Want to know what a mountain sounds like? You just have to speak with one of the locals living near it. As with the Garraf Massif on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. For many a year the locals have had a description for the sound from the area. Loosely translated: Garraf rumbles. And it can be heard every single day.
Like on this winter morning, with the main road still bathed in the golden light of the rising sun. Nothing can be heard, at first, but as each second passes, it gets louder. Engines roaring, two motorcycles whiz past the sunrise, high on a plateau with a spectacular view of the glittering sea. Then it gets quiet again. The two riders take off their helmets, put on their sunglasses and look towards the eastern horizon. Both say: “The sound of a motorcycle is like a symphony to the ears.”
Karles Vives and his friend, Dani Rodriguez, ride up here with their motorcycles quite often to tour through the area together—as do many of their fellow Spaniards. They belong to a growing number of custom bikers, riders of personalized motorcycles. Today Karles is planning to subject his new tires to an endurance test. The annual Custom Bike Tour through Morocco, which he organizes, is looming on the calendar, and everything needs to be perfect.
The Garraf Massif offers the best testing conditions, with paved roads alternating with dusty dirt roads, crater-like potholes with earthen mounds, and steep ascents. “We’ll meet in the café—it’s the only one along the road, you can’t miss it,” Karles calls out as he and Dani put their helmets back on and roar off down the road across the rolling hills, the sunrise at their backs.
Karles not only rides custom bikes, he also designs them. He is one of the most sought-after designers in Spain, fulfilling his customers’ dreams of that very special motorcycle. And he still rides the very bike that was the one that started his career back in the day—a BMW R100 that he modified to his heart’s desire without ever having even changed a brake pad before in his life. This, his first custom bike, was so good that specialist media published articles about it. Then Karles started getting calls from potential clients. Alongside his day job as a creative director in the advertising industry, he began transforming other people’s motorcycles. At some point he thought to himself: Why don’t I focus completely on motorcycles? At that, his brand, Bespoke Fuel, was born.