Limey Brothers Have British Bike Addiction

Words and Photos: John Gunnell

BHL60 Limey Photo 01Jim Hansen pulls no punches when he tells you his motorcycle business started back when he was fighting an addiction to the stuff they serve in British pubs. “Limey Brothers started with sobriety,” he told us at the New Motorama show.  “I decided to use my money for bikes instead of beer.”

That was 30 years ago and Hansen just finished restoring his 39th Triumph motorcycle at his shop in Auroraville, Wis. That includes a 1959 Triumph that is part of Jay Leno’s well-known collection today.  “We didn’t do it for him,” says Hansen. “But a friend of mine is a motorcycle broker in Minnesota. I called him and said I had a ’59 and a ’69 for sale and he said he had a buyer. The deal went down and later he told me he sold the ’59 to Leno and I’d never get it back.”

Jim got his brother Howard addicted to the point where he wanted a British bike. “I found him one that was a frame, six cardboard boxes of parts and some tires and I told him ‘Here’s your Triumph, all you have to do is put it together.’ And we have worked on older Triumphs together ever since.”

Jim Hansen said he enjoys talking to old timers at events like New Motorama, but he likes riding bikes, too. “When we go riding we’ll go to a gas station and get a lot of attention,” said Hansen. “It takes us five minutes to squirt two gallons of BP gasoline into the tank and it takes us 45 minutes to get going again after we hear all the stories and answer all the questions.” Since they were always on British bikes, people called Jim and Howard the Limey Brothers.”

Jim Hansen says that fixing British bikes is easy if you have any experience with a Briggs & Stratton lawn mower and remember that older British bikes are positive ground “They’re pretty basic,” Howard told Biker Hotline. “But a lot of people bring bikes to us because they switched polarity and fried the wires.”
Howard says the Limey Brothers have customers from all over the world even though their only advertising is word-of-mouth recommendations. “There aren’t a lot of people who can work on these old bikes,” Jim pointed out.  “If you go to a modern Triumph dealer, chances are they are not going to be able to fix anything they can’t plug into a computer. You have to have the feel, the ear and that special sense of the bike to make it go just the right way.”

Jim Hansen doesn’t like it when people come up to him and ask him how much he paid for the bike he is riding. “I tell them, ‘Do I look like a guy who can buy a $30,000 bike?’” he said. “I didn’t buy it—I built it!”’.  Hansen says he averages about two and a half years to restore a Triumph the right way. “When my painter puts on a paint scheme, I pull out my factory literature and figure out how many inches a stripe should be,” he says. “And each of these old bikes was individually hand painted, so most of the time no two match exactly anyway. But with the resources we have, we make them look as good as they did when new.”



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