Craig Marleau's Kick Start Garage
● By Claudia Mosby
A Great "Start"March 2015
By Claudia Mosby
Photos: Brent Van Auken
When Scott Oilar bought his Honda 750, with its patchwork panels, rusted wheels, and "a hideous brown seat that could only be described as a misshapen loaf of bread," he admits it was in depression condition.
Craig Marleau of Kick Start Garage, who Oilar met at a soccer park where their kids were playing, led him to the used bike. Oilar asked the motorcycle aficionado for advice on purchasing something bigger and faster for the road that he could customize.
“Craig was able to take the rough concept of what I wanted and add his own creative flavor,” says Oilar. “His suggestions only seemed to develop a more accurate idea of what I wanted in a bike.” The end result: a CB750 that is combination Café Racer and Bobber.
Marleau specializes in modresto, or vintage motorcycle restoration and customization. “I take forgotten, unwanted or discarded motorcycles left for dead,” he says, “and transform them into Café Racers, Bobbers or Scramblers.”
For the uninitiated, Marleau is happy to explain. Café Racers are European-style bikes that derive their name from the practice of racing from café to café. Bobbers are hard-tail bikes (without shock absorbers) that typically have a solo seat.
“The Bobber is not a gentleman’s bike,” adds Marleau, “but more of a bar-hopper bike. Scramblers are used more for dirt rides. We are kind of reliving an earlier era, prior to the availability of dirt bikes.”
A small business with a global reach, Kick Start Garage’s barn-style shop is located on Marleau’s property. “When people come out, it’s by appointment only,” he says. “They are not waiting in line for a number on the handlebar. I want to know them and their bike.”
The Garage has space to job four bikes at a time but is ready for expansion. Besides custom work, Marleau repairs European bikes and wants to keep his craft alive and growing by hiring an apprentice to help him expand the business.
“People do not know what points are (parts of a mechanically engineered ignition system) or how to adjust them,” he says. “Old world engine repair is disappearing; today it has become about electronics and parts replacement. Yet, this lost era of engineering defines the way the bike looks, works, runs—everything.”
To further his riding passion, Marleau formed the Redding Vintage Moto Club. Its monthly First Ride is an invitation to know the club by experiencing the North State on a vintage motorcycle and the culture here that Marleau believes for many is undiscovered.
“We rode to the Phillips Brothers Steam Mill, between Whitmore and Oak Run,” says Marleau of the only operating mill of its kind in the country. “They cut custom lumber for homes. They have a box factory there and make stuff for all the movie studios. It is absolutely amazing, one of the coolest rides we have ever done.”
Another time the group rode to Manton for a chili cook-off . The town boasts a corner store that has been there since the 1800s. “I’m trying to connect the historical culture here with the rides and introduce folks to all the history in our area,” adds Marleau.
Jim Rocca has been on every club ride and is another custom client. “Our bikes have a little more personality and a lot of them have names,” Rocca says. “Mine is called Saddlefax.” A Lord of the Rings fan, his clever wordplay was inspired by Shadowfax, Lord of the horses.
“Whatever I dream up, Craig will figure out a way to do it and make it look great,” he says. “He is not your typical motorcycle mechanic who follows the book. I know he likes my bike as much as I do because he refers to it by name, too.”
Marleau chose the name Kick Start Garage because the motorcycles he works on have kickstart levers and the word “art” is contained within the word “start.”
“I think motorcycles are living, breathing art,” says Marleau. “I try and bring out the beauty in every bike.”
(530) 330-5425 • www.kickstart-garage.com