Not that Harley-Davidson or Victory should be looking over their shoulders, but the fastest-growing bike builder in the country might just be Mule Motorcycles, run out of a converted two-car garage in suburban San Diego.
This Triumph Brighton, named after the British beach town famous as a burn-up destination
When we last saw Mule founder Richard Pollock’s handiwork he had just built a sweet-as-honey Hinckley Bonneville custom (see “Triumph ’Tracker,” Sep. 2010, MC), but a lot has changed in the past couple of years. When his aerospace employer of 23 years pulled up stakes and moved across country, Pollock decided it was high time to take Mule from an afterhours operation to a full-time gig.
“I am pretty comfortable here in California,” says the 60-year-old. “I came to SoCal originally because it was—and still is—the hub of motorcycling, plus there’s surfing, hotrods, mountains, deserts. It’s where I want to be, not Alabama, so I took early retirement. Now I’m livin’ the dream, doing bikes full-time—and working five times harder than I ever did in aerospace!”
Richard Pollock Wants a Street-Tracker in Every Garage!
When a customer’s 2007 Triumph Scrambler wasn’t retro enough, Pollock created this desert
Not that Pollock was exactly a slacker before. He built his first customer bike, a café Sportster, in 1993, and has been steadily turning out gobsmackingly gorgeous specials ever since. By his count he’s built about 150 to date, mostly street-trackers. This despite production slowdowns when Lilly the rescue bull terrier needs to be let outside or when the lovely Mrs. Pollock fires up her washer/dryer to do a load of laundry. Currently, build sheets for 23 bikes hang from pegs that ring the garage. Mule also has just launched a new line of aftermarket products (www.mulemotorcycles.net).
“Holy crap, it’s hard,” says Pollock of his increased workload. “I’m everything in one: CEO, financial officer, designer, parts procurement, quality control, PR, test rider, warranty department…it takes up a lot of brain space, but I love doin’ it.”
All those years as a rocket fabricator gave Pollock the organizational skills needed to juggle the builds of 20-plus bikes at the same time, but it’s his sense of aesthetics that sets Mule street-trackers apart: the way the bikes’ proportions are spot-on, the interplay between paint and metal finish, the intangible rightness of stance. He’s way too modest to say it, but fact is a Mule custom is one of the finest crafted vehicles being built in the world today, two wheels or four.
“The only thing I bring to the table genetically is having a decent eye for what looks good, be it cars or boats or airplanes or vacuum cleaners, whatever is mechanically cool,” Pollock allows. “I’m on the Internet all the time looking at pictures of bikes, I read all the magazines, I go to the shows, talk to other builders, study old racebikes. I have this data bank to draw from to make things look good.”
Case in point is Mule’s most recent Sportster, a triple-black ’tracker named Stealth, built for Brooklyn avant-garde artist Matthew Day Jackson. The base machine was a 2000-model Sporty 1200, but about the only items that remain untouched are the main frame loop and the center engine cases. Everything else was massaged, modded, kicked, and cajoled into shape. For a more aggressive look, Pollock moved the shock mounts forward about six inches on the swingarm, which required that the rear subframe be totally reworked to match. Front suspension duties are handled by a jumbo Italian-made Paioli inverted fork. This fork was sold by Custom Chrome as part of a sporting Big Twin kit that failed to find an audience. When the unsold surplus inventory was auctioned off, Pollock, always on the scrounge for suitable parts, ended up with several sets of the 56mm forks and matching triple clamps.
More parts-bin repurposing: What look like ultra-expensive 19-inch Morris magnesium race wheels are actually cast-aluminum lookalikes as fitted to Kawasaki cruisers in the 1980s. Mule acquires these inexpensively on eBay, then sends them to Kosman Specialties to be widened so modern rubber—Maxxis dirttrack tires here—can be used. Brembo four-piston Goldline brake calipers are another online score at less than $100 per piece. A used Vance & Hines sportbike muffler was shortened by half, polished up, and joined to a swirling set of custom-bent, ceramic-coated head pipes.