The Craftsman: An Interview with Tony Prust of Analog Motorcycles

British Customs interviews Tony Prust about unrestricted builds, high-end carpentry, and building motorcycles by hand.

Tony Prust of Analog Motorcycles
Tony Prust of Analog MotorcyclesBritish Customs

Tony Prust is the founder of Analog Motorcycles, based out of Chicago. His work is highly respected, and he has been featured multiple times in BikeEXIF, Pipeburn, and Cycle World. He is also part of the British Customs Pro Builder Series. He was invited by Thor Drake of See See Motorcycles to put his latest custom motorcycle on display at the 2016 One Moto Show in Portland, OR.

British Custom: How did Analog Motorcycles get started?

Tony Prust: I customized everything I ever owned growing up. As I got into my adult years, that progressed into customizing my motorcycles. In 2007 I had the idea to try a full ground-up custom build with a CB750, and it turned out well enough that I thought it had the potential to grow into something else, something bigger. So I named the bike, and came up with the name Analog because I had a past career in audio engineering, and I loved the simple methods of recording. A buddy asked me to build him a bike, so I did, and it got some press. Another buddy then asked me to build him a bike, so I did, and it got more press. And then people started calling and asking for builds, and I decided I had to figure out a way to make money doing it. Analog started out as a hobby that turned into a part time gig that developed into a full time gig.

BC: What does it mean to you to be able to do something by hand and create it yourself?

TP: I’m one of those guys who doesn’t function if he isn’t making things with his hands. Before Analog, I had a career in high-end carpentry doing built-in staircases and mantles. After the market tanked I found myself scrounging around remodeling bathrooms and I hated it, so I went to look for other creative outlets. I need some kind of creative outlet. I love motorcycles to the point where it makes sense that I have to be doing it this way, because if I wasn’t doing this for a living it would have to be done some other way.

Analog Motorcycles custom Triumph
Analog Motorcycles custom TriumphBritish Customs

BC: How did you learn all the skills you need to build a custom motorcycle from the ground up?

TP: I’m self-taught. I learned through a lot of trial and error, as a hands-on learner. I took some crash courses with friends and was always experimenting with the next skill I needed to know on my own things so that I wouldn’t ever put anyone in jeopardy. In the early 2000s, I was doing a lot of track days and would disassemble my bike, do whatever I needed to do to it, and then reassemble it without any problems. That was before I had ever done a full build.

BC: Where do you think the custom motorcycle scene is going?

TP: We’re in the thick of it right now. It’s become mainstream enough that you go to the mall and there are ads for Fossil watches featuring custom motorcycles. I don’t see the scene going away, and neither has it plateaued. Manufacturers realize it, and so have ad agencies. It’s tough to say where it’s going though. I think it may shift towards something entirely new, like electric bikes.

Custom BMW R90/6 from Analog Motorcycles
Custom BMW R90/6 from Analog MotorcyclesBritish Customs

BC: You’ve worked on a wide range of systems, from recent KTMs and Ducatis to 40s Indians. Do you have any preferences as to what kind of bike you like to work on?

TP: I prefer air-cooled carbureted singles and twins, but I don’t mind liquid-cooled or EFI bikes. There just isn’t as much room for customization without a significantly larger budget on a liquid-cooled or EFI bike. My customers tend to want more customization, so they gravitate towards those platforms. I thrive off the challenge of working with odd models or strange systems though. I don’t ever mind getting knee deep or neck deep in something; I don’t mind figuring out the odd stuff.

BMW R75/5 from Analog Motorcycles
Custom BMW R75/5 from Analog MotorcyclesBritish Customs

BC: What build are you bringing with you to The One Show?

TP: It’s a spec-build that I got do to whatever I wanted on. My goal is to do one or two of my own builds without restrictions per year. Those builds are just all me. The bike I’m bringing with me this year is a 1976 BMW R90/6, and it’s a ground-up machine. It’s the best handling bike I’ve built, with a custom subframe, full engine and trans rebuild, redone geometry, and a ton of other custom work. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and I’m a little sad that the bike just found a buyer.

For more interviews with builders from the One Moto Show and features on their awesome bikes and parts, check out British-Customs.com