A Designing North Star’s User Story: As a Triumph Owner, I Want to Customize a Bike Into a Cafe Racer for the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

As a boy growing up in the 60’s, the vision of leather-clad bikers whose only nod to safety was an apparent paper machè helmet, pushing their bikes to seemingly interstellar limits filled me with intrigue and abject terror. I never found the grease and dirt of the ‘Rockers’ to be that appealing. In fact, I was more attracted to the clean-cut ‘Mods,’ but motorcycles in all of their stripped bare glory were the things of wonder. I marveled at the riders’ willingness to take a perfectly fine Triumph Trophy and pull bits off of it in a quest to drop weight. I was in awe of their nonchalant chopping, welding, and improvising to achieve that ‘ton-up’ machine.

However, I was too young, too broke, and too scared that I’d indelibly change the motorcycle to get beyond a dream.

The term “Ton-Up Boy” may have been lost to the ages. It defined a rank assigned to young men who straddled stripped down, borderline Burlesque British bikes and hurtled themselves towards (and often beyond) the magic 100 mph through the streets of London. Blurred streaks of black leather, dripping grease and belching smoke in a race from the Ace Cafe to the to Hanger Lane roundabout and back–to a plate of egg and chips.

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The Project

Skip forward many years of owning and riding motorcycles, acquiring mechanical and technical knowledge that could at least get me started from the side of the road (pending inevitable failure), and my thoughts returned to the ‘Ton-Up’ dream. Obviously achieving the magical “ton” nowadays is less of an accomplishment than putting your underwear on correctly, but locating a motorcycle that resembled the “ton up” machines of my youth provided a happy challenge. And building one was, to me at least, the final act after years spent gluing plastic model kits together.  

I spent some months scouring the internet for information on building a Cafe Racer. There’s a lot of info, I mean shit loads, and determining the best advice whether it was written by Jethro the hammer wielding yokel or Slick Jimmy’s Custom Foot Peg Emporium was a significant task. Companies like Ryca Motors sell awesome kits for you to quickly create your dream Cafe Racer but I wasn’t ready for anything remotely as professional just yet. I eventually pulled enough information together to create a vision of my project bike and how I might achieve it.

Fortune came my way via my good friend Rey Sotelo of Hollister Power Sports. I purchased an Indian Chief Vintage from Rey a few years back and never regretted the decision. Rey knew I was in the market for a donor bike and offered me a deal on older Triumph Legend TT, which had been received on a trade-in. A sit-up-and-beg cruiser wasn’t the most obvious donor choice for my cafe racer project but it was cheap so it meant that I didn’t care if my hammering, slashing and slobbering screwed the bike into oblivion. At a minimum I would gain some experience and most importantly, confidence.

So without a blueprint, clear project plan, or 50% of the tools I needed, I set about transforming a 1999 Triumph Cruiser into a rat-stripped Cafe Racer for my own sheer indulgence and pleasure.

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The Build

Not only did the internet (kudos to Jethro) provide great project information, but without it I would never have been able to find the parts and equipment I needed for the build (what the hell did we do before Tim Berners Lee?). I am still blown away that I can lounge on the sofa and surf a catalog of parts from 2WheelPros.com or find assembly diagrams at Pandoras, hit a button and a friendly delivery service drops the bits at my door. Without companies like Texavina who not only hand made my new saddle but most importantly had the originally seat pan models to ensure a ‘true’ fit, I would have been screwed.

Skip forward again a few months and while I don’t think the bike will ever truly be finished, I do have a working manifestation of the vision I set out to achieve. It’s never going to be a concours d’elegance entry (even for my pre-industrial revolution eye it’s a bit rough around the edges), but it’s a rideable accomplishment that I would sooner massage my nether regions with a cheese grater than wind it up to the magic ton, but it runs and looks good enough and I did it on my own. Now what?

Ride the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride and Raise Awareness for Men’s Health | Designing North Studios

The Purpose: Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. And The Movember Foundation is the largest funder of prostate cancer programs in the world. Additionally, prostate cancer only affects men, as women do not have a prostate gland. Risk factors in developing the disease include:

Age: The older a man, the more likely he is to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. If you’re 50 or over, chat with your doctor about PSA testing.

Family History : A man with a father or brother who developed prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop the disease. If you’re 45 or over and prostate cancer is in your family, you should strike up the conversation about PSA testing with your doctor.

