If there's a name in motorcycle design you should be familiar with, it's Max Hazan. As is the case with so many artists, the biography of the person…the dates and places and things of life…is entwined with artistic production. Hazan is still young and emerging as an artist. He is still living his biography, and custom motorcycle enthusiasts are learning about him through his designs. It’s a slow learning process, because he builds exquisite motorcycles…only a few each year.
What we know so far about Max Hazan is that he was born in 1981 in New York. His father had a Long Island workshop, and Hazan spent his youth there not only riding motorcycles, but “taking things apart and putting them back together" as he states. Max has noted that he believes his ability to build well is a “handy gene” he inherited from his father. In Max’s way of looking at life, he thinks that some people are just born with this trait. To illustrate his passion for creating and building, he tells the story of his experiments with Legos; heating them in the microwave to melt them into different shapes.
The majority of his memories growing up are filled with experiences of designing, building, experimenting with, and appreciating things of beauty. He remembers learning from family travels through nature and observing classic designs. He built model airplanes, hydroplane boats, airplanes, composite sailboats, vintage cars and custom racing motorcycles. He used varied materials for these projects and began to think differently for each design problem he encountered.
He eventually attended Tulane University to formalize his studies of art, design and building. After graduation, he joined a premiere custom home building company on Long Island. His work focused on interior design and contracts, realizing clients dreams while creating imaginative design solutions for difficult projects using his skills with varied fabrication materials. It was during this time in his life when he began to build bikes as a hobby. One day, during lunch together, his dad simply suggested that he build bikes as his full time job. He took his father’s advice and gambled that using his inherited creative genes would lead to a a solid life as well as good living. He took the huge cut in pay to pursue his passion.
Hazan took the same design process he used at Max Hazan Design and applied it to building custom motorcycles. He would gather verbal descriptions and hand drawings from customers to learn their ideas. Lacking those, he would share plans and architectural drawings with them to understand what they wanted. Renderings of their ideas ensured that both designer and client were on the same page. The design and build would then flow from those preliminary explorations, executing and achieving the desired product.
Hazan Design was skilled with using reclaimed materials and state of the art construction techniques. Unique visions could also be fulfilled by replicating architectural designs using the film industry’s special effects building techniques. His Williamsburg Brooklyn office provided service for New York City and Long Island, but it also fueled the creative thinking and wide range of skills which would eventually transition into his customized work with motorbikes.
At first, Hazan thought he might build half a dozen or so bikes to sell each year. But he was drawn into the process of creating ones that were truly unique. His first custom design was featured on Pipeburn and won its Bike of the Year Award in 2013. The bike was very successful, and it launched Hazan's career as a custom bike designer. Hazan has described himself many times as a builder of things. He speaks of his abilities with the confidence of one who has had them since birth. He identifies his drawing, painting and building as lifelong activities, but he is also quick to mention that motorcycles have always been the medium that is his favorite.
The catalyst for his design career began with a motorcross accident. He had broken his leg and had no choice but to mend. He spent three months convalescing on his sofa, staring at his beach cruiser. During that time, he thought about how he could motorize it, ultimately doing so. That first attempt led to building a second one. He realized that riding on bicycle tires at ninety miles per hour was scary, and moved on to build motorcycles next. He often jokes about how he fell into his career, literally and figuratively. His motorcycles were immediately unique, and each unlike any other.
Hazan Motors began in 2012 with a small shop in Brooklyn. His professional bike building career began with four custom designs. The first two were customized from existing bikes and the subsequent two were completely built by hand. During his two years with Brooklyn based Hazan Motors, he met his girlfriend Sarah at a friend’s going away party in New York. She eventually decided that she would work in California, so Hazan came along, moving to Venice, California. The beach community offers some of the same hipster elements as their old Brooklyn neighborhood, and Hazan’s workshop is a close, thirty minutes away. Since Hazan’s move to the Los Angeles area in 2014, he has focused on building about two new custom bikes each year.
In the world of custom bikes, Hazan is considered one of the world’s best builders. From his first Pipeburn Bike of the Year Award in 2013, he would go on to win a second, and as a result, his work is recognized globally among custom motorcycle connoisseurs as being a talented visionary with the technical skills to fabricate whatever he envisions. Those who have met him in person have often mentioned his tattoo “Ever forward in creation”.
While Hazan's models are few, each one of them is extraordinary. Here we take a look at five of our favorites.
He describes his thought processes concerning the XS650 as inspired improvization. Hazan chose the XS motor as the focus, and built the motorcycle around it, considering it to be a handsome motor. He had no plans for where his project would end, and no particular style of bike in mind. He simply allowed himself to follow the lines as they developed, without prior sketches or reference images.
He had found a 1983 XS650, and pulled out the rear hub and motor. It was a pristine Bronx discovery. He began thinking that he would build every part of this bike himself, but decided otherwise. He used eBay, scavenged culinary supply and thrift stores for parts, trying to keep to his budget. He modified the gas tank and then welded a filler cap from a vintage race boat. The shifter was made from a porcelain door knob found at a neighborhood salvage store. The clutch system was made from parts gleaned from a sewing machine. The 1 inch tubing from the culinary supply was just the beginning of things he would find as he worked. He decided to re-jet the stock carburetors with 150 jets, took out the front brake, and kept the bike clean and functional.
