A Deal with the Devil
Donnie “Big Dog” Baker came to Kent Weeks with the goal of turning his stock Raider into a bagger.
Kent Weeks, the mutant mind behind Houston-based Lucky Devil Metal Works, has reengineered, modified or otherwise reshaped everything from a mower-powered mini-bike to the NASA Space Shuttle, although documentation of the latter remains classified. Not yet internationally known, his reputation precedes him in motorcycle reformation circles, mostly found in questionable joints and deep underground.
Once you speak with the friendly and plain speaking moto demon, it’s not hard to imagine Weeks sitting on a pile of burnt iron, blow torch in one hand, steel shears in the other, pony tail tucked neatly under his welder’s coat, holding court and offering his wicked consul.
“I like to sit down with my clients,” said Weeks, “visit with them for awhile, get to know them, discuss ideas of function and style, and carefully consider what they desire.” The Lucky Devil himself can turn dreams to reality, but will the customer pay the price?
This scene unfolded when Donnie “Big Dog” Baker walked into Week’s cycle shop and sanctuary some months ago, ready to make a deal with the Devil. “There is almost always a budget, especially nowadays when spending money is scarce supply. But there’s a lot we can do with some ingenuity and imagination so we can get to cooking,” said Weeks, “and we’ll work with you; it’s not like we’re going to ask for your soul.”
The task of installing hard bags soon became difficult when it was realized that Corbin didn't make bags for the Raider.
This is Weeks second metric mission; the first was a production-line prototype created with Victory Motorcycles, a long-haul chopper not only built for style, but for comfort and proper handling. Factory officials were pleased with the results of the skunk works project, badged the “Victory Vampire,” but no word yet out of Minnesota whether the Vampire will join “The Other American" motorcycles.
“I liked that the Victory, and now this Yamaha, are air-cooled. Compared to a liquid-cooled bike, it just gives you more design options,” said the Devil. Those choices meandered though Weeks’ demonic mind as the sparks flew and the salty aroma of brimstone filled the Metalworks. Welders were lit, steel sliced and forms melted into shapes of Weeks’ wicked imagining.
Baker had a moderate budget and his primary focus was to install Corbin Fleetliner hard bags. Problem was, Corbin did not make Fleetliners for the Raider and the closest ones to it were designed for single exhaust pipes running down each side of the bike. Baker wanted a dual-pipe setup, on one side.
“He wanted to modify some preferred parts. You never really know until you do the project what kind of challenges you may run into,” said Weeks, “it’s the toughest and most motivating aspect of my work—how can I make the undoable doable. But that’s why they come to me.”
The cost associated with customizing the Yamaha/Star Motorcycles' Raider with hard bags is rather cheap when you consider the expensive price of a well-built bagger.
As a large portion of the motorcycle population aged, primarily Baby Boomers who fueled record smashing cruiser sales for well over a decade, the creature comforts and practicality of baggers came into demand. All those bells and whistles, bags and compartments, louvers, sound systems, butt massaging seats, heated grips and bug repellent windshields can get expensive quickly, especially when making modifications.
The Yamaha/Star Motorcycles’ Raider retailed for about $13,200 in 2008, which creates a healthy cushion for customizing when compared to plunking down a Tour Pak of cash for a well-built bagger. Baker couldn’t find one he liked that was affordable. “But he had a very fun ride in the Raider and decided to transform it rather than sell it, put that money toward his dream bike and still be left far short,” said Weeks, “We’re in the making the dream come true business, and it was time to go to work.”
As simple as the finished product looks, added Weeks, “it can be a lot of work, and creating a seamless profile that appears factory made but is far from it, can be harder than just going radical. At the end of the day this Raider will still cost much less than buying a whole new bike, but what really matters is that Donnie can’t wipe the grin off his face.
“Unfortunately,” added Weeks, “there is a certain amount of waste that comes with a custom job. Some clients request parts that come as kits and much of it cannot be used. That stuff goes into the what-the-hell-can-I-make-out-of-this-crap pile.” Lucky Devil’s clientele has evolved into a high concentration of engineers and, according to Weeks, a lot of repeat business as he developed a reputation for being the go-to guy when the self-wrenching guys with the post-graduate degrees can’t figure things out.
Like how to mount a set of hard bags that cannot be mounted to a Star Raider, and make the whole setup convertible.
The fender struts were given threaded mounts for the bags, allowing it to be stipped down and returned to its original form.
Weeks fabricated fender struts with threaded mounts for the handmade bag supports. These were made so the bike can be stripped down and returned to its original profile. The entire rear end and how it connects to the frame has been modified for added strength.
Said Weeks: “The rear fender has cross supports inside the lower section of the fender to help support the bags and brackets. so we glassed the left side in and left the right open for the dual-stack Stripper pipes, capping them with our custom tips. We also filled in two of the three chrome pockets completely and left part of the third to match the chrome trim on the tank.”
The Raider is an inviting machine. It’s tough enough to bar hop with the best breeds of hotrod, but gentle and confident enough for long-haul rides into distant parts unknown. The 113-cubic inch (1852cc) V-Twin’s tree stump ripping torque and smooth, upward curve of its powerband would turn any biker bad. But whether badass, goodass or nice ass, the chopper-esque power-cruiser turned bagger by any name is a powerful performer. Baker’s bike is now equipped with that rare mix of style and function.
All that’s left is for Baker to look cool, ride hard, get his soul back and send us a damn postcard once in awhile.
Star Raider Custom Specs:
Engine: Yamaha 113-inch air-cooled V-Twin
Pipes: Hard Chrome Stripper Pipes with custom turn-out tips by Lucky Devil
Air Cleaner: K&N
Fork length (+ or -): Stock
Triple Trees: Yamaha
Additional rake in trees: Stock
Rear Suspension: Yamaha
Rear Shocks: Stock
Front wheel: Yamaha
Rear wheel: Yamaha
Front Tire (size and make): Metzeler E3 120 /70/21
Rear Tire (size and make): 240/40/18
Front Brake: Stock
Stock/Custom Dash inserts by Webslinger, Joe Kinnikin (http://www.stargis.net/webslinger/index.htm
Custom Chrome Front fender (for H-D application). The rear fender was made using a 9.5-inch wide blank for the upper section and the lower section was hand-formed from flat sheet metal.
Yamaha /with custom throttle lock
RWD taillight/plate mount insert, metal pocket in fender by Lucky Devil
Factory Black Metallic X, color match on custom parts by Fishmaster
Kent and Regan/Lucky Devil Metal Works