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.


  1. Great stuff!
    The journey is a million times more interesting than the destination,

  2. I love the direction you are taking with this! Thank you for sharing the story, I am looking forward to the next installment.

  3. THIS RULES. Inspirational stuff here.

  4. wow this is very inspirational stuff for sure. I've only been following you for the last 2-3 years now, but I'm a big fan for sure. The way you tell your story is amzing and very enjoyable to read. It makes me want to jump on my bike and just ride. Can't wait to see whats' next.

  5. Somehow I missed this post, blown away on all fronts, what a double act and what a result, so stoked for you . . . I had the pleasure of getting a set of Brandon's trees two years ago and found him super helpful, totally down to earth and hilarious, even via long distance email . . . once more i wish you well for the ensuing journey of resurrection, exciting stuff yet again.