B.Intl: Custom Bike Engineer Rafe Pugh

A true craftsman; Rafe Pugh of Old Empire Motorcycles tells us about his passion for creating unique motorcycles.

March 6th 2017
Our #ForTheFreeSpirited campaign encapsulates the feeling of being confident enough to choose your direction in life and follow your passions. To mark the launch of the SS17 Barbour Interational collection we’re uncovering four individuals who create their own paths. In the third instalment of our blog series, we spoke to Rafe Pugh, who chased his enthusiasm for custom bike building and decided to become a partner at Old Empire Motorcycles

What do you do at Old Empire Motorcycles?
We build complete bespoke one off machines, crafting something unique specifically tailored to the individual. Old Empire Motorcycles started 6 years ago by my business partner Alec Sharp. Here at Old Empire Motorcycles, we set out to create the original, it’s very important for us to have this iconic styling but with a distinctly British feel.
How long have you been building bikes?
Most of my life really, although it’s a bit clichéd, I have always been a bit of a lone wolf in terms of doing things my own way. Motorcycles, just kind of, you are on your own... it is you and the machine.
What’s going through your mind when you assess a new bike?
So every time I see a standard bike anywhere, I look at it as a blank canvas. It just gets my creative juices flowing and I think about what I could change. Just move the tank down slightly or just change the headlight for this, there’s so many things that I could do just to make it unique, make it a bespoke tailored motorcycle that’s a one-off that no one else will see.
What inspires you?
We live, eat and breathe motorcycles. It keeps your passion and your drive for what you do and there’s nothing else that I’d rather do in my life. I’m doing exactly what I want to do. Every day I’m constantly inspired, doing what I love and I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and do it again.
What are your thoughts on convention?
I think that breaking down convention and going against convention is really important. I find that so rewarding because you’re creating something that is so unique and individual, that nobody else has seen before.
Is creating something timeless important to you?
What we’re creating are pieces that are iconic, which almost look like they were built forty years ago or forty years from now, that will stand the test of time. Their appeal will be timeless and iconic.
In the campaign film you are wearing our SS17 Barbour International collection, what are your thoughts about the clothing? 
As a custom bike builder I build bikes to look good and function well, and I look to echo this in my riding attire. The Barbour International range is a motorcycle inspired collection that offers multiple options that do just that...simple as.
Steve McQueen is famous for wearing the Barbour International jackets in the 1964 ISDT. What parts of Barbour Internationals heritage inspires you the most?
Being that I trained and worked professionally as an actor, Steve McQueen has always been a source of inspiration. Not just in acting but in many ways, including motorcycle racing and his simple yet timeless style. I know I’m not the first to say it but Steve McQueen was the king of cool, and to me, part of this cool was understanding the effective simplicity and timelessness of smart casual. In the same way Barbour international have understood that simple colours, clean lines and a bold jacket characterise this timeless appeal.
In case you missed our last two #ForTheFreeSpirited blogs, we caught up with the compelling voice behind our campaign film Mr Gee and also London Musician, Alice Costelloe whose music also features in the campaign. 
Discover our SS17 Barbour International men’s and women’s collections.