A motorcycle show featuring motorcycle builders, rare bike owners, painters, and photographers, honoring the industry and it's crafts by carefully curating it and presenting it to the interested masses. The show takes place in an industrial warehouse just blocks from Lake Erie, providing the perfect urban, gritty setting for this Great Lakes focused show. It is a free event. The Great Lakes region is filled with manufacturing, machine shops, and automotive industry. Despite the foul winter weather, or maybe because of it, gear head ingenuity abounds. Fuel Cleveland aims to drag seldom-seen rare motorcycles and top-quality custom choppers together, along with photography and paint work by some of the top artists in the motorcycle community, to be shown off to like-minded motorcycle enthusiasts. For more information check out the website and give us a follow on Instagram.
A: My hometown is Lake Villa, IL - a small town an hour directly north of Chicago. I spent the first 31 years of my life there, and it was a great town to grow up in. Lots of fields and woods nearby, and my friends and I grew up crashing and fixing all kinds of things like dirtbikes and smowmobiles. It's always home to me.
Since moving to Cleveland, what have been some of your favorite things about the city?
A: Since moving to Cleveland, many things have become favorites. The food here is so diverse, and I found so many places to eat something different, and they quickly became spots to go to on the regular. I made good friends with so many awesome people right off the bat, and I have had tons of support since the day I moved into my shop. I love urban decay and there are certain parts of the city that still show evidence of what was once here. Old industry, steel, manufacturing, railways, we have it all here. It still is a very productive city, and I love that. Where does the name, Strange Cycles come from?
A: The name Strange Cycle...when it gets boring and stale, ya gotta go out and get some Strange.
What are some things you specialize in at your shop?
A: I build custom parts in a unique way, and where possible, I avoid a welded joint and forge a part from a single piece. Forged steel parts are the strongest and last the longest. Brackets, sissy bars, handlebars, seat pans, and many more parts are made this way at Strange Cycle. Frame modification, repair, and restoration are also services offered, and I take pride in the meticulous quality that goes into every job.
Photo by: Ken Carvajal
What started the love for motorcycles for you and when did that love turn into modifying your own bikes, and then to full out building your own motorcycles?
A: I spent over 10 years working for a small business repairing small engines in residential and commercial outdoor power equipment. During this time I bought a crappy Honda Rebel from my neighbor's garage sale, beat the hell out of it for a few days until it blew to bits, and that sparked my love for anything motorcycle related. I began to fix and modify bikes for people local in my town, and built a few for myself too. All the while I was studying and learning about metal working, and eventually got the chopper sickness real bad, and started building bikes from the frame up.
Your bikes are always always so skinny, low and mean, is it safe to say itâ€™s kind of your style?
A: To me the most well thought out bikes are put together and built tight and snug. The first time I ever walked up to an old drag bike and looked at it, I realized how tiny and detailed all the working parts are. It was low, long, and mean as hell. That old drag bike influenced me more than I knew, and with the love for real choppers already there, I naturally began to fall in love with digger style bikes. Reading stories about early Ness, Fatland, Denvers, and the craziness that Lanza Sr. created, and how their shops and names got out, are the best stories in chopper history. The timeless style of those bikes makes me want to keep it alive, but add the flavor of my ideas.
Who or what inspires you and your style?
A: My inspiration comes from so many things. Old mechanical theories, blacksmithing, antique machines, tooling, and the details inside old buildings. My friends inspire me the most out of all, because the neatest design and fabwork is coming out of their shops, using methods and ideas I have never seen before.
What's one bike you would love to own and/or build in the near future?
A: A bike to own and build in the near future, and I actually have a few parts set aside for, is a shovster, shortster, with two front heads. Open chain primary will drive a 5 speed of some sort. It would go in a 60's club style bike, and be a daily rider. Someday!
What do you find most challenging when building a bike?
A: When building a bike there are many challenges. The biggest challenge I face every time is the clock! I spend so much time on the smallest details, and there is always a deadline. I can never leave it well enough alone, and if it's not exactly what I want, I start over!
Photo by: Ken Carvajal
What's one of your favorite trips or runs you have ever done on your motorcycle and why?
A: Last summer, I rode to Smokey Mountain Chopper Fest, and the ride down there was awesome. The winding roads and hills were distracting enough to forget about the rear drum brake fade, and really have a good time. I rode my CB 750 digger down there and back with no problems at all. That's a great trip to make every year if you can! Every year we ride to Detroit for the Oily Souls show, and that's another favorite. Detroit is one of my favorite cities, and I've made lots of good friends out there.
Is there a place in this world you have yet to visit and must go before you kick the bucket?
A: There are so many interesting places to go, and so many cultures to explore and learn about in the world. I would love to see Scotland someday, and do a backpack adventure in the hills and woods out there. I follow the big adventures that Doug Wothke takes on his bikes around the world, and hope to do something similar, in parts of the world people hardly ever see.
Is there any life codes or mottos you live by?
A: I live by many motos and life codes, but the best one I learned from my close friend and Marine BJ Ledinsky, is "Adapt and overcome". There is nothing that can't be fixed or sorted out. Another good one is "play stupid games, win stupid prizes". Think it through before you act.
Any big plans or builds in your near future you can share?
A: A big bike project I have planned is a hill climber powered by a 65' BSA Hornet engine. I have the engine and matching frame with lots of extras already, and once its completed, actually race it! It's a potent little engine, and I think it would do pretty well. Coming soon!
Are you a eggs, bacon and toast or a pancakes with whip cream & syrup kind of guy?
A: For breakfast I would take the pancakes, syrup and whip cream on the bottom, and put the eggs, bacon, and toast on the top. Now I'm hungry, thanks haha.
Anyone you would like to give a shout out to or thank?
A: There are many people to thank for the support and help I've received over the years. I moved to Cleveland to be with my girlfriend Anna Lee, and she has done so much to help the shop grow now that I'm here. From promotion to shipping t-shirts, she's there to help. I spend so much time at the shop, and she deals with a lot without any problems. My close bud BJ Ledinski is another person that has been there for me and the shop since the day I showed up in Cleveland with a truck full of everything I own. Back home in Illinois, Mike and Dan Sappanos were there since the start, helping with so many things since we were kids. Josh Bartlett is another bud that has been there for me through the thick and thin. All you guys back home, I love you and thank you for all you have done. Anyone I didn't mention, you know who you are and I thank you. I also would like to thank my customers for the business, and many have become great friends of mine over the years. Thank you!
How can people follow you and your work?
A: I'm in the process of creating a website for the shop now, but in the mean time, the best way to find out more about what I do is to check out @strange_cycle on Instagram, or look up the Strange Cycle Facebook page. I'm always on there updating events we support and showing current projects.
Make sure to check out Alex's crazy good '59 Ironhead at Fuel Cleveland on May 28th.
Is building bikes a full-time gig for you, if not, is it something you are aiming or or just something you love?
R: Bikes are just a hobby. I drive a semi truck to pay the bills. I'm not sure if I'd want to do it for a living. I think I'd be afraid that I wouldn't love it anymore. In an ideal world is like to drive truck part-time and do bike shit on the side but I'm not sure how realistic that is.
You always seem to be in front of trends when it comes to your bikes, what inspires your style and how do you stay a head of others?
R: Haha. I always feel like I'm late to the party. There's tons of stuff that inspires me. Music shit is huge.....I always try and have one or two things from bands I love on the bike ( i.e.; my joy division seat and the English dogs artwork on my shovel tank). I love all the primitive "technology" that came out late 70's early 80's. Early disc brakes, more prevalent magneto's, white letters, etc, etc. The "Team Tough Guy" IG that I post to with my friends has a lot of great examples. I don't really feel like anyone is staying ahead of anything in 2016. Most shit's been done, but I think it can always be done a little different or better. Back then the average guy didn't have a tig welder or a lathe at home.......this day in age with Craigslist and the fall of America's industrial class, you can pick over the carcass pretty cheap.
Photo By: Luke Mouradian
What is your favorite thing to work on when it comes to building bikes?
R: Probably fab work and/or doing any high performance motor or trans work.......not that I'm very good at either. Every bike becomes more fun as my skills improve though. I love a challenge, but it feels good to come into something with some confidence. Making a bracket, tig welding it, and having it look decent is pretty satisfying for me.
Whatâ€™s on the MP3 player right now and does music play any role in your life?
R: I try to play tapes and records if possible because I'm a pretentious asshole.....but here's some shit new and old that I'm heavy into: Discharge, PMS84, Amebix, Freddie Gibbs, Fragment, Warsaw, the most recent New Order record, One Way System, Shitfucker, MotÃ¶rhead, Napalm Raid, Unreal Thought, Aspects Of War, GISM, Waylon Jennings, GA'AN, Poison Idea, External Menace, 2Chainz, Anti-Cimex, Plasmatics, Bathory, Aura Noir, Van Halen, DAC, Skitsystem........I could literally go on forever haha. I listen to a lot of music.
