“Motorcycle customizing is a very personal approach. I love to transcribe people’s style and spirit into a motorcycle,” Reguin continues. “People are always grateful when you succeed in understanding what kind of motorcycle would perfectly match their vision of two-wheels pleasure, and that’s a priceless moment to share the discovery of their own custom bike beside them.”
Based just a stone’s throw from the Saône River in Lyon, France, Reguin and BAAK have been building custom motorcycles and individual parts since 2012. A team of over 20 people works to make BAAK an international standout. Not content to exclusively work with two wheels, BAAK has made the appendage “Motocyclettes” superfluous, as it establishes itself as a brand that also customizes automobiles ranging from Austin Mini to Porches to Land Rover Defender.
Reguin explains the expansion beyond motorcycles: “At first, we wanted to bring our vision to people who don’t ride motorcycles. It’s the same process as with motorcycles—we aim at putting personality into a vehicle and make it provide different emotions from when it was in stock configuration. The same skills are required for motorcycle and car projects. People at the workshop can work on a Triumph on Monday, and on a Mini the next day. We want people to become BAAK collectors. We already have customers that own several BAAK motorcycles. We’ll be happy if they would leave space for a BAAK car in their garage.”
“We had this project in mind for a long time,” Reguin explains. “We have many customers based in Northern America, the custom motorcycles isn’t a trend there—it’s a tradition! And, for legal reasons, it’s hard to export custom vehicles from France to the USA. As a result, no authentic BAAK motorcycles have ever been riding in the USA, which is a shame as many local customers enquired about custom projects. We’ve decided to open the first BAAK workshop out of France in the USA, also because it’s the country to which we export the more parts from our e-shop.”
The Triumph Bobber 1200 Moon is a wonderful introduction into the world of BAAK. Most notably, it features a springer front end, immediately separating the Moon from other builds. As Reguin tells us, adapting a spring front end to a 2020 Triumph Bobber 1200 was a challenge. It included a custom triple tree, steering stem, caliper mount, and front axle.
“The fitting of the fork was much work,” he says. “We had to design and manufacture many parts to fit it on the Triumph and keep well-balanced handling. It took us months before we succeed, but that’s often the most painful parts of the job you’re most proud of once the project is completed.”
A Shock Factory rear suspension component is employed, and it was developed with BAAK. Shock Factory is based in Morestel, about 45 miles east of BAAK headquarters, and the two companies have a long history of collaboration.
Another challenge was the removal of the airbox, as it unveiled previously hidden wiring. The solution, which involved replacing the speedometer, was a new wiring harness that included replacing the electronic throttle with a cable throttle on the BAAK handlebar, while retaining the ride-by-wire functions.
“At BAAK, we only work on modern motorcycles that involve electronics,” Reguin says. “Sometimes, there is no way you can bypass the original electronic system of the motorcycle, so you have to think to other techniques to achieve the result you aim at reaching. I was frustrated at the beginning as we were only a few people working at the workshop. Now, we’re 21 people working at BAAK, there is always someone who has a solution to any problem, so it becomes less and less frustrating.”
“My personal customizing skills reached their top a few years ago, I guess,” Reguin says modestly. “I could possibly improve it by spending time on it, but now I prefer hiring specialists in every field—design, electronics, metal-shaping, painting—to reach a higher customizing level on BAAK’s projects.”
As with any premium custom motorcycle, part of the experience is reveling in the details. Open fiber filters clean the air, while a leather cover functions as a visual detail, and a method of obscuring wiring. The seat above it is matching leather.
The wheels are Moon units, shod with plump Avon MkII Road Mileage tires—that’s a 19-inch front and 16-inch rear. BAAK makes the exhaust system, including the stainless steel headers and aluminum mufflers. LED lighting cleans up the look, as does the Bates headlight.
The BAAK Triumph Bobber 1200 was not an overnight success—it took two years from inception to reach completion. The time spent on projects is something of a sore spot for Reguin. “The thing that remains frustrating is that people are not willing to spend €50k on a unique piece of craftsmanship, even if we spent months working on it to raise it to the level expected, so sometimes you have to make a compromise to balance price and perfection.”
With you providing the motorcycle, BAAK will create a Moon for you at a price starting at $30,000. Parts and kits are available for owners of various Triumph models who prefer to do their own work.
