Hong Kong's custom motorcycle riders: the politest gang in town
One Sunday morning last September residents of a hip neighborhood in Hong Kong woke up to find it had been taken over by over 70 bikers.
Engines revved and windows rattled, but nervous locals needn't have worried that an infestation of leather vest-wearing ne'er-do-wells would rough up the chi-chi boutiques and galleries.
Instead there were yards of tweeds, bow ties and Bermuda shorts (temperatures were still in the high 20 degree Celsius) on display, as well as polite greetings and mutual admiration among the riders.
As the start point for the annual Distinguished Gentleman's Ride, it was a gathering of classic and custom motorcycle enthusiasts and showed how its associated style has been picking up speed in the city.
The French brothers
Among the riders that day were Guillaume and Ben Barras, two French brothers who have made their home in Hong Kong for over ten years and since 2012 have been at the forefront of bringing custom-made motorcycles to the city's streets.
Transforming anything from 1970s BMWs and Triumphs to new 250cc Japanese bikes into one-off café racers, "bobbers" or choppers, the brothers have a love of motorcycles at the heart of their company, Angry Lane.
Speaking at their garage/showroom/shop inside an old industrial building in Wong Chuk Hang, on the south side of Hong Kong island, Guillaume describes what they do as a pleasure first and a business second.
"People often say to us, 'Oh you have the best job in the world,' and I say 'Yes, but I don't have your paycheck,'" he says.
Guillaume says that they lose money on most of the bikes they build, painstakingly ordering and adapting parts for their concepts from across the world. But like Deus Ex Machina, the Australian custom motorcycle and lifestyle brand that started in 2007, the bikes from Angry Lane are more than just gorgeous machines.
"We were bikers first and we are motorcycle enthusiasts," says Guillaume. "The first thing we've done is (build) the bikes and for us it's been an amazing marketing tool."
With more requests to build bikes than they are able to handle, the brothers will expand their operations by adding a dedicated mechanic later this year, while they spend more attention on the clothing and apparel side of their business.
It's hard to think of another pursuit that has provided so many enduring and malleable classic items of clothing, from the Schott Perfecto leather jacket first worn by Marlon Brando in "The Wild One", then revived by The Ramones, to the Belstaff and Barbour jackets sported by Steve McQueen in the 1960s and 70s.
Stylish, timeless classics are what Guillaume hopes Angry Lane will be known for.
Using Japanese raw denim, Korean leather and calling on local Hong Kong craftsmen, they're slowing building up their collection of jackets, shirts and jeans. The style is dictated by what the brothers like, a mish-mosh of biker classics, but made with practical use in mind.
As for creating an Angry Lane mob, a politer version of Brando's Black Rebels, Guillaume would rather people just embrace their individuality.
"There is a community (of bikers here) and we meet up sometimes for things like the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride, but I don't need to start a gang."
Running his own motor business is enough.