Can you share with us a favorite memory or story on the road while on your bike?
R: I'm not sure if I can pick one. I love any time spent on a bike. Apocalypse Run is always fun and eventful. Valhalla trip with my boy Christian ruled. I've done a lot of great solo trips to Minnesota that were super peaceful. I just love riding motorcycles, and if it's on a chopper it's even better.
Whatâ€™s one place you havenâ€™t been yet and you have to go? Why?
R: I really want to ride Nova Scotia. I've made friends with a few dudes that are from there or currently live there and it just intrigues me. It's not very big, and Halifax is the only major city but the more I hear and see, the more I wanna ride there.
You are the founder of the Apocalypse run, how did that idea come about and what have been your goals for it?
R: I've been riding dirtbikes up there my whole life. My parents own property up there, and I have a lot of relatives that live there as well. It's 40% of Michigan's land mass with only 5% of its population residing there so it's perfect for lawless chopper riding and partying. It's also just super beautiful. It's kind of a time capsule. My goals are just to get more friends there to experience it. It's not a bike show. It's just riding motorcycles and having good times with friends.
Whatâ€™s one of your best times on Apocalypse run?
R: Probably the last year. Every year gets better I think, but last year there was 60 dudes just being ridiculous. No egos. Just a lot of fun.
What are your thoughts on how the motorcycle scene has grown over the past 5 years?
R: I'm not sure what to think. I like seeing people on bikes.......but I'm also excited to see the people that will stick around after the smoke clears, ya know? Dudes that just love it. Also excited to buy everyone's parts once they get Dyna's lol.
What is your all time favorite bike you have ever owned and why?
R: My current shovel, hands down. I'm just proud of it. It's a labor of love. It's a pretty simple bike to most people I'm sure, but I have so much time into the frame and motor. It handles and performs well for a chopper, and I'm not sick of looking at it yet.....which is unusual for me. Dream machine, what is it and any plans on making it or getting it in the near future.
R: I have hundreds haha. Always thinking about the next bike before I'm finished with the current one. I'm honestly pretty content with my current stable tho. I have a pretty clean c10, a shovel I like, and an Evo that I hope will be cool. I'm hoping to just work on some friends bikes and or customer shit after this bikes done.
Are you a wine and cheese, beer and pretzels or whiskey and more whiskey, kind of guy?
R: I'm a black coffee and cigarettes guy.
Anyone you want to give a shout out or thank?
R: Oh man, so many people. No man is an island and I'm living proof of that. My boy Rudy for always helping me on my motors, Dave and Christian for being into the same refined hi performance shit as me. Terry Nichoson for being one of the only people that comes to my shop. My ol lady for putting up with my shit. My Brother Rusty for making me laugh. Jordan Best for being one of my oldest consistent friends. Steven for being a worthless trucker just like myself. Clancy for being my punk chopper Canadian internet boyfriend. Matt Aberle for bitching about even more than I do. Anyone who has come on Apocalypse Run and/or sponsored my little rag tag run. Punk rock for keeping my standard of living low.
D: We really just try to do what we think is cool. Our customers generally just give us tins and say, "Go crazy" or they give us a slight direction they want to go. But normally we like 100% custom, older show bike style stuff. So a lot of metal flake, pearls, tape work, stencils, murals, molding, gold leaf, pinstriping etc. we provide custom work. We don't do a lot of just "base and clear" work. That's not our bag.
What is your favorite thing to lay paint on?
D: Choppers. Without a doubt painting choppers is our passion. Custom bikes are what we love to paint but choppers and bobbers are why we paint. The community rewards originality and what better way to be original then have some dudes in southern Ohio, get weird and paint and sculpt and buff something that is unique. I mean, that's why I paint. That's why we work all day and paint all night. We don't paint cars. We paint bikes only. I will say that laying out a bagger paint job is not half as fun as a three piece chopper. (Tank, oil tank, fender) but we love to paint.
Who or what got you into art itself and what does art mean to you?
D: Originally I'm from New Jersey. As a kid was I always the obsessed with music and cartoons. So I would constantly draw instead of do homework. My mom kept a lot of my discipline papers from school. When I was about 13 years old my family moved to Southern California. That's where I kind of found myself really focusing on visual and musical art. California is where I learned how to draw boobs and not get kicked out of art class. I played in punk bands in the area and drew a lot of the flyers for local punk and hardcore shows. It was never a source of income. Just something I did. Some people would read or watch TV. I would just jam tunes and draw. My teenage years were pretty much just skateboarding and surfing and shitty garage shows and art. It's always just been my happy place. Where I released my mind and focused 100% on one thing. When I paint a tank it's the same thing. I spend hours taping them out and just letting what feels right come out. It's really hard not to come off like a hippy when I talk about art. Eventually we ended up in Indiana and now Ohio. I'm 31 one and nothing has changed since I was 15. I still like shit on wheels. I still listen to punk and metal. I still draw boobs and I still love everything different.
What got you in to motorcycles and when did you combine the two of painting and bikes?
D: I was always raised around bikes. I never owned any because my family couldn't really afford one. When I lived in New Jersey we were surrounded by bikers. I would just sit by the main highway and watch bikes, old trucks, vans, and hot rods roll by. When we went to California I was surrounded by bikes. Mostly dirt bikes but it was just a way of life that blew my mind. My only recorded criminal act is a trespassing violation I got when I was 15 for running an old Kawasaki enduro through a cattle ranch. Painting tanks was always a medium I wanted to work with but I never got the chance accept for pin-striping them. When we painted jakes old chopper, that's when I realized how much I loved it. That's when I really found my artistic focus.
Whatâ€™s your all time favorite paint job you have ever laid down, what was it on and why was it your favorite?
D: Oh man! That's like asking "what's your favorite band?" I'd say the ones I have the most fun on are the paint job where I'm not given many guidelines and I can just brain puke my ideas onto the tins. I'd say my favorite tins we've ever done was a Kraken mural tank and fender set we did called "red sky in mourning." It was a mini sporty tank 1.3 gallon. Molded rib panels on top and both side of the tank and a heavily molded and shaped rear fender that had been peaked half way through and came down to two scopes. Micro flake over a swamp water green candy that was marbled. Gold leaf outlined panels of rise rises over the ocean with a mural on top of a giant kraken (squid) taking down a wooden ship. We shipped it off to Australia and I haven't seen or heard anything about it since. I heard it was going on an old pre unit triumph, but I have no actual clue.
Where do you get inspiration from when it comes to themes, or ideas for painting?
D: I read a lot of older Heavy Metal magazines. Other than that, old show bikes. That's really what gets me. Old show bikes that get ridden like hell. Mostly I just try to interpret what I see. Not copy, just take notes on what I like. I try to spin them a different way or put my spin on a good idea. No one is really reinventing chopper paint. We're all following in some footsteps or another, Iâ€™m just trying to make sure my foot prints are original one.
Where is one place on this planet you have to go to before you get to the grave?
D: I want off this planet. Honestly, my only real drive to live till I'm 80 or 90 is the thought that hopefully by then, we'll be capable of space travel as civilians. I truthfully want to just see earth from outside our atmosphere. That really would be the exact moment I'd be content with hanging my hat.
The ultimate dream machine, do you own it or are you still looking for it and what is that machine?
D: I own a dependable old Japanese bike. Not exactly my dream bike, but I love her known the less. Lately I've been way into the swing shovel head chops I've been seeing. I've really been into just simple hard tail, 6 over, telescopic, with a cream white paint job and a cream King and Queen seat with just a simple, reliable 02" 1200. I know that's basic and it's already been done. But just the simplicity of that set up with a good hand painted mural on top. Light molding, tiny frisco bars and a nice little exhaust sounds perfect to me. Gas and exhaust stains. Damn!
Do you live by any life codes or words follow any specific words of wisdom?
D: The Conrad family motto â€œDON'T FUCK IT UP!!"
Whatâ€™s new this year for you and your shop, big plans or jobs you guys are excited to be working on?
D: I've got some customers that are working on some killer bikes. I also have a huge list of tank ideas. When things slow down we like to buy a couple tanks and paint whatever we want on them and sell them or keep them as display pieces for our booth at shows. Other than that, we're pumped on some of the bike shows coming up in the area. Boogie Farm Clam Jam II is going to be insane. Pinned Ohio is also going to be a pretty damned good time. We also plan on remodeling the shop a bit. Get some more room to spread out wings.
What was a day in the life like for 13 year old Donny? Anything you would tell your self if you could go back to when you were 13?
