Who’d have thought a small German company that started out as a Suzuki dealer, created custom sportbikes and competed in German road races would become one of the premiere Harley-Davidson customizers in Europe? But after over 20 years in the business, Thunderbike
(TB) converted to a Harley dealership in 2006, according to Thunderbike Customs Martin Mix, and hasn’t looked back since.
“When we became an H-D dealer in 2006, we just continued this process and with our second place at the AMD World Championships in 2006, we got some international attention. Now we have two catalogs, one for H-D, one for metric, with thousands of parts and are still working on new stuff every season,” Mix said.
Among this new stuff is the Thunderbike Nickel Rocker, a product of this pattern of customizing motorcycles it sells on the showroom floor to showcase parts made in-house. It also serves as an example of the customizing potential of particular models. Mix said that “Fat Ass” customs are popular in Germany and the Rocker is “always a nice ‘raw’ bike for projects because of the nice frame.”
The muscular-looking motorcycle started as a 2011 FXCWC Rocker Softail before Thunderbike’s in-house crew worked its magic on it. They kept the stock frame and drivetrain, its Twin Cam 96 engine, six-speed transmission and primary virtually the same as it came from Harley, except for the shiny nickel-plated Thunderbike ribbed rockerboxes and TB Special air filter. Its stock pipes were also ditched for a set of Vance & Hines Big Radius 2-into-2 exhausts. The nickel-plating process, a vital component to the theme of the bike, extends to a list of proprietary Thunderbike parts including the Special Air Filter, Flip Handlebars, Base Foot Controls with TB Toppers, and Alcatraz grilled headlight and taillight. Nickel-plating also adorns Thunderbike’s Radical front end with Air-Ride that is designed to look and work like a regular Springer fork but is height-adjustable and has enough room for the monster 23-inch front wheel.
A Thunderbike Special Air Filter and Vance & Hines Big Radius 2-into-2 pipes are mated to a stock Twin Cam 96 V-Twin.
The front end of the Nickel Rocker benefits from the addition of a set of Thunderbike Flip Handlebars and a really sweet TB Radical front end with Air-Ride.
Thunderbike opened up the view of the bike's backside by adding a single-sided swingarm, relocating the taillight and throwing on a side-mount license plate.
The five-spoke wheels are one of the Nickel Rocker’s most prominent features. Mix said the CNC-machined wheels are monoblock units cut from 400kg aluminum blocks, a process that takes almost three days on the CNC-machine. The front is wrapped in a 130/60-23 Avon Tire that comes up almost to the lower clamp of the triple trees. A large 320mm Thunderbike Vegas Wave rotor matched to a TB 6-piston caliper has been assigned stopping duties on the front, the wave rotor a sporting touch to an otherwise pure cruiser stance.
While the original Harley ribbed oil tank was retained, a little fab work went into the stretched aluminum tank and revised rear section, the back fender and seat pan integrated into a single tire-hugging unit. The biggest change to the Nickel Rocker’s tail end conversion is the addition of a Thunderbike single-sided swingarm which teams with the fender to support the bike’s 21-inch back wheel. The single-sided swinger allows for an unobstructed view of the right backside and really showcases the cut and design of the killer monoblock wheel. It, too, uses a huge TB Wave Rotor for braking, this time pinched by a Buell 6-piston caliper. The back end also received Thunderbike’s Air-Ride treatment tucked away in typical Softail fashion.
In all, it took the Thunderbike team about three months to build the Nickel Rocker. Most work was done in-house, except for the nickel-plating and the flat grey paint job which was artistically applied by Ingo Kruse. TheThunderbike Nickel Rocker won 3rd place in the Modified Harley Class at the Custom Chrome Europe Show, but was built-to-order for a customer, so its run as a show bike may be over. Thunderbike did mention that it will probably make an appearance at European Bike Week in Faak, Austria.
Thunderbike’s customizing work reached the pinnacle last year when it won the Freestyle Class at the prestigious AMD World Championships of Custom Bike Building
with Paintless, a beautiful streamlined café-style racer with a rebuilt 1984 Sportster Ironhead engine and an H-D 750 WLA drivetrain. A bevy of copper, brass, chrome and gold accents highlight the bike and served as inspiration for the nickel finish on the Rocker. Though Thunderbike won’t be defending its title this year as the company has been concentrating its efforts on customer projects (gotta pay the bills, after all) Mix said the next big project will probably be finished in time for European Bike Week in September. Until then, we know there’s one happy guy out there rippin’ it up around Europe on one of the most stand-out Rockers around.