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Easyriders V-Twin Bike Show Tour
What If They Threw A Bike Show and Harley’s Stocks Lost $3 Billion?
The adage “Build it and they will come” still works despite dark clouds over the stock market or real storm clouds menacing the Pomona Fair Grounds, aka L.A. Fairplex. Apparently no one showing up for the Easyriders V-Twin Bike Tour 2008 kick-off event had read the headline in The Milwaukee Sentinel that read “Harley-Davidson Stock Takes a Beating.” Or maybe they didn’t even care. People will always need good beer, music and motorcycles, a prevailing wind that blows strong and steady in the world of custom bikes. Or does it?
Since I was the Editor of Hot Bike magazine eons ago and later one of the Eds at Easyriders, I’ve heard the debate about the “bubble bursting,” the wags wagging about how the Great Surge (or Splurge) of bike building and bike sales had to come to an thumping, roadrash of an end. For years the bubble grew and showed no signs of collapse. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes paled in strength so it seemed. The motorcycle industry and with it custom bikes was part of our living/breathing/replicating lifestyle. It would not go the way of the dinosaur, unless we did.
But back to the report from The Motor Co.’s own hometown newspaper. “Shares fell $9.84 to $48.93, a 16.7% drop. That was the company's worst fall on Wall Street in 14 years. Several investment firms downgraded the stock. The company lost almost $3 billion in market value.”
Grim news? The handwriting on the garage wall leaving a doomsday forecast? For those with short- or long-term memory loss, the Motor Co. has survived over 100 years of market downturns, aka Depressions, and depressing management at times. Several years ago they got their act together and made history of history.
Like they say, it’s not over until the Fatboy sings. And at the Pomona Easyriders Show, lots were singing. And they weren’t singing the blues. Maybe it’s because Harley riders come from the gut of America so to speak. Under that so-called flabby American exterior, there is some serious muscle of spirit and endurance as well as optimism.
Sure times are tough. Gasoline costs more than blood it seems, and more house mortgages are defaulting and more cars are being repo-ed, but the “gut” is there and it’s lined with billet and steel.
I took mine down the halls of the ER bike show and found the sheer mass of creativity, color, boldness and power testimony to what kind of forces were at work. While the judges judged and the general public picked their winners, I went my own way with notepad and camera to see what rolled my socks down.
'Under that so-called flabby American exterior, there is some serious muscle of spirit and endurance as well as optimism.'
The guy that built this bike is named Jaxon Fyffe. It’s pronounced Jackson Five. Yeah, you can image the feedback he got growing up.
I’ve had a long chat with Jaxon, who by the way is a very bright guy who can’t sing a lick. From his Wildcard Custom shop in Texas he builds both American and Metric customs. A while back he built a Harley-based bike called “Anamorphic,” aka “The Long Orange Bike” that won the prestigious Rat’s Hole Bike Show in Daytona.
Then there was “Speedliner” a high-tech boardtracker concept based on a 2006 Yamaha/Star Roadliner. It then made history as the first-ever metric to be selected by 33 pro-builders to be exhibited around the country for the 2008 Easyriders Show Tour. And thus it’s appearance at Pomona. Jaxon makes his own wheels, frames, fuel systems, forks, seats, brakes, electronics, pipes, handlebars, tanks, fenders and so on. As he sums it up, “For that Easyriders Tour bike, I engineered, designed and built everything besides the tires and the engine… even the brake pads so that they would work with those 23-inch disc brakes integrated into the forks.”
"For that Easyriders Tour bike, I engineered, designed and built everything besides the tires and the engine..."
Okay, will the guy who painted this please write in. My camera lens fogged over along with my brain so the photos of his signage were illegible. And, oh, is that Ann-Margaret on the gas tank or am I just having hot flashes from my prepubescent youth? I don’t get out much and gas tank girls (and the fumes) obviously excite my frontal lobes. Speaking of our computers made out of meat...
Henry seen here is a painter of cars, bikes and helmets. People know him as “Garage,” or that might be the name of his paint shop, I wasn’t sure. Some of the helmets are new re-pops, some are vintage lids from the ’60s and ’70s. Henry adds scallops, swirls, von Dutch-style pinstriping to the metalflake beauties.
His buddies Joel and Mary Klass then sell them via their enterprise called Vintage Klass via myspace.com/vintage klass along with other vintage biker gear like those old worn leather jackets that go for a zillion more dollars than when first sold at Sears. They had all sizes and colors of helmets and the prices ranged from $50-100. And no I didn’t get a free helmet, though I wish.
My cat put her litter of kittens in mine recently. Ever try to get that “new kitten” smell out of your helmet lining? Now there’s a product with a waiting customer base. But for a smell-free, retro-cool skid lid, you can reach Joel at 949-355-8089.
