Some custom motorcycles suck you in with beauty and artistry. Others are an unapologetic kick to the groin. With a wood seat, short unmuffled exhaust, and only the slightest nod to rideability, the Titan One from Titan Motorcycles indisputably falls into the latter category.
The longer you look at Titan One, the more interesting it becomes. It started life as a 1970s Honda CB360—as generic a motorcycle as you’re likely to find, and we mean that in the most complimentary way possible—I owned one, myself. Michl Siebenhofer saved the rusting CB360 from the scrap metal recyclers and turned it into chaotically poetic moto art at Titan’s garage in Graz, about an hour from the Red Bull Ring in Styria, Austria. The garage is centuries old, with a bit of history. “We have been told it was a shed for government horses, so horsepower was always involved there.”
We’ve already mentioned the seat. It was crafted by an understandably reluctant Rudi Garnweidner. Garnweidner runs a woodworking shop, and is not known for creating seats for motorcycles. However, Garnweidner is a Moto Guzzista, so he went along for the ride—figuratively. After an initial consultation, Garnweidner called Siebenhofer to tell him, “I found a little olive wood board. Does that suit you?” It did.
When the seat arrived a few weeks later, Siebenhofer was taken aback. “I would not have expected this precision to begin with,” Siebenhofer says. “Incorporated pockets on the underside for the minimal electrics, the cable feeds neatly milled out, there is even an adhesive groove on the underside.” So far, so good.
Let’s move down to the blonde-topped CB360 twin, which features the fair-haired hue on the rims, shock spring, and spark plug leads. Siebenhofer had his way with the unsuspecting top-end.
“The piston, cylinder, and cylinder head experienced a 180-degree twist around the vertical axis. Why? Because I want it that way,” Siebenhofer says, brusquely answering his own question. “What seems easy becomes difficult. Stud bolts had to be moved, oil ducts expanded, and the timing chain required more space. Last but not least, a new camshaft with modified timing is currently being manufactured. Almost everything is handcrafted and in-house. The result is a logical one. It is sucked in, supported by the wind, at the front, the blow out is short and crisp at the back. According to? Yes. Flames? Positive.” Typically, customizers are satisfied with flames painted on the fuel tank.
Motorcycles attracted Siebenhofer’s attention early—his father owned a 1950s-era Puch. Not coincidentally, Puch, which built motorcycles, scooters, moped, and automobiles, was based in Graz.
After getting his riding legs beneath him on two borrowed ADV bikes—the Kawasaki KLE500 and Honda NX500 Dominator—Siebenhofer purchased a motorcycle of his own. His choice was the “Kawasaki ZXR750H1 from ’89, one of the first brutal superbikes—pure power, weak suspension, poor brakes. I still own it because it is a pure icon to me,” he says.
Siebenhofer’s customizing did not begin with motorcycles. “I came from car customizing originally,” he reveals. “I have built up a couple of VW Bugs—restored it, sold it, bought a more expensive one. Started again. Then I switched over to British cars and bought a couple of Jaguars. In between, I owned three Porsche 928s, and finally an AC Cobra made by Pilgrim in the UK.”
The move to customizing motorcycles came in 2014, and it came in an unlikely conjunction—touring. “Some friends and I planned for a road trip across Eastern Europe,” Siebenhofer recalls. “I started building in December, and we started our trip in May. It was a Honda CX500 named Gustav. Five days before our departure to Poland, it was ready. I was not really sure if it would make the trip; it was sitting a couple of years. Two days before we left, I had to change cylinder head gaskets due to a brown mixture in the water. The trip went over a full week—no highways, approximately 5000 kilometers through Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic. The CX made it without any problems. Tom’s CB360 had to get repaired every day. Andy’s Dyna lost a lot of parts—guess that’s normal on an H-D.”
Something about Tom’s CB360 must have stuck with Siebenhofer, as it is the basis for Titan One. “My intention was always, take the ugliest bike you can find and make something really cool out of it,” Siebenhofer explains. “The bike was built for show only. We had it on display at the custom bike show in Bad Salzuflen [Germany], and I won the Austrian championships with it. It was never meant for a real ride. In Austria, the combined foot brake for front and rear would be absolutely illegal. For a road ride, you would have to convert a lot. That would affect the design in a bad way.”
Siebenhofer pulled my leg when he told me Titan One was built for the quarter-mile and Bonneville, and I fell for it. When I pressed him for numbers, he told me, “No, we never did perform any speed tests. With 360cc, that would be a mess and shameful, anyway. I like the bike on the centerstand—it looks faster there than it would run.”
“I found out that I build the best motorcycles when I do not plan a lot in advance,” Siebenhofer continues. “Of course, you have to have a rough idea, but the building is what inspires me the most. Here in Austria, you have to take care of a lot of legal requirements, so you are never fully free anyway. The Titan series, like the Titan One or the Titan Two—which is for sale, by the way—do not care about any restrictions. We have sold Titan One to a collector, who is very happy and proud of it—the best thing that could happen to it after being at shows and exhibitions for more than a year.”
Titan Motorcycles has ambitious plans for the budding year. “At the Monaco Yacht Show last year, where we showed the Titan Two and the Titan Arkitekt, we saw that there are still a lot of opportunities to find the right person for the right vehicle. At the moment, I am building an R 100 Beemer in Mad Max style—it is called the Road Warrior. Then, I am in preparation for a [Honda] CBX 1000cc six-cylinder model that will be transformed into a Formula One bike of the ’70s. And, very importantly, I am building a bobber of my own. It will be mind-blowing, and will have some features of our best-known product—the Bavarian bobber. Maybe it will be the nasty sister of Bavarian bobber when it’s ready.
“In a perfect world, you want to make your hobby your business,” Siebenhofer concludes. “Coming from the automotive industry, we had good salaries. We knew that we would have to make cuts. In the first years, I learned that you do need much less than you think you need. Our business is quite settled now. A good goal is to get rid of work that pulls you down and demotivates you. To build less motorcycles a year in always increasing quality—I guess that is what will happen in 2021.”
High-quality in ’21—we like the sound of that.