It happens to almost everyone that works in the motorcycle industry or works on motorcycles for a living. At some point, you find yourself without a personal ride and no time to solve the problem as customers’ bikes and work responsibilities take priority. Ryan Martin, the owner of this classical style Ironhead, described his situation well: “A week turned into a month and next thing you know it was the better part of two years without a personal ride”. Getting your fix with the occasional rip on a buddy’s bike is just not the same. These occasional breaks from riding can be a positive experience that allows us to truly remember and embrace what riding does for us. That’s just what happened for Ryan Martin.
A few years ago he got the opportunity to take the helm at the Gent’s Wrench, a small shop in Columbus, Ohio. The shop specializes mainly in repairs and maintenance on older sleds that the big shops won’t touch. Making a living in this way has a pace to it. Ryan tore down his personal ride with the idea it would be back together in a month. Well, the responsibilities I mentioned above crept in and his little break from riding just happened. Luckily this story has a happy ending as the stars finally aligned and “the bike got back together”. It was with the first twist of the throttle that Ryan figured out what was missing in his life. He found a new appreciation for the relationship with man and machine. There is nothing like riding your own sled that you have put back on the road. No amount of riding buddies’ bikes can replace the feeling of tearing down the road with a full tank and no particular destination in mind, just pondering the possibilities of adventure and freedom.
Running the shop was eye opening for Ryan and a lesson in what it really takes to turn a passion into a living. Finding a balance in that has been both challenging and rewarding all at once. More than anything, though, it brought him a new appreciation for riding and wrenching and the great people that motorcycles bring into a person's life.
After I got this back-story from Ryan I asked him to tell me about the Sportster you see here. I was pleased to find it is another bike built with brotherhood, swap meets, and elbow grease. Not with a pile of money. With only $3500 in it, the bike is a testament that it does not take a lot of cash to be out there living the dream. You just have to want it bad enough and put the time in. It looks pretty simple but I would certainly call it a proper chopper because the frame is tastefully raked and it’s a hardtail. It’s not a chopper in my mind unless the frame has been chopped... Many of the parts are fairly run of the mill and Ryan joked that most of the parts that he really worked on are not standouts: machined spacers, engine details, and polishing. I think the bike has a clean, classic 60’s/70’s chopper vibe that is just right. It’s not overstated but still the clearly custom to the trained eye.
Ryan pointed out a few times as we sipped coffee and ate breakfast during the interview that none of this mechanical adventure would be possible without the support of his friends. “Be good to each other and good things happen.” Ryan has found balance in his work, riding, and friends.
I asked him frankly after this heart to heart, “Would you say that realizing what you want and don’t want is where real freedom is found?” We both pondered that for a minute and then laughed at the cheesiness of my line. There is some truth in it, though, and I hope that in reading this y’all think about that balance. If you have a lingering project or are on one of those “breaks” from riding; do yourself a favor and get off the internet and into the garage.
Owner name, location: Ryan Martin, Columbus, OH
Engine, year and make, model, modifications:1977 Harley Davidson Sportster XLCH, Super E, points, pretty much stock setup.
Frame: Stock ironhead frame, weld on hardtail and just a little bit of rake. Some molded areas, nothing too wild.
Fork: 35mm Narrowglide, 8" over tubes, shaved lowers.
Tire/wheel size and style: 18" rear, Dunlop. 21" front, and a Dunlop.
Favorite thing about this bike: Riding it! I enjoy the whole bike overall, for the most part, it's exactly how I wanted it. Nothing over the top, some subtle things here and there, and a generally reliable machine. It rips pretty well.
Next modification will be: I've got a spool for the front that needs to make its way on, make a different sissy bar, some seat changes, that's about it really.
Other mods, accessories, cool parts, etc: The grips are one off re-pops made here in Ohio, pegs/brake pedal pad/toe shifter, I dig the matching white stuff. #1 Sportster points cover. Those are the coolest things to me.
Any building or riding story or info you'd like to include: Stayed up for three days to finish this bike so I could ride with everyone on the Greasy Dozen Run, and finished it the day of. Strangely enough, the last time I had ridden my own motorcycle was the GD run 2 years prior. I guess it was like an anniversary of sorts.
Huge thank you to one of my best friends and shopmate Jake Smith for the help and motivation, Stephanie, Trey, Tyler, Dan, Kyle, Kevin, Bear for this feature, and thank you to Rice Paddy Motorcycles for providing a location where grassroots motorcyclists can thrive.