Aspen’s artist of motorcycle maintenance
Alex Dicharry's original creation selected for prestigious 2022 Handbuilt Motorcycle Show.
An after-hours creative project brought Aspen Motoworx owner and motorcycle mechanic Alex Dicharry to the rarefied Handbuilt Motorcycle Show in Austin, Texas, this spring, where his locally made motorized creation was among just 112 bespoke motorcycles on display selected from a field of 4,000 global submissions.
He and his son made the one-of-a-kind motorcycle over the course of three years in the small Motoworx garage near the bottom of Mill Street by the Roaring Fork River, where Dicharry maintains and customizes bikes for about 1,700 clients between Aspen and Glenwood Springs.
“It meant so much to me to be chosen,” Dicharry said on a recent afternoon in the garage. “And it has my head spinning with visions about what I’ll build next.”
The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show is a global gathering of motorbike craftspeople who have rejected mass-produced machines for their bespoke labors of motorcycle love, sharing their creations with a daily crowd of 25,000. More art exhibition than biker rally, the event artfully displays the selected bikes on pedestals in Austin’s Statesman building and has artisans like Dicharry give presentations, greet visitors and take questions about their bikes over the course of five days in April.
Dicharry lost his voice after the first day of nonstop talking, he said.
He compares the painstaking process of making his original bike to the process of relief sculpting.
“I love taking something and removing everything and finding the shape under it,” he said.
Over the course of three years — he estimates about 300 hours of labor “all in weekend and late nights after work” — the one-of-a-kind bike came together with wheels he built himself and Frankensteinian combinations of parts from snowbikes, portions of a KTM dirtbike frame, some of a front end from a Kawasaki motorcycle and a Honda engine, with some foot controls from a Suzuki — components selected or handmade based on performance and aesthetics.
“I’ve raced everything on two wheels in the last 35 years,” Dicharry said. “And by racing, it’s kind of morphed into taking a motorcycle and really making it an extension of the human body. Something you can dance with, something that doesn’t necessarily just roll on two wheels and get you from A to B.”
In Austin among fellow motor artists, Dicharry saw conceptual creations, bikes made with 3D-printed parts and original visions for every style of bike.
He’s not interested, he said, in making a purely sculptural motorcycle that doesn’t run. Dicharry wants to be able to ride his creations and has set some rough parameters for himself: “I want it to stop. I want it to accelerate really well, I want it to corner, I want it to not just be distraction between me and the ground.”
Dicharry opened the shop in Aspen in 2010, after doing maintenance on private planes in Grand Junction for a stretch. He has owned four previous motorcycle shops elsewhere in Colorado over more than three decades, and didn’t think he’d open another one until the Great Recession gave him the chance to occupy one of the few industrial commercial spaces in the Aspen area.
Working here, he sees a weird and wild assortment of bikes from collectors and connoisseurs (“One day it’s a brand new Panigale Ducati, the next day it’s two ’68 Triumphs — everything is different and it keeps the brain juices flowing”).
A few years ago when he started dreaming about building his own bike from scratch, he didn’t sketch out plans or make a computer model as many bespoke builders do. It was more improvisational than that.
“I just wanted the motorcycle to behave and breathe fire a certain way,” he said.
He had experience working with donated bikes for “restoration modification,” which Dicharry explained is mechanic-speak for a job aiming to rebuild a broken-down antique bike to something near its original form but using a lot of aftermarket parts “that make it even cooler than it was back in the day.”
This original creation, by contrast, followed no template. He built the wheels from scratch, cut out part of a frame from that old dirtbike and let his imagination and ingenuity take the lead.
“From there I stood it on the lift and just kept looking at it,” he explained, which began a three-year process of tinkering. “I aesthetically planned it from there. And then it came to life.”
He was guided largely by ergonomics and aesthetics, he explained, tinkering to find just the right length for the low seat and height for the handlebars, working with a color palette of silver, black, gold and earthy brown so that it looks like a pre-war antique but rides like a sport bike. When he and his son finished building it last summer and started it up, Dicharry recalled, they had reason to be proud.
“When we rode it, oh my god, it is by far one of the funnest motorcycles I’ve ever swung a leg over,” Dicharry said. “It’s incredibly loud. And it’s not fast, but it is quick.”
(Watching Dicharry take it for a spin around the neighborhood — and taking the 20 mph speed limit as a light suggestion — confirmed its high performance and volume and how it literally turns the heads of pedestrian onlookers.)
Dicharry choked up as he discussed his pride in having the bike selected for the Austin show, and a wide grin crossed his face as he talked about what he’s planning to create next in the garage.
“The next build is insane — it’s going to bring in natural elements, wood,” he said. “I’m going to do this the rest of my life.”