Trading shoes with The Tragically Hip’s late vocalist and lyricist Gord Downie helped alter the course of Alan Stulberg’s career and life. Alan is the mastermind of Revival Cycles in Austin, Texas, where he was born and raised. However, his father was a Canadian (born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan), and that gave Alan dual citizenship. It’s important to note The Tragically Hip began in 1983 in Hamilton, Ontario, and this connection to the land of the north plays a significant role in Alan’s story. When Alan was a teenager, his mom’s friend slipped him a cassette tape of The Tragically Hip’s 1991 release, Road Apples. “She always took me to live shows,” Alan says, “and she gave me a copy of Road Apples and said, ‘You’re going to love it.’”

Alan Stulberg at the Quail Motorsports Gathering in 2021. [Paul d’Orléans]

The Unknown Canadian

He thoroughly enjoyed the Hip’s guitar driven blues-rock music but had absolutely no idea who they were, or where they were from. Until, at 15, when he visited his dad in Edmonton, Alberta. Alan’s parents had separated when he was 7, and his dad, who worked in the oil industry, had returned north for work. In the early 1990s, “I was with a girl walking past an HMV music store in West Edmonton Mall,” Alan recalls. “The entire wall of the store was filled with Tragically Hip posters. I was the only one I knew who’d heard of The Tragically Hip, but the girl I was with told me they’re a very popular Canadian band. From that point on, I kept buying their music and saw them play small clubs (in the States) where there’d always be maybe 200 people at most. Well, they came to Austin to play a show and they hadn’t sold enough tickets so they were doing a live radio promo. I called in and sort of lied and said I’m a Canadian. But that got me an invitation to visit the radio station and meet the band. That’s when Gord and I traded shoes – we were the same size, and we got on very well. We ended up having BBQ together, and I met up with him and The Tragically Hip more than once. We really kept in touch, writing letters and exchanging phone calls. Gord became something of a friend and mentor. I’d seek him out, looking to him for advice. We’d talk about where I was in life and he’d reply with very simple words that were as impactful as his lyrics.”

Alan with the Tragically Hip in the 2000s. [Alan Stulberg]
Alan continues, “I wanted to be a respected businessman who made plenty of money, but Gord would ask basic questions about what I was doing, and why. My dad had always told me artists didn’t make any money, but Gord offered me a different perspective. His influence as someone creative made me want to embrace my artistic side, and he told me to accept who I was and to do what I love to do. I can’t overstate the impact he had on my life, and most people aren’t aware of that.”

How do Revival Cycles, motorcycles and The Tragically Hip intersect? It’s a long tale. Alan’s dad started him early, teaching basic mechanical theory by having his son build a plastic V8 engine model, and then having him take apart and put back together a Briggs & Stratton implement engine. “It was magic, is what it was,” Alan says, “to be able to take it apart and put it all back together and have it run.” Alan’s dad was raised on a ranch and learned to be self-sufficient, gaining mechanical competency in the process. When he was in his early 20s, he owned a late 1960s Triumph he’d customized. “He instilled in me how to be fearless mechanically,” Alan explains. And then, motorcycles. At age 5, “My dad came home with a Honda Z50 Monkey bike in the trunk of the car for my brother and I, and I took to it the first day we had it. My brother crashed it into a fence on that first day, though, so I was dealing with minor fixes right away. But of course, it was a Honda, and it always ran fine. I do remember getting far enough away on it that I was seriously on my own and that made me feel like an adult.”

Young Alan with a rail dragster, which was already vintage when this photo was taken in the 1990s. [Alan Stulberg]
Other bikes followed, but there was a period of years when Alan was more interested in cars; simply because he could carry more girls. At school, Alan was placed in an accelerated program aimed at the gifted. “They told me I was smart, but ultimately I didn’t care about school,” he says. “I did graduate from high school, and immediately after that I moved to Edmonton to live with my dad.” In 1995, he had plans to attend NAIT, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, but that fell through. Alan was working at a Toyota dealership selling new and used cars, but the Canadian economy was simply chugging along, meaning it wasn’t doing well at all. Alan says he was starving and living on a diet of frozen perogis. Going nowhere fast, after a few years he decided to move back to Austin. “I got a good job in the tech industry with Motorola, started school, and then quit school.” Other tech jobs ensued, but ultimately a cousin encouraged Alan to pursue a career in the world of finance and business. “I switched from studying architecture to business and got a bachelor’s degree at a late age (30). Right away, I landed a really good job that paid me more money than anything I’d ever done, but seven months later I was fired for saying things people didn’t want to hear. That cratered me at the time, I broke up with my girlfriend, sold everything I owned including my guitar and stereo and seven of my eight motorcycles. I rode from Austin to New York, flew the bike and myself to Europe, and rode all around trying to figure out what I wanted to do.”

