Roger Goldammer continues to capture international attention. I just caught an article about him and his Bonneville race bike in the Dec. 2006 issue of Robb Report. Here’s a piece I wrote for my Western Perspectives column in Inside Motorcycles.
Roger Goldammer is hammering out quite a name for himself.
This Kelwona, B.C. based custom motorcycle builder has won numerous awards, and is garnering international attention. Working under the trade name Goldammer Cycle Works, this creative craftsman has wowed the judges with his machines, including the board-track era inspired BTR#3. His latest first place win — with a bike dubbed -Trouble- –was at the 2005 American Motorcycle Dealer (AMD)/Custom Chrome World Championship.
Goldammer defies convention and with Trouble created a short and lean machine. Foregoing the long, extended, fat tired, v-twin powered motorcycles favoured by some of his contemporaries, Goldammer’s Trouble almost looks sensible. Spoked wheels, narrow tires and flowing lines are what Trouble’s all about. And there isn’t a v-twin motor cradled in the frame, either. Instead, there’s a single cylinder unit fitted with a blower. And rather than an electric starter there’s a more traditional kick-starter.
“I really don’t think I have anything to prove to anybody except myself,” Goldammer says about his custom-bike building philosophy. “I just try to be diverse and open people’s minds a little bit.” To do that, Goldammer is working more with single cylinder engines, and is experimenting with fuel injection and blowers.
“It’s time to move beyond the 45 degree air cooled v-twin (engine),” he says from his home workshop. Goldammer and his family live on a seven-acre parcel of land overlooking Lake Okanagan. Here, he says he can focus on his work without distraction, and he doesn’t have to maintain an open storefront. At one time, Goldammer had a small shop right in downtown Kelowna.
His ‘home workshop’ is a 6,000 sq. ft. building, which is complete with all of his metal working tools and a dyno room. Goldammer Cycle Works builds prototype parts, and then outsources all of the machining to create a finished, marketable product.
And Goldammer no longer builds complete custom motorcycles for customers.
“The turning point for me came three years ago,” Goldammer says. “There was a turnaround in the economy here, and people didn’t have as much expendable cash. I got stuck with some bikes.
“So I got into manufacturing parts to allow me the freedom to build what I want to build — build the idea that’s in my head, and not cater to a customer’s wants and needs. You can’t blame a customer for not having the same vision as yourself.”
At 37 years old, Goldammer has taught himself most of his useful skills. He was born and raised in Vancouver, and moved to Salmon Arm in his early teens. The rest of his life has been spent in the interior of B.C.
He started out riding dirt bikes–a pursuit he still enjoys — and eventually found himself tinkering with and modifying his street machines. In 1993 he decided to learn more about the inner workings of motorcycle engines and enrolled in the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Phoenix, AZ. After graduating he spent time working in various U.S. motorcycle facilities, and says the custom motorcycle he had built here and taken with him was his ‘business card’.
“That bike got me work down there,” Goldammer says.
The work experience was an eye-opener for Goldammer. He says the custom motorcycle industry in the U.S. was exploding at the time, and often a frame builder was just around the corner, or a sheet metal fabricator was just down the street.
“When I got back home (to B.C.) I realized if I was going to get into the custom bike-building scene I’d have to do it for myself,” Goldammer says. “Out of necessity I taught myself many aspects of bike building — it’s not just motor work — but also frame construction and sheet metal skills. Being able to take it from start to finish on my own was important to me.”
But the bike building was still really a hobby. Goldammer worked in an auto machine shop for nine years upon his return to B.C., and says he worked with his hands and his head, thinking through problems that presented themselves.
“That’s a really important step, and some people (read: bike builders) aren’t willing to learn to do things properly,” he says.
Although Goldammer’s style changes and progresses as time goes on, one particular era to which he has paid attention is the early 1900s.
“It’s a fascinating time really, as the motorcycle had only recently evolved from the bicycle, and there was no real status quo. The industry was just starting to formulate, and it’s as if manufacturers just fit an engine in a bicycle frame and then went racing. The tires they were using were probably rated for 20 m.p.h. on clincher rims, and these daredevils of the day were racing at 100 m.p.h. with no brakes and a fixed throttle,” Goldammer says. His red BTR#3 is a fine example of his board track inspiration.
How did Goldammer find such inspiration? He tells stories about attending various U.S. custom bike shows, and seeing ‘long barges’ created on a theme-bike basis. Machines patterned after a swamp bug, a fire truck — even a heart pump bike that had vessels all over it and a blob for a gas tank — simply ‘repulsed’ him, and he found more than once that he had to leave the building.
“I wanted to go in an opposite direction,” he recalls. On BTR#3 he effectively captured the elements of the board track-era machines with his large front loop frame, exposed frame rail over the gas tank, and large 23-inch wheels. His BTR#3 has had an impact on the custom building scene, and today many builders are creating more proportionate custom bikes.
“I didn’t invent the board track racer, and there have been others out there. But I think mine came along at a time when it was needed. People forgot the meaning of cool there for a while, and cool has always meant riding these things.
“The overfed barges are dangerous, with a really wide tire and an extended front end you can’t turn on a city block.”
Goldammer has plenty more ideas, but as he concludes himself, “My personal battle is trying to find time to do everything I want to.”