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Tuesday 29 March 2022

Comment by Editor-in-Chief, Robin Bradley

How Did It Come to This?

Down the years, we here at AMD have been lucky enough to meet many dozens, indeed hundreds, of people from behind the former Iron Curtain and get to appreciate their friendship, creativity and craftsmanship.
Witnessing the emergence of the innate design and engineering genius that had been locked away for so long was a thing of joy. In the shape of the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building, I will always regard providing a platform through which it could be seen on a world stage as a career highlight. Seeing the emergence of Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian custom design and engineering has been a wonderful journey.

Award-winning Kharkiv 'AMD' World Championship of Custom Bike Building regulars Yaroslav and Alexandra Lutitsky (Iron Custom Motors).

That journey felt that it had finally arrived at its destination when we saw Dima Golubchikov of Zillers Garage in Moscow crowned as the AMD World Champion Custom Bike Builder at INTERMOT in October 2018. The unique voting system meant that it was the votes of his fellow custom bike engineers that elected Dima as their World Champion - based purely and entirely on his design, engineering and craftsmanship achievement.
Given that there was no INTERMOT in 2020, it just so happens that Dima Golubchikov is still the AMD World Champion Custom Bike Builder - and given the news (page 64) of a continuing suspension of the 'AMD' World Championship - at least through 2023 - it is quite likely that Dima will remain the reigning World Champion for some time to come.
That Dima Golubchikov is a maker of remarkable motorcycles, there is no doubt. But he is not alone. To name-check just two others - the work that Yuri Shif (of Minsk in Belarus) has shown down the years has been nothing short of remarkable and includes my all-time favorite modified Harley - a tribute to Yuri Gagarin. Indeed, we always figured that he was a likely candidate to emerge as Eastern Europe's first AMD World Champion.
But we are also thinking at this time about Yaroslav Lutitsky of Iron Custom Motors and his wife Alexandra. Wonderful people who have competed in the 'AMD' on multiple occasions - winning the Café Racer class in 2016 and always doing well with all their bikes. Yaroslav and Alexandra live in Kharkiv.
A big fat call-out too for the excellent Dmitry Khitrov - a well-travelled gentle giant of a man and one of the nicest (and most energetic) of people you could ever wish to meet. There are many in the custom motorcycle industry all around the world - not least in the United States - who are lucky enough to have met Dmitry on one or another of his travels.
As the organizer of custom bike shows in Moscow (his 2022 event was due to take place at the start of April), and organizer of the group trips that Russian custom bike builders have been making to the 'AMD' at INTERMOT, he has been the spiritual leader of the custom motorcycle industry in Russia - its inspiration, its pathway to opportunity and its Godfather (in a good way!). We all hope that he will be able to be so again one day.
I don't care what these people's politics are. The whole point about freedom and democracy, about so-called liberal values, is that people are entitled to believe whatever they like - until it starts to compromise other people's ability to enjoy the same privileges. I am sure that these are folk who will be as aghast at current developments as all the rest of us in the 'West' are.
In that regard, I'm going to leave the final words on this subject to someone who clearly is mortified by what is happening.
When Timur Sardarov - CEO and owner of MV Agusta in Italy - and his family's ComSar Invest (an investment fund subsidiary of the Sardarov family's Black Ocean Group) finally stepped in and ultimately stabilized MV Agusta in 2016/2017 after the trauma of the Harley-Davidson, V 2.0 Castiglioni and Mercedes years, any initial fears about 'Oligarch Creep' in the motorcycle industry were quickly dismissed.
It soon became apparent that Timur was, and remains, a determined and above all passionate brand advocate who has been unstinting in his efforts to find and build a sustainable and future-proof pathway for that most storied of brands. It hasn't hurt his mission that along the way he also just happens to have been able to oversee bringing some really excellent motorcycles to market too.
In remarks in a letter to employees that was subsequently authorized for public release, and additional widely reported remarks posted to his Instagram account, he has made his feelings very clear.
"I have never felt so bad in my life, feeling absolutely disgusted, ashamed and betrayed by this horrific, stupid and cruel act of war. I believe Russians have never been so betrayed by any regime in our long, difficult and proud history! This act does not represent us!"
No equivocation there, and kudos to Timur for telling it how it is, despite what are likely to be the politically sensitive waters that he and his family may well find themselves having to navigate at this time.

Slava Ukraini