Sofi Tsingos is quietly developing a reputation for building really great bikes. Her first project, a 1977 Honda CB550, was featured in the first issue of Tank Moto Magazine and displayed at The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show in Austin, Texas. Her next project is a labor of love with her Dad and they’re raffling it in support of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Here’s more about Sofi and how much this means to her and her Dad.
MLAS: I came across a picture of your bike on Instagram that one of the builders I follow had posted. I was really impressed by it and your website. Tell the world who Sofi is and how you ended up building motorcycles.
ST: I have always been the quiet girl no one noticed in high school, really shy, kept to myself, and stayed away from drama. But my Dad has always been my best friend, he raised me and taught me [everything] I know and continues to teach me. I crave to know as much as he does. I grew up at the airport around privet jets, messing with all the mechanic’s tools. My dad owned a well-known/respected repair shop in Addison Airport. He got me into hot rods and old cars when I was a baby. Hell, one of my first words was Mercedes! He would duct tape me to the tank of his old BMW while I was still in diapers and we would ride up and down the runways. My one and only race was on a Ducati 996 in 2007. That’s a really funny story if you ever care to hear that one. But I got tired of not understanding how to fix it myself. There were too many guys messing up the work, so in 2009 I went to school for motorcycle mechanics, got certified as a Ducati, BMW, and Triumph technician. I worked at a couple Ducati dealers, realized the owners didn’t want me in the back and stuffed me at the front desk… so I left and am now the operations manager at a race car shop. I’ve been in the motorsports industry for over 12 years and love every bit of it. I work full time here, go to school at night for metal shaping/fabrication and welding, and when I am not at school at night and on the weekends, I am working on bikes or my Hot Rod in the garage with my Dad.
MLAS: Who are some of your favorite builders and what is it about their designs that you find the most inspirational?
ST: This is an easy question: my Dad. Anything he touches turns into a work of art. If I could be half as talented as he is, I would be the second best person on this planet. It does not matter what the job is at hand, he can do it: Hot Rods, air planes, restorations, custom build, cooking, oil paintings, diagnosing anything. The list goes one. I can literally spend a whole day saying nothing but good thing about him. I will elaborate a little more on the inspiration part in a little bit.
Most of the designs I come up with are from random photos I see on the web. If there are any car shows or bike shows, I am there. So a lot of inspiration and ideas for design do come from what I see at shows.
MLAS: Moto GP or Isle of Man?
ST: Can I be greedy and say both?
MLAS: If you could have any bike to ride for the day, what would it be?
ST: Dah! This is the hardest question people always ask me! I enjoy so many different types of bikes for so many reasons. Although I would like to see how that new Lotus bike rides or Jay Leno’s jet bike or a Desmo… I’ll just stop there! (laughing) You just got me to daydream for the last 10 minutes.
MLAS: Tell me the story behind the raffle that you’re doing and what it is you’re going to raffle off.
ST: GT Cafe for Cause: 1972 Honda CB450 Custom Cafe Racer – if you like the blue (Honda) CB550 that you saw at the Handbuilt show in Austin, you will love the new one. There so many handmade, custom parts that my dad and I did ourselves in our little, over packed, two-car garage. I learned how to shape metal, and the tank and seat is formed out of aluminum. I was lucky enough to come across a badass builder named Junior Burrell who taught me how to hand make the tank and seat. Great Teacher! There are (also) a ton of beautiful photos taken by Brandon LaJoie.
My dad inspired me for this project. I almost lost him to throat cancer last year, watched him suffer through radiation, and go through the ups and downs of not just finding his physical strength, but his mental strength for life. He still has lung cancer that he is still trying to deal with. It’s a tough battle physically and mentally. I cannot explain nor fully understand the pain he has been going through, but I do know what I felt. I felt f***ing useless. I was in a daze, not knowing what to do. I am not a doctor, so I did what I know best. That is building sh*t. I asked him if he would like to take on another project, this time giving it away and raffling it off, and all proceeds go to whatever he wanted. He chose St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital because no family receives a single bill, and their research department ACTUALLY does research in finding alternative ways to cure cancer and give better quality of living after being treated.
It feels great to give, but I honestly did this to give him something to work towards, keep his mind of things and give him something else to focus on. I decided to document the progress and show people the ups and downs in building a bike. In a way, they are parallel. You have your good days and your bad. Sometimes things don’t fit right, and you have to do your best to stay positive and find a different way to make it work. We have been able to spend a lot of time together, learned A LOT, and we have met some of the most talented and giving people through this project. I really think the positive feedback has turned this experience into something very positive for him, and that was my only goal.
MLAS: Texas seems to be one of the better places for creative people and all around go for it type personalities. Is it something in the water?
ST: We put a lot of ice in our water. But you are right… you should move here 😉
MLAS: When I meet you in person can we go do some wheelies together?
ST: Whoever crashes first has to buy the first round of desert!
The drawing for the 1972 Honda CB450 Custom Cafe Racer takes place on July 12, 2014. Tickets are only $25 each with a special of five for $100! The official unveiling of the GT Café for Cause bike will be at the Gas Monkey Bar & Grill on June 15th for free. If you can’t make it to Dallas in person, then stay tuned to Sofi’s social media channels for updates and what’s next for the talented Texan.