Photos: Tyson Call
Tyler White is a man of few words. When asked to describe what kind of motorcycles he builds under the brand Bang Moto, he looks down, furrows his brow in thought, then with firm resolve—as though finding the single perfect descriptor for which he was searching—says a single word: “Radical.” He’s heavily customized the bikes that he and his wife ride, which look like nothing else on the road. Luckily, he is willing to share his talents with the general public.
Salt Lake City seems to have a disproportionate abundance of excellent motorcycle builders for a city of its size, especially considering that motorcycle-unfriendly snow and ice cover the roads for four months a year. Utah’s abundant canyon roads may play a role, though our state’s many mountain trails could also contribute to the phenomenon. Bang Moto specializes in dual-sport motorcycles that are legal to drive on the street but also feature upgraded suspension and tires that enable them to be taken off-road. “I was riding my boss’s enduro bike one time, and I was cruising up this canyon and was like, ‘Hey, there’s this dirt road—I can go on it,’” says White. “That really captures me—to just get away and not see anybody on a trail for two hours and not run into anybody—that’s just awesome. To be out in the wilderness and be alone.”
White’s builds blend raw functionality with an understated and unique style. “The problem with enduro bikes is that they look pretty dorky,” says White. “I guess my main goal is just to make the functionality of an enduro bike but also have the bike look great.” White showed his bikes at the motorcycle/art show Salty Bike Revival to great acclaim. It was easy to tell which were Bang Moto bikes from a distance—his builds are clean and tidy, even though the machines he starts with are usually more than 35 years old. “It is always good when people don’t know what bike it is,” says White, “especially people who are into bikes. Sometimes they just know the motor because that is really all you have to identify the bike with.”
Lately, many motorcycle manufacturers have been attempting to capitalize on public interest in dirt-worthy, road-legal bikes. Italian manufacturer Ducati—whom some call the Ferrari of motorcycles—recently surprised many by releasing their own take on the genre, called the Scrambler.
Despite the trend of public interest seemingly in White’s favor, he says that he just builds what he likes. “The people who are [interested in motorcycles] because they love it, they are gonna stick around and be doing it forever,” says White. “Hopefully, I’m one of those people. If you are into it because of a trend, it’s gonna come and go, and you’ll move on to whatever pants come along next.”
White sees building and riding motorcycles as two separate things. “Bike-building is just an outlet for my creative side,” says White. “It’s just fun building bikes and making something that used to look old and decrepit look shiny and brand new—to where you show it to somebody and they are like, ‘No way! It came from the ’70s and it is all shiny?’” White prefers to work on older motorcycles. “Simplicity is the difference,” says White. “I feel like, on an old bike, you can just stare at it for about an hour and figure [it] out. With a newer bike, there’s just a lot going on.”
Although he has been customizing motorcycles since 2010, building things is nothing new for White, who has worked with wood his whole life. “It really doesn’t matter if it’s a piece of wood or a piece of metal,” says White. “I just love to cut it up and make something out of it. I like building things. I like seeing something go from nothing to something really good-looking.”
When talking to White, it is clear that he truly loves motorcycles and isn’t looking for attention. He is impressed by what other people are building and humbly seeks to contribute to Utah’s thriving motorcycle culture. “I haven’t really run into anybody where they are like, ‘Hey listen, dude: I build bikes for a living, so I can’t tell you where to get things,’ or, ‘You are taking food off my table,’” says White. “Everybody is really stoked on bikes.”
At this time, White doesn’t have a physical storefront, choosing instead to work as a freelance builder. He can do everything from small stylistic and functional modifications to full-scale restorations. “I do a lot of fork swaps,” he says. “I’ll swap out the front end for an inverted fork—put modern suspension on it. I tend to put dual headlights on my bikes a lot. I think people notice that.” There is no set formula or pricing for the services he offers, and he doesn’t build all types of bikes. He prefers that someone who wants work done contact him and tell him what they are looking for. “If it looks like it’s not really the type of bike that I build, I’ll pass them along to somebody who would be a better fit,” says White. “If it is the perfect fit, then we’re gonna build a really cool bike.”