Alan and Jay Leno with the Revival Birdcage BMW R18. [Alan Stulberg]

Revival Cycles

What he wanted to do was open a motorcycle shop. Gord Downie didn’t exactly encourage Alan to pursue machinery. But it was his advice suggesting Alan accept his creative self that ultimately resulted in him embracing the business world of motorcycles – and custom builds. This started slowly, however. In 2008, when Alan returned to Austin from Europe, he was crashing at a friend’s house and fixing and customizing motorcycles in the backyard. “I was basically homeless, but I was doing what I loved doing. I knew there had to be scale to this, and that was the start of Revival Cycles.” Alan took on machines other shops refused to fix. And, with an eye for design, Alan began collaborating with clients on custom builds. “I can weld, I can machine and I can build a motor, but I wanted to do more than my hands would allow me to, and I knew I wanted to be larger than just one or two people. Organically, that’s how Revival has grown.”

Alan with the Revival 140, a custom Confederate Hellcat, at the 2017 Wheels & Waves California. [Paul d’Orléans]
Several top-quality restorations and radically artistic customs including the Revival Henne BMW Landspeeder (reviewed here), Revival Six (a tribute to the French-built art-deco Majestic of the late 1920s based on a Honda CBX), Moto Guzzi 850T Beto, 1972 Indian Bambino 50 and a 1933 Brough Superior have emanated from the workshop of Revival Cycles. These Revival machines and many others have garnered international attention and one person who noticed was designer Ed Boyd. Ed’s deep resume of work includes time spent with Nike and Sony. Now, he’s working with Dell where he is Senior VP of Design. “I got an email inquiry from Ed about discussing a bike build,” Alan says. This happened more than seven years ago, and initially, “he came in with a Yamaha Virago and wanted to learn to build a custom motorcycle.” Alan mulled over the possibilities the Virago presented, but the more he talked to Ed, who was inspired by Revival’s 2015 project J63 Schwantz Ducati, the more he understood what he wanted. Which was basically a Ducati, which Ed designed with Alan’s input. “We wanted to refine the J63, and Ed came up with a full rendering done in CAD. Many of his ideas were so ambitious, I learned more about manufacturing techniques than I ever had before.”

The Revival Fuse, the result of thousands of hours of consideration and construction. [Revival Cycles]

The Fuse

Apart from the 1100cc Ducati Monster engine purchased from an eBay vendor, every other component of Ed’s bike, dubbed the Fuse, has been sketched, then rendered in CAD. This took literally thousands of hours to achieve. And then, there are more than 1,000 hours of custom fabrication involved in the machine. That’s why the entire journey, from start to finish, took seven years. Consider the one-off monocoque tail and tank section. It’s constructed of hand-formed aluminum and the bodywork includes an elegant bikini fairing. On top of the alloy, seven layers of Ducati red paint were applied. All of this is mounted to a stainless steel trellis frame that allows the monocoque to appear as though it’s floating above the Monster engine. The combined triple trees and handlebars, made of machined aluminum, weren’t simple, either. As Alan says, “These were by far the most complex pieces of the build.” The bars blend seamlessly into the top triple and integrate hydraulic reservoirs for clutch and brake, plus throttle twistgrip and its cable and electronic switchgear. As clean and svelte as the Fuse is, the machine is street legal and incorporates Revival’s Supernova turn signals. Fork components are custom made and include Ohlins internals. From CNC machined billet aluminum came swingarm and foot controls – all bespoke, and they don’t appear on any other of Revival’s builds. Even the front and rear 18-inch wire wheels were built to accentuate the custom made hubs and Boyd/Revival designed calipers made in collaboration with engineers at Hayes Performance Systems. The engine wasn’t left alone, either. It was rebuilt, and includes a racing slipper clutch, a custom fuel computer, CNC alloy pulley covers, custom velocity stacks and a 2-into-1 stainless steel exhaust system.

