You can tell a Mule Motorcycle at a glance. Well, usually. Richard Pollock is the man behind this highly respected off-mainstream marque, and he's got a style as distinct as a fingerprint—and one that leaves satisfying smudges everywhere his bikes go.
Most of his motorcycling platforms are modern Triumphs. Why? That's undoubtedly because they're convenient, accessible, adaptable, reliable/affordable and acceptable to owners from all sectors of the biking community. Moreover, these bikes are still fairly new, and as such they present a lot of virgin and fertile territory for a creative motorcycle engineer.
Ten years ago, there was very little aftermarket parts for Hinckley Triumphs. But a few far-sighted companies saw the writing on the wall and recognised that T120 and T140 Triumphs, as cool as they are, simply don't cut if for a growing number of riders. Understandably, these guys want to have their cake and eat it, and when they've got the cake, they want some cream too. Hence Mule Motorcycles.
Mule Motorcycles street tracker style
We've already got one of Richard's creations featured here on Sump [Mule Motorcycles; Ralph Avis]. But here are a bunch of other machines from the man himself who's based in a Southern California and works alone, and is already something of a household—or at least a garage—name around the world.
If you get the chance, check his work up close and personal. It's unfussy. Economical. And businesslike. He favours the raw, direct and not-too-convoluted look, and clearly wants to ensure that form and function work in harmony rather than at odds with each other, which is a road that many other custom bike builders travel.
Mule Motorcycle are, instead, designed to be ridden in the real world, hence a strong thematic tendency towards up-rated forks, improved brakes, firmer rear dampers/shock absorbers, and a general habit of trimming the fat. In short, if Richard Pollock was a butcher, he'd be selling the leanest cuts of beef on the block. Served rare.
▲ Mule Motorcycles oil cooler kit. Essential for cleaning up the front end of your 2001-onward Bonnie and when fitting Mule exhausts. Check his site for details and current pricing.
▲ Mule Motorcycles front hub in 2024 aluminium with double bearings. Designed for the Triumph Bonneville (Hinckley), but suitable for Yamaha 650s and Harley-Davidson Sportsters. Weight-saving over the stock item is 4.5lbs. Check his site for current pricing.
So what's Richard Pollock's story?
"My background? Well, just a normal kid, I guess. I started by building model cars and cutting up bicycles. Back then, when I was 7 years old, I subscribed to Hot Rod magazine and was continually drawing pictures of planes, bikes, cars and trucks.
“My dad was a space “Pioneer” starting out in the early stages of the missile/defense/space business. In 1962 we moved close to Cape Canaveral in Florida as my dad was setting up a new facility there.
“Unfortunately, he could never talk about anything he was involved in at
work. But what I did know was he could fix anything electrical or mechanical. He built our first TV in the mid ‘50s. So I’d like to think I got some mechanical genes in there somewhere.
“In the 1960s, motorcycles were everywhere in Florida, so the interest in bikes really took off there. At age 17 I got my first bike, a 250cc Honda Scrambler. After about 6 months of riding, I knew—or thought I knew—everything there was to know about biking and proceeded to bore a hole through the side of a car. When I got out of the hospital, I couldn’t wait to get another bike.
“Next up was a CZ250 followed by years of dirt bike riding, and then back to the street. A few early Triumphs came along, then a Suzuki, and then many years of Yamahas. With that, I more or less naturally developed an interest in road racing.
“There were a few TZ750s being run out of a motorcycle shop I worked at. Later, I got very interested in flat track racing. Being older at this point, I was much more analytical in my approach. You would think that riding in circles and doing 15 second lap times would be easy and/or boring. It’s not! It’s very technique oriented and small things make a big difference.
“Many years and bikes later, I still look forward to working on them and building them every day. I worked in several businesses, became a service manager in a large Yamaha shop in San Diego (where I met my wife), and in 1988, went to work building almost the same large missiles my father had worked with 30 years prior.
Building custom flat trackers
“After 23 years, I left that job and started doing what I’ve always wanted to do….build bikes. Couldn’t be happier—well, I would like to get out on the bicycle a lot more and out on the flat track as well. Both will happen more often very soon.
“Anyway, I just celebrated 31 years of blissful marriage to my very motorcycle tolerant wife. Over the years, starting back in 1984, I began having an interest in road bicycles and it meshed so well for staying fit, keeping my senses sharp on the road and improving my overall bike handling skills. It really helped my motorcycle riding too. The downside was/is, I crashed more painfully and got hurt worse/more often than I ever did on my motorcycles. I find it interesting that lots of current top level motorcycle racers train regularly on bicycles.
▲ Definitely not flat track racing, but a thrill of a completely different kind.
“I also spent a lot of years surfing. But now, while sitting in the water waiting for waves, I find I’d much rather be in the garage making stuff.
