Ralph Randolph, a former jet pilot and current bike builder, fused the design of a retro cruiser with sportbike performance.
Ralph Randolph, bike builder, jet pilot, former Marine and erstwhile cage fighter, found inspiration not at the bottom of a bottle, but rather on it. This bourbon-inspired Randolph creation was based on NASCAR wild-man, Robby Gordon, and his racecar, “Old #7,” which he drove for Jim Beam Racing.
It all began with a race, of sorts, to build the hottest bike possible which a couple of ticks past four weeks would allow. Randolph and his crew at Mesa, AZ-based Knockout Motorcycle Co. were invited to participate in CMT Channel’s Chopper Challenge. The rules and concept, which Randolph said he played a large part in forming, called for an even playing field and were designed to be a true test of each builder’s skill and creativity.
All participants got the same parts to work with and no out sourcing was allowed. They each had 30 days to build a theme bike that best represented their corporate sponsor. So, in the glare of television lights and directors’ barking camera angles and ordering retakes, nine teams set about wrenching, molding, painting and hand shaping aluminum and steel into artful design and practical function.
“They didn’t call it a challenge for nothing,” said Randolph, “you’ve got a camera in your face here, a part that doesn’t work there, a crazy deadline, takes and retakes, and you’ve got to filter it all out and focus on what you do best. So we just ratcheted up and did it, and I’m pretty proud of what we accomplished.”
One way the crew at Knockout Motorcycles achieved the racy styling was by stretching the swingarm. To match the styling, the bike also contains a124 cubic-inch S&S motor, capable of producing 140-150 hp.
Randolph wanted to stay true to the shop’s old-school core values while capturing the essence of Gordon’s #7 Dodge Charger. “I wanted to blend something that was racy, yet cool,” said Randolph, “so, we merged retro styling with sportbike power and crafted a profile that was altogether different.”
Randolph’s team stretched the backbone four inches, added another four-inch stretch to the swingarm to form a long and stable platform for the behemoth S&S engine, waiting to be freed from its crate. To help the aerodynamics and allow the rider to lay flat, the gas tank was tucked up to the fairing. The street-legal dragster sports the tach from Gordon’s racecar, which is a nice touch. The exhaust was done in NASCAR style, running underneath the bike and out.
The Jim Beam Knockout may be the shape of things to come. Randolph’s super-sport/retro-ripper hybrid could create a whole new genre of motorcycle design, filling the gapping void between boulevard cruisers and high-performance street rockets. “A large part of this bike is all business and heart-stopping speed,” added Randolph, “we’re happy with the results but had to wonder what we could have done if we had more time. I would love to blend the V-Twin and sportbike worlds together; a working mix of something Buell, Ducati, and FXR. ”
Although the Chopper Challenge gave participants 30 days, “…by the time everything arrived and with all the stops and starts of filming, we really had about two weeks to throw this together, including paint, parts, fabrication and assembly,” said Randolph, “not a lot of time to make something that will turn TV heads and set records at Bonneville.”
After a year of touring with the Chopper Challenge, the Jim Beam is back in the shop where Randolph and team continue to tweak and tune the bike and its 124 cubic-inch S&S motor, all with an eye on the Salt Flats. “It’s a phenomenal powerplant, makes about 140 or 150 horsepower and just shreds the rear tire, but we think we can top 200 horsepower with our modifications,” said Randolph, who will jockey the bike down the salt himself.
To add to the NASCAR styling the bike’s exhaust was tucked underneath. Ultimately, the mix of styling and performance is helping to fill the void between classic cruisers and high-performance sportbikes.
The bike was built to benefit Operation Homefront, the nonprofit organization that provides emergency help, financial assistance and emotional support to U.S. troops who have served overseas, and their families. “It’s a great cause,” said Randolph. “Jim Beam wrote them a check for $175,000, and there may be more where that came from.” The bike, which is owned by the whiskey maker, may be auctioned off to further aid Operation Homefront, but plans are not set.
As for Randolph, he’s just getting started. Knockout Motorcycle Co. has expanded into a new, 6,000 square-foot service center at 624 West Broadway, Mesa, AZ 85210. A grand opening run, barbecue and party were set for Friday, Oct. 22, and featured Randolph’s carefully hand-picked gaggle of Knockout Calendar Girls.
Jim Beam Blaster Specs:
Engine: S&S Cycles 124-inch twin cam
Cases: S&S Cycles
Rods: S&S Cycles
Pistons: S&S Cycles
Cylinders: S&S Cycles
Heads: S&S Cycles
Cam: S&S Cycles
Ignition: S&S Cycles
Carb: S&S Cycles
Pipes: S&S Cycles
Air cleaner: Knockout Motorcycle Co.
Transmission: Baker torque box (race tranny) six speed
Primary: Baker, closed
To increase aerodynamics, the tank was pushed up to the fairing to allow the rider to lay flat.
Frame: Knockout Motorcycle Co. by War Eagle
Rake: 40 degrees
Stretch: 4-inch backbone; 4-inch swingarm
Fork Length + /- : 23 inches, no +/-
Triple Trees: Tricky
Additional Rake in Trees: none
Rear Suspension: air Tricky
Rear Shocks: air Tricky
Front Wheel: 23-inch Knockout Rockstar
Rear Wheel: 20-inch Knockout Rockstar
Front Tire: Avon Cobra 130/60r/23
Rear Tire: Avon Cobra 220/50r/20
Front Brake: Tokico six-piston
Rear Brake: Ralph Randolph/Tokico
Fuel Tank: Ralph Randolph
Oil Tank: Ralph Randolph
Fenders: Ralph Randolph
Handlebars: Ralph Randolph
Hand Controls: Magura, hydraulic
Grips: Alloy Art
Foot Controls: Ralph Randolph
Pegs: Ralph Randolph
Sissy Bar: “You’re kidding, right?”
Headlight: Parts Unlimited
Taillight: Parts Unlimited
Painter: AJ’s Customs
Color: white w/black flames and red trim
Graphics: AJ’s Customs
Powder Coating: Lonestar Racing
Molding: Ralph Randolph
Electrical: Ken Lucas/Knockout Motorcycle Co.
Seat: Mesa Customs
Special Features: tachometer from Bobby Gordon’s NASCAR vehicle, NASCAR style exhaust
Favorite Aspect of Bike: TV time and great looking ride!
Special Thanks: Jim Beam Global, Country Music Television, Avon Tyres, John Harvey, AJ’s Customs, and Krash