It’s all in the details: looking underneath the seat unit to show off the workmanship required to build at this level. [Revival Cycles]
Overseeing the construction and final assembly was Chris Davis. He and Alan have known each other since they were kids and both had jobs in the software industry. While Alan wandered, Chris stayed in tech until a few years ago when, as Alan says, “he just started showing up here, and then I started paying him. He’s a gifted mechanic and fabricator.” In a release Revival shared with various media about the Fuse, Ed is quoted and says, “Revival delivered an opportunity to not only build a concept bike but rather welcomed me into their design house to collaborate on a fully 3D customization that utilized both high tech and low tech to accomplish the end goal of an unparalleled machine.” This is an ultra-high quality build that cost accordingly – close to half a million dollars, when all the time is accounted for. But it’s this kind of jaw-dropping build that sets Revival on a very high pedestal, which hopefully encourages and inspires other builders to reach a new level of design.

The Fuse before paint, assembled for fit and to finalize details. [Revival Cycles]

The Handbuilt Show

Perhaps something might turn up at this year’s Handbuilt Motorcycle Show, running from April 14 to 16 2023. The Handbuilt Show was initiated by Alan in 2014. However, “This actually started as a concept long before Revival,” he says of the show that, with the exception of two canceled Covid years (2020 and 2021), draws record crowds and some of the most renowned custom motorcycle builders from around the world. “I used to see motorcycle shows with cool machines and lots of people hanging around in parking lots, but there wasn’t much happening. I wanted to do something better, and when it was announced there was going to be a MotoGP track built in Austin, I finally started planning an event.” Alan borrowed an old warehouse and was told he could use it for free if it was cleaned up after the event. Word of mouth spread, and the first show was a success, but it wasn’t oversubscribed. Second and third year shows followed the same trajectory, and Alan was soon spending close to $30,000 to mount The Handbuilt Show. Spending between $20,000 and $30,000 a year on the event meant Alan soon had to charge spectators for admission. “As soon as there was a price, the event really started to grow,” Alan says. “Four or five years in, there was a line up around the block.” Now in a 35,000 square foot facility (the former home of the Austin American-Statesman newspaper offices and printing plant), Alan says, “Attendance has gotten bigger, and the builders are getting bigger, too. The tagline is ‘Get Your Hands Dirty.’ It’s universal therapy, but people just don’t know it – when people get their hands into things, it empowers them to do other things – either build or repair – which betters our whole culture.” We can’t break the news here yet regarding the 2023 Handbuilt Show location or other details, but Alan says, “The Handbuilt Show is about to grow, and we’re about to expand it.” Stay tuned for news.

Revival’s J63 Schwantz was featured in our Custom Revolution book: order a copy here!

Back to Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip. When Gord was diagnosed late in 2015 with an inoperable brain tumor, The Tragically Hip staged a Canada-wide tour in 2016 in support of their 13th studio album, Man Machine Poem. The dates formed a farewell tour, and Alan made his way to Calgary, Alberta to attend one concert. “That really messed me up,” he says, “It was difficult for me.” Gord died 17 October 2017. Ultimately, it might have been Gord’s advice that helped put Alan on this unique path of artistry and motorcycles, but he is just one of many people with whom Alan has forged relationships that he holds in high esteem, and “who give me the perspective not to get too wrapped up in the drama of the day.”



Greg Williams is Profiles Editor for The Vintagent. He’s a motorcycle writer and publisher based in Calgary who contributes the Pulp Non-Fiction column to The Antique Motorcycle and regular feature stories to Motorcycle Classics. He is proud to reprint the Second and Seventh Editions of J.B. Nicholson’s Modern Motorcycle Mechanics series. Follow him on IG: @modernmotorcyclemechanics


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