D: Wake up around noon. Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Go skateboarding or ride bikes. I had a mini bike chopper. So maybe cruise that turd around. Go hang out with my friend and check out his older sister and her friends. Draw some goofy monster after stealing beer from my dadâ€™s fridge. Maybe surf or eat tacos.
I'd probably tell myself to focus your time on visual art and less on girls and wanting to play music professionally. I'd definitely tell myself to get into painting earlier. I feel like I'm a bit late to the game. I never really had any formal training, just an obsession.
Whatâ€™s your favorite pizza topping or you a cheese kinda guy? - California might have shaped my art mind. But my stomach belongs in New Jersey. I'd gladly just take a big, greasy ass cheese pizza. Papa Luigi's in Pennsville. That's the dream pizza. You're worried about dream bikes and art inspiration. My real dreams/inspirations is just cheese pizza and space travel.
Anyone you would like to thank or give a shout out to?
- My incredibly tolerant and beautiful wife Heather. Jake, Paulie, Kyle, Big Fucking Benny, Boogie Farm Kyle & Jessica, Billy from Showclass, JP Rodman, Donny and Jay from Good Times Reform, Illinois Andy, Keith Baskett, Mike Burke, Josh Shaw, Dominic, Teddy Too Tall, Johnny Depp's cutier brother Zach, heavy metal magazine, stoner metal, Ralph Bakshi, Frank Frazetta, Sabbath, and Arizona Sweet Tea. I love you all!
You can check out Donny's tank at Fuel Cleveland On May 28th and to keep up with more art from Donny and his crew you can follow them on Instagram @hckustoms or their website hckustoms.bigcartel.com
I met Mike Rabideau in Milwuakee at Hood Bush back in 2013, and he couldn't of been any nicer of a dude. Over the years the likeliness of seeing him at every show I go to is pretty high and he always has a big smile on his face. I pretty sure, I have hung out with Mike at more shows then any other person. Mike's not just an avid show goer, he's actually an extremely talented bike builder as well. His style is different than other's and when you see one of his bikes parked on the street or in a show, you instantly know it's one of his designs. Some of the stories about how much fabrication goes into his builds are absolutely insane but with one look at his bikes you can tell his heart and soul goes into each and every one. I'm glad to call Mike a friend of mine over the years and I am so stoked he is coming out from Milwuakee to show off his latest build at Fuel Cleveland on May 28th. I had the chance to sit down with him the other day and ask him a few questions. This is what came of it, enjoy!
Photo by: Gabriella Brossman
Mike Rabideau, where do you call home?
I live in Racine,WIâ€¦ between Milwaukee and Chicago.
Can you tell us a little history about yourself and your shop?
Wellâ€¦Iâ€™m just a regular guy tryinâ€™ to make it through life like the rest of you. I have a job, bills, and bullshit that I have to deal withâ€¦. I just build bikes in between. Iâ€™ve always been into motorcycles and BMX since a young age. I converted a two car garage into a shop with a couple lifts and all the basic tools needed to do this kind of work. Iâ€™ve always been into art, whether it was drawings, paintings or sculptures, I was always making something from nothing. It almost seemed inevitable that someday I would build bikes as functioning art.
Photo by: Gabriella Brossman
What bike do you plan on bringing to Fuel Cleveland and can you tell us a little about it?
This year Iâ€™m bringing a â€™83 Shovelhead. I built this bike last year as an Invited Builder for the Hotbike Tour 2015. I used a VL frame, RL frontend, Mag driven, fully polished Shovelhead, Baker Six Speed Trans, Custom Tins and subtle paintjob by Kendall. Itâ€™s a complete ground up build with all the stress you can imagine knowing I had to ride this on the tour when it was done.
The love and passion you have for motorcycles seams to really show in your builds and I know you put a ton of hours into each bike. Where does that love and passion come from and what is the longest amount of time you have ever spent building a bike?
Oh manâ€¦letâ€™s not talk about the hours! As far as the passion behind the builds, I would just have to say itâ€™s naturally my OCD. I just want it to look good and work right and try and avoid all potential problems from the get go. Iâ€™ve built enough bikes to know what works and what doesnâ€™t work, so I just try to carry that into the next. If you do it right the first timeâ€¦ you wonâ€™t have to go back and fix or redo something. As far as the longest build time I would say about two yearsâ€¦.that was in the earlier years. Iâ€™ve found faster ways of doing things since then.
Photo by: Gabriella Brossman
What you find most challenging when it comes to building? Motors, the design, or fabrication?
I guess I would say the motor work rather than fab or design. I can see the design in my head with what Iâ€™m trying to do. The fab work is the fun part because youâ€™re actually making something from just a thought. The motor work is more critical, and involves tools I donâ€™t haveâ€¦which is even more the challenging part.
Photo by: Brian Rovinski
What has been your all-time favorite bike you have ever built or owned and why?
I would have to say my favorite build was the Trike I built in 2014. I built that knowing it was out of my comfort zoneâ€¦ the challenge and outcome was unreal. I built that as an Invited Builder for the HotBike Tour 2014 and just wanted to do something different than everybody else. Showing up with a third wheel was a little odd, but it paid off. I actually won a trip to the Motor Bike Expo in Verona, Italy after winning the build off that year. Iâ€™d have to say that was definitely a fun experience.
Who or what inspires your style when it comes to designing your bike?
Good questionâ€¦Thereâ€™s so many cool builders out there and I love all kinds of bikes but if I had to name some builder that inspire me and designs it would be guys like, Nash Mororcycles, Jesse Rooke, Scott â€œT Bonesâ€ Jones, Masa w/Luck MC, Mad Jap, Dave Polgreen, Chris Graves, Jeff Cochran, Jeff Wright and Paul Wideman. I like clean bikes with finished parts. As much as I like seeing the old survivor crusty old bikes, Iâ€™m more into building short clean bikes with clean lines and style, nothing over the top with all the extra gadgets and detailed work that sometimes gives an overkill kind of look.
Photo by: Gabriella Brossman
You go to a lot of shows, I swear I see you almost at every show I go to. Whatâ€™s your favorite show out of all them and why?
My favorite show, ehâ€¦well, each show has its own vibe and unique way of doing things, so itâ€™s hard to say which one is actually my favorite. Obviously Born Free is one of the showâ€™s to get to, you see some of the best bikes from around the world and itâ€™s in Southern California so whatâ€™s not to like. Oily Soul has been a fun time every year. Detroitâ€™s just one of those lawless cities so we all road hard through those streets. Mama Tried is on the top of the list for me though. Itâ€™s local for me and I get to see a lot of my friends that come to town. This yearâ€™s show topped last year by integrating the races on Friday night. The show is well organized and thought out with a diverse selection of bikes in the showâ€¦.and its Milwaukeeâ€¦Home of Harley Davidson!
If you could only own one bike for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Wellâ€¦I already have a bike I will own for the rest of my life. It was my uncle Markâ€™s â€™76 Shovelhead. He had a bad crash on it in 2010 which caused him never to ride again. He gave me what was left and I rebuilt it and ride it as my daily rider. He owned the bike for 25 yrs. and for him to give it to me means a lot and I could never see me getting rid of it. Otherwiseâ€¦.give me a Knucklehead and I promise to keep it! What is your all-time favorite place you have rode to and plan on going back anytime soon?
Iâ€™d have to say when I rode across Up State New York through the mountains with my dad. That was a memorable ride Iâ€™d like to do again. Another one is the HotBike Tourâ€¦thatâ€™s a good ride with some good people. Every night was a party and itâ€™s just a rolling show from city to city.
Photo by: Scott Nelson
Whatâ€™s one of the craziest memories or stories from a run or trip on your motorcycle?
Damnâ€¦.I have some good ones, bad ones and sad ones, but one of the most memorable runs had to be the Hood Bush Run a few years back in Milwaukee. We all met at The Valley and rode north to the party spot north of Milwaukee. I know you were at that one Mikey. I have pictures of you taking pictures as we took over 3 lanes of highway. It was a perfect day just smashing down the highway with cars pulling over just to get out of the way. That was a fun one for sure.
Any big plans or new builds you are currently working on?
I donâ€™t have any big plans other than a few shows I want to go to. As far as buildsâ€¦Iâ€™m just working on a swing arm Shovelhead right now. Itâ€™s just a short little tight bike that I plan on ripping around next year. Iâ€™m not trying to stress myself with these builds anymore, so Iâ€™ll work on it at my own pace and just have fun with it again. I already have most of the work done so I know what itâ€™s going to look. I just have to tighten it up and get it welded up. Maybe Iâ€™ll just shoot to have it done for Fuel next year?? Weâ€™ll seeâ€¦
Photo by: Scott Nelson
What was 13 year old Mikey like, and if you could go back in time, what words of advice or wisdom would you tell yourself?
