You may know about about the madman from Wallesend, UK who has been building seriously unique and scary choppers for longer than most of you have been alive. If you do not know of him, let me introduce you to Robbie Robinson, born in April, 1964.
My friendship with Robbie began when he signed up to be a member of bikerMetric. When he signed up to my ship of doom, I shot out the obligatory public thank you like a cannon blast at a foreign ship and got to know Robbie a lot better.
Initially, I was told by some that Robbie was crazy, as were his bikes. I wondered what he might be like as I started trading messages and emails with the man, but as a fellow crazy motherf***er, I discovered he’s like many of us; a human struggling to live free of the corporate regime, creating what he dreams, and always seeking to push boundaries to achieve greater technological success with each custom motorbike he builds.
Young Robert was born in a small mining village in northeast England. From an early age he discovered he didn’t fit in with other kids as he didn’t play football and was a bit of a loner. Robbie had a vivid imagination and was often found scribbling space ships and Martians on his school books.
This reminds me of myself, and maybe some of you relate to this story. You watched Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica. Robbie watched Boris Karloff Frankenstein movies on the TV every weekend. They used to scare the life out of him, but he loved watching the scary flicks. He was never interested in playing with friends, knowing he was different and more inquisitive than his mates. Even so, young Mister Robinson would always fix the other kid’s toys. He used to sit for hours repairing them, spending enough time on these tasks until the kids at school called him “The Professor.”
Mister Robinson had a great passion for wanting to know how things work. After school he was often found digging through junk yards in rubbish piles for old TVs, bits of old cars, and whatever fit his dreams of making, rebuilding, or creating something new from old ****.
He was about ten years old in 1974 when his father brought home a chemistry set for Christmas. It was then that the trouble started. Robbie began reading books on bomb making and chemistry, electronics, and more bomb making. This led to him setting afire his family house while **** near killing his mother. He had made a bomb, “a small bomb,” and set it off while his mother was in the kitchen. It wasn’t a very big explosion but big it was enough to cause a fire and blacken his mother’s face. There was no malice in his heart; he says he was “experimenting.”
The eyebrow surgeon was happy for the new client.
Now Robbie was in a bit of trouble because he couldn’t help himself, which his loving parents thought might be cured by many visits to shrinks. Drugs for kids! Pharmaceutical companies love this. His parent’s desire to drug and brainwash the boy lead to Robbie being sent to a “children’s hospital” in Stannington. It was a place for “wayward kids” and children who needed help from “specialists.” By then, Robbie believes he truly needed assistance because he genuinely believed he was a robot. He was so sure that one day he decided to prove it and cut his arm open with a razor. There was a lot of blood and Robbie, only a boy, began crying.
I’d cut myself in a children’s mental hospital, too.
Three years later, after leaving the hospital, he went back to school. He was no longer a robot, but a boy seeking a place in life. On his way to the prescribed educational facility, he used to take a shortcut leading through a block of garages and there was always an old hippie guy working on his BSA chop. Robbie used to bunk off school while the hippie guy showed him how to build engines and grind valves.
That’s when he knew he wanted to have bikes in his life.
Robbie would spend hours after school and many weekends helping the hippie and when the BSA started up for the first time he couldn’t believe the rush he had. It was “F***ING ****! I LOVE THIS!” In his mind and heart, it is something he still feels every time he builds a bike or hot rod.
He can’t remember the guy’s name but the old hippie was responsible for getting Robbie into customizing rolling machinery.
When he was 15 he started seriously applying himself to metalwork class at school. He got into trouble because he flunked everything while getting A’s for metalwork. Robbie was sent to the head teacher who congratulated him at being so good at something but went mad because he thought Robbie was deliberately underachieving in everything else.
Yeah. Like being an honor student in English means you should ace Algebra. And why don’t more policemen moonlight as astrophysicists?
The headmaster’s stern lectures to study harder had little effect. After school Mister Robinson used to buy old mopeds and wrecked motorcycles to thrash about town. Being young and with few cares, most of the bikes were stolen. Finally, he bought an old BSA C15 from two of the biggest and baddest lads around, telling them he had to have it but he couldn’t raise the cash.