“In the world of building bikes, I don’t think I really have any special skills that anyone else doesn’t have or couldn’t learn, it’s just that I’ve always wanted to build fast, cool stuff and worked towards that. If I have anything working in my favour, it’s an eye for balance, angles, space, lines, proportions and the visual aspects of….stuff. A guy can throw a lot of expensive bits at the pile, but it has to be fitted and assembled into a well balanced, cohesive assembly.
“Occasionally you really hit it right and the total is greater than the sum of the parts. The trick is to realize what made it so. Or look at the bike for as long as it takes until you figure it out. Example: look how incredible the MotoGP bikes look. Amazing! Now note that the new litre sport bikes are slowly morphing into the MotoGP bike “look”. The changes are subtle, but they are there and the bikes are really starting to look wicked!!
“What I try to do is analyse what looks good. But more to the point, I ask why. I go onto to some of the online forums that feature bikes, and I see so much that just doesn’t sit right. Things that work right and are right will look right. Things that look wrong, most often are wrong.
▲Not one of Richard's bikes. An anonymous visitor to his site sent this street tracker image to share it. But it represents what Richard feels that a well-balanced bike with just the right poise should look like, and we're not arguing with that.
“I often voice my opinion on this subject, but it is rarely well received. For some reason, people new to the world of bikes and bike building think that a lot of effort equals “rightness”. You can put just as much effort into something that looks all wrong as something that looks right. You just need to recognize the difference.
“An example of this are the new Bonnevilles which are kinda frumpy looking. So what I’ve done is come up with a group of parts that give the bike a more serious look as opposed to the duffer/commuter bike look. The buyers of the stock bikes seem to be perfectly happy with this look and it serves them well.
“My customers, however, are generally not Triumph owners. They request a bike to be built from a Triumph that I go and source and modify for them. They want the finished product, not the starting point. That said, Triumph owners (owners of the stock models, that is) are generally not the people that ring me up. I have, however, developed a line of parts that bolt on to the stock bikes and have them on the shelf for my complete builds when needed.
“What’s next? Well, I have a couple interesting secret projects in progress that should be big news. Hopefully, they’ll both be done within a couple months. Look out for them.”
Richard Pollock at home
So what does 61-year old Richard get up to when he isn't building motorcycles?
"Well, I like music, and tend to listen to faster, upbeat stuff and have the Blues Channel on the satellite radio in the shop most of the time. I listen to Hendrix, ZZ Top, Allman Bros, 40s Swing music (Benny Goodman, for instance) anything that gets the toes tappin’ and the blood flowin’!"
And movie influences?
"I like all types of movies, especially Westerns, action, Sci-fi. I just saw Walter Mitty and American Hustle. They were both awesome! I watch old westerns on the tube when I get a chance to watch TV at all. I like their simplicity, and the good-guys always mop up in the end. My day building bikes is complex enough without going out of my way to introduce a bunch of weird stuff into my life.
▲ Mule Motorcycles billet aluminium yokes/triple clamps designed to accept Yamaha R6 or Buell Cyclone forks for better handling and scope to upgrade braking. Essential for the serious, heavy duty rider.
Favourite custom bike builders?
"Yeah, I would have to clarify that there are two things I like or can appreciate. Those would bike style and craftsmanship/technique. I look at bikes and see certain things I like and see bikes I like, but which may need a bit more refinement.
"Sometimes they merge into the same bike, but not often. So who do I admire? The Honda and Ducati factories would be at the top with their Moto GP bikes. After that, I like Clay Rathburn at Atom Bomb Custom Cycles who builds beautiful Bobbers out of early Triumphs. They’re not overdone and have really nice details.
"Walt Siegl builds all sorts of nice bikes and once again, pays great attention to detail.
"DP Customs in Arizona are building uniquely “60’s Dragbike” styled customs all based on Iron and early Evo Sportsters.
"And I really like a lot of stuff that Roland Sands builds, and he comes up with some awesome anodizing and coloured finishes better than just about anybody. I'd love to do a collaboration with him, or with any of these guys for that matter.
"Freddie Kruegger in Belgium is absolutely off the charts with the stuff he comes up with. Stunning work, and I think anybody of any bike persuasion can appreciate what he does. However, some builds look very complex when perhaps they don’t need to be.
"Radical Ducati seems to take a racebike theme to an artistic level that I really like a lot.
"Sanctuary in Japan with their 70s-80s air-cooled superbike builds are the ultimate streetbikes. Not antiques, but real retro muscle! That would be my favourite era of motorcycling. Big, air-cooled superbikes. You had to have skill to build them, ride them, and the guys that I watched race them at Riverside, Ontario, Daytona…..those guys had large huevos!
"Graeme Crosby, Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson, Wes Cooley, Harry Klinzman. Wow!! I get goosebumps thinkin’ about it!"