Wowâ€¦you want to go there? Wellâ€¦I was pretty much a trouble maker at 13. I wonâ€™t get into details, but if I could go back and give myself some advice I would just tell myself that Karmaâ€™s a Bitch! Everything I did I feel came back to bite me in the ass later on. With that saidâ€¦.I would have made a lot of different decisions back then, but fuck itâ€¦thatâ€™s what makes me who I am today.
What are some other things you enjoy doing or hobbies the people may not know about you?
When Iâ€™m not traveling for work or in the garage you will probably find me in my basement playing records. Iâ€™ve been a DJ for the past 20 years and used to play out at raves in the late 90â€™s early 2000â€™s. I never sold my equipment and I still play a few times a month. It goes back to the art thingâ€¦mixing records is a form of art itselfâ€¦ I guess you could consider me an â€œold schoolâ€ DJ, because I actually still play vinyl and not Cdâ€™s. My chopper friends would call me DJ Majik Mike. Thatâ€™s where the name Majik Mike came from.
Photo by: Brian Rovinski
Are you a sushi and saki or a burger and beer kinda guy?
Iâ€™m a burger and beer kinda guy. Why make things complicated.
Anyone you would like to give a shout out to or thank?
Manâ€¦where to startâ€¦well Iâ€™d have to thank the people and companies that do support me. Building a complete bike from start to finish is a tough task and Iâ€™ve always had help along the way. Thereâ€™s too many to name but Iâ€™d have to say thanks to Dan Vice, Terry the Polisher, Chris Graves, Cheater Carl, Kevin Klemick, Herman the German, Adam Nisiewicz, Jeff Holt, Bobby Middleton, Ken Taylor, Dean Jones, my family and the whole Milwaukee crewâ€¦and of course you too Mikey. Iâ€™ve had many companies back me like Harley Davidson, Lowbrow, Biltwell, HotBike, Baker Transmission, Throwback Motorcycle Parts, Speed Dealer, Efab, Pierce Street Seat Company, Morris Magneto, Bare Knuckle Choppers, MidStates and Kira America that I have to say Thanks to also!
An ice cream connoisseur named Bill Bryant once told me "Ride motorcycles and have fun, that's all that really matters when it comes to bikes." Bill, co-founder of one of the most well-known companies in the chopper/motorcycle world, Biltwell Inc. is hands down one of the most down to earth and genuine guys you will ever meet. He is an extremely talented designer when it comes to websites and visual media but don't let those "nerd" skills fool you. He also is a pretty talented builder of motorcycles as well and let's not forget to mention he can ride the shit out of almost any bike you put in front of him. I first met bill at the Tail of the Dragon on a small adventure Biltwell had put together a few years ago called "Skyway To The Dangerzone." I've had the pleasure of working with Bill off and on with small projects over the past few years and I still learn new things about him all the time. I sat down with him the other day and asked him the really hard questions about his life, Biltwell, his favorite foods, and his favorite bikes. I can't wait for Bill to come out to Fuel Cleveland on May 28th with his '75 Shovelhead but until then check out this interview, enjoy!
Photo by Luis Aguirre
What bike do you plan on showing at Fuel Cleveland?
B: Iâ€™m brining my 1975 shovelhead. Same bike Iâ€™ve had for about five years. Jay Roche @jayroche79 originally built it, I bought it from Walter @kickstartcycles and have changed it up over the years so that the only thing left from the original bike is the front half of the frame, the pipes and the old 74â€ engine that barely breaks a sweat. Itâ€™s not a show bike, itâ€™s a go bike.
What or who originally got you into motorcycles?
B: Back in the mid 90â€™s I was trying to talk some friends into going in partners on a shitty off road race car idea and my friend Simon said it was stupid and we should just buy dirt bikes instead. I bought a shit ass CR125 that was a blast. Not long after that I got a dual sport and started commuting to work, and itâ€™s been downhill ever since.
Photo by Geoff Kowalchuk
What is your favorite part of the build and the ride?
B: My favorite time of the build is when something actually works and Iâ€™m satisfied with it the first time. Itâ€™s a pretty rare occasion because I either end up nitpicking it afterwards or redoing something several times until Iâ€™m stoked with it. The ride? I love the small roadside problem and fix. It doesnâ€™t have to be me, in fact I havenâ€™t come home in a truck in quite some time (jinx!) but I love diagnosing something on the side of the road and fixing it on the spot with whatever weâ€™ve got. Generally itâ€™s someone else which makes it more fun, haha.
What do you find the most challenging for you when you are building a bike?
B: The organization and planning is probably the most challenging. I can make shit. I have decent ideas. I just donâ€™t always get it in the right order and that slows me down and pisses me off. I truly enjoy working on and building bikes but Iâ€™m very humbled by the amount of talent at shows like Fuel, Born Free, etc and I donâ€™t feel like Iâ€™m anywhere near that level, but Iâ€™m stoked to have my bike on display anyway.
Photo by Geoff Kowalchuk
Who are some of your favorite people you work with when in need of some help on a project?
B: Man, I need people all the time. Otto has a good eye for style. McGoo can true a wheel like a ninja and has a great problem-solving mind. Rico gives me faith in humanity because heâ€™s such a good hugger and has seen it all before. He can make anything mechanical work and has patience with me when others would probably dot my eye. Bob and Chris at Temecula Motorcycle Service because they are always there to answer my stupid questions and help sort something out. Walter for his undying love and tech support via texts. Painters like Matt Ross and Pete â€œHot Dogâ€ Finlan who are not only talented as hell but actually do what they promise in the time they estimated. Mike D. for leaning on me to actually spend money on stuff rather than just keep trying to â€œmake it workâ€. The Haifley Bros. in Phoenix for being so ridiculously talented and humble at the same time. My buddy Joe for helping me on fab stuff but never rubbing in the fact that heâ€™s certified by NASA to weld underwater spaceships or whatever. Duane Ballard for always answering a million stupid questions on my recent CB750 project, and of course for making kick ass seats and anything else you can imagine. @H8ter can lift real heavy stuff and is a pretty good whistler. Iâ€™m grateful for the friends I have and enjoy working together with them on stuff; theirs or mine.
Photo by Luis Aguirre
What is your all time favorite bike you have owned in your life?
B: It has to be my â€™92 FXR. I got it in â€™08 and itâ€™s been through a few different transformations. Iâ€™ve been all over on this bike and itâ€™s my one â€˜keeperâ€. Iâ€™ve been lucky enough to have a chance to ride all kinds of bikes, old and new, and while there are some Iâ€™d still like to own, my FXR UPR is the one I can confidently say will get passed on to my kids.
What are some hobbies or things you enjoy to do that most wouldnâ€™t know about you?
B: Iâ€™m a family man first and foremost and have been married to my awesome wife for 25 years this August. Iâ€™ve always put family first and while Iâ€™ve been called a workaholic, I have always carved out quality time with Carrie and my kids. Iâ€™ve done my best to lead by example and teach my kids to be thoughtful, honest and courageous about life. Now my son works for us as Biltwellâ€™s one-man video production team and my daughter is kicking ass in her freshman year of college and I couldnâ€™t be more proud of them both.
Photo by Geoff Kowalchuk
Whatâ€™s your favorite event or events you get to go to or look forward to every year?
B: I love looking at bikes in shows and seeing old friends at events but my favorite thing is staying up late the night before a multi-day trip, packing and repacking my gear to go ride and camp with people that I consider true friends. About day three I start getting in the groove and thatâ€™s the sweet spot.
Where did the initial dream behind Biltwell come from?
B: Back when we started, it was full TV personality vibe in the motorcycle industry and companies were charging ridiculous prices for stupid looking parts and fame seemed more important than customers. We wanted to come up with stuff that a regular dude could afford and would be proud of. McGoo and I ran a little design agency that did work in the action sports industry and our personal goal was to be able to work for ourselves and not the MBA marketing director types that weâ€™d grown weary of. We finally achieved that a couple years ago and weâ€™re enjoying the autonomy.
Photo by Geoff Kowalchuk
Whatâ€™s your favorite part or accessory at Biltwell?
B: Man, I just love our Gringo helmet. Itâ€™s comfortable and light, but made with modern materials and I think it looks appropriate on just about any rider or bike. Iâ€™ve got thousands of mile in mine and love it. The fact that we bucked the trend of ugly, over-styled, contemporary helmets and brought out something stylish and drop dead simple is rewarding. Designing the paint and graphics on these is one of the most fun parts of my job. We just finished launching the 2016 line and we already have the 2017 stuff worked out.
What big projects do you have in the works right now that you can share?
B: We are working on an all-new helmet thatâ€™ll be called the Lane Splitter. Itâ€™s more contemporary than anything weâ€™ve done in the past, something more suitable for riders of modern bikes and will be certified for use in Europe which is a first for us.
