Building custom motorcycles sounds like a dream job, but the reality can be harsh. Builders who can actually make a living from the art are worthy of respect and admiration.
The Wrenchmonkees are celebrating a decade in business this year, which is an incredible achievement in the new wave custom scene. And the Danish twosome don’t just have staying power: their influence has been incalculable.
Per Nielsen and Nicholas Bech are nothing short of pioneers, forging a path ahead when the scene was just starting to bloom. Even if you don’t recognize their faces, you’ve seen their work—or you’ve seen traces of it in others’ work. In short, they are the godfathers of the ‘alt moto’ movement.
I was lucky enough to meet Per and Nicholas a couple of years ago, at the launch of the Yamaha XSR900. I sensed that their status as ‘rock star’ builders sits uneasily with them: they’re approachable and humble, a couple of regular guys who love what they do, and have shed blood, sweat and tears doing it.
It was in 2008—the same year that Bike EXIF was launched—that the Wrenchmonkees opened their workshop in Copenhagen. Per (above) was working at a major cargo handling company at Copenhagen’s airport; Nicholas (below) was a partner in a photography business. Both had been tinkering with supermotards and streetfighters since the late 90s, but felt it was time to up the ante. So, together with a third partner, Anders Ingvartsen (who left after a few years), they opened shop.
“We wanted to express our creativity with a more Danish design approach,” they tell us, “instead of the German, French and UK influences that were available through magazines. It was before all the websites and cafe racer accounts we now have on Instagram and Pinterest.”
“We had a dream to build a business based on creative freedom, building bikes with our basic skills, mixing our different backgrounds into one expression, and trying to make a living out of it.”
“We started with a small basement workshop, simple tools, and no money. We hoped it’d be well accepted out there, and it was. We did dream and hope for success, but we never thought our work would bring us this far.”
“We didn’t think more than one or two years ahead at the time. So we’re grateful that today we still can go to work, and do what we love to do—most of the time.”
Any career this long is littered with peaks and valleys. For Per and Nicholas, the highs include seeing one of their earliest builds, Gorilla Punch (below), displayed at the Danish Design Museum.
Other milestones include the first orders from outside Denmark, and the collaborations: with Shun Miyazawa at Yamaha Motor Europe, with Kedo for bolt-on accessories, and with REV’IT! on the Kawasaki H2 project.
Then there was 2012 ‘Monkeetrip,’ a ten-day adventure with 12 riders piloting 25+ year-old motorcycles across 3,800 kilometers of Europe. More good times came with the launch of WM A.C (Wrenchmonkees Apparel) the following year. “Plus friends and family always helping and supporting us,” they add. “Well—almost always.”
And struggles? “Breaking up with partners who were also our friends. And a major OEM rejecting our collaboration proposal in 2009. Reason: ‘There will never be a market for what you do’.”
Then there was the time they entered the Copenhagen Fashion Fair with their WM A.C collection, only to discover that no one knew who they were, and no one had any interest in their products. The 12,000 brochures they’d printed lasted them four years. And, of course, “never making enough money on custom bike builds.”
Ten years is a solid innings, but Per and Nicholas have plenty left in the tank. When asked what’s next, they simply replied, “More bikes, more parts, more collabs, more clothing…And hopefully better than what we’ve already done!”
Thank you, Wrenchmonkees: for forging your own path, for inspiring a new generation of builders and for giving us beautiful machines to write about.
Here’s a look back at ten of our favorite Wrenchmonkees builds from the last ten years.
Monkee #11: Gorilla Punch By 2008, ‘me too’ Honda CB750s were everywhere—then The Wrenchmonkees flipped the script. Gorilla Punch came in like a breath of fresh air: elegant, minimal and perfectly proportioned. More importantly, it slingshotted The Wrenchmonkees from their quiet workshop right into the mainstream. [More]
Monkee #18 Before street trackers were all the rage, the Wrenchmonkees had the formula down. And even though this Kawasaki Z750B’s orange frame was a departure from their usual dark palette, the bike still carried that signature Wrenchmonkees look—while under the hood it packed a heavily tuned 970cc motor. [More]
Monkee #27 We still wonder how the Honda CX500 became so popular in the custom scene, but this little root beer number probably has something to do with it. Part bobber, part cafe racer and a little rough around the edges, it’s a style we’ve often seen emulated in more recent years. [More]
Monkee #35 I’m not ashamed to admit that I borrowed many ideas from this Kawasaki W650 for my own W650 project—and I’d bet I’m not the only one. I even bought a couple of parts from their web store, and my bike’s battery box wears the same Japanese flag ‘1’ Wrenchmonkees sticker. [More]
Monkee #40 We all know how ubiquitous BMW boxer customs are, but this R100RT bucked most trends at the time it was released—and created a few new ones. The combination of the deep blue tank and silver frame was inspired, but best of all was that the bike’s destination: Mauritania. [More]
Monkee #55: MonkeeFist Yamaha’s Yard Built program is the most prolific OEM-backed custom series around, and it all started with this Yamaha XJR1300. The XJR’s a pretty brutal motorcycle out the box, but the Wrenchmonkees found a way to make it even more brawny, and a whole lot more desirable. [More]
Monkee #59 It took a while to pick our jaws up off the floor when this sweet Laverda 750 landed on our desks. It epitomized The Wrenchmonkees minimal and raw approach to bike building, with a few cracking details in the mix, like the mono-shock rear end, and the elegant new fuel tank. [More]
Monkee #60: Gibbonslap This Yamaha SR400 was Per and Nicholas’ second collaboration with Yamaha, and spawned an entire kit full of bolt-on parts with partner Kedo. It’s also one of the best SR400 customs we’ve seen to date, and marked a point in the Wrenchmonkees’ career where they began shifting to a more refined aesthetic. [More]
Monkee #68 You don’t see too many Triumph Thruxton-based scramblers, but this one caught our attention. Low-key and loaded with subtle touches (like a ‘rib’ that the guys added to the top of the gas tank), it’s easily one of our all-time favorite Triumph builds. [More]
Monkee #81: Revmonkee Dutch gear manufacturer REV’IT! commissioned this project, handing the Wrenchmonkees the space-age Kawasaki Ninja H2 to rework. It’s the most modern and high-performance donor we’ve ever seen the guys tackle—and a departure from their usual vibe—but they knocked it right out the park and into the stratosphere. It’s also a clear indicator that the Wrenchmonkees are always evolving and should never, ever be counted out. [More]
Wrenchmonkees | Facebook | Instagram | Workshop images by Tuala Hjarnø | Other images by Nicholas Bech
This post first appeared on Cafe Racer, Scrambler And Custom Motorcycles | Bike EXIF, please read the originial post: here