every handlebar kit and footpeg assembly fits into the company’s ideal bar/peg/seat relationship.
The LSL workshop is full of bikes – some are Clubman specials that Jochen built purely as show bikes, others as bikes to ride himself, but also production machines borrowed from local dealers to measure up for bolt-on accessories.
There was a brand new Indian Scout there when we called. “We’re working with Indian to make a cafe racer – new upside-down forks, longer shocks, different wheels, a new petrol tank. It’s going to look very different to the cruiser,” says Jochen. The Indian is from the German importer. LSL also work closely with Triumph Germany. And in 2010 they linked with Kawasaki to offer the first customised version of the W800.
“Kawasaki launched the brand new bike at Intermot then three hours later, we unveiled our custom version. In future we’ll do more work directly with manufacturers, though we’ve not been proactive because we’re always so busy developing new parts.” Having said that, LSL did a customised Ducati scrambler when it was first launched – and Jochen can’t wait to work some Yard Built magic into the XSR700 (see page 42).
But LSL don’t just focus on new retro bikes. They also offer a big range of parts for those customising classics. A Z1000 Kawasaki was on the bench for some new accessories to be added. “The great thing about customising the older bikes is there are no complex electronics to worry about.” From 1986 until 1996 LSL also operated a Kawasaki dealership and were Harley dealers from 1990 until 1998 – but now the company focuses 100% on accessories.
“I always wanted to do engineering and make product,” says Jochen. “But I needed to earn money to build a business. After we quit the Harley dealership in 1998, we built new premises for production and warehousing of the parts.”
LSL design all their own components, from first drawings to prototype testing, then supply digital files to local manufacturing plants who do all the CNC machining.
LSL recently linked with the University in local town Krefeld, near Dusseldorf, to use their 3D prototyping facility to get new products to market even faster.
“I decided 30 years ago I’d never get involved with production. To do it well you have to have a lot of volume, plus you need to constantly update your machinery. So it is better for us to deal with specialised engineering companies to produce all our components and we have had a great relationship with the same partners for many years.” The components are then shipped into LSL where all the various kits (eg: rearsets, levers etc) are assembled, packaged and despatched. There’s always in excess of one million euros-worth of stock at LSL and, judging by the amount of that stock being packaged for despatch all over Europe when we were there, business is booming.