Custom Builder Thunder Struck’s Mark Daley

December 23, 2009
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

It’s hard not to attract attention when your motorcycle is slammed to the ground, stretches over 10 feet long, sports Ferrari-style red, black and gold colors, and has an intriguing quad carb setup jutting out its right side. Add to the equation a unique two-piece, bolt-on frame that houses a Crazy Horse Power Plus engine, throw in an innovative rear braking system and you’ve got Sniper, winner of the ‘Builder’s Choice’ award at the 2009 Las Vegas BikeFest Artistry in Iron competition.

Nice pipes!
With features like quadruple carbs, an open triple-belt primary, and a disc-brake mounted in the center of the rear wheel, the Sniper easily earned the ‘Builders Choice’ award at Las Vegas BikeFest 2009. 

Sniper is the creation of custom motorcycle builder Mark Daley of Thunder Struck Custom Bikes. Magazine covers featuring past poster bikes plaster the wall of his Medford, Oregon garage, testaments to the achievements he has accomplished over the course of the last 14 years. But the competition where we met him is a different beast altogether. Las Vegas’ Artistry in Iron contest is tough. It pitted Daley against 19 other accomplished bike builders, including the motorcycle that won second in this year’s AMD Freestyle class. So when Sniper was chosen by his custom-building peers as best-in-show, Daley couldn’t believe that he had won.

“It was like being on the cover of Rolling Stone for me. I was honored just to be there. When they announced that I had won, you could have knocked me over with a feather,” he said.
Like all great ideas, the creation of Sniper had to have a starting point, and on this build it just happened to be at wheel level.

“About two-and-a-half years ago I was working on an idea with Psycle Ward Wheels. We thought it’d be cool to make a new rear brake. It’s a disc brake that sits in the center of a multi-piece billet wheel with no fasteners,” said Thunder Struck’s Daley.

So they teamed up to create a rear wheel with a 10-inch disc in the center of it. A special mount was made to hold the rear 6-piston Nissin caliper which is squeezed between

Snipers rear wheel has a disc brake mounted into the center of the multi-piece billet wheel.
In the middle of the Psycle Ward rear wheel sits a 10-inch disc mated to a six-piston Nissin caliper.

the two hubs that the wheel’s wide spokes are bolted onto. To pull this off, the wiring to the sportbike-style caliper had to be run through the axle, in and out of the swingarm and through the frame to the hand control on the right side of the handlebar.

With the design of the wheels behind him, Daley’s next challenge was to ‘make the bike so different that nobody can take their eyes off it.’ For this mission, Daley took a Legend Low Life frame he had sitting around the garage, chopped it in half, and created a one-off top half from billet aircraft aluminum. The single-piece of billet literally bolts to the lower section, which came in handy when it was time to drop in the engine, according to Daley. The top half of the frame also houses a two-piece CNC billet aluminum tank that ‘floats’ between the black bars of the backbone. The tank itself is a finely crafted piece, wide in front and narrow in back, each side decorated with three Carbon Fiber-covered vents that have an aeronautical feel to them. The top half of the frame he devised also serves as a mounting bracket for the small custom seat pan.

Further alterations to the Legend Low Life frame include adding molding with integrated air dams and screens to the lower frame rails around the Legend Air Suspension system that raises and lowers the bike. The combination used in Sniper’s frame makes you stop and look to try and figure

The lower half of Sniper is a Legend Low Frame that has been chopped in half while the upper piece was designed by Daley and is made from billet aircraft aluminum.

The lower half of Sniper is a Legend Low Frame that has been chopped in half while the upper piece was designed by Daley and is made from billet aircraft aluminum.

