First-Time Sportster Chopper Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio Every community has its local motocross racers. They’re the ones who spend most of their time in the garage preparing their bike for the weekend. It might seem a little weird to our peers to disappear on Saturday and Sundays, but this way of life was all that many of us knew growing up. When I used to manage a small motorsports shop over a decade ago, we would often do what we could for these local racers. The Sportster seen here belongs to Heath Hildreth, one of the kids who would frequent our store with his father, Joe. Heath grew up ripping two-stroke dirtbikes around the motocross tracks in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and beyond. He now keeps that spirit alive with his first custom chopper. How did you first get into motorcycles and choppers in particular?Heath Hildreth: My love for two wheels is what ultimately got me into choppers. Some of my earliest memories came from being on a bike. I had my first motocross race when I was four years old. My first time riding a Harley was when I rode a borrowed Sportster bobber to the Outpost RideOut in Avella, Pennsylvania a couple of years ago. When I got home later that night, I immediately started searching for a bike online. Six days later, I found a 1995 Sportster 883 through a friend and brought it home. It was a swingarm Sporty with some aftermarket parts. After a couple of motor rebuilds, it now has a 1200cc conversion kit. Explain the build process. How long did it take and who helped?HH: After buying the Sportster, I rode it how it was for the summer and fall of 2018. I knew I wanted to make the bike my own but wasn’t quite sure where to start or exactly what I wanted to do. So, after stripping everything from the bike, I never thought I would see it go back together. My first purchase was the Voodoo Vintage hardtail kit. Once the frame was finished, the bike didn’t leave Tony Provenzano’s garage until it was done. It took nine months from the time we pulled the motor until my first ride on it. I was able to ride it for a few months up until Glory Daze last year when I had an oil problem and blew the motor up. Josh Howells of Uptahn Metalworks got the motor fixed up and running again, so I was able to ride again this year. Would you consider the bike finished or do you have further plans?HH: I would say the build process is still going on. I plan on cleaning up all of the stuff that was done the first time around in order to simply get it working. Big thanks to Uptahn Metalworks for keeping the bike rolling, as well as Tony and the rest of the Choppers to the Grave crew who helped me out. Why don’t you have a kickstand?HH: There’s not really a significant reason. The bike didn’t have a kickstand when it was finished, and now it’s just a thing. It makes it feel like a dirtbike, pulling into gas stations or bars and finding something to lean it on. It makes things both fun and hard. Do you prefer any particular local roads or areas to ride?HH: I’ve ridden it around the city a few times, but it’s tough because of all the red lights. There’s always so much going on. Splitting lanes through the tunnels is fun. I prefer the backroads but nowhere specific. I really don’t care where I’m going as long as I get to ride the bike. Any crazy stories?HH: I was in a hit and run where I had to chase a lady down. I was sitting at a red light on the chopper in first gear with the clutch in, then Boom! A woman hit me in her car from behind. Her car was sitting on top of my rear wheel, so luckily the bike stayed upright. My first reaction was to get it out from under the car. I told her to pull over, but she started saying she had to go pick someone up and sped off. So, I had to run her down on the bike for a couple of miles, pounding on her car and screaming at her to pull over. When she finally went into a parking lot, I leaned my bike on a dumpster, but she immediately tried to take off again. I waved down another biker, and he came to help stop her. The cops eventually got there but didn’t do anything about it, even though she admitted to hitting me. Luckily, my bike was alright with basically no damage. If she would have been in a truck or a higher vehicle, she would have hit my sissy bar, and it might have really fucked me up. You and your dad spent a lot of time together around bikes. Does he still ride?HH: Yeah, he got a Harley Night Train this year. It’s been fun riding with him, considering he was always there at the gates helping with everything when I used to race motocross. He’s about to buy another Harley, probably a Street Glide or something more comfortable this time around. The plan for next year is to get a trailer so we can take a long trip somewhere together. Featured in Issue 009 1995 HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER XL1200 Built by HEATH HILDRETHTONY PROVENZANOUPTAHN METALWORKS instagram Words by KURT DISERIO Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
