Richard Pollock's Custom Bikes | The Mule Prophecy

By David Edwards, Photography by David Edwards

It’s that one-off, coachbuilt quality that attracts Mule customers from as far away as Thailand and Russia, each ready to plonk down a minimum of $32,000 for a full-on build and wait 6-8 months for it to be done.

“I’ve been told I should standardize, build one or two basic models, make them all the same, that’s the only way to make real money,” says Pollock. “Well, that would be okay if everybody wanted the same thing. They don’t. Besides, I have no interest in punching out cookie-cutter motorcycles. If I had a big factory and we were building, say, the Mule 880, turning out 50,000 of the things, I’d be bored out of my mind. I’d get out of the business. What I sell—the service I provide—is the ability to build a custom motorcycle any way you want. Come to me with an idea and I can turn it into reality, something that looks cool, works bitchin’, and goes fast.”

Which is a pretty apt description of Mule’s latest Yamaha XS650, a British Racing Green job commissioned by a retired northern California probation officer. This time there’s even less of the stocker left, just the engine castings and the footpeg brackets. Everything else has been replaced or rebuilt, starting with the motor, which gets a 750cc kit, hotter cam, big valves, porting, and an electronic ignition from Powerdynamo in the Czech Republic. The compact sparking system allowed Pollock to trim the alternator bulge on the primary cover and weld on a flatter aluminum piece for more of a comp shop look.

All buttoned up, the rebuilt twin was slotted into a new cromoly-steel frame built locally to Pollock’s specs. The design does away with the bottom frame cradles. Again, wheels at both ends are Morris mag reps, this time 18-inchers with sticky Bridgestone BT45s fitted. Pollock’s uncanny ability to mix-n-match parts is evident on the front end, where his own billet triple clamps house 45mm conventional forks taken from a Honda CBR900RR. Nissin calipers from the 900RR remain, putting the bite on rotors that consist of custom carriers and thinned XS650 discs drilled with a series of holes to resemble TZ750 roadracing items. A new Triumph Bonneville headlight bucket, tiny Acewell multi-function instrument pod, Wood Racing stainless-steel handlebars and Brembo front master cylinder complete the front end.

Good looking as a “Mule-ized” XS650 can be, the engine has its limitations. The newest one is now 30 years old and even thoroughly hopped up, about 60 horsepower is all that can be reliably extracted from the Yamaha. That’s one of the reasons the new Triumph Bonneville has become Mule’s parallel-twin of choice, not that it was an easy sell at first.

“Have to say I didn’t especially like the new Triumphs when they came out,” says Pollock. “Kind of bulky and blobby-looking. But the more I worked with them the more I realized what could be done. At about 200 pounds, the motor is a little heavy, but the power potential is stratospheric—you can instantly take it to 75 horses, and with a 904cc big-bore kit 90-100 is within reach. They run real good.”

The Bonneville has also allowed Pollock to stretch his design legs. Champions Moto, a Southern California speed shop specializing in Hinckley Triumphs, partnered with Mule to build that first titanium-laced Streetmaster street-tracker we featured back in 2010, and soon after came the Brighton, an alloy-tanked café racer on Page 72. More recently, a longtime Triumph aficionado dropped off a new Scrambler model in hopes that Pollock could turn it into something more akin to a classic Triumph desert sled. The result, with a BMW drum front brake, alloy fenders, Bates-style seat, and beautifully sculpted fuel tank, looks like something straight out of Steve McQueen’s garage circa 1966.

In fact, Pollock was so taken with the new Triumphs that he built one for himself, not that he got to hold onto it for very long. The big-bore T100 also served as rolling testbed for a just-released line of Mule aftermarket products for the Hinckley bikes, everything from billet triple-clamps and an oil-cooler kit to lightweight hubs and a two-into-one exhaust pipe. With its stock main frame and fuel tank, the Triumph looked factory, just lighter and tighter, more like a classic 1960s Triumph. Problem was, the Mule-modded T100 was such a hit that people kept trying to buy it right out from underneath him! Eventually Matt Helder, drummer for the indie rock band Arctic Monkeys, simply refused to take no for an answer.

Not to worry. Back in his garage in the hills above San Diego, Pollock already has visions of his ultimate street-tracker. The only problem is finding enough spare time to actually build it.

By David Edwards
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