Sparks were flying at the Bud Light Biker Build-Off during Laconia 2012 as Dan Pike of FTF Cycles gets his grind on.
Sparks were flying off grinders, blow torches busily heated tins and the sound of hammers pounding metal into shape filled the big white tent at the circus sideshow known as the Bud Light Biker Build-Off. Stakes are high as $5000 is up for grabs in the winner-take-all competition held at the Lobster Pound’s Build-Off Tent during Laconia Motorcycle Week 2012. With one week to put together a ground-up build with the public scrutinizing your every move, it’s a daunting task, but the five custom bike shops from around the New England states are proving they’re up to the challenge.
White Knuckle Customs out of Windham, Maine, is taking a different approach from the other competitors, opting to construct a custom motorcycle with more of a racing pedigree. It centers around a monster 145” S&S V-Twin surrounded by a handmade stainless steel frame. The vaunted powerplant is one of the “145 cubic-inch Tribute Engines,” No. 6 off the assembly line according to White Knuckle’s Adam Zajac, the big S&S matched up to Dual Super G Carbs. A JIMS Fat 5 Tranny puts the power to the trick rear end while the pipes run under the tail section, sportbike-style. At the tip of the backbone sits a mount for the single shock which supports the thick dual tubes of the steel swingarm. The racy rear is countered by a prototype front end, a combination of brass and stainless, with twin Fox Shocks replacing a spring. An armor-plated tank crests above the backbone, comprised of 32 panels made of rows of stainless and copper. Combining a sporting disposition with a big V-Twin might just be a winning recipe for the crew over at White Knuckle Customs.
But they aren’t the only ones who are showcasing their mastery of metal at this year’s show. Jason Grimes of Northeast Chop Shop is another strong competitor with its reconstructed 1946 WL Harley-Davidson and 45” Flathead
Jason Grimes of Northeast Chop Shop heats up the fender to bring out the patterns of the Damascus steel hidden beneath for their entry into the Laconia Biker Build-Off.
Engine. Grimes told us the core of the old school motorcycle is a proverbial barn find as the engine, tranny and frame were all saved from dilapidation when he salvaged them from a barn. He set about rebuilding the engine for the contest and stylized the frame by drilling holes in selective areas. The Springer fork is handmade while the rear sports a skinny profile and a drum brake. The tank is split on either side of the backbone and the oil tank is neatly tucked in between the twin sections. The number “46,” we’re guessing a tribute to the year the bike rolled of the assembly line, dresses up the handmade tank. A foot clutch and jockey shifter tie into the vintage theme of the bike perfectly, while Northeast Chop Shop keeps the drop bars tidy by running the wiring internally. Grimes impressed us when he used “old school techniques on an old school bike,” using a hand-held torch to heat the carbon steel of the fender to expose the wonderful patterns of the Damascus hiding just below the surface. This method has been repeated elsewhere on the bike as well, including the battery box sitting just below the seat. Look for Grimes to garner a lion’s share of the votes come Saturday for injecting new life into an old classic.
The sentimental favorite of the build-off has to be the crew of FTF Cycles who has taken up the torch for a fallen friend. Chris “Crispy” Murphy was the best friend of FTF Cycles’ Dan Pike. “Crispy” was an “old soul” who loved motorcycles and antiques who had plans on one day restoring a ’71 Triumph Bonneville incorporating antiques into the build. Unfortunately, Chris was killed in a motorcycle accident on Memorial Day weekend 2011 and never got to see the project to fruition. The “Crispy Critters,” the name adopted by Pike and the FTF Cycles crew, are building that Bonny in Chris’ honor.
FTF Cycles entry sports tall apes and a salvaged Springer fork with a tall, spoked front hoop and no front brakes. It’s got a sharp-looking octagon-shaped oil tank mounted just above the kicker pedal while the back fender has been canted forward on the rigid rear. As the saying goes, the beauty of the bike is in the details, in this case, antiques which have been refashioned to serve new purposes, just the way Chris would have wanted it. FTF took the ignition out and are replacing it with one operated by a skeleton key. It has a Hi/Lo throw switch mounted on the downtube to power the electronics. Old candlestick holders have been cut down and now serve as the pegs, while the kick pedal is the handle from a fire poker. They’re making a kick stand out of a gargoyle table leg and the panel they’ve constructed for the
The ‘Crispy Critters’ aka the guys from FTF Cycles work hard assembling a bike around a Triumph 650 engine in honor of their fallen friend.
license plate consists of a small LED with a clear candlestick holder mounted over it. Kurt Greene did the leather work on the seat which has a devilish depiction of Chris’ face on it. Big props to the guys for their big hearts in doing this build in honor of their fallen brother.
Ready Customs out of Derry, New Hampshire, has been diligently constructing a 2012 softail-style motorcycle they call “The Descendant.” At the heart of the build is a Vulcan Works 93 cubic-inch Panhead engine mated to a 2012 Ultima Close Ratio Six Speed transmission. The powerplant gets an added boost by the addition of high performance heads and lifters. The 41mm Wide Glide fork sits out at two inches over stock and is balanced out by Demon’s Cycle bars with Impaler grips that tower over the front end. A drilled-out them extends to the wheels and bars while the metal work of the tanks and fender remain in its natural state. It will be interesting to see how this build turns out given the potential it demonstrates so far.
Speaking of potential, the 1967 BSA Sand Drag motorcycle the team from Vintage Custom Cycles is building stands out not only for its BSA engine but for its hybrid dirt/street bike aesthetics. It sports oversized tubing for the backbone which we assume houses the fuel since there’s no tank. Plunger fork boots deck out the front with its small drum brake on a bike sans fenders so far. The frame is very compact and low to the ground while the seat and tail section are still under construction. Knobby tires front and back give the bike an almost dirt-tracker feel. We wish the Vintage Custom Cycles crew would have been around to confirm some of our suspicions about the bike, but the direction they’re taking deserves credit for being the most unlike the other four bikes in the competition.
The winner of the Laconia Bud Light Biker Build-Off will be selected by “People’s Choice.” The decision will be announced Saturday, June 16, at 4 p.m., so check back in our Laconia Motorcycle Week 2012 Review to find out who rode away with the cash prize.