SPECTR x BLITZ MOTORCYCLES

PIT STOP AT BLITZ

Metal frames and vintage bikes
Customized vintage motorcycles have been trending hard for the past few years, especially among men approaching that mid-life bump in the road. Among those in the know, historic motorbikes with a stripped-down aesthetic – free of technical gimmicks but rich in timeless design – have emerged as a popular sub-genre. Customizing these gems into one-of-a-kind treasures is a high art, and not every bike aficionado can muster the necessary mechanical chops to handle every step of the process DIY-style. Here’s where specialized workshops enter the picture, run by seasoned mechanics with a focus on vintage motorbikes. Asking around within the scene, one name continues to emerge as one of the world’s finest destinations: BLITZ MOTORCYCLES, the workshop founded by Fred Jourden and Hugo Jézégabel in Paris, France.

Ever since starting their custom garage with a lot of passion for the craft in 2010, the two founders have not only conceived, customized and hand-finished countless motorcycles into unique, one-of-a-kind machines in their own signature style. The two mechanics have also evolved BLITZ into a brand of its own right, offering lifestyle staples from beanies to t-shirts all the way to bike-specific boots and leather jackets. Since we love all things design-oriented and vintage – and also super fast – we asked Fred and Hugo for a visit at their workshop to set up a SPECTR photo shoot, which they kindly obliged. Needless to say, we brought a case full of stylish shades to Paris with us, rugged enough for modern-day road warriors. Get ready to get your hands dirty, welcome to BLITZ.

Thanks for having us over at BLITZ MOTORCYCLES, Fred and Hugo. Talking to people in the scene, you guys are quite the stars among vintage motorbike transformers.
Hugo: We are certainly not stars. We’re just two friends who embraced their passion and decided to try to make a living out of it.

Your garage looks like the typical men’s dream, the ultimate man cave. Do men need their caves? And why is there such a hype around vintage motorbikes right now?
Fred: In today’s society, let’s be honest, most of us are just considered as “pawns.” Even if you have a great job and big responsibilities, you can still be replaced at any time. In a “man’s cave,” you are the only one in charge. You do whatever you feel is good for yourself. I think that may be an explanation.

Hugo: I think that motorcycles are one of the last bastions of freedom in our modern, still very restrained society, with all these rules like “don’t smoke,” “don’t drink,” “don’t do this,” “do that,” and so on. It’s even more true with vintage motorcycles because if your bike has a breakdown, and if you have the knowledge and the tools, you can fix it by yourself, even by the side of the road. And believe me, we went through these types of situations many times with Fred.

Knowing that you can fix a problem all by yourself must be very rewarding.
Hugo:
Once you do so, you feel like a hero, almost a God! You breathed life back into something that was said to be “dead” by everyone else. And back in the days, being a man meant this: “Fix the problems and keep walking.” That might explain why some men tend to be so attracted to vin-tage motorcycles.

Speaking of “keep walking,” moving around on your bike is obviously just as important as tinkering around in the workshop. What do you like most about the act of riding motorbikes?
Fred: Being able to connect with nature without any hesitation. When we ride our vintage motorcycles, we have no wind shield, no “hand protection,” not even a full-face helmet. So when it rains, trust us, you feel the fucking rain right on your face. When the sun is shining, you feel its warmth all over your body. When you ride through a forest, you actually smell the forest.

I know that at least one of you had a connection to nature before you started transforming motorbikes. What were you doing? 
Hugo: That’s right, I was a landscape designer.

Fred: And I was the Head of European Marketing for an online-based company.

So with these backgrounds, how come you quit and started to work as mechanics?
Fred: I would first of all like to say that I would have never taken this leap if Hugo had not decided to come along with me. For five years, Hugo and I spent our spare time after work and on weekends working in this very many cave you visited for ourselves, and also totally free of charge for our friends, as well as friends of our friends. After five years of improving our knowledge and sharpening our eye, we realized that we were happier spending our time working together and getting our nails dirty than sitting behind a desk, although I was getting paid well for this. I felt a bit like a “fraud” in the office because my own added value to the company was not apparent to me. As a contrast, when we would finish a motorcycle, I could say exactly what I had done and why it would work – or not.

Hugo: Like Fred said, I was always very impatient to meet up with him to work on our current projects in the workshop. Even if in the end, we would never charge the people we were working for any money. But then we came to a point where our “creations” started becoming recognizable since we developed our own signature style that you would not see anywhere else. This lead us to sit around a table and ask ourselves if we shouldn’t take the chance to try to make a living out of this particularity.

Six years later it seems like you made the right choice. In your day-to-day experience, what are the most inspiring moments at your job?
Fred: When we place the gas tank on the almost finished project. Then and only then do we get to take a step back and see how beautiful and unique we can consider our last project. And of course, when the client comes over and sees the bike for the first time. We never keep our customers posted on our “artistic direction” during our ongoing work. They only discover their bike once it is fully finished. A that moment, they are like a kid on Christmas Day.

Hugo: Some of our customers are very powerful men in their jobs. Still, at that very moment, they are eight years old again.

