⬆️ Albatros Moto in Sacile, Italy has a showroom and a shop—a few months after we relocated to Italy from Florida I bought the Honda XL350 (below photo) there. These are images of the shop, which I loved visiting because of how unique it is. The stickers and the well-worn space tells the multi-year story in a way nothing else can.
↗️ The previous owners took amazing care of this motorcycle given how old it is (33 years!). That said, the tank graphics are not correct / original. These XR graphics appear to be from the 1998 XR line—a decade newer than this motorcycle and not the right model. I knew I wanted to replace those when I got the motorcycle. That, and it was in need of a new chain slider.
↗️ The XL on sale in the showroom at Albatros
↗️ After rebuilding and printing the stock graphics I was shocked to see the original tank decals unharmed underneath the XR stickers. I was able to remove the XR stickers without damaging the XL graphics, so I decided to keep them.
↗️ Back to the original tank graphics—just keep it simple.
⬆️ The sticker rebuild process: The photo of the tank in the middle image above was the best image I could find of the original lettermark graphic kit for the European release of this motorcycle (the graphics were not the same in the US, nor did they even release XL 350s after 1985—this one is listed as a 1988 on the paperwork. I worked with Albatros to have these stickers printed and am super happy with the quality even though I ended up sticking (no pun intended) with the original graphics since they were still there under the fake XR decals (above left).
⬆️ My 2016 Honda XR 650L—sadly in storage right now in the United States. This motorcycle has as much sentimental value to me as it does anything else and I really wanted to have it here in Italy. It’s symbolic of a reconnection for me. That said, the cost and risk of shipping it overseas was too much. I’ve only had this motorcycle for a few years, but I enjoyed having one again so much this is what led me to find another motorcycle here in Italy. Ironically, I ended up finding an older / smaller version of what I already have—not intentional, but ok with me (still miss the XR, though).
on motorcycles & making…
My first motorcycle was a 1983 Yamaha PW50. I was four years old and it was the best. I had a VHS tape of the 1989 AMA Supercross season I watched on repeat. I grew up around motorcycle and car racing in a family of racers. I started racing go-karts and then micro-sprint cars myself between the ages of 12-20. The bright colors and numbers (especially from dirtbikes of the 80s and early 90s) became ingrained in my visual vocabulary from a very early age. I’m sure these experiences influenced my eventually becoming a Graphic Designer—and someone who loves and teaches typography.
After the PW I moved onto a YZ 80, then a RM 250, and finally a KX 250. I broke my ankle on the KX when I was 20—it was around 2003-2004 and I was going into college. I decided to sell the motorcycle and buy my first iMac computer. At the time this was a good decision, as it kickstarted my career as a Graphic Designer. I moved away from motorcycles and racing (not intentionally) in my 20’s and early 30’s. Getting reconnected over the past few years has been a unique and fulfilling experience in so many ways. I’ve spent a good deal of time reflecting on my early experiences around racing and being a racer myself. I moved from the Texas Panhandle to the University of Tennessee for graduate school in my early 20s. Lots of amazing things happened in Knoxville—including the beginning of an amazing relationship with my partner Amanda I am still in today.
In Tennessee I was completely focused on learning how to teach Graphic Design. This eventually lead to the beginning of my career as a design educator. There was (in my mind at least) no room for motorcycles or racing. It was a radically different experience and I had to re-learn how to do many things I thought I was already good at. For anyone who says teachers teach because they can’t do—you are mistaken. Teaching is a profession that pairs with, but stands separate from practice (I could do another post on this, but not getting more into it here—maybe later).
I’m in a space now where I’m reflecting on what it looks like to synthesize these seemingly opposing worlds. Now, (with the benefit of hindsight) I see so many obvious connections I couldn’t see before. I’m not a great rider, but the experience of being on a motorcycle is mindful—much like the experience of letterpress or screenprinting (or teaching others how to do these things). It’s not about the objects or outcomes, it’s about the experience. For me, the intersections are rooted in practice. Leveraging my design skills to re-create these XL stickers (even though it’s a very small thing)—and visiting local shops like Albatros are a synthesis of so many important things to me as a creative human. Understanding this is an ongoing process.