The first American-made motorcycle was produced by a Waltham, MA factory in 1898. Since then, motorcycles have become a part of Americana, embodying for some the freedom that can only be found on the open road.
In Turners Falls, that spirit is still alive at NOVA Motorcycles. NOVA brings out the best of old motorcycles by restoring them into new rides. Connecting Point’s Ross Lippman takes us to their shop to see how they take a vintage ride and give it a modern spin.
This story originally aired on September 12, 2019.
Read the full transcript:
Sayre Anthony, NOVA Motorcycles: I think motorcycling is an activity that puts you very much in the moment. You know, you have to be very, very present to do it right. Whether you’re working on it or riding it,you, you can’t take anything for granted.
Peter Chilton, NOVA Motorcycles: Well, I grew up on two wheels, you know, my whole childhood was about bicycles. So, I think there’s a big portion of my psyche that’s associated like the freedom of just going anywhere we wanted to, even as a kid, with transportation on two wheels.
Sayre Anthony: If you’re in a large SUV, you have a super barrier between you and the world when you’re driving around. You don’t really see other people as real, you know, coequal beings in the world, so to speak.
On a motorcycle, you do. It’s been motorcycles for a long time for me, in varying states. One thing that’s really great about Pete and I are, we have separate skill sets. He does so many things that I can’t do, and I do things that he can’t do.
Peter Chilton: I was like, “Hey, we should start a motorcycle company and I’ll design them and you can like, repair them.”
And he was like, “OK!” So that’s how that’s how NOVA started.
Sayre Anthony: From end of April, beginning of May, until end of September, we’re doing pretty much repairs, which I considered, for the most part, shorter term stuff.
And the other seasons winter, fall-winter, and early spring, we’re doing more deeper restorations. That’s when we try to do our motor work, and that’s when we do most of our custom work.
Peter Chilton: My designs are always based on simplicity, making the most complicated parts of the motorcycle as simple as possible. That’s — that’s what I’m always trying to do.
If all the bikes we built were actually mine, I would be really excited. I think none of them are perfect. There’s still things I’m like, “OK, on the next one, we’ll do it this way.” Or, you know.
But I think they’re all nice. I just love them.
Sayre Anthony: It’s a bit hectic in repair season, in a good way, like — not like not unlike a restaurant. Where people are coming in and the phone’s ringing emails are happening, a lot of just on-the-fly in the moment. Questions and answers and got to get this done. Got to get it back out the door.
We all do this because we love the work, and when you can work like that, it’s really the best. You know, that’s that’s our ideal.
Peter Chilton: I dream about foot pegs and headlight mounts and things like that.
Yeah, I tend to drive a lot. I drive, you know, I commute an hour each way ,and no radio on, just like my brain’s always processing. Like, What’s the next thing? What’s the next step?
The other thing that we wanted to get into is motorcycle tours. We live in a great area of the Pioneer Valley. Western Mass, southern Vermont has some of the best roads in New England. And people that have ridden out here with us know that, and we would like to sort of share that a little bit more.
Sayre Anthony: I have worked desk jobs and not been happy. So no, I can’t. It’s yeah, it’s pretty good. So it’s we’re — yeah. Um. No, I can’t.
It’s hard, it’s hard to spend your life doing something that you don’t care about. I — the chances, the moments I’ve had doing that, I don’t think that’s something I want to do, you know?
And so no, I’m very glad to be where I am.