Anthill Customs

Okay, so it’s about 1982, an I’m workin on the wholesale fruit an veg market, which is a cool gig cos I start at 4am and get finished by about 10 or 11, so I get all day to play with me bikes. I’m still running Truth, and this dude on the market asks me if I can build him something similar. I ain’t never built for no-one else before, but it seems a reasonable deal. He wants a Jap bike, cos he ain’t mechanical, so I scored an old 750 Honda and started work.


By this time you can actually buy custom stuff, so I bought in a new rigid frame and some 7-inch over tubes. All pretty straightforward really, laced the stock hubs to 21 front and 16 rear hoops, modified a Wassel peanut tank, used another round stainless oil tank, and that was about it. I even bought in the forward controls, drag pipes etc.


I did make a few bits, sissy bar, chainguard etc, and I was well chuffed with the front mudguard stays, which were four individual lengths of round bar. I heated, bent and flattened the ends, drilled and countersunk them, welded in countersunk bolts, then filled in the heads and ground each one all back flush. Once I’d got them chromed, they dropped through the mudguard, with a nut underneath, and you couldn’t see how they were attached.

I got the seat covered in tooled leather, a guy with a bike shop in Southport used to do them, and I painted it in a really bright blue, with darker blue criss-cross foggin, overlaid with a bunch of lacquer. It was a little bit ‘bolt-together’ I suppose, but with a heap of chrome and tucking everything away neatly, I guess it made a pretty clean bike. The dude was well suited with it anyway, and paid me and everythin. Crikey, I’d done a payin job…

Entirely by coincidence, while I was building it a good mate of mine got in touch, Bardsea Dave, or Holmsey as he’s more commonly know now. ‘Do you fancy building me a bike?’ he asks. Bloody hell, that’s two of ‘em… No problem, I scored another 750 Four an set to…


In some ways it was a similar deal, a bought-in rigid frame, 6-inch overs, 21 and 16 rims, but he wanted something a bit special, so really I proper let rip on this one. I bought the alloy rims, had them anodised gold, then took them to Don Blocksidge, only the best engraver in the country, who engraved the outside edges. That gave an intricate pattern in silver alloy out of the gold. I had the stainless drag pipes made to my pattern, and ran another stainless oil tank, plus a Fatbob rear fender and (yet another) Bantam tank. Then it got creative…


Take a deep breath… Followin on from me idea with the first bike’s mudguard stays, I did the same thing on Holmsey’s bike, ditto with the rear fender struts, and the chainguard, all made out of round bar with hidden mounts and curved to follow the lines of the rear fender.


The rear number-plate/light bracket was made the same way. I made a set of drag bars with welded-on integral risers for the slab yokes, and made my own lever mounts for the clutch and front brake, welded to the bars so there were no brackets, and drilled rows of holes in the levers themselves. Then I ran a cable from front brake lever down to a master cylinder mounted between the front down-tubes, so’s to keep clean bars but still have a hydraulic disc brake. I also hand-made all the footrests and foot levers – I’d no lathe, so I made all the grooves for the O-rings by slowly turning the round steel bar against an angle grinder held in the vice, then heating and bending them all to shape and making all the pivots. I made three different headlight brackets before I was happy, made the seat base and had it covered in tooled leather again.


I had the engine covers engraved to match the rims, then brass plated, and had an engraved brass plate down the centre of the Bantam tank, this time with a proper hole in it, to carry all the switches and idiot lights I didn’t want on the bars (but if you’re real eagle-eyed, you’ll spot that in the last photo, it has a Mustang tank, the Beesa one kept splittin on us). The paint’s hard to see in the photo, but it’s a deep gloss black, with gold scroll work air-brushed around the fender and tank edges, shot over with cherry-red Candy, then heavily lacquered. From some angles it looked black, from others a deep cherry.

Holmsey rode it to Kent and Doncaster, the two biggest custom shows in the country, and won proper big trophies at both of them, so me an him were well chuffed. To this day it remains probably the best bike I ever built – certainly the shiniest – an after that I never really built another top show-quality bike; I guess I’d got it all out of my system in one fell swoop, so I suppose you’ve got Holmsey to thank for the fact that ever since then I’ve only ever built scruffy bobbers…




So that was how Anthill Custom Cycles came about. Cos they were new builds, both bikes were registered as Anthill – in the logbook under Make: Anthill, Model: Custom. How groovy is that? God knows where either of them are now, but I realised I could build bikes for a livin, so I sold Truth (sob) to fund startin up, and away I went. I never made much money, but it kept me alive for 7 years. People used to say you must have the best job in the world, but only other people who’ve also turned their hobby into a workload know the inside deal, it takes a lot of the fun out of it. Your first hardtail is a real buzz, your 50th one is just bendin metal tubes. Or so it started to get. I got out before I was fucked off with it, but I still didn’t build owt for meself for a while afterwards. Now I look back an I’m just so thankful I was lucky enough to do it.