Caramulo Experience Center

[Text and Photos by Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]

Most bikers don’t care that much about fine art, and artsy guys in general have a rather jaundiced view of motorcycles [except me! - ed.].  Recently we visited Caramulo Museum, about 1.5hrs from Porto in Portugal.  It's a unique place that easily caters to both tribes, the artists and the bikers.

A civilian Harley-Davidson WL graces the entrance of the Caramulo Museum in Portugal. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
The Museum is the work of two visionary brothers, Abel who had a passion for art, and Joao who was crazy for motorsports.  Located in the center of one of the oldest wine growing areas of Portugal, the elegant granite building was built in the fifties, and could be mistaken for a school.  On its grounds, you'll find an 18th century cloister that was carefully dismantled in its original location 60km away (much like The Cloisters in NYC), and transported by truck to become the core of the museum building.  The cloister has an immaculate garden in the center, while the art galleries surround it on two floors.  The art collection is small but well curated, with plenty of famous names, and four magnificent sixteenth-century tapestries.  In an adjacent building the bulk of the motorcycle and car collection are on display.

An original 15th Century cloister is integrated with the Caramulo Museum, including its enclosed courtyard and colonnaded arcade. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
On our visit, we were greeted by Joao, the grandson of the founders. He's a young man with an enthusiastic and informal demeanor, and was dressed in slacks and a plain shirt when we met. He gave us a short tour and told us about the new initiatives the museum is undertaking in to bring it to a more contemporary experience.

The Caramulo Experience Center is the new heart of the museum, where it's possible to observe and interact with museum staff about their projects restoring cars and motorcycles. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
To that end, the fascinating new Caramulo Experience Center opened in April 2022.  It's an open, 26,000 square foot space with multiple brightly-lit workshops, where motorcycles and cars are being restored.  There's no barrier; you are free to walk around and talk with the mechanics about their work and the machines they're restoring. It reminded us somehow of the nice informal atmosphere at Bonneville…[or Vintage Revival Montlhéry - ed.]  On the day of our visit one of mechanics showed us the revolutionary design details of a Bugatti T35 that was getting prepared for a race in Italy. The museum is not opposed to using its displays at events, and even posts a schedule of where you can see them in action.

The Bugatti T35 Grand Prix racer being worked on in the Caramulo Experience Center: a rare opportunity to see the idiosyncratic inner workings of this legendary design from the hand of Ettore Bugatti. Note the machine-square OHC cylinder head for the inline 8-cylinder engine, as Bugatti preferred, and the distinctive horseshoe radiator. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
The mountain scenery around the museum is beautiful, with plenty of interesting and quiet roads to ride.  The local cuisine is hearty: try Montanha, Tres Pipos, or Valerio, or if you're feeling upscale, try the Mesa de Lemos.  All are worthy places to consider…so plan your visit to Portugal!

Cars and bikes undergoing restoration: an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider and 1920s British single (BSA?). [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
A charming mix of tiny oddities: an NSU Quickly TT and Fiat 500. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
The exterior of the Caramulo Museum is low-key modernist. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
For the artistically inclined, the 16th Century tapestries rival those found in any museum. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
Our Vintagent Contributor Manuel Rosario discusses the fine points of Bugatti construction in the Experience Center with one of the mechanics. [Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal]
Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal are both doctors in Portugal, and produced the film 'Salt Fever'.

From Billet to Bonneville: Sergio Bayarri

I'm a doctor, and when a patient cancels his booking at the last minute I suddenly have a free slot... and thanks to an unidentified patient, one day I stumbled across Sergio Bayarri's web page. It included a video about his trip to Bonneville that sparked our curiosity and finally our trip to the Salt Flats. We ended up making a movie called "Salt Fever", which was screened at the Motorcycle Film Festival in Brooklyn, which is where we met Paul d'Orléans, whom we sometimes encounter at interesting bike meetings.

Sergio Bayarri in the DJ booth with Minnie Freudenthal, mixing up his next extraordinary machine. [Manuel Rosario]
Sergio Bayarri is a resilient and resourceful man. Born in Madrid, his English mother kept a family tradition by sending young Sergio to boarding school in England. He took up skating in England, and when he moved back to Madrid, Sergio went on a surf trip to the North of Spain and fell in love with the ocean. Since then, surfing has a central role in his life, becoming a source of resilience and an influence on his life choices. After earning an engineering degree in Florida, which he chose to be close to the ocean and surfing, Sergio became involved in show business production in Madrid.

