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Talking custom motorcycles with award-winning designer Max Hazan

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

LOS ANGELES -- Max Hazan has become, at only 35 and with dizzying speed, one of the custom motorcycle industry's most admired bespoke bike builders. But he only turned his head to design after a motorcycle injury sidelined him for several months.

The accidental artist: Hazan wasn't aiming for the artistic life. The New York native and son of a third-generation garment manufacturer had low expectations for himself.

He chose to attend Tulane University in New Orleans "because it was warm all the time and it was a party town," majored in psychology "because it seemed easy and that's where all the pretty girls were," and took a carpentry job on Long Island "because the money was good."

But in 2011, when he was 29, he had a terrible crash riding an off-road motorcycle and spent long, painful months recovering and unable to work. To pass the time, he started designing a motor-driven bicycle.

Building a better bike: By his own admission, the first effort was a mess. So he started over. But this time, instead of trying to fit an existing motor into an existing frame, he built his own frame.

The result was more successful, and capable of speeds of 60 mph. That seemed unsafe, on thin bicycle tires, so he started a third machine, using motorcycle tires, motorcycle wheels and motorcycle forks.

That's when he had the epiphany: "Maybe I should just go ahead and make an actual motorcycle."

The right genes: Hazan -- it's pronounced to rhyme with "raisin" -- credits his father with giving him "the design gene." The senior Hazan had built sailboats and always kept a fully stocked wood shop.

Creating his early machines, young Max used and ruined woodworking tools for metalworking projects. "I was cutting aluminum with a wood router," Hazan said. "It used to drive him nuts."

Still, it was his father who drove him to pursue motorcycle design as a full-time career.


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