If the swaths of orange and silver don’t catch your eye, the TV and the saddlebags-turned-speakers will. That’s right, George Riddles was tired of looking at traditional bags, so he asked Old Skool Cycle Werks to install a pair of 13-inch woofers – powered by 1800 paint-blistering watts – on his 2004 Harley-Davidson
Road King. A laminate television brings up the rear.
“When people see this bike,” states Riddles, “They say, ‘What the F$@*? Is this guy crazy? Nobody would ever put 13-inch woofers on a motorbike.’ But it doesn’t look crazy.”
This isn’t the first time Riddles has merged over-the-top customization with cutting-edge technology. In 2011, he hooked up an Apple iPad on his 2008 H-D Ultra Classic Electra Glide. He used the iPad to control another kickin’ sound system and to woo the ladies with late-night movies while parked alongside Lake Michigan in his Windy City hometown.
The fully functional TV, which Riddles says is “just for show,” (he doesn’t turn it on while riding) takes the entertainment factor to a whole new level, but he admittedly hasn’t done away with his Apple fetish. An iPhone, complete with its own built-in docking station on the dash just below the speedometer gauge, controls the whole shebang: music, movies, videos, and slideshows – basically a multimedia mecca on wheels.
The Road King, which George calls 2-PAC, has gone through a major metamorphosis over stock. Previously, while still an outrageous custom job, the Road King
flashed all-chrome and lacked the snazzy audio system on the back. “I won a couple of contests with the other design,” says George, “and decided to come up with a different idea. When I come up with an idea, I just go for it.”
The Harley Road King in its current state has also won its fair share of contests, taking second place at the 2012 Chicago Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show. He also snagged second-place at the International Motorcycle Show and first at World on Wheels. “I’m not really into the show thing, but when I see those builders that put a lot of work into a bike, it makes me want to get into building.”
The difference between Riddles and other custom bike aficionados is that his bikes are strictly ridden, meaning they never get perched up on a trailer. Riddles says he rides to expos, no matter how far. “Most of the bikes that win those shows don’t even see the concrete,” he said.
Riddles has a track record of running around Chi-town with a different custom bike each year. Of course, like the Road King, sometimes that bike is a redo of a previous showstopper. When he does a revamp, however, it’s usually a total overhaul. That’s because he just can’t stand to show or ride something that others have already seen.
“I’m kind of like, every time I see something, I don’t want it unless it’s new. I want to do something that nobody has done before.”
Riddles rides to bike expos, no matter how far, meaning his bikes
never get perched up on a trailer.
Riddles can frequently be found riding around Chicago or the tri-state area with his cronies in the town’s famous Klutch N Khrome (KNK) Motorcycle Club. In fact, the orange and black graphics on his new ride are courtesy of the club’s colors. He and the other members are quick to point out that they’re not a gang, but a conglomerate of like-minded motorcycle-obsessed men and women who like to ride, ride, ride. KNK has expanded to include additional chapters throughout the region.
On the rare occasions that Riddles isn’t straddling a bike seat, he is, of course, at work on a bike or a biker vest. His company, Millennium Designs, customizes leather gear and garb for other motorcycle clubs, their riders and their bikes.
“Clubs call me from all over the world,” says Riddles, now in his 25th year of business, which is funny considering he started the business by accident. In his early 20s, clubs had seen some of his work, and from there the clients just kept coming.
“It wasn’t something that I thought about doing,” he says. “It just happened like that. I’d just been riding since I was a kid.”
A lot of George’s customers, who are also diehard riders, request something that’s comfortable for the long haul yet unique enough to stand out. Now, with business booming, George plans to add in a little retail, as well.
So what’s next for Riddles? Well, he’s definitely caught the bug. “The custom bike, that’s what’s in now,” he says. “I have fun doing it and take pride in it. With the response that I have been getting, I’m looking into doing the building myself.”
We can’t wait to see what Riddles churns out next. In the meantime we’ll look for him around the Windy City - or listen, rather, for the sound of those woofers to come booming around the bend.