Dirk Goetz is the man behind Malamadre Motorcycles. He spoke to Tony Stanton about bikes, custom builds and being a romantic at heart. Portraits: Anthony Dodds.
Hi Dirk. Can you tell us a little about where you’re from and how you grew up?
I was born in Spain, in a rainy, industrial city in the north called Bilbao, capital of the Basque Country. Things changed when the Guggenheim was built – it turned into a beautiful place with amazing food and stunning landscapes, although I have to say it still rained. My father was an engineer and we travelled a lot: Portugal, Argentina, Mexico, USA, and finally in 1985 back to Spain, Madrid. I remember having a really happy childhood. It was an enormous privilege to experience so many different cultures at such an early age.
When did your love affair with motorcycles begin?
It began in my teenage years when my friends and I discovered scooters … we all had 50cc Piaggio Vespinos. My parents wouldn’t let me have one so I kept mine at a friend’s house nearby. Even back then we modified the bikes … boring out the engines, changing exhausts, anything to get more power. We’d get to 100km/h on those things. On Sundays we’d watch the Motorcycle World Championships, the 500cc races with Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey, Randy Mamola and the like … wow! That blew our minds. Soon enough we graduated to 125s, the Yamaha TZR and the Honda NSR, real bikes and so much fun. And then one day I saw my basketball teammate die in a crash on his NSR, and that touched me deeply. I forgot about motorcycles for 25 years.
What made you move to Bali?
I studied acting and then business administration at university, and after that I joined the car industry, working for 20 years for Ford and then Volkswagen in various management positions around the world. Finally I got tired of the corporate bull and decided to move on with my life. I met and fell in love with my fiancée in April 2014 while she was taking a year off from her job at an airline company. Her plan was to spend some time in Bali, so I quit my job and moved here with her the following August.
Tell us a bit about Malamadre Motorcycles and what you do there …
Malamadre means “bad/mad mother” in Spanish. It’s not that my mother is mad or bad … hahaha … she’s the best. The name actually comes from a character in a Spanish movie called Celda 211. MM is a prisoner, a badass who scares the shit out of everyone. And so Malamadre Motorcycles became our brand – it’s a 100% motorcycle company that makes dreams come true. We create authentic, unique, elegant, high quality and reliable custom motorcycles affordable to anyone. I love designing, repairing and building bikes, and that is what I do there. I also advise customers who want to build their own bikes. Most of my time is spent building the brand and thinking about how to improve quality and reliability. My (now) wife Elo helps me out with all the merchandising stuff, like helmets, t-shirts, hats and leather wallets. She has an amazing taste for everything (except possibly in men, lol). We have a brilliant staff: Adi (head mechanic and welding), Komang (welding and painting) and Made, my partner. They are masters at what they do and lovely people. Without them MM would be nothing.
What is it with Canggu and modified bikes … it seems like quite the centre for it these days?
I guess it’s Bali in general … on this island, everything invites you to ride a bike: the weather, landscapes, the traffic … we’re newcomers, of course, and Deus Ex Machina really built Canggu as it is today. They have made some beautiful machines, and they’re brilliant at marketing their brand. They have created a desire in people to own one of their products, and many local builders have copied their designs. It’s admirable to watch. In addition there a local builders like Smoked, Island, Treasure and Backyard that have done amazing builds.
Have you had any big wipe-outs?
In life, yes, many … but, as they say, it is not about falling, it’s about how many times you get up. With passion, confidence and self-belief you can achieve anything.
What do you do when you’re not riding or modifying bikes?
You know it … same as you … I play golf! Or surf. I also love to walk with our six dogs along the beach.
Tell us about your wife and how you met.
Elo is the most amazing woman I have ever met, and I have met a few. She’s smart, fun, crazy, authentic … beautiful inside and out. She was a stewardess and a purser on the flight that brought me back from Paris where I was playing a golf tournament. She asked me for an M&M (the chocolate, not our brand, but what a coincidence), I said yes, and the rest is history.
Was it hard to persuade her to live the dream with you?
Quite the opposite. She was the one who inspired me.
OK, here’s one for you. You’re riding your bike and the road is blocked by a large wounded animal of some kind. You can’t get around it – and it’s hours back to the nearest town. What do you do?
I love all kinds of animals … especially dogs, cats and orangutans. I would try to rescue that animal. That would be priority number one for me at that time. The rest can wait.
I can see why she married you. If you had to drive a car in Bali, what would it be?
Something small and automatic.
Two wheels good, four wheels bad. Discuss.
That’s a mean question. I spent half my life working in the four-wheel industry. So there’s a time for four wheels and another time for two wheels. But I guess if I had to choose, I would say … two wheels always good.
And if you had to choose between art and money, which would it be?
Art, in all its forms.