Friday, March 28, 2014

Vegas Baby!
Very honored to be invited to be part of the Artistry in Iron at Vegas Bikefest! Oct 2-5th 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Born Free 6, Uncle Sam's Resurrection: The Tank with Cole Foster

Any one who's ever built a bike knows the translation from your head to actually scheduling things to get done is never one to one. The timing of my move and getting the shop up and running has been a bitch. Not to mention several builds waiting, parts, and my bright idea of doing another BF build. I sure do make it easy on myself. I guess I really am practicing what I preach when I say, "nothing good ever comes easy".  The difference for me this year is, that even though I'm behind and the stress is mounting, I don't feel the same pressure as years previous.

There are lots of reasons for that, in part its my overall attitude of not "competing" and to just live in the moment and enjoy the journey. But I think more importantly, I am trying to build something other than the bike. In the end the bike will be a vehicle, literally, and figuratively. The later part of that equation is my attempt to build a history for the bike. A story that's bigger than the bike. A story that means something years from now, years after I'm gone. I've often said we live in a time that in a lot of ways is the prime of what we do. All of us dream of finding that survivor bike that has some amazing history, I hope to be creating some of that for some person 30 or 100 years from now. It's an idea bigger than any award.
In part 3 of my journey I ventured up to Salinas California to work with Cole Foster on Uncle Sam's tank. I've only known Cole over the years through other friends and I never really spent any serious time with him outside a show or two. Like all the guys I've asked to be part of this, he was more than willing and incredibly generous with his time.
Guy's that are really good at what they do generally have two major qualities. One, they are very comfortable in their own skin, and two, they are more than willing to share. Cole is one of these cats.
Cole's custom history is deep and without question builds some of the best cars anywhere. Back in the early 2000's Cole's Blue Bobber could be compared to Nirvana's impact on the rock scene in the 90s. Guy's that build clean aesthetically pleasing and classy bikes where few and far between. Put the Blue bike next to any modern chopper in 2005 and you notice just how absurd that trend was.
Yes, I could have fixed the tank and been done, but what's the story in that? Cole could have easily said, "Why make a tank, lets fix this one." Instead he totally understood the idea and was ready to roll on it. 

I arrived at Cole's at 9:30am, he was filling up on coffee and smokes and we sat and chatting for a good while before getting started.  As we started to make templates I got another great surprise when Aarron Elliot showed up to help. After working with Bradon, Cole and then Aarron I've been voted in as an honorary Salinas Boy!

Aarrons insane Born Free 4 sporty. He rides it all the time.

We spent a good Saturday pounding and shaping the tank and went out for an 4 star meal at the local Outback Steakhouse! Sunday morning we were up and rolling and got the tank tacked together by early afternoon. 

Making a tank from scratch is no easy task, and Cole makes it look easy. I've done a handfull of tanks over the years and while working with Cole I had a lot of moments of, " ok, yeah, I'm doing that next time," Oh yeah, I need that tool".
After admiring Cole's work over the years I knew for sure we would have something in common. He attacks things the same way I do, simple is almost always better. Knowing what not to do is just as important and knowing how to do it.

Another piece of history is added to Uncle Sam with the help from a living Hot Rod legend. Like my journey so far, I've been blessed to connect with Cole and spend some time getting to know him. Another story to pass on. Stay tuned for video soon.

My deepest thanks to Cole and Aarron.

Check out The Salinas Boys

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Born Free 6, Uncle Sam's Resurrection: The Motor

There are very, very few people in the custom game that literally do all the work themselves. One, they may not be capable, two they may not have the means, or both. In most cases, even with the big boys, there are a team of people that assist along the way. Machinist, motor guys, painters, parts suppliers, etc. At some level there is collaboration. While I've always made an effort to do as much as I possibly could myself I also like to say that I am smart enough to know how dumb I am. 

By this time I am more than comfortable with most aspects of building, from the crank pin up, but this time around it isn't about just problem solving or going through the same motions again its about learning and humbling myself by being in the presence of craftsmen that are better than me, and hopefully I can improve my self as an artist and as a person.

Being intellectual curious, I've always been the type that learns by doing and deconstruction, trial and error as they say. Along with attempting to catch the "spirit of the build" I want to learn and watch how others do things. Sometimes it turns out to be confirming when someone says "you did a good job" and sometimes, if you pay attention, you learn something new.

Uncle Sam's heart and soul is my 1966 FLH Shovelhead motor. I've had the motor for almost ten years. I've built two bikes around it and put LOTS of miles on it. Since I've had the motor I've rebuilt the lower end once, and did three topends. It's been the best motor I've ever had. This time around I wanted to work with a long time friend and Ventura legend Kurt Morrow. For almost 20 years Kurt has been humbly and quietly churning out some of the best vintage custom work around. Along with meticulous fab work, Kurt's shop offers motor work and service. 

Although I've know Kurt for years I've never had the chance to work with him so I was very happy he agreed to work with me on the motor. 

Kurt's been around long enough to see the trends come and go and when everyone had 300 tires and Easter egg paint jobs, Kurt was tooling away on the old stuff like the rest of us grease monkeys. ''
When I rolled in with the motor I was greeted by Kat, Kurt's right hand lady. She keeps the biz end of things running so Kurt can focus on the dirty stuff.  Oh, and she is no push over, and she rides! This Pan is her scoot Kurt is building to be debuted at Born Free 6.

We wasted no time and started tearing the motor down. I fully expected the motor to be sufficiently worn and Kurt expected something worse. I knew it had lots of miles, but Kurt just assumed this "young" kid thrashed his motor. To our amazement the lower end looked as clean and fresh and a new break in. "WOW" we both said. Oil changes kids!!

