Who can argue with the beauty of vintage motorcycle headlamps, lovingly designed to combine form and function, and safely lighting the way for our biking forefathers back in those golden eras of riding. Most ‘classic’ bikes are unobtainable these days of course, but thanks to enthusiasts like Christoph Köhler, we now have the chance to own a genuine piece of unique motorcycling history – and use it every day…
The idea of giving old motorcycle headlamps a new lease of life came to Christoph several years ago when he had bought an old vintage headlight to use on his ‘Brown Sugar’ custom BMW. However, it was too small and didn’t fit the 1978 BMW R 100/7 special, but Christoph just couldn’t bear to let it go. And then [if you’ll excuse the pun] the ‘lightbulb moment’ happened to him…
“The lamp was lying on the table in my ‘man-cave’ and I kept looking at it – the shape of this old motorcycle headlight was incredibly beautiful – so I decided to rebuild it into a desk lamp for myself, and the first SpotVintage lamp was born. After that I built a few more for my family and friends, and then things got even more creative. I started to build big lamps with tripods and later I designed lamps with old beams and parts from a motor or gearbox.”
What’s special about these products is that no two are alike, and each one imagines its own story, having safely guided its riders possibly over hundreds of thousands of kilometres, through cities, across borders and perhaps even being passed on through the generations. Finding them and restoring them is a work of art in itself, but as Christoph confirms, the older the better – even if it means paying over the odds.
“I love the little dents and scratches found on some of the lamps, which suggest to me the stories of their time when they ‘faced the wind,” he says. “I enjoy searching for these items, as you never know what you can come across. There are a lot of garages full of old stuff, but finding parts in good condition is not easy – and the older the more expensive of course.”
Interestingly, the SpotVintage lamps appeal to all ages and types, from current riders and retired motorcycle enthusiasts to design fetishists, collectors, and especially children, who are fascinated by them, according to Christoph. Various commissions have arrived from enthusiasts with particular wishes, which makes the search for parts even harder, yet ultimately rewarding when he finds the right one to create a bespoke design piece.
“Some people request items incorporating a specific brand, surface treatment and even a particular set of ‘feet’ for their lamp. If somebody wants a really old BMW headlight, then this is a challenge, as many of these are like ‘gold dust’! However, some customers already have their lamps – perhaps from the bikes of their youth – and then it’s down to me to create something special for them from my Berlin workshop.”
When Christoph is not busy making these bespoke lamps (or other design items using various motorcycle parts, including ignition plugs, valve covers and crankshafts) he spends time with his club buddies in MotorCircus (www.motor-circus.com) and raises funds for a non-profit and charitable dental unit in The Gambia (www.aerzte-helfen.de). He’s even off to the Arctic Circle later this month with his brothers and his father to try their hand at dogsled riding, where he hopes the nature and ice will release new creativity and ideas for SpotVintage. And with the riding season fast approaching, he’s looking forwards to many new adventures on his most faithful horse – the 'Brown Sugar'.
“Yes, the MotorCircus boys and I have many motorcycling plans for 2015,” confirms Christoph. “We will be at events like BMW Motorrad Days, Glemseck 101, the new Pure&Crafted music festival presented by BMW Motorrad, and our beloved home-based Roadrunners Paradise Race 61. There is also a big project coming up at turn of the year, so stay tuned and follow us on Facebook for more information.”
For more information on Christoph H. Köhler and his unique motorcycling lamps, please visit www.spot-vintage.de and find all the latest details on MotorCircus at www.facebook.com/motorcircusberlin