Enrico “Ricky” de Haas doesn’t subscribe to the notion that future-forward electric motorcycles need to resemble futuristic science experiments. In fact, his Wannabe-Choppers AlSi9Mg—handbuilt in his Hüttenberg, Germany shop—is more a throwback than advancement in aesthetics, but that’s what he likes about it. His attitude reflects the laid-back nature of his community in the Taunus foothills.
We discussed the inspiration for the AlSi9Mg, and why he chose casting.
What’s the inspiration behind building an electric chopper that looks so ‘old school’?
The idea to build a ‘hidden’ electric chopper came about 12 years ago. Back then the idea was not to build it in an old-school way. Battery technology was way more expensive than today, so after failing to find a customer or sponsor for two years we shelved it and I started working on my first Harley project. Then I started casting.
The image of AlSi9Mg was in my head for the last two years, but with a regular combustion engine of my own making. When we decided to build this bike in early 2017 it was clear how it had to look, regardless of the power source!
How long have you been casting your own bike parts? The e-chopper looks like a master class in metal casting!
I’ve been obsessed with building a complete motorcycle from scratch since I was 15. This includes everything: frame, motor, transmission with all their internals (even the valve springs) to the tires. This meant I had not just to learn everything about motorcycles, but also everything about the production techniques, as I wanted to make everything with my own hands.
So casting was just one of these things to learn, but also one of the most difficult things as you can’t just read a book about it, like you can for machine work. I started my first casts about 11 years ago and today, making cast parts is one of the biggest parts of our daily work. We cast aluminum, brass, bronze, steel and stainless steel.
I understand you’re planning another e-chopper that’s more refined and faster?
We started planning the next two bikes on the day the AlSi9Mg was finished. Both will go in the same style direction: one will hopefully be powered with our own ICE and the other will have two very powerful electric hub motors, each several hundred Nm. One in the rear wheel and one in the front. But it’s very tough to find the time and the money to make this happen. A few days ago we ordered a new frame jig to start with the electric bike! Hopefully the next months will be productive.
The idea behind Wannabe-Choppers is to build a complete bike from scratch, which means an unbelievable amount of hours go into each project. About four years ago we stopped building standard bikes for customers. Our main business evolved into making restoration and custom parts, so we spent a lot of time refining our skills on production processes and improving.The AlSi9Mg is a realization of where we were last year on our journey to building a complete bike. This one has about 1,400 hours work in it; if anyone’s interested, the price is 120,000 euros. The next two bikes will be more labor intensive.
You recently toured the American custom bike shows; did you get any orders? If so, what would a hard-working woman or man pay for their own Wannabe e-chopper?
The trip to the US did bring us a lot of orders for production and one of parts, but as of today no customer for a bike. But you never know. A bike probably would start at roughly 80,000 euro and will go easily up to 250,000 euro, especially if we build a one-off motor in house.