Now who wouldn’t want a cigar chomping Al Capone waiting for you at the frig? Forget those tiresome diet programs. Just come up face to face with Scarface Al and get a whiff of one of his Havanas and you’re no longer interested in eating that leg of mutton, right?
Besides some nifty home appliances, Rick’s Choppers build some high calorie sleds from their shop in Arizona. The Rick in Rick’s Choppers is Rick Kappe. One of his creations seen here, the Team Vasquez bike, took "Best in Show" and "1st Place" at the 2006 Motorcycle Mania show. At last year’s Easyriders Pomona event, it scored took 3rd Place in the Spectator Class and was back this year on display.
The shop offers a unique building plan where you build/pay at your own pace. More info at http://www.rickschoppers.com/
'One of his creations seen here, the Team Vasquez bike, took "Best in Show" and "1st Place" at the 2006 Motorcycle Mania show.'
One of several bikes brought to the event by the Detroit Bros. reminded me of one of those Escher drawings where things seem to be going in all different directions at once, a mind- and pipe-bending bit of magic.
The Detroit Bros. are Dave Kay and James Kay. James is steeped in engineering and industrial design and earlier worked with industry legend/wildman artist Ron Finch while his brother Dave is a classically trained sculptor/fine artist from the College of Creative Studies in Detroit.
On the Discovery Channel website you can catch a bit of advertising sloganese for one of its “Biker Build-off “ TV episodes where the Detroit Bros. faced off against Exile’s Russell Mitchell, which in a nutshell describes the brothers as follows: “The good-looking, opinionated Mitchell fabricates industrial, no nonsense, matte black bikes for hardcore bikers and celebrity riders like George Clooney. But Dave and James – a.k.a., the Detroit Brothers – have a different approach. These Motown roughnecks build wild motorcycles that look like they just rolled off the set of one of the "Road Warrior" movies. Watch as each team builds its masterpiece from the ground up, then goes head-to-head in the latest fabricator face-off.” You can buy the DVD for $9.95, the Detroit Bros. bikes go for several decimal points to the right.
Speaking of plumbing, my favorite set of pipes was a set fashioned by Pooles Pro Built Custom Cycles. Steve Poole works out of his shop in Brea, CA http://www.poolesprobuilt.com/. Steve offers several types of performance pipes for Harleys and can also make pipes up to order. He says just bring your bike by the shop and they’ll custom tailor serious performance and sound amplifiers. In the background of the photo you can see some of the 100-odd headlamps now available from Headwinds in Monrovia, CA, one of the leading industry providers of lighting equipment for bikes, cars and big rigs. You name it, they light it. Check out their new bike desk lamp while you’re at it. http://www.headwinds.com/
'...bring your bike by the shop and they’ll custom tailor serious performance and sound amplifiers'
Lots of tats and elbows appeared for this Kodak moment spotlighting Big Bear Chopper’s radical new production bagger called the G.T.X. (Grand Touring X-Wedge) Bagger featuring a choice of EFI-fed powerplants: a BBC-S&S 100 inch or an optional 114 inch X-Wedge engine from S&S.
Notice that the passenger sits in front of the rear wheel for more comfort and better bike balance, a first from BBC. More info at http://www.bigbearchoppers/ or call 909-878-4340.
I saw this bike at last year’s show. It was built by Trevelin, aka Trev from Super Co. located in downtown Los Angeles. Trev’s a complicated guy who builds uncomplicated yet meticulously engineered Old School scoots with their hearts rooted in the East L.A. Lowrider culture.Trev’s got a ton of tattoos, and his pal is a pit bull named Stomper who eats UPS guys. Trev’s also a meditating Buddhist, a political activist and runs a non-profit gym for disadvantaged and at-risk kids. His bike was pointed out to me because of the intricate engraving, a bike mag wanting me to profile the artist, which I did.
The artist is Tay Terrera who has melded metal engraving and motorcycling into a composite artform. He learned the art from his Dad growing up in Hacienda Heights, CA. His father was a woodcarver who made custom gun cases for people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, awesome stuff. Tay himself has been engraving bikes for more than a decade. He’s developed a 3-D style and fashioned a line of custom air cleaners among other things for Jesse James. The next milestone for Tay was facilitated by Trev who was building a bike for the “Biker Build-off” TV show. Both Trev and Tay have literally left an indelible impression on the industry. More info about Trev and Super Co. at 213-623-5240 or http://www.sccla.com/. You can reach Tay Terrera at http://www.tarrera.com/.
