custom motorcycles

Custom Motorcycles at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show

The Progressive International Motorcycle Show was in the Detroit area last weekend, and the fam and I decided to check it out. Because of the icy roads and falling snow, no one was actually riding their motorcycles to get there. But despite the weather, the place was packed - with people and motorcycles. If you’re in the market for a new bike, I highly recommend the show, which is basically a glorified commercial for all of the brands there. And there are a lot. Harley Davidson, BMW, Honda, Triumph, Indian, Yamaha, Ducati, Victory, Kawasaki, Suzuki; pretty much everyone is there with their latest models.

Like last year, the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show was the highlight of the show for me. Here are a few of my favorites from the contest.

Custom 2003 Harley Davidson FLHTSI

 "Fat Ass Bagger" - a Custom 2003 Harley Davidson FLHTSI

Custom motorcycle at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show

"Bastard Deluxe" - A Custom Motorcycle from the Progressive International Motorcycle Show 

Custom 2011 Harley Davidson FLHX 

"Checkmate" -  A custom 2011 Harley Davidson FLHX

Custom Honda GL 1000 Gold Wing Motorcycle

"El Vaquero" - A custom Honda GL 1000 Gold Wing motorcycle 

American Chopper April 23 "No Cameras"

This week on American Chopper Jr. builds a bike for a ballplayer and Sr. finishes a bike for a pillow maker with a '70s 'stache.

Two time World Series winner Aaron Rowand (#33) wants a custom motorcycle and is a big fan of Jr.'s Black Widow bike. At the time of filming he was signed with the Miami Marlins, but on March 29, 2012, he was released. So now he has a lot more time to ride.

Aaron drops by the shop to check in on the build and gets measured for his custom motorcycle. I'm sure everybody including Jr. was thinking of decorating the bike with baseball diamonds, and I really liked the idea of leather baseball stitching in the tank. Aaron, however, wanted a much more subtle baseball theme than a mascot clown bike. While he's there he signs a few autographs for the kids and wins the World Series of wiffle ball.

OCC is still building the My Pillow Bike, which will be an era correct 1970s themed chopper.

Sr. tells Rick, "As long as we're on the same page, you get to do your own thing." Rick and Rob decide to paint the bike retro blue to match Rick's sports drink and then immediately paint the bike black. By the time I start thinking, "Hey, what happened to the blue?" Sr. is spraying the bike with silver flake because apparently you can't screw that up. Next comes the candy blue, and it starts to look like sea shells. Then Rob actually starts painting on fish scales. Now the 12 foot long bass boat is complete.

Drop in a Panhead motor from S&S, and once Sr. figures out which way the wheel goes on, the bike is ready for a test ride. When is the last time you saw an actual, real chopper with a 40 over front end complete with Z bars riding down the road? Radical. But how do you turn?

American Chopper March 16 "Drastic Step"

This week on American Chopper Jr. finishes the bike for babies, Sr. builds two twin biodiesel bikes, and Mikey fills a diaper for charity.

At PJD it's assembly day for the March of Dimes bike and Holy Purple! The frame gets delivered, and Jr. nervously wants to know who's seen the tins? Purple. Solid purple. Purple on purple is too much! And those wheels don't look like dimes. A bit unexpectedly the bolt-on purple accented wheels look good and really match the rest of the bike well.

Later, Sr. and the OCC crew visit E-Biofuels headquartered in Middletown, Indiana, where they see row after row of glass ball jars that look like they're storing amber moonshine. They're there to research the world's first "street legal" biodiesel motorcyle for CIMA Green. This stuff could be the next big transportation fuel. Bonus, it smells like french fries.

According to the company's website, the U.S. Department of Energy has found that biodiesel produces 78.5% less CO2 emissions compared to petroleum diesel. Biodiesel is a clean burning alternative fuel produced from vegetable oils or animal fats. It is a renewable, non-toxic, biodegradable, safe fuel made from any plant oil or animal fat that can be used in any diesel engine. Common blends are B20 which is 20% biodiesel.

Katirina Tracy, COO of CIMA Green, takes a page from "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" and tells us how BioDiesel is made with a tour of the factory. Vegetable oil, animal fats, methanol and sodium methylate. At the end of the tour, Jason drinks soy oil for $50 out of a shot glass and sticks his entire arm into a cylinder of free fatty acids to retrieve the $100 bill at the bottom. Jason, who hunts and guts deer as a hobby, thinks it's a walk in the park and hopes there are more R&D trips like this in the future. Look out, Mike Rowe, because Jason is after your dirty jobs.

American Chopper March 12 “The Call”

This week on American Chopper Sr. finishes two bikes for a trucker and Jr. builds a bike for babies.