The glorious complication of the cafe racer Sbay Motor Co 'Flyer'. [Manuel Rosario]
But Sergio and his wife chose to leave Madrid's hectic lifestyle with their young family, and moved to the South of Spain, where he still lives. After a two-year stint in construction, Sergio changed his career again, with the encouragement of his wife.  He founded Sbay Motor Co to build Harley-Davidson-based custom motorcycles. His creations won the 'Production Manufacturer' class at the 2010 AMD World Championship of Custom Building , which brought an invitation to take two of his bikes to exhibit at Sturgis Motorcycle Week.  But on his arrival in Chicago his bikes were impounded by an overzealous customs official, who would not release them without an EPA certificate...which would take at least three months to obtain.

A fascinating girder front fork on the Sbay Jerry cruiser. [Manuel Rosario]
Sergio decided to stage '8 hours sit-ins' at the customs office.  After a few days, another official - recognizing Sergio's determination - told him that the overzealous officer would be off-duty the next day, and the bikes were finally released. Sergio rented a van, and removed the seats, which he kept in storage in Chicago, along with the bikes' crates.  The he drove nonstop to Sturgis. After the show he decided to race the bikes at Bonneville. He arrived at Wendover with two bikes and a small toolbox.  But Bonneville is a special place, where bikers exchange knowledge and help each other. That year his very special custom bike 'Flying' became the record holder for its class.

Sergio Bayarri at Bonneville with this special Sbay Flyer, which had already clocked 164mph in Spain. [H. Roesler]
Recently, on a chilly morning, we went for a walk with Sergio, an affable wiry man dressed in chinos, white tee shirt and denim jacket, with an HH cap and his sociable Ridgeback "Beau". The conversation flowed easily and when Beau had run around enough, we entered the workshop.  Several projects were taking shape but the atmosphere was calm and unstressed, with the usual clutter of a busy shop with multiple projects.  He currently produces 'Flyer' styled as a cafe racer with conventional forks, and 'Jerry' with unusual front suspension, styled more like a cruiser, along with unique pieces designed for customers with specific wishes.

'God is in the details' - Mies van der Rohe. Beautiful details on the Sbay Flyer. [Manuel Rosario]
Both the Flyer and Jerry are fast sporting motorcycles with superb roadholding, honed at the nearby Jerez de la Frontera circuit.  They are fun, comfortable and easy to ride. Sergio is a master in CAD design, and uses a huge Haas milling machine and lathe to grind the steering bracket, swing arm, wheels and other components from solid billets of aircraft-grade 6000 aluminum.

Looking deeper at the mix of materials used by Sbay: copper, brass, steel, aluminum, and leather. [Manuel Rosario]
The frame incorporates the engine as a stressed member, and is based on a 70mm diameter aluminum tube cut to accommodate the milled parts of the subframe, and everything is TIG welded on jig.  The end result is an exceptionally rigid and light structure.  A new very compact gearbox enclosure was designed and milled from a single aluminum block, decreasing the wheelbase and making the bikes nimbler. Both bikes have superb craftmanship and obsessive attention to small details.

The Sbay Jerry cruiser with unique suspension front and rear, entirely fabricated in the Sbay workshop. [Manuel Rosario]
The Sbay Jerry has a super aggressive contemporary streetfighter vibe, with a potent 110ci RevTech motor. [Manuel Rosario]
Love the fuel cap details on the Sbay Jerry. [Manuel Rosario]
The other side of the Sbay Jerry, which is reminiscent of a Confederate powerbike, but has its own style. [Manuel Rosario]
Sbay is all about production, with a planned run of 50 of each other models. [Manuel Rosario]
If you visit Los Barrios in Spain, visit Sergio and order a bike!  And don't miss Casa Mané, a magnificent fish place, and Cancha 2, a truly superb Argentinian grill.


Manuel Rosario and Minnie Freudenthal are both doctors in Portugal, and produced the film 'Salt Fever'.