The interest in street trackers has exploded since Sideburn launched in 2008, but there has been one constant - Mule Motorcycles. A one-man operation, that one man being Richard 'Mule' Pollock, Mule Motorcycles consistently build the cleanest, best thought out street trackers, each with a stance that few other builders can match.
I first saw a Mule bike at my first ever dirt track race, at the Del Mar Mile in 2000. A custom Ducati 916 Mule had built was parked in a historic row of racebikes. I took a snap (on a film camera - these being pre-digital days) and I still have the print in my office.
We profiled Mule in Sideburn issue 3, and have featured his bikes in various issues, most recently the Honda XR600 Mule built for the Arctic Monkeys drummer, Matt Helders, which was the cover bike of Sideburn 48. Mule have also advertised in Sideburn for most of our life.
We thought it was time for a catch up and threw a Q&A at him. Gary Inman, Editor
The Master: Richard 'Mule' Pollock
SIDEBURN: How many street trackers have you built for customers over the years? MULE: I’m up to about 230.
You've built all sorts, but the staples are the Yamaha XS650, Harley Sportster and Hinckley Triumphs. Do you have a favourite out of those three, and if so, why? Each of those has their strong points. The Yamaha ends up being the lightest, but with the least potential power output. The Triumph has a ton of power potential and the weight can be reduced a lot. The Sportsters (pre-rubber mount) have huge power potential and while a considerable amount of weight can be trimmed (usually based on budget), they will be the heaviest of the three.
One of Mule's favourite XS650 builds, nicknamed OZ
Back to the Yamaha, the newest one is 40 years old requiring a complete refresh of the motor at a minimum and power upgrades after that. The Triumphs, pre-water cooled, can be had relatively cheap, motor upgrades are readily available and chassis mods and weight reduction again is unlimited based on budget. The Sportsters are out there used by the jillions and there’s at least a dozen companies making hop-up parts for the motors. In the end, a Harley based build will have the highest resale value, which when emotions take over during the dreaming stage, few customers take into account. My favourite at this point would have to be the Sportster. That said, I’m doing a 900SS Ducati (among others) and I still would like to do an Enfield twin and an airhead BMW…eventually.
Adam Leslie’s XR650R
Which bikes are you most proud of and why? The Moss Landing Assault Vehicle (the green XS650 at the top of this post), The Punisher (1660cc Sportster), the OWR2, OZ-XS650, Sean’s SR500/540, Adam Leslie’s XR650R, The Streetmaster Superlight Triumph Bonnie and of course the Web Surfer! Why? I could write a book. Each one has a long convoluted story.
The Streetmaster Superlight Triumph Bonnie. Featured in SB8. Back issues available
How many customer builds do you have in progress at any time? Varies from 2 to 10.
Have you done anything with new generation Indians? Do they interest you? They interest me but not a whole lot. The Scouts more than the FTR. The FTR’s seem to be a pretty good design needing only to go on the Jenny Craig diet program! The Scout looks like a lot could be improved, primarily in the frame and stance.
How is your order book looking? What do you have in progress? Right now several bikes. The 900SS Ducati, XS650 Yamaha, five Sportsters, a 1972 XL250 Honda, Trackmaster Triumph roadracer and a KTM Supermoto street bike.
The Web Surfer Sportster
What price does a Mule street tracker start at? $28-30K-ish.
Are you still learning and trying new things, or do you have a Mule routine when it comes to building bikes? Always learning and refining. Striving for continual improvement, but more or less tied to what people ask me to build. Nothing seems to be routine.
Which current bike builders excite or inspire you? Max Hazan for sure, Walt Siegl's Ducati builds, XTR Pepo from Spain, Sundance and Sanctuary from Japan and Curt Winter.
Is there any part of the process you really don't like? Worrying about getting paid.
You moved out of Southern California to Idaho, anything you miss about your old home? 45 years worth of friends and connections and, of course, the year round great weather. You pay for it though. I moved to California because it was the centre of the motorcycling universe. Motorcycle jobs, tracks, huge number of enthusiasts, racing and just all around energy. Most of that has evaporated. That said, we had access to two supermoto tracks within an hour’s drive which I really liked riding on! Both were kart tracks which seem to be able to survive in spite of the Evil Empire.
Mule on the Supermoto track
Are you still racing now you live in Idaho? Still racing as often as there is racing. We have two flat tracks locally, but the turnout is not at Southern California levels (at their one remaining track).
And hoisting one at the dirt track...
You're active on some websites, and you're quite blunt with people, and dismissive of some of their bikes. What makes you want to engage with those sites and people, rather than just ignore the stuff some people do, say and write? I am extremely passionate about motorcycles…and building them. What I really like when I’m building something, is to have another set of eyes look and tell you what they DON’T like. What could be better, what looks weird or plain wrong. Or ask, 'Why did you do that?' I learn from that or at the least rethink it and question how committed I am to an idea. We’re are becoming a world where everyone gets a trophy. Effort is more important than results. That’s just not my world. If something looks stupid or unsafe or poorly thought out or what’s very common is a trend or fad that is duplicated times one hundred. I comment with the hope that it will make some one think. Or build something original.
A rare excursion into road racers for Mule: the 2004 Yamaha YZFR1-powered OWR2.
Built for former MotoGP world champ, Wayne Rainey
Building a bike requires skills in a lot of different areas. I’ve made a billion mistakes working on bikes because there was no coach. The best thing you can expect is a friend or co-worker that will criticise you and then throw you a few scraps you can learn from. There is no instant gratification. You just have to want to keep improving. To quote world famous hot rod builder Pete Chapouris, 'You can put just as much time and money into a project and have it look like crap as one that looks bitchin’. You just have to be able to learn the difference.' I want to help people learn to tell the difference, one blunt comment at a time. I’d like to think some of the beginner builders would actually appreciate constructive comments. 'Hey! If you make the throttle cable too short, the bike will accelerate when you turn the bars and you’ll break your collarbone!' Although other commenters will say, 'Hey he worked on that bike for six months!' Great. Good luck. Tough love. I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again.
Thanks Richard. Find out more at Mulemotorcycles.net