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Brice Hennebert of Workhorse Speedshop


An Interview

When you find your passion at a young age, anything can happen.

It was clear from an early age, Brice Hennebert was going to do “something” with motorcycles. He used his creative thinking and skills in many different areas, but eventually ended up with his first and biggest love. With Workhorse Speedshop, he now builds world renowned custom bikes. Step into the world of this talented Belgian…

In recent years, a somewhat romanticized image has been created surrounding the profession of a custom bike builder. Working on the coolest motorcycles in a beautiful, clean, and authentic workshop. A comfortable chesterfield sofa in the middle of the shop, flanked by a chic carpet, while motorcycle-related coffee table books are lying on a big teak reading table. When move past this setup, we enter the actual workspace with a functional liftgate and neatly tidy workshop. In a modern industrial estate in Wavre, Belgium, such a place is hard to find, because the work floor of Workhorse Speedshop is primarily functional.

"There needs to be dynamism in the lines."

Creating Space

Owner, Brice Hennebert, has cleared out space for the necessary metalworking machines, two 3D printers, and a welding machine hidden in the corner. Here you will not find any clichés that are supposed to create a custom-built atmosphere. For a few years now, Brice has been located here, in a collective building with a motor service center and builder of racing cars. And he likes it, because this also gives the 37-year-old custom builder use of a dyno bench.

"Before, I worked in my father's workshop. That was a lot more atmospheric, but not ideal for working on motorcycles. Here, it's a lot less sexy, but much more functional. In the end, that's more pleasant."

From his workplace in Wavre, which is situated on the border of Flanders and Wallonia, Brice manages to make an impression with his creations each build. In a relatively short time, the Belgian has made a name for himself in the custom world. A big achievement, considering he has been wrenching motorcycles for less than ten years.

"In 2012, I bought a cheap little Honda CB for about a thousand euros. The intention was to rebuild that bike in a way that I could use something cool daily," Brice explains. "My dad still had a Rickman racing fairing lying around, so I wanted to use that for the CB. At the time, I had no plans whatsoever to eventually make it my business. That would have been a strange thought too because I didn't even know how to weld."

From Owning a Clothing Brand to Starting a Workshop

The fact that he started working on a Japanese motorcycle can be called a small miracle. His father, Vincent, was not exactly thrilled when his son wanted to work on a Japanese bike. "I was inspired by the work of Wrenchmonkees, who actually just started rebuilding Japanese motorcycles. I absolutely loved that, but my father, on the other hand, didn't like it at all because he was used to wrenching English and Italian motorcycles. Together with his friends, he built several café racers. So Japanese wasn't really his thing, but I went for it anyway.

It seemed to work out well because soon Brice had his first 'customer.’ "A good friend of mine thought my bike was cool, so he asked if I could build something for him too. So I did," Brice recalls.

Hobby-wise, the friendly Belgian continues to build, but during that same period, he is primarily concerned with the growth of the clothing brand 5 Yards. He explains, "My former girlfriend played field hockey at a high level, and we decided to start our own clothing line. That went well right away, but I felt like I was becoming more and more of a manager. That didn't feel right."

When the relationship with his girlfriend ended, the adventure of 5 Yards did too. It offered new opportunities for Brice and he could focus even more on custom building. Together with friend, Olivier Vaessen, he started Kruz Company, but that didn’t work out. After this, he worked for a parts supplier, but Brice decided to focus full-time on building custom motorcycles. On January 1, 2016, he started his own business from his father's workshop under the name of Workhorse Speedshop.

Sportive Styling

At Workhorse Speedshop, he definitely broke through as a skilled custom builder thanks to a completely rebuilt BMW RnineT. The looks and performance of this motorcycle garnered Brice  some very welcome media attention. It also seemed to be the perfect starting point to his career trajectory as it led to a collaboration with Yamaha. Brice joined the Japanese brand's “YARD Built program” and ended up being the only custom builder to receive a message from Yamaha Racing. His creation would later compete in the famous Punk's Peak sprint race during Wheels and Waves, the famed annual moto gathering in the South of France. Once again, Workhorse Speedshop was making name for itself, with the stunning “Sakura.” The sportive styling of the unusual sprinter suits the Belgian custom builder exactly, although Brice himself is not so sure what his own distinctive style is now.

"I process a lot of input, especially coming from the streetcar culture. I love the Japanese scene. They don't shy away from a little geekiness and just throw weird elements into their design," Brice indicates. "So I end up using a lot of sources of inspiration, but because of that, I can't really say how to describe my own style. What I do know, is that for me, it is critical that the design of the bike is right. There must be dynamism in the lines. For me, that's really the key to making a good custom bike."

Fun Memories

The energy to come up with a special and unique custom build every time comes from his unconditional love for motorcycles, something the former tattoo artist possesses. Growing up in the small village of Beauvechain, he was drawn into the wonderful world of motorcycles as a little boy, all thanks to his father Vincent.

"He was always working on motorcycles. A nice memory from that time is, for example, the import of 14 Ural sidecars. He had ordered them directly from the factory, but they were not very careful with these bikes. For example, the tires were nailed to the floor of the truck, and you could also see various shoeprints on them. It took my father another five months to get the sidecars ready for street use." Eventually, five Ural owners sought the adventure and made several trips through Europe. Eleven-year-old Brice went along with his father, as so did the dog, who sat nicely bedside him.

A Lot of Work

On this day, Brice can celebrate Workhorse Speedshop's five-year anniversary and he obviously hopes that many more beautiful creations may follow into the future. The Belgian recently completed two very special custom Indians, based on the FTR1200. They are grandiosely displayed in the workshop, the “AMA” and the “Black Swan.” Although these projects ran simultaneously and involved a lot of work, Brice was not thinking of hiring additional staff. He wanted to remain a one-man show.

"I don't want to become a manager of my own company again, that is just managing employees," he makes clear. "In that respect, I like to work alone. That way I don't have to answer to anyone either and I continue to feel free. That's extremely important to me."

Although Brice does not want to create a company with staff, he does have to deal with a team. In recent years, he managed to gather a group of professionals around him, who help him with the various custom builds. "I think about twenty people helped on the AMA and Black Swan. There is a lot of work involved in these kinds of projects and you can't do everything yourself.

“Of course, I can learn certain techniques, but that takes a lot of time and practice. Besides, I don't want to do that, because I have gathered people around me who are all real specialists in their own field. It is cool to work with them to achieve the desired end result. It's a very pleasant way of working and I hope to continue doing projects in this way." 


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