This is not the standard V-Twin carb arrangement. Instead  Mark uses the carbs from a Honda CBR600.
This is not your standard V-Twin carb arrangement. Instead, Mark utilizes the carbs from a Honda CBR600.

out how he pulled it off, this homogeny of standard tube rails and machined bar aluminum mixed in with a small section of custom molding all tempered with the strength of a hundred metal studs. Well, maybe not exactly 100, but there is $1000 worth of 12-pt stainless fastener bolts in the industrial-edged design of the frame. Overall it achieves the stop-you-in-your-tracks effect Daley was striving for.
A 100 cubic-inch Crazy Horse Power Plus engine cradled tightly within the unique frame is the source of Sniper’s power. But look closely and you’ll notice that the intake manifold is where the pipes should be. He flipped the

“…you’ve got a motorcycle that is industrial yet elemental, that shines through based on the sum of its parts instead of through the polish of its chrome.”

valves in the head around, so the pipes, conversely, run out of where the intake should be. Daley also went with an unconventional injection set-up, equipping Sniper with the carbs off a Honda CBR600. On that arrangement, he split the manifold so it’s really two small CBR600 carbs feeding each cylinder of the V-Twin. He also made the rocker boxes on the engine and a cam cover for the Crazy Horse engine, an idea he hopes to go to production with.

Other finer details include hiding the oil tank inside the right half of the fuel tank. There’s another small oil reservoir right above the tranny, and the lines that connect the two alternate between hard lines and soft steel braided ones. The gold trim that complements the red paint and black components is a combination of ceramic and gun coatings like ones used on AR-15 rifles. Northwest Industrial Coatings applied the gold powdercoating to the spokes of the wheels, foot and hand controls, the fork spring, headlight housing, cylinders, rocker boxes, primary covers and various parts of the transmission.

While the view of the right side of the bike is dominated by the carb arrangement and 12-point bolts of the frame, the view of the left side is just as hardcore thanks to stout pipes and a wicked open primary. The Thunder Struck pipes are short and stout, constructed of several small sections that bolt together while snaking forward through the frame before exiting in front of the primary drive. The triple-belt open primary is a Thunder Struck original, its heavy-duty black belts

With features like quadruple carbs  an open triple-belt primary  and a disc-brake mounted in the center of the rear wheel  the Sniper easily earned the Builders Choice award at Las Vegas BikeFest.
Thunder Struck’s triple-belt open primary suits Sniper’s industrial design to a tee.

offset by touches of gold powdercoating. Attach that to a bullet-proof Baker Torque Box 6-speed and you’ve got a motorcycle that is industrial yet elemental, that shines through based on the sum of its parts instead of through the polish of its chrome.

Which is as it should be, because there aren’t a whole lot of shiny extras on this bike. Chrome has been supplanted by gold, black and red. The lack of fenders lets one admire the 21-inch front tire mounted in a RMD billet fork with legs that Daley designed. There’s no front brake, so there aren’t any unsightly brake lines running down the black legs of the sprung RMD fork. The lack of fenders also showcases the black 280mm swath of Metzeler rubber rolling out back. Besides raising the bike up and down, the Legend Air Suspension also serves up Softail duties on the bike’s backside when it’s in motion. The bars are tidy and free of gauges, and even the custom-made headlight housing is a no-nonsense, compact design.

After almost nine months of work, hours spent dialing in the machining with John Griffin of Varney Machine, overcoming the challenges of mating the two frame halves, making the brake on the rear wheel work and flipping valves in the engine, Sniper was ready to head to Star Auto Body for paint. But Daley isn’t a big fan of red, so the motorcycle

Mark Daley of Thunder Struck Custom Cycles  winner of the 2009 Artistry in Iron Contest  Las Vegas BikeFest.
Mark Daley of Thunder Struck Custom Bikes has been building award-winning motorcycles for 14 years and counting. Sniper is the latest decorated bike in his stable.

almost ended up green. Ferrari Red was a last minute decision, but based on the striking end result, we think he made the right choice.

Daley has plans on heading back to Vegas this year. He’s got an Artistry in Iron title to defend. He’s already working on resurrecting an unfinished project called ‘Overkill,’ a radical custom with a bunch of 3-D, swoopy metal. In the meantime, he plans on showing Sniper at the 2010 Sacramento Easyriders Bike Show on January 15-16 and at the AMD World Championships in Sturgis during the summer. He’s also busy in the Medford community as he has hosted the Thunder Struck Xtreme Bike Show & Street Party on the third weekend in August for the past 14 years. Not bad for a kid who used to get in trouble from his mom for taking the toaster apart to see how it worked. His mechanical skills now earn him the respect that comes along with being an Artistry in Iron champion.