And while we’re talking about inspiration, what about thename “blitz?” It’s rather unusual for French speakers…
Fred: I used to be, and still am, a big fan of American football. The first time I heard this word, it was during a game, because a “blitz” is the name given to a rush attack in football. The sound of this word was nice to my hears, and always reminded me of those warriors ready to bump into each other. When the time came to look for a name, blitz popped naturally into my mind. I brought it up to Hugo – and he immediately loved it. Et voilà!

What’s the creative process like at BLITZ before the actual tools come out?
Hugo: We never use sketches or Photoshop. Because with a pencil or a keyboard, you can design anything. But when the time comes to make this drawing come true in real life – it’s a whole different story.

Fred: For us, the projects always start with a specific part of the bike, whether it’s a vintage tank, a headlight, a handlebar or a pair of tires. Then we always try to integrate a part of the customer’s life into the project. That’s why we always ask many personal details from our clients, so that we get to know them better.

But at the same time, the clients don’t really have the right to choose directly what they want?
Hugo:
Exactly. As we like to say: “Once you step a foot in our workshop, you are ready to leave democracy behind.” We actually never look for customers. The customers come to us. So they have to play by our rules.

The fact that your clients trust you so much might be one of the reasons why BLITZ has become way more than the name of a garage. It’s a full-fledged brand. You sell branded products like jackets, boots, shirts etc. How did you manage to pull this off?
Fred: We do not consider BLITZ to be a brand. BLITZ is the expression of our vision of life: Being committed and true to yourself. We tend to think that if people trust us, it is because they realize we are genuine and that we are really and purely passionate. It’s the same for the brands we collaborate with: we never contact them, we simply don’t have time for this. The brands contact us and then we meet up with the people behind the brands. If the products as well as the history of the brand and the philosophy of the people working for it match with our vision, then we start talking about collaborative products, without consideration for the “bankable” side of it.

Can you give an example?
Hugo:
The best example would be the tool roll made for us by our friends at Bleu de Chauffe. It’s an expensive piece because it’s made in very small numbers, all in naturally tanned leather, entirely by hand. We knew right away that we would not sell many of them. Still we wanted to have such a tool roll for ourselves, mainly for our road trips. So Alex and Thierry, the cofounders of Bleu de Chauffe, designed and produced it for us. It will never be their best-seller, still we all are surprised to see this product being bought online by people from all over the world.

You do seem to sell a lot of BLITZ clothes and accessories, though. In the bigger picture, how important is the right clothing style for you?
Hugo:
Very important. When we built our first motorcycles, it was because the offer from existing brands did not match our expectations. The same went for clothing. So we had to look for vintage clothes such as military and workwear in flea markets and secondhand stores to match with our motorcycles. We were then very happy when some brands, like Edwin Europe, came to us and offered to help express our needs, even the craziest ones. And we are very happy to see those crazy ideas come to life.

With that said, what would be the typical BLITZ “look” or outfit?
Fred:
A military-inspired jumper, a blue indigo pair of jeans, a pair of workwear boots, some “cool” leather gloves, like the ones made by Agnelle on our behalf, and a military-inspired leather jacket like the Coastal Command Jacket made on our behalf by Simmons Bilt in Scotland.

Hugo: For me it’s a cowboy-checked shirt, a blue indigo pair of jeans and jacket. And a knife! Just because you never know…

Let’s talk about eyewear for a bit. When you guys are featured in films like Riding September, one can see that you’re riding with jet helmets only, so eyewear is an important issue. What styles and materials do you prefer?
Fred:
I always wear glasses. Sun glasses in the day, “Yellow lens” glasses at night. I love the “pilote” metal frame for my night glasses.

Hugo: I wear sunglasses all the time. To protect my eyes from the sun, the rain and the dust. I love “pilote frames” made of metal, mostly.

What do you expect from good sunglasses?
Fred:
I expect my glasses to have a good design so that I do not look like a fly. And the glasses themselves to perfectly protect me from sun beams.

Hugo: I would love to find an unbreakable pair of sunglasses because I tend to always sit down on them eventually (laughs).

Well, you surely handled yourself well dealing with sunglasses in front of the camera, almost like professionals. It’s not the first time you did this, right?
Fred: Nope, it’s not – but we still hate to do it. Modeling is really not our world!

Well, if you ever change your mind, that door is probably open… As a last question, please give our readers some inspiration to take home from this interview. What are you guys dreaming of?
Fred:
I do not have dreams. I have the chance to have ideas that I try to make real. And right now, I’d love to go cruise in Japan with Hugo for three months. Just to discover this country.

Hugo: I would love to travel around the world with all the transportation means I have at my disposal: vintage motorcycle, vintage boat, vintage car, and maybe train – like the Trans Siberian Railroad. A bit like Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s book Around the World in Eighty Days.

We can’t wait to hear about your next adventure. Thanks for having us over and all the inspiring moments.

photos STEFAN DONGUS | assistant ASTRID SPIERING | retouch STEPHANIE WENCEK | interview STEFAN DONGUS & DIRK VOGEL
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