Bringing Back the Bike

By Julia Sharp

Photography by Emily Long

Forty years ago, the golden age of motorcycles seemed to be declining. The post-World War demand for refined bikes such as Steve McQueen’s famous 1936 Indian Chief had ended, and the gentleman biker became a relic of the past. In the 1990s, the industry picked up again as people became interested in heavy duty touring bikes. This revival helped bring the motorcycle industry back into the spotlight, and many brands saw a surge as biking became a leisure sport again. For those still yearning for the personality and swagger of antique motorcycles, the solution was simple. Bring back vintage bikes.




“The feeling of riding something that you’ve built completely and then having it perform the way you wanted it to perform is almost second to none.”
– Adam Sheard

That’s where Adam and Jamie Sheard of Speed Deluxe come in. Adam was a civil engineer in England and grew up riding dirt bikes, working on cars, and building dragsters. While living in Australia, he met his wife Jamie and built his first vintage Triumph motorcycle. “In Australia, I rode every day for six years. Working on the Triumph got me back into building again, and I realized I wanted to do it full time,” Adam says.

After traveling around to visit various cities in the United States, Adam and Jamie decided Chattanooga was the ideal spot for Speed Deluxe. “We had the concept for the shop in our heads first, and after visiting Chattanooga, we realized it’s in the middle of big cities like Atlanta, Nashville, and Memphis that aren’t particularly well serviced in this industry,” he says. “The city also just has a good feel to it. There are a lot of young business owners here around our age, and we think Chattanooga has a really great future.”

Speed Deluxe is a full service workshop, offering everything from vintage motorcycle maintenance to custom builds. Like a bespoke suit, these builds are completely made to order. Speed Deluxe sources vintage motorcycles and parts to build custom bikes for customers looking for a special brand or model.

While some custom builders may push the boundaries between art and rideability, Speed Deluxe focuses on crafting motorcycles that balance both qualities. “There’s a heavy artistic influence when we build something, but it’s also practical. We like our bikes to be ridden,” Adam says.

“Over the last five to 10 years, the motorcycle industry has moved toward a more diverse mix of bikes. I think the industry is the best it’s been in a long time,” Adam says. “I don’t think it’s peaked, but it’s hard to see how much more popular it can get. The main manufacturers are really bringing bikes to the market that have an old-school look and are aimed toward young people. For example, Ducati brought out their Scrambler, and the Triumph range is geared strongly toward younger people, which helps the industry grow even more,” he adds.

“There’s a movement toward handmade goods overall, and this industry is very oriented to that as well,” Adam says. “My personal end goal is to make motorcycles that are truly handmade, with the exception of certain components  which we’ll still source from other bikes. We recently made one almost entirely in-house using a BSA engine. Making the aluminum frame and bodywork in-house was a huge step for us, and we actually built it in nine days. It was made to race, but it also has that show quality. It’s my favorite build, mainly because of what it stands for.” And what it stands for is simple – the art of handcrafting bespoke motorcycles is alive and well.


Vintage Motorcycle Maintenance + Safety

If a vintage bike has been ridden regularly over the years, there’s a good chance it’ll still run well and only require minimal maintenance. “When you get a good bike, it shouldn’t need much servicing aside from changing the oil and brakes,” Adam says.

Before working on any modifications, the shop insists that safety checks are done first. A rider’s safety is key, and Adam warns owners not to skip these important updates. “It’s really not worth the risk. It’s simple to change things out and make sure the bike is safe. After that, I’m a firm believer that if you ride as often as you can, you’re not going to have any trouble with it.”

Buying Tips

Adam’s recommendations are pretty simple: buy the absolute best bike you can find, and get advice from an expert. “Purchasing the best quality bike will save you a lot of time, money, and frustration in the future,” he says. “We’ve spoken to people who’ve owned a vintage bike in the past, but they had a few problems and couldn’t get anyone to work on it. That caused them to sell it and never buy another.” If you’re unsure about the quality or condition, Adam recommends talking to a professional or friend who owns a vintage motorcycle.


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