Ethnicity: Prostate cancer has an increased occurrence in men of African and Afro-Caribbean descent.

For more information on prostate cancer including symptoms, testing, treatment options, and support resources, head over to the ‘men’s health’ section on Movember.com.

The Purpose: Suicide Prevention

3 out of 4 suicides are men. And 510,000 men die from suicide globally each year — That’s one every minute. This has to change.

The causes of suicide are complex. There’s no single reason why men take their own lives, but we do know that by improving overall mental health we can reduce the risk of suicide. We need to address untreated mental health conditions among men.

Too many men are toughing it out and struggling alone. There’s no shame in checking in your own mental wellbeing, and those close to around you. Our friends over at Movember have produced some handy guides that might help take the sting out of broaching the subject.

Ride the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride and Raise Awareness for Men’s Health | Designing North Studios

The Goal: Ride my Bike and Make a Difference

Early in 2018 I read about the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. A group of “…distinguished gentlefolk in over 650 cities worldwide will don their cravats, tustle their ties, press their tweed, and sit astride their classic and vintage styled motorcycles to raise funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and men’s mental health.” To date, the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride has raised $4.85 million to support these causes while looking good at the same time.

Now I’ll admit that I’ve been a Mumford & Sons fan since first seeing them appear with Bob Dylan and the Avett Brothers at the 2011 Grammy’s, so the perhaps tenuous tie-in between the well-heeled motorcyclists of DGR, the Mumford-esque feel of the event and Marcus Mumford’s own passion for bikes prompted me to actually do something with my new creation (the Cafe Racer). I have almost convinced myself that I built the bike for such an event. It looks like it was made for it. This shabby, half-arsed project might just complete its life by actually doing some good. This wasn’t something I set out to do. Shit, my only intention was to build a rad bike. But in realizing a worthy end to the project it both closes the build and opens a door to give hope for someone, somewhere, to live longer. And I feel damn good about that. I know it’s not the intention, but it feels a little like I’ll be supporting this great cause and simultaneously fulfilling my Cafe-Racer dream while dressed up as Don Draper.

Pretentious? perhaps.

But if you want to show your support for a well intentioned Mumford-biker-wanna-be then please donate here: https://www.gentlemansride.com/rider/NigelPeacock

Story by: Nigel Peacock

Finding Your Flow Like a Designer With Advice From an Executive Creative Director

What is flow? What does flow mean? And how on earth can flow be experienced? (Outside of the Progressive insurance commercials).

For the longest time, these questions lingered among the team at Designing North Studios as we navigated the sea of creativity and requirements each project demanded. But that was then. Now, with the guidance of our Executive Director, Lisa Peacock, our team has learned how to position our schedules to find our individual flow. And you can do the same: by following our lead!

Whether flow is a new term for you, or you simply haven’t had the time to explore it prior, we have some advice on where to start and how to access it again in the future.

To start, let’s cover the framework we use to understand what flow is, using this ‘pitch’ from Lisa:

I have to be ready to find flow. I don’t do this consciously, but if I analyze my behavior in retrospect – I get visually geared up to focus. So, focus and flow go hand-in-hand, with a need for focus before I can expect to feel “in the zone.

I need to first get control of my environment, this includes that everything around me is visually pleasing – which brings about a calming effect (that includes noise and movement as well) to create an internal organization of thought. Feeling the calm allows me to jump into the storm of flow where my immersion in whatever I’m doing goes unnoticed until I’m done with my work. That’s the funny thing about this concept, I never know I’m inflow until I’m on the other side of it. It’s like you’re asleep, and then you snap out of it! Being interrupted in flow is tantamount to being woken up suddenly in your sleep. Like my cat Dave Mason does at least once a week.

Flow Explained

As it relates to our psychology, flow is a state of deep concentration that causes time to “stand still” or “fly by” — figuratively speaking, of course. As it relates to our studio members, flow is a state of mind where our actions and cognitive thoughts progress with seamless transition, providing incredible satisfaction and enjoyment in what we are doing. And according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is a finely tuned sense of rhythm, involvement, and anticipation.

Finding flow during a project is a pinnacle moment in identifying what makes youtickas a creative. This sweet spot for concentration allows complete immersion into any activity, although we most often relate it to working. But much like working on your favorite projects, it indicates a correlation between happiness, interest, and performance. For example, if you love the outdoors and dislike confined spaces, flow likely won’t be experienced in an office cubicle (unless of course, your office is filled with puppers, friends, ping pong and catered lunches). So when you try and make sense of this concept, think of flow as a placewhere you go when it’s time to do your best work; be your best self; and connect with your calling. In short, when the opportunity presents itself, go with the flow.