The episode starts off when Jr. and family travel to Michigan to visit Lamar Construction Company. According to their website, Lamar Construction Company is a nationwide building contractor offering steel and precast concrete erection (he he). They've been around since 1938 and have had a good couple years recently, so Lamar wants to do a bike to raise money and awareness for March of Dimes. Interestingly March of Dimes was also founded in 1938 and is headquartered in White Plains, NY. Why didn't Jr. use this great co-branding opportunity like Ford and Harley-Davidson (both founded in 1903)? President Franklin D. Roosevelt founded the March of Dimes to combat polio, but the mission has shifted to improve the health of mothers and babies.

To research his bike design, Jr. visits Sparrow hospital in Lansing, Michigan, to learn more about March of Dimes and meet with two parents of babies the organization has helped. Dawson was born 15 weeks premature at less than 2 pounds and a foot long. He's a little bit bigger now and didn't seem to like being on TV. He escaped past Vinnie to run wild around the pediatrics ward.

Back at OCC they're finishing work on the John Christner Trucking bikes. The old school bobber with Mexican style pinstripes is complemented by a "new-school" pro-street style that looks like a stealth bomber. If these bikes will be ridden by truckers, I really hope they include satellite radio, CB radios, air brakes, and running lights.

American Chopper Feb. 27 “Operation Reconciliation”

This week on American Chopper OCC builds an American eagle out of aluminum, Jr. finishes the One Call Concepts bike, and Mikey donates some of his weight to a four-year-old with leukemia.

The show starts when OCC gets commissioned by Wall Side Windows to build a bike for Veterans Airlift Command (VAC) in honor of our nations' wounded veterans. If you were wondering, the VAC provides free air transportation to wounded veterans and their families for medical and other compassionate purposes.

Inspired by the theme of flying, Jason draws up a screaming eagle complete with a headlight recessed inside an open beak and realistic 3-D talons running down the forks. After cutting the talons out of a 3-inch-thick billet of aluminum at 30 pounds each, Jim "engineered" them on the CNC mill down to only 12. That's still hefty for a motorcycle, and this would never work in mass production where these parts would be cast instead.

Speaking of pounds Mikey is losing weight to raise money for a four-year-old with leukemia named Will. Also participating with Mikey is the Mayor of Montgomery, Steve Brescia, who was dressed in his finest Under Armour for his TV appearance. Mikey and Steve top the scales at 350 lbs. and 222 lbs. respectively. Personally, I'd like to see them wrestle since they're both super heavyweights.

Meanwhile Jr. is back in his shop finishing up the One Call Concepts bike and eating chocolate donuts. Apparently he won't be joining his brother in losing weight for charity. The finished bike is super low, and even Mini-Me, Verne Troyer, probably wouldn't have trouble throwing his leg over the seat. I like the 811 racing theme especially with the start of NASCAR this week and the Daytona 500. And Daytona Bike Week is coming up soon too. All the digging tools cleaned up nicely once painted and chromed. I almost didn't recognize them from a distance.

American Chopper Feb. 20 “The Apprentice Bike”

This week on American Chopper Paul Jr. builds a bike for OCC.  No, not Orange County Choppers. This bike was for a company called One Call Concepts. Oh, the irony.

What is One Call Concepts? They’re the call-before-you-dig people, and their slogan is “When safety is on the line.”  Who better to represent that brand message than the Tuetul family, who are known to hit each other in the head with shovels and other flying objects.

Jr.’s plan is to “integrate everything that has to do with digging” onto the bike.  Here’s where the cake decorator criticism comes into play.  Shovel heads and pickaxes are randomly placed throughout.  At least the shovel seat idea was abandoned as too uncomfortable, even though nobody will actually ride this bike.

Meanwhile, the real OCC is finishing up the Donald Trump bike while Sr. is away filming the Celebrity Apprentice.  Rick says it’s hard not having Paul around to yell at him and complain.  I know I hate it when my boss is out of the office too, Rick.  Then Sr. makes a call, and the OCC biker gang assembles.  They dust off charity bikes built for the New York Jets, Giants, Firefighters, POW/MIA. . .but I’ve got to ask myself, why are all those charity bikes still around?  Weren’t they supposed to give them to charity?

And of course there’s more family drama on the show this week. Sometimes I think there are more therapy sessions in the kitchen than scenes building motorcycles.  Mikey didn’t say “hi” to Sr. and the two sides “conveniently” missed each other at the wake, and I was like “oh no he didn’t, girlfriend!”  The guys on OCC are starting to remind me a lot of the spoiled teenagers on the OC only with more tattoos.

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