Photo by Geoff Kowalchuk
Give us one of your favorite memories on the road with your bike?
B: Coming home from a trip to Atomic Trentâ€™s GZ event in Albuquerque (2008 I think) on a strutted Sporty, my battery shit the bed. Weâ€™d been on the road for a week or so and were only like 150 miles from home, but in the absolute middle of the desert. I told my buddies Iâ€™d just call AAA and get a lift to the next town and sort it out, so they split. I called and then made camp on the side of the road with my poncho to stay out of the sun. I took a little nap and woke up to a gnarly rain and wind storm that just raised hell. For about an hour I just snuggled up in my poncho, held my backpack so it wouldnâ€™t blow away and just sat it out. I was kind surprised by the number of bikes that jammed right by and not a single one stopped. Not that they could have done anything, but still seemed lame. I always stop for any bike on the side of the road, and this just cemented that habit. AAA guy showed up a couple hours later and man was I stoked. I always bring a poncho, you never know when you are gonna need that thing!
Photo by Geoff Kowalchuk
What is one of the craziest moments you have ever experienced on a motorcycle?
B: During the Biltwell 500 (2010) me and a half dozen friends were ripping down the beach in Baja on dirt bikes, we had just dropped in from the desert cliffs down onto the beach and we were all jamming flat-out, side by side and all of a sudden a small airplane, like a Cessna, flew over, maybe 50 feet above us and we just jammed harder. When we got to the other side of the beach and stopped, everyone was saying the exact same thing: â€œHoly shit, how about that plane?!â€ It was a perfect momentâ€“we all felt like we were extras in On Any Sunday and it was totally by accident and awesome.
Photo By Geoff Kowalchuk
If you could jump on your bike right now and go anywhere where would it be and why?
B: First: Alcan Highway. I really want to ride to Alaska, especially on a chopper since it seems so inappropriate. Second: HWY 312 in China. Iâ€™d like to experience that country while it is still in transition. The idea of riding oil-leaking, fire-spewing vintage American choppers into villages where people have never experienced such power and freedom is thrilling to me.
Photo By Geoff Kowalchuk
What's your history with the BAJA?
B: I worked in a VW shop in Gardena, CA as a teenager, before I even had a driver's license. Next door was a small race shop run by a couple telecom guys. Ron Brant was one of the racers, and he let me do bullshit jobs like scrub skid plates and clean CV joints until I turned 16. At that point, I had my license, so I had value. All of a sudden, I could drive a chase truck and help him pre-run courses like the Baja 1000 and Mint 400. My buddy Matt Frick (@camp4lo) and I helped pit and chase for Brant through the 80â€™s and 90â€™s and even raced our own class 11 car with another friend Jim Pierce, and later Mattâ€™s class 13 car. Ron taught us the ins and outs of Bajaâ€“some good, some questionable, and we fell in love with the freedom and self reliance required to navigate the peninsula. Itâ€™s been part of my life ever since. Ron now lives in Mulege, about 750 miles south of the border. We stop and spend some time with him every time we get down that way. Frick loves driving a chase truck and trailer on the EDR, helping chopper dorks when they run out of talent or mechanical ability along the way, and of course he drinks for free the whole time. Weâ€™ll be pitting for Ron again in this yearâ€™s NORRA Mexican 1000.
All time favorite food and have you had it in the last 5 days?
B: Câ€™mon, Mikey! You know ice cream is our deal. I love to booze it up, but we donâ€™t drink and ride, so while some like to hop from bar to bar, our crew likes to hop from ice cream joint to ice cream joint. My not-so-secret deal is when Iâ€™ve got to run errands in the afternoon at work, I swing through McDonalds and grab a cone. Best $1.08 ever. I usually send a text pic to Otto and @H8ter just so they know I got one and they didnâ€™t. Last five days? Probably done it twiceâ€¦
Anyone you would like to give a shout out to or thank?
B: Weâ€™ve got 19 full-time employees at Biltwell HQ in Temecula, counting McGoo and I. As they say, Team Work makes the Dream Work. Without these guyâ€™s and girlâ€™s dedication and hard work, none of this would be possible. I enjoy going to work with them every day and donâ€™t take an ounce of it for granted.
Make sure to come see Bill's gnarly shovel on May 28th at Fuel Cleveland. To follow more of Bill and his "Ride Motorcycles, Have Fun" lifestyle swing on over to Biltwellinc.com or give them a follow on IG @Biltwell.
Check out a few more of Bill's bikes he's had over the years and built!
Bill helped his son Flynn build this amazing sportster! Photo by Sheldon Ivestor
I first met Ryan Loughridge this past year at the El Diablo Run. We instantly hit it off and I could tell right away he was an extremely funny, chill and kind-hearted dude. I knew of Ryan and his work from the social media worlds but I didn't put two and two together until after our Mexican adventures. I really enjoy meeting people and getting to know them for who they are and not associating one's handle or whatever social outlets accompany their names. Discovering their talents and achievements after the fact but realizing I actually knew about those talents and person all along is a refreshing feeling. His photography is a reflection of his personality, genuine and true. With real life situations and feelings seen differently by his eye, he draws you into his pictures effortlessly. I'm extremely stoked to say Ryan is coming all the way from California to showcase some of his work at Fuel Cleveland on May 28th. I sent him a handful of questions and this is what came of it, enjoy!
Ryan Loughridge, where do you lay your head to rest at night?
R: I live in Costa Mesa, CA but am originally from Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Iâ€™ve been in California for nearly 10 years, but Iâ€™ll always be a Coloradan.
When did you first pick up a camera and why?
R: My dad was always into photography. He was an adventurer. He took photos of his motocross buddies, mountaineering, skiing and family adventures. I think I was probably nine when he gave me my first camera. It was a little black point and shoot. I remember taking a trip with him to Yellowstone when I was around 15. My Dad had a couple of early digital SLRs with him. He said I could shoot with one for the trip. I donâ€™t remember seeing the images from that trip but I loved how the viewfinder was a new scope for creatively looking at the world. Later on, in high school, I took a couple photo classes where I learned the basics of shooting manually and developing film. I wanted to be able to know how to take quality photos of my friends while we were out skating and snowboarding.
Are you a Canon or Nikon guy and why?
R: All of my digital gear is currently Canon. My first SLR was a Nikon and I still have it to this day. Itâ€™s a Nikon N90; an excellent camera. I just find Canon to be a great all around system, especially because I shoot video too. Having the video function is critical and Canons seem to be better than Nikon in that respect, for now. Iâ€™m not a hater, though. I also have a Leica M6 and a Hasselblad XPan; Iâ€™ll never get rid of those. Itâ€™s like bikes: it doesnâ€™t matter what you shoot, just that youâ€™re shooting.
I notice you actually do videos as well as photos, whatâ€™s harder for you videos or photos?
R: I wouldnâ€™t say either one is really harder, but I think I love photography more. My background in video is mostly documentary style story telling. It is such a laborious task; making sure you have all these key shots and bits of information to tell the story. Sometimes you donâ€™t know if you really have it all until youâ€™re back in the editing bay. Then, there has to be so much attention to the edit, sound, cuts. Thereâ€™s no listening to music while you edit video, it requires full attention from a number of senses. With photography itâ€™s definitely a little more laid back on the editing end, but sometimes the shoots can be just as involved as video or more so. Itâ€™s all good though; I just love creating and documenting with cameras.
What is your favorite place you have ever shot at and why?
R: My favorite place I have shot? Man, thatâ€™s a really tough question. Iâ€™ve been fortunate enough to have photography and video take me all over the world. There are a lot of beautiful places and amazing cultures out there. As far as shooting with bikes, Independence Pass in Colorado is probably the most amazing place Iâ€™ve ever shot or ridden through. I did an overnight camping trip there with my good friend John Magee a couple summers back. It was a part of Colorado I had never seen before and it was incredible to ride.
Share with us one of the craziest things you have ever seen while on a trip or shooting?
R: The first thing that comes to mind was Adam Ihrigâ€™s little incident on the last EDR. Iâ€™m sure everyone has his or her own version of what happened or have probably heard the story already but it was gnarly. I had just met Adam the first morning of the ride. We had made plans to do some riding together. My buddyâ€™s bike started acting up at the border so we stopped to do some quick maintenance before crossing into Mexico. When we got going again it was Adam and the Weirdos we crossed with. Flash forward to the Circle of Death and I see Adam roll up to the track with his luchador mask on his rigid sporty. Next thing I know he is slamming into the dirt right in front of me on the track, then I see his head get bounced off the ground by the bike that was right behind him. I thought he was dead. Then he stood up and said, â€œWhereâ€™s my tooth.â€ They took him to the local hospital. As if that wasnâ€™t crazy enough, he was back 30 minutes later to compete in the Cocktagon. I love that dude; he is invincible. Apparently the guy who ran over his head found Adamâ€™s tooth imbedded in his foot peg.