They can’t fall over and you don’t need a kickstand, and if you had a bum leg or just liked the shape of a triangle, they’re cool, especially this one. Power is via a RevTech 110/6-speed tranny powertrain, so it’s a mover and not a shaker. It’s way beyond those 1970s Scoob-Doo VW trike kit bikes I remember. Pretty elegant in a tricky trikey way. Kinda reminds me of a blinged-out Caddy Escalade, but I don’t see a 600-watt sound system. Tech sheet lists parts and accessories from Bikers Alley, Ethal Chopper frame and front end, Corsair Trike rearend assembly, diamond pearl paint by G.M. Bootleg and tasty platinum and silver leaf pinstriping by Draggin Lines.
“Pick Pocket” could refer to either a means of making a living or the feeling the builder had after investing in its construction, one obviously worth the cost. This interesting mix of boardtracker, racer, hotrod and retro-bobber elements was built by Todd’s Cycle in Huntington Beach, CA. The man with the plan is master fabricator Tom Silicato who brings to the design table his experience as chief of Performance Machine’s GP race team and head of PM’s R&D. It shows, literally and figuratively in his bikes. More info at http://www.toddscycle.com/ or call 714-901-4516.
Okay, we could on for days but let’s wrap this up with some words of wisdom garnered from around the country from members of the bike industry regarding our aforementioned “busted bubble.”
Voices Heard About The State of the Motorcycle Industry
“It’s not just the motorcycle industry, it’s the entire economy,” says Mike Rouse of Big Mike’s Customs out of Bend, Oregon, producer of some 700 bikes annually. Then he makes a prediction, “In 18 months I predict it will be back to a 5% fixed 30-year mortgage at which time everything will fine again. However, until then we’re &$#&$^&!” adds Mike, laughing as he says it.
He goes on to say the wild expansion of so-called industry “bubble” was generated by the effect of the TV bike shows and the resulting proliferation of bike building. “Now this downturn helps to brings us back to the realists that love motorcycles. Building bikes is about relationships and friends. Like Arlen Ness just took seven of my bikes and Sacramento took two and sold them in 24 hours, so I’m selling bikes. I’m just not doing the 30-40 a month I need to, I’m doing the 20. And as far as changing Presidents in the upcoming election, it doesn’t mean much to my personal economy. Not one President ever sent me a check. But I think it’s gonna change in a year and a half, and we all just need to hang in there, and I will.”
Prior to his move to L.A. four years ago, Trevelin of Super Co. ran a shop for 10 years in Santa Fe Springs, CA. He’s been there, done that, building bikes and cars.
Speaking of the industry he says, “I haven’t sold a bike for nine months. The situation is tough for a lot of people. Maybe it’s time to go back to the roots. For me it’s more of a cultural thing, bikes and cars just aspects of that and a symbol of what I believe in, the freedom by which I like to express myself. I came from the low-rider experience, and looking at my bikes they’re all influenced by that East L.A. thing, and I haven’t left that behind for fads and trends of the day. That’s a revolving door.
“I believe it’s best to stay where your heart’s at,” Trevlin continues, “to stick with the original era that established everything, the ’60s and ’70s. It was all about going on a long-distance hauls and breakin’ down and not having GPS and AAA and finding a brother on the road to help. Now it’s corporate muck and muddy water where you can’t see five feet in front of you. People spend a huge amount of money on a bike they see on TV and then wonder why it doesn’t handle. Hey, it’s a matter of geometry and a bit of physics. I also think it’s important to keep a clear view of the past, the beginnings of it all.”
John Parham of the industry icon J&P Cycles, the global-serving mail-order motorcycle parts and accessories company founded in 1979, operates a massive distribution facilities in Anamosa, Iowa, and a new “superstore” in Daytona Beach, FL.
“Things have slowed down and somewhat flattened out while we’re still growing, if minutely,” says Parham. “But I think we all knew this was going to happen, just not when or this fast, but overall it’s time to re-evaluate how you do business. Importantly, it’s a time of opportunities. While business might be slowing down, it’s important for people to keep making new products, to keep re-vitalizing the industry. For example, for 2008 we have some 3,000 new products.”
From his mountain-top vantage point high on SoCal’s Big Bear Mountain, industry maverick Kevin Alsop of Big Bear Choppers seems to be making all the right moves against the general slowdown. He recently stated, “You gotta push boundaries, well smash them and set trends, not follow them. Our basic game plan is doing something that nobody’s done before, for example here we are born out of the American V-Twin custom industry and now using fiberglass panels, parts usually only seen on Japanese sport bikes, but we’re using them on our choppers. Now’s that a paradox, but one that works.” So, bottom line, we can all agree that motorcycling as a whole is a paradox. We love it no matter what or in tune with what Shakespeare (who obviously rode a rigid) once wrote, we’ve outlasted “the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.”
In any case, don’t dump your Harley stock and keep riding out the storm, rain-wise or economy-wise.