He designed the seat with a bearing- spring suspension located between the bike’s velocity stacks. He changed the valve seals and rings when he had problems with burning oil. He used unmarked MX rims and Buchanan spokes. Ultimately, the bike rode free and clear…. “a rocket”, said Hazan.
The Ducati 900
The Ducati 900 is a model that has been used for other custom builds. But fans of this bike acknowledge that Hazan is the one builder who has been able to actually improve upon the naked bike. The only parts he kept for his custom version were the engine, the wheels, and some of the frame. He custom built his own rear end, exhaust pipes, headers, open intake and mudguard. Other additions were a Spartan seat made from foam, a headlight by Harley Davidson, a customized fuel tank with a hidden battery and its electronics and re-jetted carburetors.
Hazan didn’t keep much of the original Ducati. Almost half of the bike was altered. There is an intricate design in the belly of the machine. Hazan welded customized equal length headers to use for its carbon exhausts. The frame hides a steering damper which also contributes to the clean lines on the entire motorcycle. The build was a radical, but coherent one, as Hazan contributed his own particular design flair to the bike.
When Hazan decided to build the Harley Davidson Ironhead engine, the design featured much more complexity than his other creations. Hazan acknowledged that he purchased the 1981 1000cc because he “loved the heads” and had the idea of fitting it with dual carburetors and two heads. He developed his own design for the front suspension, using air intakes which help the two carbs breath. Typical to his artistic sense, he salvaged a tractor light to place on top.
He designed the bike with a large rear wheel. The seat rides over it, with a lower position that accentuates its minimalist design. The fuel tank is tapered, long and narrow; designed to flow toward the seat. There are flat handlebars, a hand-change gearbox, and exhausts which are straight through. The entire composition is elegant. Hazan mentioned that it took four attempts to make the fuel tank flow within the overall design. He gave it a silver finish and curved form which are seamless within the bike’s geography.
Hazan made everything himself except for the engine and the wheels. He developed an original front suspension, mating the fork to dual springs under the tank, and adding a damper under its headlight. There are no exposed wires and the handmade parts remove all clutter. The wooden seat is beautiful, so nobody actually cares how comfortable it may or may not be. The wheels are made from 1920s style car tires, and are 30 and 31 inches. The bike weighs approximately 300 pounds. Light, simple and smooth.
The Royal Enfield
What makes Hazan’s build of the The Royal Enfield beautiful is his attention to bringing its performance into modern standards. He used the engine, but hand crafted the entirety of the remaining parts. It has a slim fuel tank which he hand-beat for smoothness; a single pipe hand-bent exhaust; a hand-carved wood seat with a high end gloss finish; and lightweight wheel hub up front.
The 1996 Royal Enfield is extremely rare to find anywhere except in India. In fact, Hazan’s sister rode one for two weeks while there which is how he initially found out about it. He also noted that the motor reminded him of the boats he used to build. But, never had one been custom built completely. Hazan estimated that the entire build took him approximately two months of full time work to complete.
Here's a sample of his custom work on the Royal.
- The engine
- The double cam system and bronze chains
- The metallic handlebar grips
- The front wheel drum brake system
- Silvered frame and engine components
- Hand carved wooden seat inspired by vintage Italian speedboats
This build is an example of Hazan’s consummate artistry and technical prowess. Everything about the bike is the perfect combination of form created to support function. Stunning.
When Hazan decided to develop the Musket in 2015, he enlisted help from Aniket Vardhan to use two Royal Enfield engines to create one single engine…a 1000cc V-twin. Hazan wanted to do this project for a long, long time. As is often the case with Hazan, he began with a love for the engine. He felt that the work Vardhan did to hand machine the Musket engine was purely art.
Everything about the bike developed from the massive engine. The frame had to be big, and only the BF Goodrich Silvertown tires, normally for cars, and huge, would be right. The tank shape, the frame angles, its pipes and everything else had to be slowly developed until they were “perfection incarnate." Hazan began, as is his custom, with the engine; mounting it on his workbench. He designed every part in detail using a full scale drawing. He uses this technique to help him see how the various parts measure in relationship to the whole. The only items purchased for the build were the wheels, tires and headlight.
Hazan prefers minimalist design. To that end, he ran the throttle cable through the inside of the handlebars to keep a clean visual line. He restructured the primary drive so that the disc brake had room to live in the transmission. He simplified the rear wheel. The battery fits inside the custom fuel tank. The electronics and ignition were placed in housing on the underside of the engine. This improved airflow and hid wiring which would have been exposed and diminished the sleek lines.
Hazan made the fuel tank himself from polished aluminum. He also made the fender, though it took several attempts before he was satisfied with the final version. The tank is designed to highlight the motor without obstructing views of the parts. The shocks are bronze and there are smaller valve springs inside the fork springs. The wood seat is made of aged walnut and has 15 layers of polished lacquer. Hazan said that his goal was that it be finished as a Steinway would have been. The entire bike is quiet to ride, and needs some practice to ride due to its square tire and distinctive pull. The only person who rode it before it was delivered to its new owner was Hazan himself.
The artistic builder of motorcycles continues to enjoy the luxury and supreme results of building his visionary bikes on his own schedule. Inspired. New. Amazing. Max Hazan.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker