I had an opportunity to meet Matt Hotch at the 25th Annual Cycle World International Motorcycle Show in Minneapolis, Minnesota and talked with him about some big changes in his life. It was interesting to find out that Matt was born in Minneapolis and lived here as a boy. I have convinced myself that this clean Minnesota living is what has inspired him to be one of most creative builders of the day.
Talking with Matt you would never get the impression he has won two consecutive Discovery Channel Biker Build-Offs. He is quiet, confident, and courteous. I expected someone with such fame and fortune to be arrogant, but that was not the case.
He started his career like a lot of builders, by “fixing his own bikes and tinkering with cars, trucks, and bikes that his father was interested in.” You really get the feeling if you were out on the road and had a problem with your bike, Matt’s the guy you would want around. He has been in the business for 16 years and has really created a name for himself by building creative designs that look cool and are made to ride. His number one priority is rideability. “In the 90s, bikes were good, but the assembly was horrible. Wires, cables, etc., were all revealed. I build the bike around all of these items, while making it a comfortable ride.”
Matt’s bikes are pre-sold to each customer, typically running in the $150,000 to $400,000 price range. And if you think you’re going to empty out your change jar and go buy one, you are sadly mistaken. “I sell to a niche market. It’s like joining a fraternity. A lot of people are turned down.” Matt spends several hours pre-screening each client, making sure they will be a good match for his creation. I don’t mean to sound as though this is a popularity contest. It’s just that I get the feeling when you purchase one of Matt’s bikes you have a friend for life.
As an example of this tight relationship, Matt vacations with all his customers as a group each year and takes them to the Playboy mansion for a yearly reunion. “You can tell within a few hours if someone is a Bentley guy or a Ferrari guy. So it’s a hot rod or something really luxurious.” All of this is accomplished while creating a work of art and something that will last a lifetime. And if it doesn’t, Matt guarantees his bikes for life. Not just anyone fits within this group. The VLux had many potential buyers, most of whom were eventually turned down. This group includes a former “big name” Minnesota Timberwolf. Matt doesn’t have much to worry about, turning people away—his waiting list is currently four years.
I also asked Matt about any new developments coming. It turns out that he is ending his relationship with HotMatch Custom Cycles and starting a new company called Matt Hotch Designs. “Before the build-off, HotMatch had all the publicity, and after the build-off Matt Hotch had all the publicity.” So Matt has sold HotMatch to his business partner who will continue to sell some of the parts. The patentable parts will come to his new company and any confusion on if there are two companies, HotMatch, and Matt Hotch Designs, will be settled. Matt does not anticipate anything really changing other than the name. He will continue to create the same “innovative designs and radical bikes.” He has already started a new web page, www.matthotchdesigns.com, and anticipates making the switch to the new company when his current merchandise runs out. He anticipates this happening within the month.
As to what else is new with Matt, he is a new father as of Christmas Eve, a new baby boy who may one day follow in his father’s footsteps. Matt is also scheduled to compete in another Biker Build-Off in August. This time he’s going up against one of his idols, Roger Goldammer. I asked Matt about the pressure he’s under during these builds. He told me he feels as though his creativity is enhanced by the short build time and pressure. Fortunately, the bikes that make the build-off are already sold and scheduled to be built well before the taping. This makes the scheduling part of it manageable. When you only build four bikes per year, you want to make sure you can capture the right bike at the right time. Matt will have his hands full with this competition. He considers Roger to be the best builder in the world. I think Matt underestimates his abilities. Either way it goes, we know the name Matt Hotch is going to be around for a long time. It was a pleasure meeting such a creative builder who obviously has his feet on the ground.
Good luck Matt with your new baby and new company. We’ll look forward to seeing the Biker Build-Off this fall.
Story and photos by Jim Nelson