The Wheel Deal
So what happened to Matt Hotch?
Five years ago, the guy was the man in the custom-motorcycle-building world. He was a two-time winner of the Discovery Channel’s Biker Build-Off (2004 and 2005). He was flying across the world to shows, clearing nearly a hundred grand each of 30 weekends per year, selling T-shirts and clothing out of a huge truck and charging a near-$10,000 personal-appearance fee. He was selling his custom choppers for $150,000 to $300,000, and his mug or name or one of his stunning works of rolling art showed up in more than 4,000 magazines, including twice on the cover of the Robb Report.
But Hotch hasn’t touched a custom bike in three years. He has sold his $1.5 million house in Fullerton and now rents. He recently moved out of his 16,000-square-foot shop in a historic wood-and-brick building in Fullerton and into a much smaller facility.
So, is Matt Hotch—merely one of the best custom-chopper builders in the world—done?
No, but life did get in the way. Principally, two lives: his 4-year-old son, Ryder, and his 2-year-old daughter, Mattie.
“Once you have kids, everything changes,” says Hotch, 36. “I want to spend time with them. I want to watch them grow up. I’ll get back into building motorcyles, and I have plenty of ideas, but right now, with the economy stressing, it’s just not my focus. My kids are. But this is just a hiatus. I’m a workaholic. I’ll work day or night on whatever I’m into. And right now, that’s my kids.”
Hotch supports himself and his family primarily by selling parts to other builders. “About 90 percent of the people who build motorcycles use things I’ve invented,” Hotch says. “And that’s always been what kept the light on and helped me devote my time to building rolling works of art out of nothing. I always said that if I had to build these bikes for a living, I wouldn’t do it. But I’ll always have an interest in motorcycles.”
1. Pick a Favorite Restaurant.
Hotch’s is La Bettola. “It’s a little hole in the wall, but it’s just unbelievable. It’s a hidden jewel. My wife and I have been going there for years.” 18504 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda, (714) 695-0470.
“I used to ride the Ortega Highway from Lake Elsinore into Cook’s Corner. It used to be a lot of fun. But honestly, nowadays, there is no safe place to ride out there. Just too many cars on the road.”
3. Buy a Safe Motorcycle.
“You have to trust your source. There are a lot of people building bikes that just aren’t safe. If you can afford to, buy a new one from Harley or a trusted dealer. If you’re looking used, try LifeStyle Cycles.” Anaheim/Fullerton Harley-Davidson, 2635 W. Orangethorpe Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-6563; www. harleyfullerton.com. LifeStyle Cycles, 1534 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 490-0155; www.lifestylecycles.com.
4. Take the Kids Out.
“I really love Fullerton’s parks. There are a lot of great open areas in the city.”
5. Deal With the Schizo Economy.
“The only thing you can control is your overhead, so you have to be flexible enough to downsize and ride it out.”
6. Give Back.
Hotch sits on the board of the Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs Foundation, an organization dedicated to fostering hands-on skills in young people. “In 20 years, we’re going to have a serious problem in this country because we will have no electricians, no framers, no mechanics. And with schools not offering auto, metal or wood shop, kids aren’t even being given the opportunity to learn if they’re any good at anything.” www.nutsandboltsfoundation.org.
7. Work for Free.
His advice for a high-school student who isn’t into books but really wants to work with his or her hands? “Walk into a shop and offer to sweep it for free and learn from the people who have been doing it for years,” he says. “That’s what people used to do: They were journeymen. But you have to take the initiative.”
8. Show Off.
When he hosts out-of-town visitors, Hotch stays true to his city. “I have a lot of people come here, and sure, we’ll go down to Newport or Laguna. But everyone really seems to like Fullerton. It’s not like the rest of Orange County, where everything seems brand-new and all looks the same. Each restaurant and bar has something unique about it, and that’s something I feel proud about living here.”
9. Find a Reliable Mechanic.
“Never go out shopping for a mechanic. Always ask people you know and trust. My best experience has always been with referrals. But, just around my house, I know Gary’s Radiator is super-honest, and so are Freek’s Garage and Commercial Tire.” Gary’s Radiator, 225 W. Truslow Ave., Ste. B, Fullerton, (714) 526-3367. Freek’s Garage, 321 S. Highland Ave., Fullerton, (714) 871-9650; www.freeksgarage.com. Commercial Tire, 539 W. Valencia Dr., Fullerton, (714) 871-1766.
10. Learn to Negotiate Traffic.
“I honestly hate driving in traffic, and I rely on Sigalert all the time.” www.sigalert.com.
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