Who or what inspires you and your work?
R: Other photographers like you Mikey! In all seriousness though, I love seeing what other photographers are doing. Whether itâ€™s their locations, their lighting techniques or the subjects they are shooting, I benchmark them and that pushes me to create.
When did you get into motorcycles? Do you have any other family members that love bikes as much as you?
R: My dad grew up racing dirt bikes in the 60â€™s and 70â€™s. He would just rip around on them as a kid. Unfortunately, he had some friends get hurt and killed on bikes, which put a sour taste in his mouth and caused him to quit racing. However, listening to stories about him going to races and shooting pictures of him and his friends made me want to experience bikes myself. My first bike was a 1980 Yamaha GT 80 that my stepdad bought cheap from a family friend. I learned how to ride, and crash, that thing pretty good until my stepdad took away the keys. When I first moved out to California I figured the best way to see my new home was on two wheels. Since then Iâ€™ve owned a grip of different bikes, but about four years ago I found the little Yamaha in my momâ€™s chicken coop. I loaded it into my truck and brought it with me back to California. Itâ€™s going to be my daughterâ€™s bike when she is big enough to ride it.
If you could have one bike in the world, what would it be?
R: A pan or knuckle in a wishbone frame; a straightforward classic chopper, would be a dream bike.
When did you start mixing motorcycles with photography?
R: It was a few years back. I had spent a couple years working a good gig in the skate world doing video production, but I was over it. I decided to join the freelance ranks again but every time I looked at my cameras I got this sinking feeling. They just looked like the tools I had to use for work. I was getting no joy from shooting, totally uninspired, which is a bad place to be when itâ€™s your career. I had just bought a different bike and was riding it a ton. I was so stoked every time I rode it. It made me realize that I needed to be shooting subject matter that got me stoked. I knew shooting bikes would be a good way to re-kindle my passion for photography.
Whatâ€™s the most dangerous thing you have ever done? Was it on purpose?
R: I used to be pretty deep into the snowboarding game. I got caught in a couple avalanches and had some really bad slams, resulting in multiple concussions and torn tendons. So, I guess it was on purpose, but itâ€™s not like I was trying to slam or get caught in avalanches.
Name a place you have never been to and must see before you die?
R: Iâ€™d love to go to Australia and New Zealand. Iâ€™ve heard nothing but good things about both of those places and they look amazing. I also heard you can have a Harley shipped there, ride it around the country and then sell it at the end of the trip to pay for the whole deal. But that was a while ago so maybe thatâ€™s not true anymore.
If you could go back and time and tell your 15-year-old self some advice, what would it be?
R: Youâ€™re a little punk. Start playing music and wrenching on stuff now. Itâ€™s harder to learn new things the older you get. Donâ€™t waste your time with too many bunk girlfriends. Youâ€™ll find a good girl later, her name is Cris and she is all youâ€™ll ever need.
What is your favorite kinda of Mexican food, burrito, chimichanga, quesadilla, other?
R: Man! Gimme a smothered chile relleno with rice and beans; wash it down with a margarita and Iâ€™m a happy, happy man.
Anyone you would like to give a shout out to or thank?
R: First and foremost, my wife, who supports me to the moon and back. My parents deserve big thanks for instilling a sense of adventure in me at a young age. My friends who allow me to follow them around and shove a camera in their faces and at their scoots. Anyone who has ever let me shoot their bike. Lisa Ballard at Chop Cult. All the other photographers in and out of the motorcycle game who keep me on my toes and who inspire me. Mikey and everyone with Fuel for thinking Iâ€™m worthy enough to share the stage with all the other talented artists, builders and photographers.
Texas is home of the Cowboys, amazing BBQ, bitchen choppers, the slogan "Everything's bigger in Texas." and the one and only Jason Ochoa. Building bikes for only a few years now, Jason has been making waves with his latest build a 1955 Panhead named Purple Haze which was featured on the cover of Cycle Source for the month of March 2016. Jason is coming all the way up from Texas to showcase this build at Fuel Cleveland on May 28th and I couldn't be more excited to see this bike again. The first time I caught a glimpse of this beauty I was at Born Free this past year, super clean and tons of cool little details. I had a chance to sit down and chat with Jason for a little bit. I asked him a few questions about himself and learned a little more about this impeccable Panhead build. Here's what came of that interview, enjoy!
Jason Ochoa, where do you call home?
J: I was born and raised in Yorktown, Texas a small rural town in South Texas, but I currently call Fort Worth, Texas home now.
Give us a some history about yourself and your shop/work.
J: I have been into motorcycles as long as I can remember, growing up on a ranch there wasnâ€™t much to do besides hunting, camping, exploring and riding dirt bikes. Once I got my first motorcycle at age 6, I have been infatuated with motorcycles from that point on. In the early years I was really into the things Jesse James and Billy Lane where doing, so I scraped up some cash and bought one of the Custom Chrome chopper in a box kits. I sold that bike and decided to find another project, so with limited tools and no fabrication skills, I decided to build a bike at Three Two Choppers shop on their builders program. I learned a lot from JC and Jimmy Coen and we built one bad ass little Ironhead, which was featured in The Horse in 2013. I then bought several Shovel projects and did some minor modifications and flipped them while trying to expand my knowledge in fabricating and welding. At that point I just kept pushing myself to learn from friends and trial and error. My go to bike, a 1968 Shovel was the bike I really tore into and learned a lot of just how good I was a fab work, which wasnâ€™t that great, lol. I always wanted a Panhead, so I was lucky enough to acquire a great deal on a 1955 Panhead and decided to throw my name in the hat for the Show Class Peoples Champ 3 last year and to my surprise, I was selected as one of the top 25. At that point I decided to dedicate all of my time and very little skills I had into producing the best bike to my ability. I had some good friends that helped and taught me along the way, but my longtime friend Clinton Wallace was a huge inspiration and motivator on this ground up build. Whatever I couldnâ€™t do myself, he taught me and assisted as the build progressed. I currently build out of my two car garage, which has been converted into my shop, Four Speed Mayhem. I am investing on a lot of quality equipment, so I have no choice but learn the craft.
What got you into motorcycles?
J: Definitely my grandfather. Growing up, my grandparents had a picture of my him riding a Harley in WWII and that picture always motivated me to want a Harley. I had always looked up to him and he bought me my first motorcycle and taught me how to ride at the age of 6.
What do you find to be the most challenging thing for you when building a bike?
J: I have a great vision and desire, but I still have so much to learn when it comes to fabrication and welding. I fuck shit up all of the time, but with the desire to be better, I keep pushing myself. I bought a TIG welder during the Pan build and taught myself the best I could as that build progressed. I am still by no means a great welder, but I continue to challenge myself to become better each day. My step father is a machinist, so I learned how to machine at an early age, but lathes are expensive and I had limited access to one, so that was another challenge.
Photo by: Matthew Aims
What has been an all time favorite bike or project you have ever worked on?
J: My 1955 Panhead build because it was my first ground up build. I had the vision of that bike in my head for years and to finally see it come together was a proud moment for me. Also, my dad brought back this reel to reel from his time in Vietnam and I used to play the shit out that thing. He always had Jimi Hendrix playing on that old thing, so Purple Haze was a tribute to my dad and all the shit he went through during the war, so that made this build even more special for me.
Who or what inspires you?
J: My wife Marci has always been such a great supporter of the things I do and she always pushes me to do my best. I had a lot of â€œFUCK THISâ€ moments during the Panhead build, but she always kept my spirits high and made me believe in myself.
Also, my buddy Clinton Wallace is the one who inspires me the most within motorcycles. His attention to detail and self-taught knowledge is very inspiring, not to mention he does all of his work on a secluded horse ranch outside of Houston, Texas. He is one of the most humble and down to earth guys you could ever meet. Just make sure he takes his medsâ€¦lol
Photo by: Matthew Aims
Congrats on the Cycle Source Cover story in this past March issue, how did that feel? Is this your first cover? What was your favorite part about the shoot with Matt Aims?
J: That was an amazing feeling and it is still hard to believe that I am actually on the cover of such a great magazine. I was in disbelief when Chris Callen sent me a text with the layout and said, I think we found our cover for March. It still makes me smile thinking about it. Matt Aims and I became great friends during our venture as the Top 25 for Peopleâ€™s Champ. I was really awed by his photography skills, so we became great friends because of our common endeavors. I knew I wanted Matt to shoot the bike, so I flew him down to Texas and he shot both my Shovelhead and Panhead. Of course, we snuck in a lot of partying and riding while he visited Texas.
Photo by: Matthew Aims
Whatâ€™s your favorite motorcycle event of the year for you, why, and are you going?
