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Hard Work, Fast Bikes, Good Times

by editor

How do you set up a custom motorcycle workshop that handles fabrication, electrical, mechanical and everything in between? Tom Gilroy and the crew at Purpose Built Moto (PBM) figured it out from first principles.

We had no idea how to build and set up a workshop. I started in my garage, then we moved into our first small motorcycle workshop in Mermaid on Queensland’s Gold Coast, but quickly outgrew it. Now we’ve had the chance to get a bit of experience and take what we’ve learnt and apply it to a blank canvas.

Setting up what we think is the ultimate custom-motorcycle workshop. Sure it’s still small, but in this set up we’ve used every bit of space we could to ensure we can build highquality machines efficiently (well…as efficiently as hand-built motorcycles can be built). In this instalment of our collaboration with What Tradies Want I’ll run you through every bit of clever set up we’ve done in our workshop and office renovation, sharing with you the ideas we put to use, the tools and benches we’ve made and lay out exactly why we’ve done it that way.

Running your own shop isn’t an easy task. We have a small team that turns out some of the best custom bikes in Australia. Between myself and PBM’s fabricator, Dylan, we have a very steady output of high-quality machines. The reason we can do this is thanks to diligent improvement of our process, and always taking time to stop and ask, “How can we do this better?”

This was a big part of our strategy as we tore apart our first shop and rebuilt in the next.

So let’s get into the major parts of our shop and how we set it up…

We’ll start with our fabrication room, or ‘Fab Lab’ as it’s been named by Dylan, enclosing a 4m x 4m space to house our cutting, grinding, welding and sanding. Around 90% of our dirty work is handled in there, meaning any of the motorcycles we’re working on outside this space stay perfectly clean.

In the room we have our SWS Alumtig 200 welder, a jig table, drop saw, band saw, bench grinder, oxy-torch set up, polisher, linisher, and drill press. Everything needed to ruin a bike and rebuild it again.

The fabrication room is enclosed by a custom steel frame with 1.5m sliding doors covered with acrylic sheeting on either side. The room is ventilated with industrial exhaust fans installed low on the external wall and ventilation that’s high on the walls, sweeping the air from high entry to low exit to keep the air clean and the dust down low.

On the external wall of the Fab Lab we’ve built and enclosed a materials rack that stores our exhaust tubing, frame tubing, lathe stock, round bar and flat bar. All our materials are enclosed and away from grinder dust and moisture to keep it in top shape while in storage.

Outside the fab room we have a ceilingheight racking system that stores all our in-progress bike parts and workshop consumables like hoses, filters, spare batteries and electronics gear, and fibreglass materials. Under this shelving is our lathe, a consumables and tools locker, our tube benders, a 3-in-1 fingerbreak tool, and shop press. Eventually our milling machine will be installed there too.

There are a lot of loose parts when tearing down a bike. This set up keeps all our loose parts easily accessible, but out of the way, stored in large tubs above the machinery and consumables lockers.

Moving to our bike-bay area, we have 2 hydraulic lift tables with SP toolboxes and lockers equipped for mechanical and electrical work. We do often handle fabrication work out there, but most of the time it’s lighter, less-messy work – fender brackets and small frame mods etc. All the heavy lifting like frame builds, exhaust fabrication and sheet metal work is handled in the Fab Lab.

In our bike-bay area we have a few movable tables and a small jig/welding table to wheel around to whatever we’re working on that day. During the workshop fit out, I made sure to over invest in storage. Cupboards and lockers are placed around the shop to make sure we have a place to store and organise everything neatly during clean up every day.

I’m a big believer in the ‘clean shop, clear mind’ theory. We’re in here every day creating something unique, and it helps a lot starting with a fresh shop each morning.

Upstairs on the open mezzanine, Dylan and I fabricated up a few motorcycle racks up in the roof. With removable benches the bikes can be strapped down and lifted up into the racking to get them off the floor. It’s a great way to save a bit of space or if we have projects that aren’t getting worked on for a little while. These sit on either side of a hand-built gate emblazoned with the PBM shop logo – steel construction that’s been water-jet cut and backed with white acrylic panelling. Behind this is all of our partsstore warehousing.

It’s not a huge space but it’s well organised to make sure we can store them clean and pack orders efficiently.

The final piece downstairs was the epoxy-flaked floors throughout the workshop.

This was high on the priority list. Having the floors sealed is important in terms of cleanliness and the aesthetic of our space. I wanted clients to come in and be reminded of the Formula One workshops they see with their favourite teams. Having a vibrant, well-organised and clean space is a really important thing for me to be able to work at my best and create without distraction.

While Purpose Built Moto turns out hand-built customs regularly, that’s only half of what we do. We also manufacture and sell a number of aftermarket parts for garage builders to use on their own projects, and that means I spend a lot of time designing in my office, and we need a bunch of extra storage to warehouse our e-commerce parts. That’s all hidden away upstairs, so let me take you through what most people don’t get to see.

Up the staircase we have a bit of a ‘wall of fame’ with old shots of our escapades, adventures and the people we meet along the way. The staircase in the workshop was re-purposed from the old fit out and sealed in a polyurethane tub liner used in truck and ute beds. It’s hard-wearing, grippy and will stick to just about anything. It looks pretty good, too.

Upstairs I’ve built in a kitchen and lounge area with a separate office I work out of. It’s a quiet place to design, think and make sure we’re moving in the right direction.

The offices and kitchen open up over the workshop to allow light through, but are also heavily insulated to help deaden sound and keep the upstairs cool.

We’ve decked out the upstairs with a few nice couches, tables and a timber floor to give it a homely feel. Purpose Built Moto only functions as a motorcycle shop 4 days a week, but for those 4 days, we walk in and fucking go for it. When we leave the shop floor and retreat upstairs for a beer or lunch we can take a breath, relax and take notes on the day’s work. We often have marketing freelancers, photographers and business associates come in for the day to work with us. That makes sure they have a comfortable place to work with us, too.

2022 will see the workshop receive a few more renovations, including some upgraded blasting and machining equipment and a clean room for engine building, service work and electric motorcycle assembly. There’s always something new on the horizon for the boys.

Purpose Built Moto has emerged as one of Australia’s premiere motorcycle builders, and this workshop not only reflects the quality of the work, but the way we go about it, approaching everything from a clear perspective and with an open mind. No compromises. The thought put into this workspace can only mean great things for the future.

Make sure you check out purposebuiltmoto. com for the amazing motorcycles, the parts we create, and grab yourself a T-shirt on your way through.

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