Union Motorcycle

Union Motorcycle custom bike workshop
Sometimes, usually towards the end of a hard week, I daydream about the kind of motorcycle business I’d like to own. Somewhere out in the country, where the pace of life is less frenetic, and the commute is a leisurely ride through twisting backroads. And thanks to reader Jeff Barker, I know that such a place exists. It’s called Union Motorcycle Classics, and it’s in the small town of Nampa, built on the Oregon Short Line Railroad in Idaho. As these images show, it’s a bucolic world straight from the pages of Shop Class as Soulcraft—one of my favorite motorcycling books—and a far cry from the edgy urban vibe of most custom motorcycle shops. According to Jeff Barker, there’s a growing custom scene in the wider Boise area, and Union is at the forefront. It’s what you might call a full service shop, offering regular maintenance and parts as well as restorations and customizations. On the Union website you’ll see a small but tantalising mix of custom bikes, including a Norton Commando, a Ducati 900SS and a quirky Yamaha RD60. Recent renovations include the lovely 1974 Montesa Cota 25 shown below, and in case you’re wondering, the 1961 Triumph Tiger Cub in the final shot isn’t a resto job: they decided to leave the cosmetics of that one untouched, to preserve the patina. Just like the lovely aged finish on the walls of the old red barn that Union calls home.

Montesa Cota 25
Custom Norton Commando
Triumph Tiger Cub

  • Jeff

    Hey Chris! Great write up for Union! Thanks for mentioning me but I’d love to also mention the real guys behind the shop, Mike Watanabe and Luke Ransom. They’re building a great scene out at the barn, a whole vibe that is just awesome. The bikes are what it’s all about with them but it’s also about the feel and philosophy of vintage bikes. A real holistic approach to it. It really is an amazing place. Thanks again!

  • powermatic

    Nice story, and love these bikes, but don’t wax too romantic abut the ‘idyllic paradise that is Idaho’. I grew up in Boise, and the lure of a free Brough Superior wouldn’t be enough to make me move back. Nampa-formerly 20 miles from Boise- is basically now a suburb, and can only be called “small” by a very imaginative definition. An ultra-conservative populace that won’t allow even the most modest of Urban Growth Boundaries is slowly ruining the state, unless you consider a nice ride in the country to be a constant parade of traffic on two-lane roads, due to the innumerable 5-acre ‘gentleman’ farms, replete with tacky two-story McMansions, on what used to be working farmland.

    Still, the ride to Idaho City, and on into Stanley, is still great, at least on a weekday not during hunting season-but only because it’s mainly BLM and Forest Service, not private, land. As a comparison, though, try riding from Boise to McCall on a weekend-even those of a non-religious persuasion may be tempted to turn towards a Higher Power for survival.

    All this in no way is a reflection on this shop, or the guys running it, just a different perspective on Idaho from someone who’s been there. All luck and power to them, and as I said, great bikes.

  • David Enfield

    Sounds like Idaho could do with some serious “bikin’ – up” , and by the state of this Union they’re going to get it . Crack on boys , you’re doing a grand job .

  • Bailey

    My brother just started an internship with these guys. They do some great work.