Watch how one artist/athlete explains her perspective on flow:

You can’t force yourself to find flow, but you can:

  1. Clear your mind with a ritual that relaxes your thinking (monitor your routine and identify what works and what doesn’t). (For Lisa it’s a full coffee press and morning emails answered)
  2. Organize your day, every day — alleviate tension from the to-do list (Lisa uses 1 to-do app called Swipes — that goes back years: everything from current client project to-dos to buy paper towels to remodel the master bathroom. The ‘swipe’ to complete the ‘do’ is elation, but the pressure feels minimal.)
  3. Build a wall between distractions (i.e., put the phone away; use headphones and close your email!) (We all know if we don’t hear from Lisa right away, she’s not ignoring us, but rather in flow — which acts as a strong reminder to get there ourselves.)
  4. Identify your ideal setting — where do you work best? What do you need around you to feel at ease? (The overwhelming DN team ideal setting means animal close by, or a window setting that allows for ‘California Dreamin’)
  5. Practice with your attention span — reduce habitual media checking! (We’re on Slack for Teams and rely on each other to share anything really important in our #creative channel — good news being, it’s there when we’re ready to check it.)
  6. Record your moments of flow after the fact — analyze the situation and try replicating it. (During the research for this article, the DN team decided to create a #flow channel in Slack so that we could share what moves us in and out of our creative selves. #stuffworthsharing)

Common Side Effects of Flow

Most critical to a design profession, flow can increase artistic creativity.

When you are “in the moment” with strong focus and good energy the creative brain comes to life. With less thought capacity being consumed by stress and tension, you are left with more creative juices for self-expression and creative production. This is all according to science, of course.

Flow eliminates the suppression of ideas. You are sitting at your desk when a good idea, better yet, a great idea strikes. Your instinct is to tell someone but as you prepare your words doubt creeps in, and you eventually scrap the idea. Unfortunately, this happens often — way too often. And you know why? Because you weren’t in flow. When you are in the zone doing what you enjoy and experiencing satisfying results, doubt, fear, and uncertainty doesn’t stand a chance. In other words, your ideas are free to surface and come to life.

Flow can reveal your calling your ideal workWe have learned that finding flow often occurs during a stimulating or enjoyable activity. Be it work or play, there is enough interest and happiness involved to tune out everything else in the world, leaving room for complete focus. And so, every time flow is experienced, write it down with a description of what you were doing and where; make it a routine, you will likely begin to understand what you should be doing more of in work or life. This step is all about practice and repetition.

Flow positively affects your mood. As simple as it sounds, flow feels really good. Every time you come out of it you want to do it again, wishing that every day could be filled with these moments. When the brain is happy the heart is happy, therefore you are happy.

Flow can increase your performance. From designing a website to running a marathon, flow allows you to be at your best and do your best work. This concept is connected to focus, motivation, and drive; when you are motivated to do something (usually by a perceived reward), you focus on getting it done and are driven to do it well. It’s not just theory, if you learn about what you enjoy doing, you can do more of it, and do it well. But don’t just take our word for it. When you discover your flow, compare your performance on that task to one from a less memorable time; it won’t take long to “connect the dots.”

Flow motivates you to design your life. Designing your life isn’t easy. And deciding how and where to begin can be the hardest part. But finding your flow adds clarity to this process. In creating the life you want to live or the life you dream of living, you need to know what interests you, what you are good at, and what is most important to you — flow can answer all of these questions. Next time you are “in flow,” go with it, and take note of how you got there. These findings will point you in the direction your life needs to go in order to feel more happiness and create your purpose.

Flow makes you a more passionate person. Using artistic creativity, sharing good ideas, doing ideal work, being in a positive mood, achieving higher performance, and designing the life you want, in combination, help to make you a very passionate person. And passion can be applied to everything, not just work. When flow is influencing life in the most positive ways, all other aspects of life align — life is good.

The point is, all of these factors culminate to designing a better you, a you that has more to offer this world. A you that cares for the well-being of a community or team. A you that wants to not only see a brighter future for all, but is also willing to contribute a bit of extra effortto design the best life imaginable. And in return, you will live a life that hovers above the rest. At least that’s how we see it. Would you like to see our vision in action? Please, get in touch.

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