Selecting the Triumph Bobber 1200 was a tactical move. “The fact that an original motorcycle has very little character—is the less finished model of a manufacturer—can be a criteria for picking it for customization,” Reguin says. “For example, with Triumph Motorcycles, we’ll focus more on the Bonneville T120, which is a very neutral donor and could be re-designed in many ways, whereas the Thruxton 1200 R has a strong personality and looks fine in the stock version. The motorcycle has to look classic. We only work on neo-classic projects and, after years of experience, I can tell whether I can turn an original motorcycle into something exciting or not.”
Reguin got his start in motorcycles at 14. “I was enrolled in a small local association near Lyon, France, that restored and transformed mopeds. They taught me and other kids about mechanics, electric wiring, basic motorcycle knowledge, safety on two-wheels. That was a time when you could legally let a child play with a metal grinder on Wednesday afternoon so he can build himself a nice moped.”
“At that moment, I really enjoyed using my hands to craft something by myself, fix things, modify bikes. Since then, I’ve always enjoyed doing things by myself, and also because I had no money to let professionals work on my motorcycles. The first motorcycle I customized was a Cagiva Planet 125 when I was 16 years old. It was totally wrecked after a crash. I rebuilt it from scratch and customized it.”
“I wanted to become a car designer, but there was no degree or university about this at this time, unfortunately. However, I’ve always stared at motorcycles and seen them as exceptional vehicles, with many different shapes, different styles. I felt like every motorcycle was different; I was fascinated by it.”
“I’ve always been attracted to traveling, and I strongly believe that motorcycles are the best way to travel, meet people, and discover landscapes nobody came across before. I was also very keen on the feelings provided by the speed on a motorcycle.”
“When I passed my motorcycle mechanic certificate, I worked at a small workshop in Lyon that specialized in classic sports bikes restoration. There were track days organized by the staff sometimes. I’ve been lucky enough to ride some classic two-strokes sports bikes on track and even engaged myself in races on a Honda CB500 for a year. Mix all these things up, and you end with a strong attraction to motorcycles.”
However, the road to BAAK Motocyclettes had a chicane, as Reguin explains. “I was out of the motorcycles industry for a few years. I passed an optical degree and managed an optician shop. Besides this, I started modifying my own motorcycle to make it look just like I wanted. I owned a Moto Guzzi 1200 Griso 8V and started designing and manufacturing a license plate holder. I submitted it on a Moto Guzzi owners forum. People loved it and asked how they could purchase it from me. I manufactured a small series of it and sold it quickly online. That’s the first time customizing motorcycles as a job came to my mind.”
“I decided to give up with the Optical universe and pass a motorcycle mechanic degree. It was 2012. Then I started working on the Bonneville, as I owned one—a 2006 carburetor model that I still own. I knew the bike perfectly. Also, it was a motorcycle you could come across more often than the Griso, so the market would be bigger. I kept learning about how to work with leather to manufacture a seat, to find the best parts for a project, to manufacture the parts I couldn’t find, and, after a few weeks, the first BAAK build was born.”
“I get inspiration from many things. I am very interested in furniture design, for the efforts put by the designers on the emotions generated by the shapes of their creations. I draw inspiration from the past days, in the motorcycles, cars, boats, and planes fields, as I believe former designers were somehow more focused on the aesthetic aspect than the practical aspect. There has always been a trend renewal, so I have a very large spectrum to spot the trends.”
Most importantly for a motorcyclist, the BAAK Triumph Bobber 1200 Moon is not exclusively for display. “It’s very unique to ride,” Reguin allows. “We are not used to building this kind of motorcycles at BAAK. That was the first time, and we loved the look as much as the riding feelings. But, actually, the most rewarding thing on most projects is the comments we receive on social media, by email, and by the people who come at the workshop and congratulate the team on the job.”
Despite being a perfectionist, Reguin allows himself to accept the past as unchangeable. “I consider a build as a testimony of our work at one moment,” he says. “I considered the builds I built six years ago as well-accomplished, but it didn’t have the same finish level and technical skills involved in it as the ones we build nowadays. However, each one is true to my vision at a moment, so I never look back saying, ‘I should have done it this way.’”
The future of BAAK has many avenues continuing from the BAAK Triumph Bobber 1200 Moon. “BAAK Motocyclettes has always been the name under which one we’re known. We tend to move to simply BAAK, as we now work on motorcycles, cars, we organize road trips, we have our clothing collection, and so on. We want to make BAAK a global brand, with common values for each element of our business.”
Photography by Julien Demauge-Bost