Like I always say, life on the road is seldom dull. In fact, I’m on my way home from a successful tour of northern California, including visits with Arlen Ness, Ron Covell, Bruce Terry and the always interesting John Reed. But first, a word from our sponsor.
Adv Custom MC Chassis
New Products from Wolfgang
Years ago we did a Chassis book called Ultimate V-Twin Chassis, companion to the then-current Ultimate V-Twin Motorcycle book. As we’ve recently replaced the V-Twin Motorcycle book with Advanced Custom Motorcycle Assembly & Fabrication, it only made sense to likewise replace the old chassis book with a new one, titled (surprise) Advanced Custom MOTORCYCLE CHASSIS. Doug Mitchel got the job of updating the old book, written before right side drive, 120+ inch motors, the common use of upside down forks, the return of the Girder and 300 tires.
The book covers all the products and topics we left out of the earlier book, and provides help picking out a new frame for that scratch-build project or updating the brakes or suspension on the factory Softail or Bagger in the garage. Obviously we’ve designed this book as an aid to all American V-twin motorcycle owners.
Near the back of the book we’ve also included two chassis assembly sequences on both Twin Cam and Evo-powered chassis, and a long Sources section so you’ll know where to find that stubby Bobber Chassis, or the Fat-Tire conversion kit for your Softail. Look for the new Chassis book to debut later this spring.
The Chrome Story
One or the best parts of my job is spending time in a variety of shops and hangin’ out with all the people who know how to assemble bikes, hop-up engines and chrome plate a set of lower fork legs. Lately I’ve been spending time with Deter’s Polishing and JR Custom Plating in Forest Lake, Minnesota. When it comes to plating a metal part, the first operations involve stripping off any old paint or coatings, followed by polishing and finally the plating. The JR chrome shop has the advantage of all new equipment, so the facility is sparkling clean with white walls and all new tanks – unlike most chrome shops which look something like images from a post-Armageddon movie set.
John Colton at JR Custom Plating
Some chrome shops are geared to industrial work and long runs of production parts, while others prefer to do short runs and individual parts for bikers and hot rodders. JR’s falls into the later category and the parts I saw during my tour included Harley parts, some Victory components and even a few antique die-cast boat parts (die-cast parts are very hard to re-plate).
What I learned from owner John Colton would fill a book, for this situation however, I’m just hoping for a couple of short stories. Look for these stories on our web site starting with the next blog, and a full chrome plating story a little later in Iron Works Magazine.
The J Bird
Happy days, the missing water pump finally showed up, all fresh and rebuilt by Egge Machine in California. Before leaving for this latest road trip I ran the pump and housing up to Bruce Brush at Wizard Paint in Taylors Falls, Minnesota so he could cover that dull cast-iron finish with some bright Kos-Red paint from House of Kolor.
Arlen Ness Museum
This road trip started with a plane ride to San Jose, California, where the good people from National Car Rental gave me a new Pontiac G6 to drive for a week (they obviously don’t know about my mis-spent youth). The first part of the trip saw me staying with a friend in Livermore, just inland from the southern tip of San Francisco Bay. My daily commute took me to the new Arlen Ness store in Dublin, California where I was lucky enough to spend two days chatting with Arlen and Cory, Sales manager Rikki Battistini, Arlen’s brother Kevin from the parts department and the rest of the Ness crew. The best part of my time in Arlen’s shop included a tour of the building with sneak previews of two new Arlen Ness projects, one of which is sure to blow your mind when it’s unveiled later this year. The other memorable part of any visit to Arlen’s is time spent in his personal museum on the second floor, home to a whole raft of Arlen’s two- wheeled wonders.
From Dublin the route took me south to Capitola, California, a very charming little beach community just south of Santa Cruz. In Florida beach towns, they like to knock down anything that isn’t brand new and made of concrete, and replace it with a tall tower. In California they leave the funky, multi-colored motel and the crescent of bars and restaurants, at least for now, where a traveler can enjoy a walk on the beach followed by cocktails with a view.
Capitola is an easy drive to Freedom, home to Ron Covell, master metal man and producer of many fine DVDs and videos (be sure to check out Ron’s new TIG-Welding DVD). Ron and I managed to work on some projects together, and even enjoy dinner in the Paradise Beach Bar back in Capitola.
Forty miles south on Highway One is Monterey, setting for a certain famous book and also the home of Specialty Metal Fabrication, the shop of Bruce Terry. If you’ve bent the fender on that old Ferrari during practice for vintage racing, Bruce is your man. What Bruce enjoys even more than recreating a particular shape, however, is a chance to work on a new shape, because customizing projects bring out his artistic bent. As I walked into Bruce’s shop, the first thing you lay eyes on is one of the biggest and most impressive English Wheels ever built by hand. “I made it from flame-cut 3?4 inch steel plate,” explains Bruce, “that way I could grind the edges to a nice radius and make it look like an old casting.”
After leaving Bruce and his English Wheel, I turned the rental car north, crossed over to Highway 101 and followed that four lane to Morgan Hill, corporate headquarters for Custom Chrome. Back in the hills lies a certain ranch house on five acres of land, owned by longtime Custom Chrome Designer John Reed and a certain longtime Custom Chrome employee by the name of Genny Reed.
John is a sixty year old designer and former bike racer with the very active and inquisitive mind of a fourteen year old boy, as fascinated by the behavior of laser light when focused on a piece of acrylic in his darkened shop, as by the latest offerings from Ducati or Harley- Davidson.
John tends to keep a low profile, and I always feel honored to stay at the house and sit up late with John, discussing important topics like the best chassis setup for a racing sidecar outfit or the reason he needs a new dyno with both a front and rear drum (so he can check the behavior of shocks and suspension in a controlled environment). Entertainment on the big-screen TV included videos shot with John’s “lipstick” camera, the one he mounts on the chassis of his personal V (the sport-bike kit he designed for Custom Chrome) to check the action of the rear shocks and swingarm while the bike goes down the road. I even had an opportunity to ride John’s V on the serpentine roads east of Morgan Hill.
Though it’s always good to go home, the end of this trip seemed to come all too soon. Time now to return the Pontiac to its rightful owner and enter the winged aluminum tube for the flight back to Minneapolis. As I look out the window and down on the Colorado mountains, all covered in snow, there’s only one thought that keeps going through my mind.
Do I have a great job or what?