MEET THE MAKERS #1 – FABRICATION

A behind-the-scenes glimpse into the workshops of the craftspeople creating the Budvar Bike

JAKE ROBBINS, FABRICATOR
Jake Robbins Vintage Engineering, Hastings, UK

It won’t be a surprise to anyone who knows the Budvar story that we have something of a passion for people whose work – just like our brewing – involves true dedication, skill, mastery of craft, respect for tradition and going the extra mile to deliver perfection.

One of the great things about our partnership project with BOLT Motorcycles is that we get to meet a whole bunch of inspiring and gifted craftspeople currently working on the Budvar Bike. As you can imagine, turning the raw ingredients of what was a boxy old 1980’s model JAWA CZ into a thing of beauty requires some serious skills. And as well as the skill and vision of Andrew and Simone at BOLT, the bike’s customisation is giving a glimpse into some incredible traditional crafts, like fabrication, leatherwork and sign-writing.

In this mini-series, we’re following Andrew around the workshops as the bike is being transformed, catching up over a cold Budvar with each of the makers working on it. First up is Jake Robbins from Jake Robbins Vintage Engineering in Hastings, the metal man and master fabricator who’s transforming the bike’s frame.

How long have you been working in motorcycle fabrication?

I have been fabricating motorcycle parts for 30 years or more now, one way or another.

What got you started? Are bikes something you’ve always had a passion for?

Well I started motorcycling off-road when I was 9 years-old and that was when the obsession started. I’m a complete motorcycle addict and not picky either. I love all types, all sizes and all ages.

How long did it take you to get to this point? Did you train as a metalworker?

I’ve worked on motorcycles really since I started riding them. I grew up without much money but loads of space and freedom, so I learned to fix my own knackered off-road bikes. I am completely self-taught, which meant a lot of trial and error in the early days. And a lot of dedication.

Is there something about working on vintage bikes that’s special?

Absolutely. Purely from an aesthetics viewpoint. In those early pioneering days of motorcycling there was a huge amount of experimentation from engineers and designers, all of which gave rise to many unique designs and styles. It’s always great to work on them.

What were your thoughts when you first saw the JAWA CZ?

I actually owned one of these JAWAS in the early 1990s. They have a great utilitarian quality to them but with this vintage heart, so I was excited to be involved with the project.

Take us through the stages of fabricating on a project like this. Where do you start?

With the Budvar Bike I was given a design drawing to work with from Andrew, so I started by stripping all the extraneous components and working out which parts could stay, which parts would go and which parts we could modify to suit the look and feel.

What have you changed / kept?

We kept the beautiful Art Deco-style motor, the front frame section, the front forks and the front wheel and rear wheel – all are in the original condition and position. I have kept the mudguards but modified them to suit the style of the 1930s to 1960s JAWAS, which was the reference. A big change was the frame, which has been modified to have a rigid rear section – or ‘hard-tail’ – to achieve the style Andrew was looking for. To match the engine, we’ve fitted a classic style fuel tank from a BSA as well as lowering the handle bars and fabricating a new seat base. The original exhaust was massive, so we have cut that down and added a stylish fishtail finish.

What have been the challenges?

Well this has been a fun build from the start! Lots of challenges, especially in staying as close to the drawings as we could. It all threw up a bit of head scratching, but that’s part of fabrication and customising. It’s worth it in the end when you create something unique.

What are the challenges Andrew will face on the 1000-mile ride?

It is a small bike for a man of Andrew’s huge height, and it has a small engine. It’s perfect for racing around and short journeys but 1000 miles may be more of a challenge. I think he will need to look into some yoga classes to avoid a bad back.

What is it about the nature of skills and craft like this that appeals to you?

This kind of hand-made stuff is where I am happiest in my work to be honest, being allowed to indulge my creative side on a build like this is what my business is all about.

Do you think taking time over something gives it a special value?

Definitely. If you can work from the heart on a bike and give it that personal feel it really comes through in the finished product. You can always tell the difference.

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