How Hippies Learned
To Haul Ass.
A Brief History of Kosman.
About a half-century before man discovered the quick application of the Sawzall as a modern means for enhancing a motorcycle’s personality, there was a particular movement going down on the upper-left coast of California in which form truly followed function. During this moment in history, new motorcycles were generally designed to be basic, affordable transportation, with perhaps a bit of chrome thrown in for good measure. Of course, much like the early automobile industry, these offerings didn’t necessarily satisfy the Freedom-fueled, American-made hot-rodder whose need for speed far outweighed the need for point-A-to-point-B mobility.
“First thing I do, I look at other peoples' stuff and ask, 'Now why'd they do that?'”
So began the pursuit of purposeful customizations that would transform overweight, underpowered, under-braked and ill-handling motorcycles into something that a rider could actually race… and perhaps even live to tell about afterwards. And, California being the natural habitat of garage-based innovation, it would be no surprise that someone would arrive on the scene with concepts and craftsmanship that launched an era of accessible conversions for performance motorcycling.
The beginning of Kosman Specialties took place in early 1965 by then-college student Sandy Kosman. Inspiration for this started from Sandy's fascination with street bikes as a Midwestern teen and his ability to envision and design parts for better performance and handling. First applied and tested on his own machines, word quickly spread that parts for "souping up" your bike could be purchased from Sandy’s new business, located in a salt air-filled basement in Daly City, CA.
Popularity and demand for these new performance parts soon led to the first major expansion of Kosman Specialties in the late 60’s. Sandy moved operations to a larger San Francisco-based facility on Fell Street, about two blocks and one toke away from Haight and Ashbury…the center of hippy headquarters. This was 1967, and around 100,000 beautiful people were ushering in the Summer of Love. “Yeah, there were always a few hippies and biker types who’d be nosing around the place” said Sandy. Asked what he thought about this cultural explosion going on right next door to his business, Sandy remembered one specific incident: “Well, I heard a bunch of noise, chanting and singing and stuff, and I wanted to see what was happening. So I walked over there (Haight/Ashbury) and I saw a bunch of choppers. One of the guys was Sonny Barger, leader of the Hells Angels, and I ended up getting my picture in a book.” And, what did Sandy think about all the hippies with flowers in their hair? “I didn’t think much about ‘em. I was just checking out the bikes. I had work to do ya know.”
The World’s Slowest Road Racer
During this time, Sandy tried road racing himself and quickly realized that he wasn’t cut out to compete. This realization focused Sandy’s attention to the business side of things, which led to further expansion of Kosman’s brand throughout most forms of motorcycle racing. “Sure, I raced. I was the world’s slowest road racer, and no one could take that title from me.
Over the years, many well-respected motorcycle manufacturers —including BSA, Triumph, Honda, Yamaha, and Harley-Davidson— sought out Kosman to design and produce their aftermarket performance parts. Since its beginning in 1965, countless records have been set and races won using Kosman Specialties’ parts, and many of these designs are now integral to the massive international aftermarket and racing industries. In fact, a large number of today's European, Japanese, and American dirt, street, and drag racing parts are direct descendants of original Kosman innovations. From complete frame and chassis setups to specialized wheels and brake components, Kosman has been helping the fast go faster.
Highlights of 50+ Years of Design Engineering
• Kosman drag racing chassis and components are currently used by NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle teams.
• Kosman was a leading supplier to Flat Track racers from the 1970’s through the late 1990’s. Many race parts seen on most bikes were originally created by Kosman.
• The adjustable offset triple trees, the one-piece machined wheel hub, the floating disc brake rotor, all were Kosman innovations.
• The Kosman logo was seen on many of the early AMA Superbike teams. Kosman wheels, strengthened swingarms, strengthened frames, and brake systems with Kosman rotors were used by most of the top race teams.
• Companies that have used Kosman for design development and fabrication services include: American Honda, Confederate Motorcycle, Vance and Hines, Mule Racing, Custom Chrome, Goodyear tire, Corbin, Mission Motors Electric Motorcycles, S & S Engines, Stanford Solar Car Program, A & A Racing, Performance Machine, Motion Pro, and many others over the years.