J: Giddy Up has to be my favorite event because I get to see so many of my friends at one time. Matt Jackson and Joey Cano are also huge inspirations for me, so being able to attend their event is something I really look forward to every year.
I'll see you there! What other passions or hobbies do you have that most people may not know about yourself other than motorcycles?
J: In the early years I played guitar in metal bands and did a few tours with my band back in the late 90â€™s. I still play when I get a chance, however the audience is much smaller now. It usually consists of my two children, lol.
I have trained BJJ and MMA for over 8 years under ex UFC fighter Travis Lutter here in Fort Worth. I am currently working on my brown belt, but lately, I spend more time in my garage these days working on some commissioned builds.
Photo by: Matthew Aims
Is there a type of motor you prefer more then others?
J: I have always loved the look and elegance of the Olâ€™ mighty Panhead motor. Who wouldnâ€™t love a Knucklehead, but I still think the Panhead motor will always be my choice.
Whatâ€™s a favorite memory or story from one of your motorcycle adventures?
J: The first trip me and my buddies took to California attending Born Free 6. That trip is what triggered my motivation to build a bike that I felt would be worthy of taking it back there the following year. I was honored when Grant saw my Panhead at Born Free 7 and invited me into the VIP section. It was a dream seeing my bike amongst so many builders I look up to.
Photo by: Matthew Aims
What do you love most about motorcycles?
J: The way you can jump on a bike after a shitty day and feel at one with the outside elements. Just feeling that fresh air and wind in your face gives you a sense of serenity.
Whats your all time favorite city you have ever been to and why?
J: Los Angeles because growing up seeing my bmx, skateboarding and motocross heroes being from California always inspired me to want visit there one day.
If you could only own one bike in the world what would it be and why?
J: I would like to own an all original 1948 Panhead. Why, because itâ€™s a Panhead, duh!
Chocolate or Vanilla cakeâ€¦ or are you an ice-cream cake kinda guy?
J: Cake, did you say CAKE!!!!
Anyone you would like to give a shout out to or thank?
J: I would like to thank my wife Marci for her ongoing support over the years, Lisa Ballard for being such a great friend and introducing me to so many awesome people in the industry and last but not least, all you guys at Fuel Cleveland for giving me the opportunity to be part of such a stellar event.
I have only been to the state of Alabama a handful of times in my life but it's safe to say I have some pretty amazing friends that come from that state. One of those friends is Ian Smith, owner of Americana Speed Shop. He is a leather goods master, motorcycle enthusiast, the life of the party, and truly an amazing human to always be around. I always look forward to seeing his face at different motorcycle events throughout the country and I am extremely stoked he is going to bring his 1970's survivor digger to Fuel Cleveland on May 28th. I sat down with Ian the other day and asked him a handful of questions so you could get to know and fall in love with him a little better. I added some of his sweet leather work and bikes he's owned over the years in the mix here too, enjoy.
- Mikey Revolt
Ian Smith, where do you call home?
I: Birmingham, Alabama.
Tell us a little about yourself and your shop.
I: Shop is a loose term. My career is in the beverage industry but I have a passion for motorcycles. The goal is to one day have a retail shop here in Birmingham, but for now Iâ€™m content with working from home. I began doing leatherwork almost 5 years ago out of necessity. Some friends and I were heading on a trip to â€œThe Big Mountain Runâ€ and I needed to be able to pack some gear. After looking at what saddlebags were available to buy, I decided to try and make my own. I took a beginners class at my local Tandy store and made the saddlebag. I was hooked after that project and since then I have been learning all I can about leatherwork. I mostly make wallets, belts, knife sheaths and the occasional saddlebag. I am actually working on a bag now for a friend. About 3 years ago, my best friend Ross Lenoir and I partnered up. Ross is an excellent machinist and makes some really cool partsâ€”that are sold through Lowbrow Customs! We both do it for fun, but ultimately I would love to make Americana Speed Shop my full-time gig!
What do you specialize in at Americana Speed Shop? I: I specialize in handmade leather goods (wallets, belts, knife sheaths, saddlebags, etc.) and Boss Ross is a ninja-machinist. He makes our foot pegs, â€œWedge Pegsâ€ that are sold via Lowbrow Customs and specializes in one-off parts for a variety of bikes.
Whatâ€™s more challenging, leather work or motor work?
I: Leatherwork is something that I will do for the rest of my life. It is a craft that will always challenge. Working on bikes is fun for me, but I definitely know when to take my bikes to others. I am NOT a â€œbuilderâ€. I prefer â€œmotorcycle enthusiastâ€. I try and ride every day and having a solid runner is always a top priority.
Who or what are some of your inspirations?
I: I draw inspiration from a variety of places. Paul Cox is definitely someone I look up to. He is a true Renaissance Manâ€¦his leather work, knives, bikes. He can do it all and I was excited to meet him a few months back. He took the time to give me some tips and I will always remember and appreciate that. Sometimes you meet people that you look up to, admire, whatever, and they are a big letdown. Egos are a funny thing.
What bike are you planning on bringing to Fuel Cleveland and what's the story behind it?
I: Iâ€™m going to bring my Shovelhead digger. I was actually working on this project with a different frame, front end, etc. and ran across this bike on Instagram. It is a survivor from the late-70â€™s that has Smith Bros and Fetrow fender struts, spring struts and their girder front end. Rickey Lewis, of Rickâ€™s Cycle Parts, had finished my shovel motor build and it is killer. The engraving, done by Shane B., really was icing on the cake. So with the motor done, I was ready to see it going down the road. A deal was made for the digger and Rickey and I dropped my drivetrain in. I put a 5-in-a-4 trans in to help it cruise on longer trips. The plan is to have a new exhaust system done in time for the show.
What or who got you into motorcycles?
I: I was working for an Energy Drink brand in 2005 and we sponsored a National Motocross Series. I met some guys at the races that turned me onto custom bikes. I think they showed me some Roland Sands bikes and one had a copy of â€œChoppertown: The Sinnersâ€ and I was hooked after seeing the bikes featured in that documentary. Iâ€™ve been obsessed ever since.
Tell us about one of the craziest moments you have ever had while riding a motorcycle.
I: This past May, on the El Diablo Run, there was a group of us jamming back from the Hot Springs outside of Puertecitos. Our buddy, Sweet Lou, had a flat and for some reason the rest of us decided we needed to ride 100+ mph to be the first back to camp to alert the chase truck. I blew a corner coming back into San Felipe and launched off the roadâ€”about a 5 foot drop into some soft sand. I saved it but sat there for a minute and couldnâ€™t help but think â€œwhy are we all racing back to camp just to get someone to go pick up Lou?!?â€
Favorite trip you have ever taken on a bike and why?
I: Hands down the El Diablo Run. I love Mexico and have always enjoyed vacationing there. Riding your bike with friends in another country is really fun. I have met so many of my friends from that run. Friends that I know I will be in touch with for the rest of my life. Pretty special event.
Where is one place you would want to jump on your bike and just go if you could right now?
I: Iâ€™m always looking for a reason to head to western North Carolina, around â€œThe Tail of the Dragonâ€. The Dragon is fun, but there are roads in the region that are WAY better for riding.
What is your dream machine or do already own it?
I: Iâ€™ve owned a variety of bikes. The goal is to stop selling and only buy from now on but life tends to get in the way. I traded an FXLR last year to get this digger. I will be back on a FXR at some point. Actually, I saw the new 2016 Dyna Low Rider S that was released today and I hope to be able to get one. Iâ€™ve never had a brand new bike and I think that is the one I want.
What is your favorite thing about riding motorcycles?
I: The friendships I have made through motorcycles is what makes it special. Iâ€™ve also learned that just because you are into motorcycles, it doesnâ€™t necessarily mean you HAVE to be friends. This hobby has brought some great people into my life but it has also brought some problems. Iâ€™ve learned that when you get a feeling about someone, trust that feeling. Your first intuition is probably right.
Remember that time you scared a unicorn with your sportster on the Skyway to the Danger Zone run? â€¦. That was awesome!!!
I: That was fun but stressful! Holding my rear head in my hand on Friday afternoon was not good. Turned out to be points that were arching, causing all sorts of backfires. I know people were bummed to ride behind me but I was determined not to miss that ride! Such a fun weekend!
How much do you love Cleveland Whiskey? You are always the life of the party, does it come natural or does the party just find you?
I: Iâ€™m off brown liquorâ€¦for now! Ha! Such a rookie mistake and my club brothers remind me about that weekend pretty regularly. Donâ€™t know about being the life of the party, I just try to be myself and cut loose when I can. I have found that people generally find it refreshing when you are just yourself, not some stick-in-the-mud that is trying to portray an â€œInsta-Imageâ€.
Whatâ€™s next for you, any big plans or bikes you are working on?