Modern Take on a British Classic Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio Certain things in life are impossible to ignore. Whenever a custom-built BSA bobber is brought up, there’s a one-hundred percent chance we’re going to check it out. These intriguing motorcycles were manufactured by the Birmingham Small Arms Company in England throughout the 1900s and have always been considered classics in my lifetime. When it comes to garage-built choppers or bobbers, it’s always refreshing to see a British bike built around a platform typically reserved for American or Japanese models. What you see here is the combination of different BSA and Triumph parts and pieces, all working together as one clean, stripped-down build from Kyle Feather and his father, Randy Feather. What’s the backstory with the bike?Kyle Feather: I’m originally from Bedford county, and my dad has a shop there that he works out of. He’s been into British bikes for years and has a bunch of restored models and parts that he has picked up from swap meets. He built a BSA cafe racer and has a number of Triumphs that he’s been messing with forever. At one point, I suggested that we build a bobber. He mentioned using a BSA, so we started by digging up some parts to see how it could possibly come together. Was there something in particular that drew your father to British bikes?KF: He likes anything but just started picking up Triumph, BSA, and even some Norton models over the years. I don’t know why British, but now they’re getting a little more scarce. There are a lot of different pieces involved with this bike. Was there a plan when building it or did it just come to you as it progressed?KF: A lot of the parts were stuff my dad had laying around. For instance, the frame is actually a BSA Thunderbolt with a six-inch extended hardtail welded on. We needed a good frame to work with, and the one that originally had this rear end on it was slightly twisted. We knew we had to get a new front loop, so we found the best frame and chopped the rear off of it before welding on the extended hardtail. All mounting tabs were cut off and reworked where needed. I have to give my dad, Randy, props on the welding. He’s a master welder who was a blacksmith with the railroad in Altoona. How did the engine and front end come together?KF: My dad had a few different engines we were considering. This one had a title, so that’s how it ended up on this bike. It was originally on a clean 1971 Lightning that we bought from a friend. We took it all the way down to port and polish the head and go through the transmission. These typically have a three-spring clutch, but this uses a four-spring racing setup. From there, it was just trial and error over and over with other parts. The front end was especially tough. We used Triumph lowers with the original BSA setup. Surprisingly enough, even though they’re both British and similar, they were very different. The shrouds were stock BSA B44 fork shrouds coupled with stock BSA rear shock shrouds to make them long enough. They had the same diameter, so we cut pieces off of those and had them TIG welded together to cover the majority of the front end. The chrome dust covers were also from a Triumph, but we had to machine off the lip to slide the covers down over. The headlight bracket was part of the fork shrouds, but we used a larger BSA headlight. The front wheel is a TC Bros 21-inch with an Avon Roadmaster tire. The axle in this wheel is set up for a Harley, so to get around it, we had to have custom spacers and an axle made that was larger in the center and tapered down to the edges to fit the Triumph lowers. Compared to other bikes, what differences stand out with the BSA?KF: The shifter is on the right side and foot brake on the left. Compared to my Triumph, there’s not a lot of difference. They ride and sound similar, both parallel twins. What other pieces did you want to point out?KF: There’s a 19-inch wheel we laced to a Triumph hub on the rear. It sat super low with the extended rear end, so the larger wheel kept it up a little more. We were deciding between the BSA style star hub and the Triumph hub, but I liked the spool look. Some Triumph models actually had the 19-inch wheels on both the front and rear. The fuel tank is from a Harley Sportster and was painted by my dad’s friend, Dave Shumaker. We were looking at the round BSA tanks, but they stuck out on the sides and I wanted to go slimmer. As far as the rest of the bike, it’s a single carburetor head, which was something we changed over and not typical on a Lightning. My dad hand made the chain guard. The rear fender is a Norton front fender that we cut down. The mounting brackets on the rear fender were modified to eliminate the braces, giving it a cleaner look. Did you have trouble finding parts for it, and when did you get it finished?KF: We didn’t have too much trouble finding parts for the bike. The front end was a lot of trial and error. We thought we were going to go with the open exposed spring look at first but liked the look of the shrouds. We started on it in September 2018 and worked on and off when I could get out there to help out. Realistically, we finished it around March 2020. Some days we would just be standing there looking at it in the garage, not knowing where to go with it. It was something that we would work on, then put aside and come back to later. Featured in Issue 009 1966 BSA LIGHTNING Built by KYLE FEATHER instagram RANDY FEATHERRANDY'S USED CARS / HERITAGE ROAD CYCLES Words by KURT DISERIO Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
1979 Harley FXE Chopper Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio It would be foolish to highlight the stylish panhead chopper from Nick Miller in our last issue without a follow-up feature of one of his other notable machines, the 1979 Harley-Davidson FXE with the appropriate nickname of “Milwaukee Vibrator.” Carrying a perfect balance between elegance and grit, the bike embodies everything that people love about choppers. Miller originally picked it up in Ohio from an older man who stored it under his porch—not the ideal place for a motorcycle that most of us would be crazy about. As he made clear, it was super crusty and ugly, but it started on the first kick. What more could you ask for with a classic Harley? That’s where the good news ended. Shortly after trailering the bike home, it wouldn’t start again, no matter what he did. This headache led to the decision to chop it and have the motor and transmission rebuilt since it needed some love anyway. The frame was actually hardtailed twice because he wasn’t satisfied with how it looked the first time. “The axle plates were too plain,” he