We measured the pistons and jugs and found them to be a little loose, so a fresh top end is in order. I also am swapping out the old dual pug heads for some stock heads. We inspected all the critical parts and agreed the lower end was gold. Kurt is giving the motor a good cleaning and once I have the fresh bore and pistons I'll visit him again for final assembly. 

Even in the my first short visit I got to know Kurt a little better and picked up a couple tricks. Kurt is a quiet soft spoken guy that lets his work do the talking. He'll be the first to admit he is a bit of a hermit, but you know, there a lot of dudes out there that are quietly doing amazing things and it's up to us to seek them out sometimes. I'm glad I found Kurt and very thankful he gave up some of his time. Stay tuned for some video and part 2 of the motor soon. 

Big thanks to Kurt. Please check him out!!  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cro Customs and Dark + Dawn Skull Shifter Knobs!!!

These amazingly detailed skulls are the result of an exclusive collaboration between Cro Customs and Dark + Dawn Jewelry. These are hand carved molds that are investment cast to insure superior quality and fine detail. These are hands down the finest of their kind. 100% MADE IN THE USA!!
They are offered in Bronze, White Bronze and Sterling Silver!

ORDER NOW!!    Cro's Nest Trading Post

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Uncle Sam Resurrection : Episode 1

This is footage I put together of the frame work with Brandon. Follow me on Vimeo or this blog for future Episodes of the Born Free 6 build.

Cro Customs Born Free 6 build: Uncle Sam's Resurrection, Episode 1: Mullins Chain Drive from cro customs on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Born Free 6, Uncle Sam's Resurrection: Intro and The Frame

I've been honored to be an invited builder for the 4th time for BF6. It's no secret I've never been a "show bike" builder. I've never built a bike for the purpose of parading it at shows and hoping to take home trophies. Bike's have always meant much more to me than that. It's always been about the journey. The journey of the build, then the journey of the ride.

The beauty of two wheels is that you can plan all you want, but you never know what's just around the corner, and maybe along the way you have some unexpected experiences that bring things to your life.

If you are a reader of this blog then you know that life threw a car my way a year ago and put a huge wrench in my plans for a spell. I was clipped by a car in Hollywood and beat up real good. Worse, my beloved chopper Uncle Sam was mangled. Some folks would hang up their boots and sell the bike for parts, but I was even more determined to finish my BF5 build, then at some point get Uncle Sam back together.

The day after BF5 I was just thinking about getting my chopper back together and dissapearing on it for days, when I got the call about BF6. I hesitated again, sat on the idea for a week or so.
In truth, I felt that on some levels there was a developing competitive vibe that was getting a little more serious than initially intended. While competition is good and can push people to try harder, it wasn't what I was about, nor has it ever been the case for me and bikes. I'm a lover of bikes who is self taught for the sole purpose of riding. There is no competition when I'm rolling down the highway.

What matters to me is the passion, riding and people behind it all.

So, with that long winded introduction, for BF6 I've set out to make this build more about the experience and journey and less about blowing peoples minds with a crazy bike.

Old bikes have a soul and history, in part because of the stories behind them. Even before my crash, this bike already had a load of stories. Part of connecting with people is sharing those stories.

So, instead of trying to one up last years bike, or go out of the box stylistically, I decided to ask several people to work with me on getting Uncle Sam back on the road. Like years before, I could have tooled away on my own in the shop and got it done, but that would have been predictable and well with in my comfort zone, the idea was to venture out of that zone.

I could have easily sought out close friends and or all local guys, but again, the idea was to venture out. Not only did I want to work with guys I admire, but I wanted to maybe bridge the gap a bit and maybe find common ground where some would say there wasn't.

NorCal SoCal Chopper Summit :The Frame

One of the first persons I approached was Brandon Casquilho of Mullins Chain Drive in Richmond  Ca. Brandon has a ton of years of professional fab experience working with some of the heaviest names in Hot Rod's and Custom Bikes. He is a seasoned, talented, and dedicated fabricator that is arguably at the top of the fab game.

On the surface Brandon and I couldn't be more different. His history is deeply engrained in Cali custom culture, Sinners, punk rock, BMX and skateboarding. I'm a white trash kid from Florida with a Fine Art degree, love of jazz and blues.  My custom bike influence was is in my back yard with my brothers.

The truth is, even if Brandon may not agree, we are more similar than we are different. I'm nearly 10 years older than him, and to spite the minor generation gap I knew that we would find common ground through making my twisted frame straight again.

 The frame as it sat when I tore the bike apart.
I drove up friday and we got right to work. 

The frame was a lot worse than I initially thought and Brandon's jig was put through the paces for sure. We had many moments of "wow, that's fucked" but to Brandon's credit he wasn't about to let my frame beat us. We spent a solid 3 days, cutting, bending, heating the frame back straight. More importantly I got to know Brandon a bit. He cares deeply about his work and believes as I do in the enduring value of quality craftsmanship, character and integrity. We both have an affinity and respect for the "old ways" and the deep history of the men before us. Don't take my word for it, just look at all his work and you can tell how much he cares. Yeah, he'll throw that grumpy guy stuff at you, but inside that crunchy exterior is a man that really cares.

I'm forever grateful to Brandon for allowing me in his shop and his world for a few days. When I'm rolling down the road on Uncle Sam I'll have these memories to ride with me and maybe, just maybe, 50 years from now some kid will find Uncle Sam in a barn, resurrect it again and know of it's history. Two men came together over a motorcycle and found common ground and like it or not, their story is forever part of that bike.

The frame back home and ready for some final clean up.

I shot some video with Brandon that I will post in the next few days.