Passion for vintage motorcycles fuels Retrospeed

Owner of repair and restoration shop always thought old cycles were ‘cool,’ and now that a lot of other people feel the same way, business is booming at his Belgium shop

SHOWING OFF A 1962 Triumph T100 SS motorcycle they restored was the staff of Retrospeed in Belgium, including (from left) Caitlyn Goetsch, Donovon LeVan, Ryan Luft and shop owner Brady Ingelse. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Brady Ingelse is living his passion, restoring old motorcycles to their glory.

Ingelse is the owner of Retrospeed in Belgium, which not only handles traditional motorcycle repairs but made a name for itself in the world of vintage motorcycle restoration over the past 12 years.

“Vintage motorcycles were always cool to me,” Ingelse said. “Now they’re cool to everybody.”

Ingelse started in the motorcycle business after graduating from Sheboygan Christian High School. He bought his first motorcycle, a Honda CB 750, and traveled to Florida, where he enrolled in the American Motorcycle Institute in Daytona.

“My grandpa (George Lanser) said, ‘Don’t go to Florida without a motorcycle. You’ll never remember what you learned unless you do it at night,’” Ingelse said.

He went to classes during the day and at night practiced what he had learned on his own cycle.

“The focus there was on old bikes. It was the perfect education for me,” Ingelse said. “By the time I came back home, my bike was running really good.”

He went to work for a multi-line motorcycle dealer in Fond du Lac, and specialized in working on old bikes.

Six years later, he left the shop.

“When I left, they were getting out of working on old motorcycles,” Ingelse said. “I wanted to start my own business, so I thought it was a great time to do it.”

Before he left, though, Ingelse gave the owner a stack of his new business cards, asking him to refer clients with older motorcycles to Retrospeed.

“From day one, we were busy,” he said.

That was 12 years ago, and in the ensuing years the business has grown by leaps and bounds.

“I think we’re on invoice 12,000,” Ingelse said, noting the invoices can represent anything from the replacement of a small part to a full restoration.

Summer is the peak season for the shop, and Ingelse said that right now there is a 28-day backlog.

“In winter, our backlog is gone,” he said.

Work on vintage motorcycles is something most shops shy away from, both because of the time it takes and the difficulty in finding parts.

“Every time we need a part, it’s 2-1/2 weeks,” Ingelse said, noting they often search the Internet for parts and, if needed, will machine the parts themselves. “In the car world, they’re spoiled. They call NAPA and the parts are there in an hour.”

Ingelse estimates he and his crew complete an average of three full restorations each year, although they have as many as 25 jobs going at a time.

“It takes nine months to restore a motorcycle,” Ingelse said. “Some can take longer.”

They work on domestic and imported motorcycles.

“We work on a lot of British bikes,” Ingelse said. “The Italian stuff has gotten really, really hot. I like working on the German cycles a lot — I like the way they’re engineered. It’s a very rewarding experience to bring German motorcycles back.”

Different customers want different things in their bikes, he added.

“Every customer is unique in what they want,” he said. “What one guy wants, another guy thinks is ridiculous.”

But, Ingelse added, his shop follows one credo.

“We won’t allow in anything we can’t make great,” he said.

Motorcycles come in to the shop in varying states, he added, noting some are driven in and others are on trailers. The ones that take the longest are those that come in boxes — generally because their owner disassembled them to try and work on the bike himself.

“You have to build it first, find out what’s wrong with it and then take it apart and restore it,” Ingelse said.

The reasons people bring their motorcycles in for restoration vary, Ingelse said.

“For some, it’s for the investment,” he said. “But for a lot of them, it’s the love of the motorcycles. This is what they wanted in high school or the motorcycle their girlfriend’s father had and wouldn’t let them drive.”

The crew posts photos of the work they’re doing online so owners can keep tabs on their motorcycles, Ingelse noted.

“Some people are in here weekly checking on things. Some people just ask us to call when it’s done,” he said. “But this way, they can check the progress at their leisure.”

While most of the repair work comes from a fairly small radius, Ingelse said the restoration work comes from a much larger area, with some bikes coming from as far away as Texas and New Jersey.

“We’re a destination business,” he said.

Retrospeed has handled motorcycles that are limited editions, Ingelse said, “and you can follow those up with restoration of a Honda 250,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to the owner that it’s not rare. It’s important to him.”

They’re working on the restoration of a 1954 Puch 125, which was sold new from a Sears Roebuck catalog for $350.

“This is a prime example of a restoration that will take a long time,” Ingelse said. “The parts don’t exist.”

The rarest bike they worked on was a 1974 Ducati 750 SS, one of 401 hand-built in Italy for racing.

“When we were done with that, it sold for $185,000,” Ingelse said. “For being in the little town of Belgium, we see incredible machines.”

A number of the bikes they’ve worked on have been featured in magazines such as Motorcycle Classics — six bikes Retrospeed worked on have been in the magazine, and several on the cover — or in shows. Ingelse noted that one of their restorations received the Best of Show Award at the Greenwich, Conn., Concours D’Elegance.

“That was a big deal for us,” he said.

In most cases, Ingelse said, a full restoration will cost $21,000 to $22,000.

“For the most part, a motorcycle’s a motorcycle,” Ingelse said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s worth $4,000 or $400,000. In the end, it takes the same amount of time and money.”

Ingelse said he loves what he does.

“It’s fun. The days go quickly,” he said. “Work is awesome. I never, ever look at the watch.”    

 

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