We ran into Roger Goldammer's "Trouble" when the board-track inspired design was on display at last year's Bonneville Speed Trials. The British Columbia builder was at the event participating in Discovery Channel's Biker Build-Off with a different machine.
"There's no taillights on that bike," said the befuddled spectator as he examined the rear fender of the green custom bike. His companion, however, begged to differ. He'd seen a clip about that very machine, created by Canadian custom builder Roger Goldammer, on television. Or had he read about it somewhere? He wasn't sure of the source, but he was adamant about one thing: the existence of taillights on the design inspired by a board-track racer.
"Then where are they?" The doubtful spectator was now bordering on incredulous. His friend was not helped in his argument by the fact that he couldn't locate the turn signals either. The duo consisted of middle-aged cruiser guys - and not the weekend dress-up crowd, either. They were weatherworn riders, with leathery, reddened skin, having burned up to the Bonneville Salt Flats on a September weekday to take in the racing during the International Motorcycle Speed Trials. But now they were embroiled in an unforeseen dispute in the pits over the existence of some alleged taillights.
Clicking off picture after picture of the photogenic machine, when the two leaned in to scrutinize the rear section of the bike, we were less annoyed about our now spoiled shot than just plain curious about the supposed taillights ourselves.
After some moments of futile examination, the Bonneville spectators wandered off with some good-natured ribbing continuing between the two. It was unfortunate because, not long after their departure, Roger Goldammer himself sauntered over from his trailer after returning from an inaugural run on the Bonneville Speedway. In half-stripped leathers, the athletic-looking builder made himself available for a quick chat about his design, which is fittingly dubbed "Trouble" (at least a fitting name for its previous spectators).
Goldammer looks every bit the part of a custom bike builder, sporting a shaved head, goatee, and some inkwork on his forearms. When you speak with the British Columbia native, however, you get an atypical custom builder attitude. Far from the surly, irritable personas gracing basic cable, Goldammer speaks in deep, calm tones. He is polite, agreeable, and, well, Canadian in his manners. He is also happy to talk about his custom creations, whether the person asking the questions be a member of the press, like myself, or a pair of arguing Bonneville pit gazers.
Although it was too late for the previous gentlemen, the 38-year-old designer satisfied the taillight dispute with the push of the bike's self-canceling signal button. Two red slivers of LED light became visible, nestled underneath the lip of the rear fender and hovering just fractions of an inch above the rear tire. You'd never guess the minimalist signals were there, and that fact is just as Goldammer intended.
See, there really are taillights on Goldammer's "Trouble." You have to know just what you're looking at to see them, however. Even when they're activated, you couldn't be blamed for missing them.
"Usually on custom bikes these things get neglected," said Goldammer as he showed off "Trouble's" low-key accessories, like mirrors, horn, and even a license plate holder. "But the challenge is to try and have these things and not take away from the looks of the bike."
Taillights aren't the only components which adorn "Trouble" in the most innocuous manner. As befits most current custom creations, the electrical, oil, and hydraulic systems are all routed inside the frame through 11 internal lines. The clever rear brake rotor does double duty as the sprocket for the final chain drive. Even the girder-looking front-end suspension conceals an unseen surprise, with the top end of the girder actually a rocker arm that activates a hidden shock placed inside the neck of the frame.
Goldammer's skill with front-end construction shouldn't come as a big surprise, as his sleek billet front-ends are the hallmark components emanating from his Goldammer Cycle Works
garage. Receiving professional education from the BC Institute of Technology and the famous Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Phoenix, Goldammer has been building bikes at his shop for a decade now, but fabricating his aftermarket V-Twin components is what pays the bills. "I almost do that just to support my habit of building these crazy bikes," explained Goldammer.
Not building bikes to order anymore, Roger Goldammer now builds customs to live up to the strict specifications and standards of just one rider in particular: himself.
"I used to build bikes for customers, which is great. It allows you to use someone else's money to build what you want to build, but you're still restricted. You really have to cater to their wants and needs," said the Canadian designer. "I wanted to build the bikes that were in my
head though. Right down from making color choices. If you show this color [gesturing at Trouble] to most people, they'd go 'I want orange metalflake, like my buddy's.' But it works on this bike, and I take the risk because I have that vision inside my head, and you can't expect other people to understand that."
The sources of Goldammer's vision for "Trouble" were the Harley-Davidson Peashooter Singles of the board-track era - a period in U.S. motorcycle history, back in the opening decades of the 20th century, when riders railed around wooden ovals in pursuit of racing glory. Many recent builders have claimed the board-track era as inspiration for their machines, but they have a hard time matching Goldammer's unique take.
A self-proclaimed fan of single-cylinder bikes, Goldammer stuck to the board-track Peashooter's Single roots by sourcing an H-D Twin-cam Evolution powerplant. The obvious problem of utilizing a V-Twin mill was resolved by Goldammer in a bold manner. He removed the rear cylinder of the V to make it a 965cc Single. For added performance he added a Rotrex supercharger where the rear cylinder used to sit. A Magneto kickstart gives "Trouble" some old-school flair - it is also the only way to turn over the one-of-a-kind powerplant.
