Ben and Dave live in the same small town in North Cornwall. Dave is an engineer for a local company and a keen bmxer, Ben an art and design teacher who was born into motorcycles.When they met, Ben had been riding motorcycles for a few years and already had a couple of builds under his belt; an original Triton and a Honda race bike that he built with his Dad.
Dave had just finished his first Honda 125 build and was in the process of taking his full bike test. Naturally, their shared passion for motorcycles and all things rad led them to start GNAS, a Cornish word pronounced “nass” meaning natural and characterful, a pretty accurate description.
“After hanging out a few times, we decided to build bikes together, something different, raw, with a lot of character, influenced by our passions and creativity. We love all sorts of bikes from veterans and pre-war to the modern take on café racers and trackers.”
GNAS reside on the beautiful North Cornish coastline at Wadebridge. They are lucky enough to have some stunning roads to play on, so their bikes have to work. These are not cheque book bike builders, they don’t have overflowing bank accounts or unlimited PayPal funds to chuck money at the builds.
“We use what we have or stuff picked up at jumble sales and autojumbles, we buy very little new.”
They frequently use skateboard and BMX parts they have lying around.
“We actually build everything ourselves in a very basic workshop, from the mechanicals, framework, electrics, paint and even the seat upholstery.”
It’s hard to describe what GNAS is. A family, a crew, with friends all over the country, from VMCC members, to skatebaorders, bmxers, motocross riders and more. Riding to BBQ’s, chillin at the beach, skateparks, racing round friends gardens. Spreading the word, furthering the cause, the bikes are always there.
“We’ve built several 125 customs for our friends to get them on two wheels (with an engine).”
GNAS live and breathe this stuff, they are some of the most authentic, most real builders I’ve had the pleasure to work with. They are so much more than custom bike builders. That’s one part of a lifestyle that most of us dream about. That dream of living for the moment, doing what you love.
Their builds are not your typical custom builds. They tend to favour original, period parts with the hard earned patina intact.
“Scuffs and marks are kept to tell the story of the bike.”
Their first build was a Honda 500 single brat called the SK8MX 500 (skateboard BMX) with a raw patina’d CB350 tank, skateboard rear mudguard, removable BMX rack, BMX pedal footpegs, an iPhone charger and a skateboard truck numberplate holder. This bike helped to open new doors for them. They rode the bike at the Malle Mile, DGR, and other events.
Since the genesis of GNAS, marked by the creation of SK8MX, there have been many builds; the K RIPPER, LIL THUMP, a monkey bike with sidecar (“Monkey Missile for kids and big kids”), and now the KTM aka SK8TM.
SK8TM started life as a stock, early premix model KTM 200 EXC. The bike had been very well looked after with every receipt including a full engine rebuild. Ben knew this would be the perfect weapon of choice for tearing round the woods and fields, super lightweight and agile, with impressive performance. The frenzied thrill and raw edged excitability you get with a two stroke is like a drug that brings on a bought of recklessness. A two stroke custom is a pretty rare thing, so the build began.
Ben stripped the KTM of its orange plastics, exposing the steel skeleton of the bike, then began to rebuild. There’s a new shortened, steel bolt-on subframe, which incorporates a neat grab/tie handle. An old maroon tank with gold and cream pinstripes from a Honda Benly that was hanging in the workshop was repurposed, modified, polished up and fitted to the bike, original patina intact. Ben wanted the lines to flow through the bike so added a strip of steel and a gold edge rail to the lower edge of the tank, which lines up with the black steel of the subframe and the skateboard deck seat base……yes, skateboard decks.
Their bikes have a very unique style. We mentioned before, they use influences and parts from outside the motorcycle world, very cool. The SK8MX follows this tradition with the use of used skateboard decks for front mudguard, radiator cowls, chain guard and seat base. I’m a big fan of the GNAS vibe.
GNAS have injected their personality deep in to the DNA of this bike. The bike is dripping with unique a cool details and engineering and design touches. On the front are a pair of very cool Dakar style headlights, mounted on a modified, well-used Venture skateboard truck. The other Venture truck has been integrated into the sidestand base, cut and ali welded to the bottom of the alloy sidestand.
Hand fabricated hand protectors are subtly stamped with HOLD on one and FAST on the other, “cuz, you do when you ride this thing”.
The boys have been using old BMX pedals as pegs for a while, usually with the centres cut out. For this build, in preparation for the abuse it would be receiving, Ben drilled and tapped more holes in the top of the pedals and added more grip pins. Their friend Kieran welded the two sides together while Ben butchered a set of KTM pegs, fabricating a steel based for the whole assembly to be mounted on.
Typically, Ben makes the seats from scratch for their GNAS bikes, including the upholstery, using his mum’s old sewing machine no less. A handmade seat takes time and it was thought that it would likely get wrecked in the woods so the plan was to modify one they had kicking about from a previous 125 build to make a cheap easily replaceable one. In under an hour they had popped the staples out, cut the base, shaped a new seat and stapled the whole lot back together along with adding an Elina style lightning bolt logo. That’s a legendary BMX seat for those of you not in the know.
The GNAS tank badge was made in Ben’s school DT department (don’t tell them). The typeface is double layer and based on the original Honda badges and mounts to the tank using the original screws. It’s very convincing and had more than a couple of people wondering what manufacturer GNAS was.