Turner’s Customs: A Dusty Motorcycle Menagerie

Lyle Ellerbee

Something that is particularly interesting in the car and motorcycle world is the way these categories can branch out into many niche groups that are just as full and multifaceted.

To non-car-enthusiasts, the umbrella term ‘car’ makes the cut when describing a vehicle, but to an enthusiast you’ve got make, model, color name and sometimes even modification style.

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For example, a ‘yellow car’ to a normal person is an E36 BMW M3 in Dakar Yellow with a wide-body kit riding with static suspension on BBS wheels to one of us. And with each of the aforementioned car nerd descriptors is a choice made informed by style, culture and perhaps even history.

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Motorcycle culture is the same way I’m discovering. I’m certainly closer to the ‘yellow car’ identification side of the spectrum when it comes to bikes, but I’m nonetheless fully fascinated. So a trip down the street to Turner’s Customs in San Bernadino County, Southern California was a real treat.

Rob Turner has all sorts of desert warriors in his shop, all under a loosely-niche style. You likely won’t find any Ducatis or Ninjas or Motocompos, but there are loads of dusty vintage custom choppers each completely different from one another.

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Within the first few minutes of shooting, a loud rumble grew closer and a mid-century contemporary bike with a sidecar appeared, sporting patina, a modern engine and jockey shifter. It’s the sort of machine you’d charm all sorts of folks with.

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The skinny knucklehead bike is a unique take on a classic and is in an entirely different subgroup from the sidecar pusher.

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The little rusty bobber with the whitewalls is a vintage Triumph. Those super narrow bars are great for lane splitting, but would make it pretty challenging to control I suspect. It’s also a jockey shift, but as British bikes have the brake and clutch on the opposite side it’s even trickier.

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This super custom bike is obviously more of a show creation than a performance one. It looks sick, but it wouldn’t be wise to go speeding around with it. It’s coated in well thought out details and its silhouette is sexy as hell.

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This is going to sound a little hippy-dippy, but it was really apparent at Rob’s shop that humans are meaning makers. We infuse our humanity into scraps of metal and make them animate and valuable. Motorcycles are at the core a motor with two wheels and a seat; a tool used to get around. It’s the frontal lobe that spits a soul into each bike and that’s the magic of art.

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One of my favorite ideas is the concept of soma, which essentially says that we all have a preprogrammed need to play god and manipulate matter into our liking or likeness.

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We see it with nearly every facet of life. Obviously here, we are concerned about things with engines, but if you look at all the variation between cars and motorcycles it’s hard not to see this human need to create something meaningful being played out over and over again.

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It’s arguably one of the most important needs on the higher thinking list, and it’s the core principle pushing all artists. Whether your medium is machines or pencils, we are all looking to find and make something important.

Sara Ryan
Instagram: pockowokosara

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