While most after-school programs for high school students mean blowing a tuba in the band or taking up a sport, not everybody marches to the beat of the same drum. There are a select few who admire the arc of the blowtorch as it cuts a fine line through sheet metal. These individuals approach finding the best combination of rake and trail like the head of the math club attacks a quadratic equation. Where they are mostly uninspired by the daily rigmarole of the classroom, given the proper arena in which to display their creativity, there’s no limitations as to what they can achieve. The Bike Klub at Canada’s Bernice MacNaughton High School is the type of program that teaches students that the only limitations they have are ones they impose on themselves.
The Bernice MacNaughton High School Bike Klub is the only after school program in Canada that teaches students the art of custom motorcycle building. It started out as a custom bicycle building program created by school alum, Marc Mazerolle, almost five years ago. But the name of the game changed in 2006 after attending the Canadian AMD
The program started out as a custom bicycle building club until the challenge by Mid-USA took them to the next level.
Championships in Alberta. Mazzerolle and the Bike Klub were in attendance showing one of their bicycle projects when their work attracted the attention of the Canadian-division of parts supplier Mid-USA. The company donated a 55-inch standard rigid frame and challenged them to build a motorcycle. After clearing it through proper channels at the high school, it was “game on.”
With a frame secured, the next step would be to find sponsors for the Bike Klub. Most of the money for the program was coming out of Mazzerole’s pockets, and motorcycle parts and accessories aren’t cheap. As ‘Mazz and his team sought assistance, Harley-Davidson was one of the first to step up, donating an 80 cubic-inch Evo engine as a training aid. This means they could use the engine, but it had to remain at the school to serve as a learning tool. Which is fine for the classroom, but the Klub had big plans for “Betty.” Along came Merch Motors USA to the rescue. Merch donated one of its 114 cubic-inch Fatso powerplants to the cause. This initial H-D sponsorship served as a springboard, though, as more parts makers and custom builders supported the cause. Avon Tires came through with a set of Gangster Wide Whitewalls, Corbin donated a “Bobber” seat and some stock nine-spoke H-D wagon wheels, and Crane Cams donated the ignition system.
Well-known custom builders followed suit. Russell Mitchell from Exile Cycles contributed an Exile Sprotor Kit, Matt Hotch came through with a kickstand and pop-up gas cap, and Roger Goldammer donated one of his signature series air cleaners. The students also received plenty of hands-on help by people like Bob McKay, Canada’s Chopper
Godfather, who helped them rebuild the front end, not by dialing it in for them but by providing guidance and suggestions while the Klub members did the dirty work.
“The kids have hands on every aspect of the build,” Mazz assured me.
These kids are resourceful beyond their years. Besides learning the art of metalworking and fabrication, they raised $14,000 that went into buying Betty’s primary, exhaust, transmission and controls. It also helped fund a trip to Wembley, Alberta and a chance to check out the Canadian Championship of Custom Bike Building.
Word of the student’s custom-bike building skills has spread. They recently received an invitation to enter Betty in the Donnie Smith Chopper Class Challenge, an event that brings high schools that have similar programs together for a little friendly competition. The Bike Klub is the lone rep from Canada and will vie for the “Best of Show” title against seven schools from here in the States.
“It’s a great, great honor,” Mazz said.
The Klub has one more obstacle to overcome, though, to be able to attend the event in St. Paul, Minnesota on March 28-29. With the economic downturn, sponsorships have taken a dive. The club has two builds in progress, so it’s a struggle to balance weekly expenditures and raise money so that they can get to the Chopper Challenge. The students strive to be self-sufficient, and have started a Facebook page and are asking people interested in joining their online club to donate a dollar. Donations can also be made online at the Bike Klub’s website, and for those who don’t like to give out their credit card information online, you can send a check to:
Bernice MacNaughton High School
c/o Marc Mazzerole – Bike Klub Manager
999 St. George Blvd.
Moncton, New Brunswick Canada E1E 2C9
This is ‘Betty’ Bobber, the Bike Klub’s first effort. It has portals from the front fender of a ’55 Buick on the tank.
Mazzerole also mentioned that he’s always looking for any custom builders, parts suppliers or manufacturers that would like to get on board. It’s a solid program. It gives kids who otherwise might be out doing something destructive and provides an outlet for them to be constructive. Mazz is a stand-up guy that gives generously of his time and money for the sake of sharing his love of motorcycling with the kids. And who’s to say that he isn’t fostering the talents of the next Arlen Ness or Indian Larry? Several of the students in the program have gone on to college and trade schools and regularly return to and check in on the class. The fact that they come back and impart what they’ve learned on the next generation is a testament to the merits of the program. Mazz must be doing something right.
The Bike Klub currently has 11 members, two of them girls. The two styles of motorcycles they are currently working on are worlds apart. The first is a throwback to the days when café racers ruled the roadways. It begins with the frame from a 1967 BSA 650 Lightning, and includes an original twin-carb motor. They plan on keeping it a “true bobber,” running a rigid frame with all parts pre-1984. Having help from build-sponsor British Cycle Supplies, a leader in the distribution of British motorcycle parts will be a boon. The project”s pet name is “Phyllis,” short for “A Voodoo Woman Named Phyllis.” Bonus points if you can name the movie that line comes from.
The second bike, “Roxanne,” will run on a softail frame donated by the defunct business, Triple E Frames. For this build, Mazz says the Klub is going for a hybrid look, combining styling aspects of a bobber, a board tracker and a drag bike. It will include lots of
fabrication for the kids to hone their skills on, like custom fenders, the oil tank and other modified parts. It’s scheduled to run a 1983 80 c.i. Shovelhead engine mated to a stock Harley-Davidson five-speed transmission. Roxanne is slated to receive a slick Springer front end as well.
In an industry that is often fraught with attitude and ego, it’s refreshing to run across a story that promotes motorcycling in a positive light. And even though we’re all feeling the effects of the times, ‘tis the season to spread a little holiday cheer, so I encourage you to fill out that check if the story strikes a chord. Because as Mazz said to me, “Not to sound cliché, but if we turned one life around, if we saved at least one, it’s worth it.” Don’t worry Mazz, helping kids out who have had it rough will never be cliché.