Screeching wheels, angry curses, and a narrow avoidance of an old red BMW that just cut me off. Berkeley drivers suck! The mother was too busy reprimanding her children in the backseat to notice she just rolled through a stop sign. Upon realizing she did, her response was to jam on the brakes in the middle of the intersection. When she grinded to a halt in the dead center of the crossroads, there we sat, eye to eye, me wanting to throttle her and she staring at me with a vacant look of ignorant shock. I take special note of the “My son is an honor student at The Washington Primary School” sticker in her window, then gas it and let loose on the clutch, tearing off down the street.
As I sped away I realized I needed to build a new bike, one that would allow me to use my intimate knowledge of metals, but at the same time let everyone around know that this scientist has giant gorilla balls. I needed a bike that is fat, mean, intimidating, and says: “Get the hell out of my way.” To do this, I knew it was imperative that I go to just the right place.
Deep in the industrial parts of the East Bay lies my shop, a bastion of welding, metal foundry, forming, and blacksmithing. Within these walls hammers pound, metal flows, and rust generates; nothing shiny and pretty can be found, only creations from the darkest and deepest bowels of the imagination.
Mix countless nights spent sweating over liquefied steel, frustration with unmindful drivers, then add in a considerable portion of Jack Daniels for good measure, and we arrive at the latest creation to roll out of my shop, a rolling piece of intimidating sculpture named Grudge.
Grudge is a riveted beast that harks back to the early days of the industrial revolution where hot steel was hammered and riveted together. In total, there are fourteen round-head rivets that remind the viewer of ironwork long since forgotten in this age of plastic. The crowing jewel of the motorcycle is an air cleaner cover that was sand-cast in iron and finished with eight rivets. To complement the rivets, no high-tech paint job would be appropriate. The metal needed to be finished in a rough-hewn manner that would match the aggressive and dark style of the bike.
Every steel piece was finished in the same manner on Grudge, with attitude. The frame, tank, rear fender, and air cleaner cover were first wire-wheeled to raw metal, then blued with gun-metal acid. This was followed by rinsing with a garden hose, which leaves the finish uneven and creates a fine flecking of rust particles. A hint: Drinking copious amounts of beer during the wire wheeling process is strongly advised. This enables one to do an additional rinsing of the metal with their own garden hose; yellow water really brings out the rust flecks. Finally, the parts were finished with a rattle can of Deft satin lacquer, which enhances the brown hue of the rust flecks. The final product is metal with a beautiful and roughly-worn antique feel with considerable depth.
The finished sheet metal was hung on a Daytec frame with six inches of vertical stretch to accommodate my size. At 6’2” and 225 pounds I look like Grape Ape on a motorcycle with a stock frame. In order to keep a dense and fat appearance, a king Sportster tank was cut and dropped hard against the backbone of the frame. The exhaust pipes were wrapped in black header wrap for absolutely no reason relating to performance, it just looks tough. The rear fender was built short to show plenty of wheel to those who follow, ensuring they know to keep a safe distance.
Upon completion, I took Grudge out of my shop for a roll around Berkeley. True to form, the drivers were infuriatingly unobservant. An old hippie stared into the distance as he rolls through a stop sign, pedestrians who feel entitled that they have the right-of-way walk right out in front of you, bicyclists who don’t adhere to any signage, a Mohawk and tattoo wearing glam-mechanic on his cell phone bucking for the next TV gig, and, of course, a minivan-driving mother talking on her cell phone while yelling at her children. Grudge terrorized them all and commanded their attention; she made them acknowledge her presence and yield the right of way.
I wish I could say that I have run into the old red BMW driver again, but I haven’t. Nonetheless, Grudge has proven her ability to effectively instill fear in the local meandering drivers, usually leaving them slightly bewildered at what just happened as I throttle by them. Dare I say though that my life is not yet over, and as long as Grudge and I prowl the streets of Berkeley, there is always a chance we will again run into the red BMW. And when we do, my Grudge will be complete.
Story and photos by physicist and ChopCult member Dr. Kevin Moore