As soon as it gets cold in the UK, why not head to Goa to build bikes for six months in the sunshine?
In these days of austerity, rising rents and bickering politicians, it can sometimes feel hard to afford the time or mental space to indulge and focus on intensive creative pursuits. To make art, for arts sake. Even dying of cancer, one of the richest men in the world, Steve Jobs pondered: “My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s clear the most precious resource we have is time.”
So if time is so precious, the question for the rest of us is: how do you afford quality time to pursue what you love doing? In the case of Rag & Bones Customs, you buy the time with favourable currency rates and you get shit done in the Indian sun.
Rag & Bone Customs is essentially a cunning life hack. Stu and Paul spend their summers working their asses off in the UK, saving as much Pound Sterling as possible, and when UK winter arrives, they beeline to Goa, India. The second they land, their savings are quadrupled as Pounds grow into Rupees, and money that would have lasted two months in the UK now affords them six months in India. For £150 a month you can rent yourself a sweet two-bedroom bungalow, beers cost a quid a time, a meal costs £2, Royal Enfields are £5 a day to rent. You get the picture.
This cheap way of life is complemented with a majestic, hedonistic vibe that has pulled free spirits to Goa since the first busload of hippies rolled up at Anjuna Beach in the 1970s. Although Goa has become more developed than back in the day, there’s still a tangible sense of freedom. It feels like you can be who you want to be. You can do what you want to do. Cheaply.
While most tourists use the favourable exchange rate to get fucked-up or mooch around fancy yoga retreats, Paul and Stu get to work utilising their hard-earned time to create beautiful custom Royal Enfield motorcycles in Paul’s sweltering hot garage just yards from the balmy Arabian Sea.
There’s a radiance bestowed upon a person who’s forged their own path through life – an aura of contentment that comes from finding their place in this world. You sense from the spark in Paul Smith’s eyes that he’s where he is supposed to be.
He first drove from the UK to Goa in the ’90s, fell in love with the place, secured a beachfront property, made this place home, raised a family and is currently in the sweet process of living happily ever after.
The other half of Rag and Bones customs is Stu Cantellow, who lives 50 yards up the road. Stu is a proper, warm dude’s dude. With skateboarding taking a back seat while he’s in Goa, Stu pours his heart and soul into these old Enfields and the two of them form an eccentric, sunburnt, passionate, Steptoe and Son-esque romance in paradise.
It comes as no surprise that Enfields are in abundance here. In the 1950s the Indian Government ordered 800 Bullets to patrol the country’s border. After production moved to India, millions of Enfields were pumped out and this means the Rag & Bone guys are sitting on a gold mine of unique bikes, parts and skilled Enfield-savvy mechanics.
Each season they give birth to another bike, slowly creating a fleet of beautiful, immaculate motorcycles. The guys work with traditional craftsmen and local family businesses to fabricate custom parts you won’t find anywhere else. As labour costs a fraction of what it would in the UK, they get to indulge in the details – and the end results are truly exotic motorcycles.
Built to last on rough Indian roads, the bikes are strong, usually caked in dust and ooze Goan spirit. Each is a manifestation of patience, passion, talent and sheer quality that only comes with time.
The irony is of course that Stu and Paul escape the rat race every year only to work their arses off ten times harder, in dirtier conditions. But I guess it’s easy to work your ass off when you love what you’re doing and your intentions are authentic.
After a hard day’s graft, the sun lowers below the palm trees and the boys down tools and wade into the Arabian Ocean, washing off a day’s sweat, grease and blood before grabbing an ice cold beer with their friends, smoking some of Nepal’s finest and watching the sun set over another productive day in paradise. Time well spent…
We try to keep a constant simple style – ‘Goa Style!’ All of our builds have been inspired from our surroundings and been born out of the love of riding around the dusty potholed streets of Goa. It’s about chopping what you’ve got and having an idea in your head and making it a reality, learning new skills, having fun and laughing with your friends until your stomach hurts, doing the things you love.
It doesn’t matter if it’s surfing, kite-boarding or skateboarding, the passion and feeling is all the same for us and a big part of why we do what we do. We’re inspired by late ’60s and early ’70s garage- built, stripped-down hops. Also some of the current Japanese builders who are always killing it and pushing the boundaries. There’s always some crazy shit coming out of Japan. We build bikes to be ridden hard on the unforgiving Indian roads.
We hope to be building bikes in India the old skool way for many years to come. There’s a lot to be said for the human eye, a plum-bob, spirit level, a lot of patience and some simple hand tools. Building bikes like this isn’t for everyone but it seems to work for us. We’re hoping to build one or two bikes a year and make a few hand- crafted parts for Royal Enfields.
Rajan is our go-to guy for engines: He’s got over 30 years experience working with Enfields so every day’s a school day when he comes over. One of my favourite pictures is of me laughing with him at the workshop. That photo pretty much captures it for me.
We’re also lucky to be building a bike around a Carberry Enfield 1000cc V-twin: An Australian engineer by the name of Paul Carberry came down to visit us in Goa and he was hooked. He told us about his dream to produce the Carberry 1000cc V-twin in India and here we all are. The rest is history and it’s actually happening right now! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us and we’re really happy to be involved in such a great project. It will be a totally hand-built machine and it’s going to be a beast. We will be showcasing our Carberry build at Royal Enfield Rider Mania & India Bike Week in late November in Goa.
There’s definitely a feel that things are going back to basics in India: We’re seeing more quality bikes stripped down with more attention to detail. There’s a new breed of talented young people designing and building bikes in small shared spaces across India and it’s great to see the custom bike scene being pushed forward by these young guys. If you wanna sum up our ethos, here’s one of our favourite quotes: ‘If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.’ That was Romain Rolland. It sums it up.