Roger Goldammer builds bikes out of his British Columbia based Goldammer Cycle Works shop. At Bonneville the Canadian was racing one of his latest custom creations, as well as taking time to chat and pose for pictures with curious pit-lane fans.
The unique engine configuration for Trouble was a perfect example of why Goldammer now only builds bikes for himself.
"I couldn't really test this out until the whole thing was finished. If the blown single-cylinder thing didn't work, well, the whole thing might have been scrapped. Pretty hard to do on someone else's dime, because you can't just put a V-Twin engine in this chassis afterwards if it doesn't work. So, I don't mind taking that risk."
Perhaps the greatest achievement of "Trouble" is it's wild minimalist style. From the preying-mantis-like front end to the 23-inch rear and 21-inch front wheels, the flat green "Trouble" registers an absolute 10 on our coolness scale.
But MotorcycleUSA isn't the only one to gush over Goldammer's work, as his fellow countryman have recognized his talent by bestowing a 2006 B.C. (British Columbia) Creative Achievement Award in industrial design. Goldammer has also been praised by his custom builder peers, with "Trouble" having won the American Motorcycle Dealer magazine bike show
in 2005, an event which is judged by the builders themselves.
For Goldammer, the props of being acknowledged by his contemporaries is the most rewarding accolade he could receive.
"They know what they're looking at," explained Goldammer on why the praise from his peers means so much. "I think they appreciate the engineering that goes in to it. I'm not out to impress Joe Public. I just build the bikes I want to build, and the people that seem to understand them best are fellow bike builders - true enthusiasts."
As incredible as "Trouble" is, and it truly demands a spectator's close attention (taillight argument or not), it wasn't the reason why Goldammer made the 950-mile trek out to the famed Bonneville Salt Flats from his British Columbia home. It turned out the builder was participating in an episode of Discovery Channel's Biker Build-Off, with Goldammer facing off against So-Cal builder Matt Hotch, both riders ready to dual out on the salt at the legendary Bonneville Speedway.
Whereas Hotch took an old-school approach to the challenge, creating a vintage-looking homage to the Vincent Black Shadow, Goldammer went in an altogether different direction with his bike, dubbed "ExperiMental." Goldammer based his Build-Off creation from an unexpected source, the frame of Honda's CR250R two-stroke - a machine which he describes as "the most successful dirtbike ever built."
Like it's Honda inspiration, "ExperiMental" is a two-stroke. Nestled inside the one-off frame Goldammer sources a BRC 250cc superkart motor. "It's an Aprilia Rotax designed Tandem-Twin, two cylinders - one in front of the other - and two crankshafts geared together," said Goldammer as he and his crew were playing with the engine's high-tech electronic equipment and data acquisition to dial in the maximum horsepower output. Goldammer had just returned from his initial Bonneville run and believed the engine, which is the dominating powerplant in superkart racing, was capable of some more steam.
As the folks in the Goldammer pit tinkered with all the electronic bells and whistles, Roger rattled off a quick list of the unexpected units adorning his Build-Off creation: Electric water pumps, ceramic composite brakes, and even carbon fiber wheels.
The powerplant on "Trouble" displays Goldammer's bold initiative, as he halved an H-D Twin-cam Evolution to make a Single and added a Rotrex supercharger in place of the absent rear cylinder.
High-end componentry mated with a two-stroke dirtbike frame is an odd combination, but there is no question that "ExperiMental" is a custom bike through and through, exhibiting fine displays of Goldammer craftsmanship - the most notable example being the frame itself.
Keeping the main spars and swingarm from the original Honda, Goldammer had to get creative cutting and welding the aluminum frame to fit his designs. He cut the original perimeter frame in half, widening both it and the swingarm, capping the neck, and fabricating curved triangular downtubes to house a pair of radiators. The radiators themselves are an interesting display of Goldammer's willingness to take innovative approaches. Utilizing a pair of KTM rads, Goldammer cut up and formed them on a wooden jig to get the desired curvature to match the frame.
"It's fun stuff, there's no limitations here," said Goldammer on the new ground he blazed coming up with his unique radiator solution. "If I asked anybody 'can you do that?' they'd go, 'Well, uh, no.' But I don't know a soul who's tried that. So, that's the fun part of custom bike building."
Built with Bonneville in mind, Goldammer was able to wind out "ExperiMental" to 128.774 mph through the timed mile out on the Salt, besting his Build-Off rival, Hotch, in the process. (Hotch's bike topped out quite a bit lower at 99.728 mph, but the Vincent homage did look spectacular doing it.)
As much as they love custom motorcycles, Americans love a winner even more, which bodes well for Goldammer's future success. While the average Joe isn't likely to ever own a Goldammer original (his bikes aren't for sale), a Big-Twin rider can sport some Goldammer componentry on his or her rig by checking out the Goldammer Cycle Works catalog
As a fly on the wall of the Goldammer pit at Bonneville it was clear to us that he enjoyed what he was doing and on more than one occasion we heard the custom builder refer to his machines as a "fun exercise." With his easy-going demeanor and innovative design, plan on hearing Goldammer's name for a long time to come. If you ever get an opportunity to check out one of his "fun exercises" at a bike show, you won't be disappointed.
Oh, and as for you two arguing spectators out there, we hope this article put that taillight dispute to rest once and for all.
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