Some people are introduced to motorcycles later in life while others are quite literally born into the sport. For Shaik Ridzwan, founder of The Mighty Motor, growing up in Malaysia from a family of enthusiasts was the perfect gateway for a life long passion. His father was a jockey who eventually became a trainer and most of the men in the family—from uncles to cousins—were big into motor sports. It was in fact his uncle, who owned a motorcycle dealership, who got him hooked.
“My uncle’s dealership imported a lot of the big bikes and my cousins—I have a lot of them—were always riding. By the time I was ten or eleven I got a dirt bike and rode around the ranch; it was a small 80cc two-stroke. My cousins would sneak their bikes out late at night without any plates. They were so fast and I wanted to be like them. However, I remember my uncle as being very strict and not wanting us to ride a bike we couldn’t handle,” he fondly remembers.
Motorcycles are also the lifeblood of Malaysian transportation often packed from tips to tail with a family of four. Shaik talks about the island as a veritable hive of vintage bikes left over from the British colonization. Old Triumphs, Ariels and Nortons mixed with the more modern Honda Cubs, which you can still see today. Racing history also pulses through the veins with a history steeped in GP; in fact, Shaik says you can still spot an odd poster of Wayne Rainey hanging in old workshops.
After leaving Malaysia for California, Shaik decided to study industrial design at the Academy of Arts in San Francisco eventually working in furniture design and soft goods. The economic crash led him to find his footing in California where he picked up ‘Betsy’, a mid-60s BSA Hornet. The process of piecing her together led down so many rabbit holes that he wanted to bring its story to life by shooting photos of the process. The Mighty Motor became the platform to not only share Shaik’s personal build journal but to amplify the voice of the motorcycle community. We’ll pick up those stories another time and allow Shaik in his own words to talk about how he’s carrying on the tradition of two-wheel travel through his personal collection and carefully curated garage.
‘Betsy’ my 1964-65 BSA Hornet was my first vintage bike. It has a closed ration gear-box and it took me a year to build it. I immediately broke it after jumping from a 2009 510 Husqvarna Super Moto and Hayden from Hell on Wheels is correcting the problem. I love that bike and will probably always keep it. So much good has come into my life because of it.
My MV Agusta is a 2004 750 F4 SBR. It’s a bike they built three hundred of and it was the last of the 750s. There are probably two hundred on the road now because people race them and crash them. In fact, mine was crashed at seven-hundred miles and I saw it in my buddy Bill’s warehouse in Ohio. Bill is like a human encyclopedia of bikes; he knows everything. He never wanted to sell it and I’d always ask about it. It came to LA in twenty boxes and I spent about a year putting it back together, buying brackets off e-Bay. Not many people make those parts anymore so you have to source them. It’s not completely perfect and the paint is kind of rough but I like that.
The Darmah is probably one of my favorite bikes. It’s not very fast but I can get it going in the canyons. Again, I found that one in Bill’s warehouse leaning against some shelves. Through the years it’s left me stranded in Malibu and the AAA guys know me by name now. I don’t restore anything but try to fix what’s broken. It’s upgraded with super sticky tires so I can lean it over without worrying. It also has bigger carbs. When I saw it I knew it was a bevel twin, kinda funky, kinda awkward but I love it. The 80s lines and the wheel tail and the decals. I think of it as a poor man’s Super Sport.
The Elefant you see in Europe and Asia a lot but never here. It’s got the 900 two-valve engine in it. You can ride it everywhere without looking like a hooligan. But it’s a Dakar bike; you ring it out, not put it around. It doesn’t look like much but that 900 engine is really good and it has the dual headlights—one white and one yellow.
Recently, I got an opportunity to buy one of my dream bikes; it’s a 1995 Ducati 916. That was the year I graduated high school and that was the bike to have. It changed the whole superbike industry because before that everyone was running four cylinders. I love the under tail exhaust, single-sided swing arm, super narrow, super light, V-twin engine. On the track it could take faster turns, brake faster and then all of a sudden the Kawasakis were left in the dust. It came from a single owner who bought it from his neighbor who pushed it next door and he had it garaged ever since under a big poster of Foggy. It came with the original manual and everything, essentially a new bike.
I also have a 1969 450 Ducati Scrambler and it came from the first owner in Marin county. That was another good Craig’s List find. It’s got dents and dings in the tank but I love that stuff.
Story by: Dustin A. Beatty