I: I think I am going to take the rest of 2016 to dial in the digger and my Sportster tracker. I am excited to take some trips with my girlfriend, Ashley, to Texas and now we are really excited to come to Cleveland! Planning a low-key summer then itâ€™s time for The Catalina Wine Mixer 4 in September!
Anyone you would like to thank or give a shout out to?
My girlfriend, Ashley, for being such a positive influence in my life, my Inbred club brothers: Boss Ross, Kustom Jeff, Loaf, Jason, Big Al and Whit, and to Rickey Lewis for his friendship and always lending a hand to keep our old bikes going down the road.
There is a personal connection between humans and their two wheeled machines that when captured right by a photograph, can tell you a story in just one photo. Ben Zales aka "Ben The Boog" is notorious for this style of story telling one photo at a time and he does it masterfully. I've only met Ben a handful of times on the West-coast but every time I've seen him he's warm hearted with good spirits, a real positive guy. You have probably seen many of his photos over the years, from different social media outlets to magazines like Easyriders, The Horse, Wrench, Street Chopper, and and even Hot Bike Japan. I am a big fan of Ben's talents and extremely stoked he's going to come out to Fuel Cleveland on May 28th to hang out with everyone and showcase some of his work. The other day Ben and I sat down via the Internets and had a little one on one interview to get to know him a little better and this is what came of it, enjoy.
Ben â€œThe Boog" Zales Where do you call home?
B: Well, I live in Los Angeles. But home will always be San Diego. Some day Iâ€™ll get back there...
Where did â€œThe Boogâ€ come from? I have always wondered.
B: This goes back to the days of when I used to be a recording engineer for a recording studio in Hollywood! Probably about 10 or 11 years agoâ€¦I used to record the music of several pop, RnB, and Hip Hop artists of 2003-2005â€¦(P Diddy, Backstreet Boys, Clay Aikenâ€¦.ya know awesome stuff like that.) And one producer that I worked with a lot would come into the studio and be like, â€œBoogie Down Ben!â€ So after a while he would just start calling me â€œThe Boogâ€ and it just stuck. Pretty ridiculous, I know.
How did it all begin and how long have you been at your craft?
B: Well, my whole life Iâ€™ve always messed with video camera equipment, so I always enjoyed documenting things. But the real start was about 8 years ago, my wife had bought me a consumer DSLR for my birthday, and within two months, I had outgrown it and sold it to buy a Canon 5D. Now looking back, I was an ass for selling a gift that my wife had bought me. haha.
Are you a Canon or Nikon guy and why?
B: This is a really interesting questionâ€¦ESPECIALLY given where the whole professional camera industry is at right now in terms of DSLR. So for the past 8 years, Iâ€™ve had 3 professional cameras. The Canon 5d, 5d MKII, and the 5d MKIII. And iâ€™ve always shot with 3 different L series lenses. But going back to the original questionâ€¦.Iâ€™m neither now! Iâ€™m now shooting with a Sony A7RII with all Sony full frame Lenses. This decision didnâ€™t come easy but here I am with both feet firmly planted in the Sony worldâ€¦.for now.
What is your favorite place you have ever shot photos at?
B: If weâ€™re talking shooting just in general, the south island of New Zealand really canâ€™t be beat. Driving around New Zealand for 10 daysâ€¦I pretty much broke the shutter off of my camera. As for choppers, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is my all time favorite spot Iâ€™ve ever had the pleasure of shooting illegally at. haha
What are some of your favorite moments on a trip or shoot?
B: This answer ties to the one above. I knew I wanted to shoot at Walt Disney Hall because of how awesome of a location it is. But I also knew there was NO WAY theyâ€™d let me shoot a bike up on the 2nd level without a permitâ€¦which costs like 5k and up or something ridiculous. So the day before the shoot I scouted where I wanted to shoot the bike and looked for ways to get it up to the 2nd level. Once I figured that all out, the next day, I met up with Ryan Cox and his amazing Panhead out on the street. I told him that this was gonna be kinda covert and mostly illegal. We laughed and we started pushing his bike around the perimeter of the building. We got to an elevator and I pushed the call button. Ryan immediately asks what Iâ€™m doing. I tell him that this is the only way a bike is going to get up to the 2nd level and that the only other way up to that level was via the stairs. Which there were about 70 or so stepsâ€¦so nope. The elevator door opens up and we push the bike in and maneuver it diagonally. It barely fit! And when I say barelyâ€¦I mean it took the door few times to close and each time we had to push the bike in as far as it would go.
We get to the 2nd level and we immediately run the bike to the hallway where we did the majority of the shoot. We were there for about 45 min unbothered. We were tucked away and people couldnâ€™t see that there was a chopper in the hallway. But once I instructed Ryan to roll the bike out of that hallway to get some other types of shots, a security guard came up to us and asked if we had a permit. I gave him some BS answer about not having one. He then asks, â€œHowâ€™d you get that bike up here?â€ I wasnâ€™t about to tell him that we shoved it into the elevator all while leaking oil everywhere. So I told him we took the stairs. He gave me a puzzled look and told us to leave. I pretended to pack up and once the guard left, we snuck back to the elevator and got it back down.
That was a fun day and the shot I have of Ryan kicking his bike in that hallway of reflective walls will always be one of my favorites.
Who or what inspires you?
B: Films mostly inspire me. I watch a lot of movies and like to pick apart camera angles and and what lenses the DP/Director uses. Watch any David Fincher or any P.T. Anderson film. Every single shot in their films are so precise. You can take a still frame from any of their films and it is a perfectly composed photo as well.
Whoaâ€¦sorry for getting super nerdy on thatâ€¦.
What got you into motorcycles/choppers, is there any family history there?
B: Oddly enough, I have no family history in choppers. My brother rode sport bikes for a while and I never got into it. But years after that, I got into riding, and rode over to his house on my stock sporty. I saw that he had a rotting non-running 70s CB750 in his backyard. He had bought it from CL for like $400. He showed me some photos of some 70s 750 choppers and I was floored. I ended up pulling that rusty, spider infested bike out of his backyard and made my first chopper out of it. Whats the most dangerous thing you have ever done?
B: Riding is pretty dangerous as is. Splitting lanes is legal in CA, so thereâ€™s that. One time, a bunch of us were up in Yosemite and we were splitting the middle section of a 2 lane road with oncoming traffic on our left and traffic on our right. And to add to it, I decided to film it with my DSLR. I ride a long bike tooâ€¦so that adds to the whole thing.
If you could jump on a bike right now and just go where would it be and why?
B: Iâ€™m dying to ride my chopper in Bali! I was just there for about 10 days and itâ€™s so gnarly. The roads are gnarly, the traffic is gnarly. And the whole time I was there, I kept thinking, â€œI wanna ride my long bike here and just eat shit and crash a bunchâ€ haha.
I know that doesnâ€™t exactly answer the question, but I guess it kinda does too.
I notice you take a lot of portraits with a bike and their owner. They all tell a story in their own little way, do you say that is part of your style or just something you like to do? Is there any meaning behind it to you?
B: Iâ€™m a huge believer that every single bike reflects their owner. I shoot a lot of bikes that belong to my friends and without fail, I can look at their bike and see the parts on there that reflect their personality. The meaning behind it to me is that in 30, 40, 50 years from now, I think itâ€™s gonna be rad for me and the subjects to look back at these photos and just be stoked that this part of our lives was documented. Whatâ€™s your all time dream bike?
B: I already have 2 of em! My â€œtwinâ€ bikes The Crazy Boog and The Prismic Boog. I love those two damn thingsâ€¦But I am going to go for a quad of Crazy Frank bikes. haha. I now need a hard tail crazy frank fender and a prism style hard tail crazy frank fender to round out the whole family.
What other hobbies or things are you really into that people might no know about you?
B: Most people donâ€™t know I have a â€œday jobâ€. Iâ€™ve been a Music Editor in television and film for the past 10 yearsâ€¦which I guess is not really a â€œday jobâ€ per se but Iâ€™m super into it and I love it.
Any life mottos or codes you live by?
B: Happy wife. Happy life. hahahha
Whats your favorite kind of coffee or are you a tea guy?
B: I donâ€™t drink either. Well, I drink iced tea if that counts... Anyone you would like to give a shout out to or thank?
B: Thanks to you, Mikey, and all the Lowbrow & Gasbox people for putting on a great show.
Biltwell Inc. has always supported Fuel Cleveland from the beginning and we could not be more thankful for their love and support this year. They will also be throwing the official Fuel Cleveland Pre-party at Hoopples on Friday May 27th, starting at 7pm. Our friend DJ Clint will be spinning tunes all night long along with Moonbow rocking the stage mid party. Cheap beers, amazing food, and good times will be had all night long; so be sure make it there and say hi to some of the crew from Biltwell.