Soon, they came to his garage and beat the sh*t out of him.
Robbie cried, this time not because he was a frightened boy, but because after the beating they took the bike. There is the pain of loss and the pain of physical punishment. Loss always hurts most. Especially when it’s the loss of a dream that would change your life. He thought his dream was over. I am unsure how long he felt this way. Not too long, it seems.
He started working in factories and garages doing mostly engineering gigs. Robbie learned how to fabricate metal and fix engines damned well, which is something he still does. He went from from one job that could help him to another he could use for more wisdom and understanding.
For a while Mister Robinson worked on Harrier jump jets, saying, “It was a good job with good pay and lots of aerospace metal.” He’s also worked on old Fords where he often scores more sheet steel for his bikes. He’s been a tire fitter, an Harley mechanic, and now his day job is in the plastic molding business.
This is the place where I call upon my readers to give a man his dream and support him as a bike builder, not a labororer for the corporate man. Robbie is a better custom motorbike builder and mechanic than he is a molder of plastic. There’s a great metaphor, and some irony, within this facet of his life. It may be a great metaphor for many of you as well.
Robbie admits to shedding tears over the love of being true to oneself and the need to provide for those he cares for. It’s the conundrum of many a crazy garage bike builder.
In 1989 he met his wife, Yvonne, at a lesbian march. They were both ****** off and shouting abusive words at the lesbians! At the time, Robbie was running around on a matte black Honda CB550 called “Reggie” while going through a messy divorce. He spent his spare time taking drugs and getting incredibly drunk while going to the local nightclubs, usually leaving Reggie dumped on it’s side. It was always there when he came out, usually with Yvonne, both wasted and waiting to tear back to Robbie’s home. He doesn’t know what it was that attracted them but they understood each other inherently. Yvonne was a calming influence and knew Robbie needed help, even though she was a bit of a handful herself. Somehow, they chilled each other out and have been an item for over 21 years with barely a crossed word between them. She usually laughs when Robbie does something stupid or builds something mad. She loves bikes and more importantly loves Mister Robinson. He believes he’d be lost without her.
Such is the story of many a crazy motherf***er with a love for motorbikes.
About the time he met Yvonne in the early 1990’s, Robbie started building his own frames and girders and since then has attended many custom shows where he usually wins something. Even the French dig him.
Robbie used to read all the custom bike magazines including Back Street Heroes since it first came out in the early 1980’s. BSH is the only print magazine that really inspires him because, “it’s filled with lots of cool bikes, not all HD’s, but *** fours and everything in between.” Sometimes, when Robbie had no money, he’d nick the mag from the newstand. He buys them now and has many thanks to give BSH.
His first bike feature was in 2006 but he can’t remember which magazine. I can hardly remember 2006, either, man. Let’s blame the beer! The featured motorbike was an over-bored Honda CB750. Robbie did a huge burn out on top of a local bridge and ripped the red tarmac off the road.
After that display of uncivil attitude, he made the front cover of BSH magazine with a CB750 low rider. Since, he has appeared in numerous magazines in the UK and on the other side of the pond (including the one-off RUSTYMETRIC fagazine). With each bike he likes to create something different. He knows what he wants his bikes to look like in his head when he starts but never makes a definite plan. All Robbie does comes straight out of his brain and heart and on the fly. His bikes seem to be emotional sculptures of repressed aggression. They’re all souped-up hot rods, low and long, with mechanical features that make it clear each is faster than a brain-starved zombie high on PCP.
Now he says he’s “blinked,” and the young man he once was is now 47. He’s still crazy, still loves listening to Hendrix while building bikes and cars, and feels the same mentally as he did when he first discovered his love of messing with motorized mayhem. The only difference in his head is that he enjoys toy robots, but no longer thinks he is one.
Thank you, Robbie. Men like you have saved my life and maybe others. Giving up is becoming a robot.
Visit Robbie at fumesngears.blogspot.com, where he chronicles his builds with a few photos and some choice words.
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