Trent Sanders of Lekka Cycles embodies the attitude and soul we all seek when riding a motorcycle.
The first time I saw Trent Sanders, 26 years old, was at Motos In Moab, a motorcycle camping event for 150 bikers in Moab, UT. Trent had his shirt off revealing his chest tattoo of a V-Twin engine with wings. His hair was slicked back, and he was holding a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of whisky in the other. His presence demanded attention. He was one of the many bikers at the event that made the scene so authentic and cool to be a part of. Motos in Moab drew only the most elite riders and motorcycle enthusiasts, almost as if there was an unspoken rule that to attend, we require certain skill.
Following the event, I saw pictures of Sanders’ Salt Lake City based custom build shop, Lekka Cycles, on Instagram. I was intrigued so I sent Trent a direct message asking if I could come by and check out his shop and take some pictures. He replied, “Hell yeah man, I’m always here.” He sent me the address and directions on how to get there.
Finding his shop was a bit of a challenge. The shop is an old rundown warehouse at the end of a dead-end alley that extends from the back of the parking lot of an old electrical company.
Upon driving in I noticed a few dogs circling the property; the kind you would expect to find at a junkyard. There was an old pickup truck in the entrance beside a pile of chopped logs. I walked through a collection of about fifteen ratty bikes that looked like they were half-assembled build projects. Looking around his shop I saw pictures of girls posted to the walls, random signs and wall art, and a collection of tools in a variety of organizers. In the back there is a ladder leading up to a loft where Trent sleeps.
I walked into Lekka Cycles feeling like a freshman on the first day of high school. I was in the presence of really badass guys. Trent had his back turned and was grinding some metal on his workbench with sparks lighting up the room flying in every direction. I noticed he didn’t bother wearing his protective eyewear or mask that was hanging on the wall next to him. He looked up and asked, “Oh hey, what’s up man?” Then he offered me a beer. He threw me a cold can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and then returned to grinding away while carrying on his conversation with his buddies.
As I enjoyed my beer, I sat and listened to him talk to his small entourage about the history of Harley Davidson and motorcycle culture. I recognized one of his friends, Cameron Neilson who is known around Salt Lake City as one of the most talented riders. Like Trent, Cameron grew up riding dirt bikes, so he dominates in the dirt on his tracker. Cameron rides a bike popularly known as “The Fish” that was once owned by professional snowboard legend Jeremy Jones.
Sanders, being the owner and founder of the shop, had an authoritative essence in the room. Sanders talked about how he is a diehard Harley snob, but the company has sold out to the corporate mainstream. He had a distaste for the company’s monopoly exploits and service charges. That is why he hung a large Harley Davidson sign upside down in his shop.
On the other side of Lekka Cycles, large words are painted on the wall, “True Till Death.”
I noticed he had the same phrase, “True Till Death” tattooed on his arm. I asked Trent what it meant to him. He said, “I’d rather die than sell out.” He said he would rather stay true, keep it real, and have his homies around him than become a slave to the corporate world. Cameron chimed in saying that there is nothing wrong with running a business and making money, as long as you don’t sell out and let anyone tell you how to live.
Trent agreed that there is nothing wrong with making money, but added that it is not the most important thing. He said that he often charges his customers on a system of “sacrifice.” If someone needs their bike worked on and they can easily afford to pay full price for labor, then they need to pay it. However, if someone needs a little work but can’t pay full price, but is willing to sacrifice what they have to pay what they can, then he will usually do the work. Then he said if someone is a true homey who has his back, then he doesn’t charge them to work on their bike. Though Cameron was not an employee of Lekka Cycles, Trent was letting him use his shop and tools to work on his build at no charge. That conversation reminded me that I needed to reposition my handlebars, so I asked if I could borrow a tool to go do it. Trent grabbed a wrench and led the way out to my bike and fixed it right up for me no charge. Trent demonstrates a rare generosity for a business owner because to him, it’s all about the brotherhood.
The Interviews: Lekka Cycles
At that point we sat down for an interview. Trent set the premise that he doesn’t like interviews or getting his picture taken, but was a good sport for me.
Mark: Tell me about your family background.
Trent: Uhhh French, English, Dutch, and Durban.
Trent: I was born in Durban, South Africa. It’s my heritage. My parents and grandparents lived there. My Dad was a professional soccer player and moved to Utah when I was four to play soccer for Weber State University.
Mark: When did you start getting into motorcycles?
Trent: My parents got divorced when I was 8. My mom was dating a whole bunch of dudes and she met this dude who really liked her. I told him I wanted a dog really bad and he told me I didn’t need a dog so I said, “Fine, I want a motorcycle.” He grew up racing bikes and had a Harley. He ended up buying me a little 1971 SL70. He took me up to the V and taught me how to ride, and I just fuckin’ loved it, ya know? It became like, my shit.
Mark: So how did you learn how to build motorcycles?
Trent: I started going to the desert all the time racing and riding. I learned to build bikes by necessity being poor. I couldn’t afford to buy parts or have someone do it for me, so I had to learn to do it all myself. I am pretty much self-taught but I learned to weld at the muffler shop my parents owned. My stepdad got me into motorcycles, but he didn’t really wrench. A mechanic named Graham, that really killed it, mentored me.
Mark: When did you start dreaming up Lekka Cycles?
Trent: I mean, I don’t know… I don’t know if Lekka Cycles is even a real thing right now (laughs). I’m not on Google and I don’t even have a sign. I just bought this building to live here up in the loft and work on bikes. My business is 100% word of mouth. It pays the rent so far.
Mark: Tell me about the name, “Lekka Cycles.”
Trent: Lekka is a slang word that everybody (especially kids) uses in South Africa that is used for anything that is proper, good, or dope. Anything can be lekka, ya know?
Mark: What are your dreams for Lekka Cycles?
Trent: I’d like to expand and keep getting more work. I mean it would be really cool to have it to where I could have homies working and chillin’ where we could all have our bills paid by doing what we love to do.
Mark: Got a game plan for marketing, promotion, and branding?
Trent: Not at all, no. That’s the least most important thing in my eyes. A quality product speaks for itself. I’d rather have hype on what I’m building rather than hype on pictures of me doing shit looking cool. I think it’s a lot easier to try to look cool than to be able to actually build a quality product.
Mark: Do you plan on entering any of your builds in any shows?
Trent: Yeah, sort of. It just kind of happened; I started building a ’91 Evo Sportster for my tattoo artist and Rev from Salt City Builds @saltcitybuilds came over and saw it. He said, “Dude, you gotta show this bike at the Salty Bike Revival.” Salty Bike Revival @saltybikerevival is a bike show coming to Utah this August. But, I don’t even know if I’ll jump into it or not for sure… but I might. I don’t build bikes for the recognition, the credit, or to look cool… I just love building bikes, and the people, and the lifestyle. It’s in my blood you know what I mean?
At that point he said he needed to run to the hardware store so I tagged along in my truck to snap some photos of Trent and Cameron riding their bikes. It was not easy to keep up with them as they haul ass and don’t have a lot of regard for traffic laws. In my opinion, Trent Sanders is the future of the custom motorcycle scene for our generation. He encapsulates everything we love, keeping it true to the spirit of what two wheels should be.
Keep up to date with the goings on with Lekka Cycles on Instagram.