For the true motorcycle connoisseur there is nothing more thrilling than buying a custom-built two-wheeler. And if the bike has been made by Russell Mitchell of Exile Cycles it simply takes the experience to another level altogether.
California-based Exile Cycles made it to the 2007 Forbes list of best custom-made bike builders and many Hollywood actors, including George Clooney, are its fans. In fact, Clooney owns one fondly dubbed Mad Max by Mitchell and can be seen cruising the northern Italian countryside where he owns a villa alongside Lake Como.
“We have built bikes for George Clooney, John Mellencamp, Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day, Chris Cornell of Audioslave and Soundgarden, Gilby Clarke of Guns N’ Roses and golfer Davis Love III,” Mitchell, owner of Exile Cycles, told Emirates Business.
“We also recently supplied a bike for Vinnie Jones to ride in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming movie Hell Ride. Our customers range from blue-collar people who have saved for years to own one of our creations to Middle East royalty who could buy the whole company without blinking.”
The biggest reason for the popularity of Exile Cycles is the attention to detail that British-born Mitchell gives to each bike. A reason why he builds only 20 bikes a year. Every part of a motorcycle is manufactured in his 20,000sqft facility in North Hollywood. “Almost all the parts we use are custom-made or manufactured by us specifically for these creations. We do not use stock or mass-produced parts. It takes us anywhere from three months to a year to build a bike depending on our waiting list, which varies considerably,” said Mitchell.
Exile Cycles’ creations are instantly recognisable because of their clean, tough, industrial styling as opposed to the heavily painted and chromed bikes that are popular in the US. They have garnered hundreds of magazine features around the world.
“It takes a lot more work to make a bike look as clean as ours than it takes to apply fancy paint and chrome accessories,” added Mitchell. “Our bikes have a very distinct look and make a statement you just cannot make with a stock bike.”
In fact, he is so single-minded about the integrity of the design and maintaining the Exile identity that he tells the customer how the bike should look.
“I have always dictated to the customers how the bikes should look as I am the artist creating these machines. We have one customer who has now bought about eight bikes from us and he does get to call the shots these days. He even persuaded us to make a sidecar rig for him recently.”
Not one to rest on his laurels, Mitchell works hard to turn non-believers into hardcore Exile lovers by competing in many of the Discovery Channel Biker Build-Off shows as well as the World Bike Build-Off.
The most expensive machine Exile has made is the Trike, which cost $75,000 (Dh275,000).
“We have built many bikes over the past 10 years but the Hot Rod, the Trike and the RX Streetfighter are the most famous. The original Hot Rod sold for $65,000, the Trike for $75,000 and the Streetfighter is also worth around $65,000. Our bikes cost from $50,000 to $75,000 but we can spend more for the right client.”
Mitchell – who was formerly a vet and then a model – said the Trike was built for Biker Build-Off.
“It took us just 10 days to build. However, despite the fact that it was built in an incredibly short span of time it is a thoroughbred Exile machine parked between two 18-inch wide Formula One tyres. It gives you all the thrills you can expect from a powerful bike – and if you pull the lever on the grenade shifter flames will blow out of the pipes.
“The Trike features a custom-rear axle made by us incorporating the brakes and a limited slip differential. We built the Trike to show that even three-wheelers could be mean, hard-core machines if they are done tastefully.
“Like all our bikes the Trike also makes 100-plus horse power and tonnes of torque and is capable of speeds well more than 100 miles (150 kilometres) per hour. The question is whether you are brave enough to take it there.”