A Strokers Ice House party can attract more then 5,000 people in one weekend, but even on a normal Sunday there are more than 1,000 bikes parked out front.
In a perfect world a biker would be able to buy a custom chopper and immediately show it off to all of his friends down at the local bar and grill right next door, have a burger and a beer, and never have to take his eyes off of his prized motorcycles. And of course, there would be some babes in bikinis to serve the drinks.
Well in Dallas, Tex., this place actually exists, and it's as close to perfect as a bike hangout can be. The facility at Strokers Dallas Custom Choppers
incorporates a custom chopper shop and a bar and grill at one location.
Rick Fairless is the brains behind this double-barreled inspiration. He was 39 years-old and fixin' to be 40 when he decided to quit his day job and start his dream job.
"It was always a dream of mine to open up a motorcycle shop, and I never thought I'd do it," Fairless explains. "I saw that Easy Riders were opening up around the country and I thought I would make a run at it, fill out the paper work, and let them tell that I couldn't do it. So at least I could say I tried."
Eight years and one company name change later, Strokers Dallas Custom Choppers has become a biker emporium that sells four different brands of custom bikes – including Fairless's own creations – and late-model Harley-Davidsons. The motorcycles are gnarly and the prices are right, but the brilliance is in the bar next door.
Cartoon statues of the Blues Brothers, dinosaurs, and a six-foot tall hot dog hover on the Strokers Ice House rooftop like modern gargoyles representing the custom chopper age. And naturally, wherever there are two-wheeled customs, there should be ladies in bikinis serving beer and adding to the party ambiance.
Fairless' brainchild began when he realized there had to be a better way to socialize on a bike. After waking up and working on his bike, he'd ride to the local Harley shop to meet his buddies. But, having no reason to go inside, Fairless and his friends would hop back on their bikes and head to a restaurant where they could get some grub. Unfortunately, most of these joints aren't designed to be biker friendly.
"You'd be inside, then you would have to take turns checking on the bikes," Fairless describes. "You'd go out front, you'd push open the door, and say 'yeah, mine is here but yours is gone,' and you'd deal with that kind of bullshit."
One of Fairless' riding buddies mentioned how nice it would be to have a place where you could eat inside while easily keeping your eye on your bike. Fairless had grander visions.
"At the perfect biker bar you would have a place where you can go outside, sit at your table, walk around with a beer, right there beside your bike," the custom builder concludes.
With a design inspired by drinking beer and playing pool, the "Coors Original Bike" can bring out the honky-tonk in all of us.
The public has responded to this idea in a huge way. Strokers Ice House Spring Fling this past May 1 attracted more than 5,000 riders and motorcycle enthusiasts that filled the streets for a quarter mile in every direction. On any normal Sunday, Fairless says there are at least 1,000 bikes parked at the bar and grill.
"They come every single week," Fairless points out. "They meet, they hang out, they drink and eat burgers, and they walk next door and buy t-shirts, hats, sunglasses, and disposable cameras. We sell stuff that most Harley shops don't sell."
Because most shops aren't open on Sundays, Fairless takes advantage of an untapped audience by keeping his doors open "eight days a week." As long as the sunscreen is in stock and the beer stays on tap, the customers keep stopping by.
Running the bar and grill sounds like a full-time job, but Fairless doesn't let that get in the way of his first passion, which is building custom motorcycles. He builds between 12 and 15 of his own bikes every year. Like many custom shops, the folks at Strokers will sit down and help you design the exact bike you want. With the ability to fabricate their own parts, the end result is nothing short of the customer's dream bike.
But Strokers also stands out in that they sell original creations from other custom builders. Big Dog Customs, American Ironhorse, and Red Neck Motorcycles all can be seen on their showroom floor. In fact, Fairless is starting to fabricate his own parts to accentuate the other bikes he sells.
Fairless also makes sure he keeps in touch with his patrons by producing a newsletter that goes out to more than 20,000 people. All this extra work has demanded Fairless to hire quite a few extra hands over the years.
"Between here and the bar, I have 40 employees," Fairless says. "We started out with five. It's unbelievable. This place is a continuous explosion. Every year it just gets bigger and bigger and bigger."
One of the reason Strokers has become so popular is the creativity Fairless puts into his own handiwork. His "Coors Original Bike" was commissioned by the namesake brewery, and it brings out the beer-drinking pool shark in everyone who sees it. It took Fairless 60 days to build this bitchin' custom that represents the honky-tonk in all of us.
The "Coors Original Bike's" oil tank masquerades as an inviting six-pack of beer in front of the engine.
The front forks are designed after cue sticks, and have pool balls mounted at each end. The gas tank is represented by two giant Coors Original cans, complete with pull tabs. More cans reside under the seat, neatly containing the ignition coils, battery and electronics. And resting ahead of the motor is the engine's oil tank masquerading as an inviting six-pack of beer.
This party on wheels is built on a Rick Fairless Custom frame and is powered by a 113 cubic-inch S&S motor. Samson pipes provide the soundtrack. With a price tag of $80,000, not just anybody can own this Coors Original. But just about everybody can appreciate the craftsmanship behind the bike and the silly beer humor (beauty is in the eyes of the beer holder, or she's a ten at two and a two at ten) painted on it.
Even though Fairless enjoys creating theme bikes, he also loves designing a chopper that reveals his own personality.
"I wanted a bike that was really loud looking and had the stuff I'm interested in on it," the former paint salesman explains. "When I started writing down what I was interested in, it hit me that it was mainly '60s stuff: Janis Joplin, Frank Zappa, Cheech and Chong, that kind of stuff."
Thus, the crowd-pleasing Psychedelic Chopper was born. From a distance it appears to be a combination of swirling colors. But upon closer examination, the masterful Vince Goodeve paint job is an acid trip of '60s idols and hippy images. From Woodstock to roaming eye balls, this chopper is definitely one of a kind.
It took Fairless six months to build the Psychedelic bike around a Daytec frame that uses a Rolling Thunder front end. It's powered by a 121 cubic-inch TP motor with pipes created by Yaffe. However, at $75,000 there are definitely cheaper ways to relive the freedom-loving era of the '60s.
But don't let the high cost of these two bikes scare you. Strokers sells a variety of choppers that are a lot softer on the wallet. New bikes start in the low $20,000-range and go up from there. And if you're a big spender, you can always put one of Fairless's high-end originals in your garage as well.
You may go to Texas to see the Alamo and watch the Cowboys play, but you'll stay for Strokers Dallas Custom Choppers and the Strokes Ice House.
For more information visit Strokers Dallas.com