explained. “When some buddies and I hardtailed it the second time, we used Harley-Davidson style cast axle plates to look more proper.” As far as parts and pieces, Miller mentioned that the most intricate part of the shovelhead is the modification to the gas tank. “A lot of those types of gas tanks have both a gas cap and a dummy gas cap. I had the idea to take the dummy cap out and mount the ignition switch in its place like a Harley Hummer tank. My buddy Flop, of Flop Customs hot rod shop here in Pittsburgh, modified the tank for the ignition switch, and we used a factory Hummer ignition bezel that I later chromed. It’s always cool for me to watch people’s reactions when they’re looking over the bike and finally notice that. It usually takes a few minutes for them to realize it’s not a gas cap.” He continued, “Another cool part that sticks out is the sissy bar. It has a removable bayonet that I’m told is Russian from World War II.” The 1961-62 panhead fuel tank badges are one of Miller’s favorite Harley emblem designs. He explained, “I really wanted to use them on this bike because they matched the contour of the tank pretty well. The scallop painted stripe on the tank is a slight wink to a 1961-62 Duo-Glide paint job.” When it came to the paint, he had originally picked out a deep blood red with black scallop theme. Then about a week before it went out for paint, he was walking his Great Dane, Nigel, through Bloomfield where he lived at the time and parked outside of Sonny’s Tavern was a brown Kia Soul that he thought was a really neat color. “It doesn’t look metallic until you look closely at it. It was a really unique color, and as soon as I saw it I changed my mind.” For Nick Miller, his most fond memories are from building the chopper and having a lot of different friends help out with the many aspects of the build. To him, that’s the best part. “Motorcycles are about community. For me, at least, the friendships and connections you make are vastly more valuable than the actual motorcycle.” We couldn’t agree more. Featured in Issue 009 1979 HARLEY-DAVIDSON FXE Owned by NICK MILLER instagram Words by KURT DISERIO Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
BSA A65 & Yamaha XS650 Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio, Tom Macconnell, Etech Photo, NVUS Images Often referred to as one of the most outlandish forms of motorsports, vintage motorcycle sidecar racing exists today as a close-knit community of dedicated enthusiasts. The thrill of a two-person team throttling around the track on a heavily modified machine keeps the spirit of vintage racing alive in more ways than one. Just one look at these rigs excites even the most seasoned motorcyclist. For those unaware, a typical outfit consists of a custom racing frame built to accommodate a sidecar. These quirky bikes sit very low, with a driver and passenger pair strategically maneuvering around the track by working together through variations of speed, timing, and passenger positioning. Sidecars have been around since the early 1900s and used in both World Wars. Racing in Europe started in 1914 but didn’t make its way to the United States until 1949. The sport has been through some structural changes since then, but at the core, these competitive machines remain mostly the same. Organized racing still takes place around North America, with a number of the folks involved living in Western Pennsylvania. The two rigs we’re featuring belong to local brothers Mike and Sean Stivason, who currently participate in the AHRMA championship series (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association). Racing weekends take place all over the country, with different sidecar classes categorized by a number of factors. Without getting into too much detail, the main difference is how the rigs are set up as far as the chassis, engine, brakes, tires, and so on. All classes race on the same weekend, and oftentimes the Formula Modern rigs will run at the same time as the vintage rigs. Mike Stivason with his BSA A65 (left) and Sean and Susan Stivason with their Yamaha XS650 (right). Mike’s BSA A65 is a 650cc four-speed with a Fidderman chassis that was originally built in England in the 1970s. It’s been modified throughout the years, but the original chassis won the AMA National Championships in 1976 and 1977, as well as second place in New Zealand. Mike pointed out some of the unique elements of his BSA racer, “The motor has a pair of Amal concentric carburetors, flowed head, Kibblewhite Black Diamond valves, RD valve springs, forged pistons, H-beam connecting rods, ARD mag, and a close-ratio transmission.” He has won the AHRMA SC1 championship in both 2018 and 2019 with passenger Dave Kiggins, also from Pittsburgh. Mike started with Kiggins this year, but due to conditions around the pandemic, made a switch to his current passenger, Kayla Theisler. Together, they took the 2020 SC1 Championship. For 2021, Kiggins will be racing his own XS650 SC2 rig that used to be owned by Dutch Stivason, Mike and Sean’s father, who is currently racing a Harley Sportster rig. Sean’s Yamaha XS650 has a big bore 750cc engine on a Paul Whittaker chassis—rumored to be the last chassis he made. Sean races with his wife, Susan, as the passenger, and together they won the AHRMA SC3 National Championship this year. When asked about what it was like racing as a married couple, Sean sees it as a benefit because he trusts her. “You have to trust who you have on the outside of the rig,” he said. “I’ve been faster on every track with her.” Susan explained that moving around on the passenger side is kind of like an L-shape with three positions. “You go out to the front, the back, and over the back of the bike. You have to move at the right time. Sometimes the driver has to slow the bike up to allow the passenger to get into position. It’s very strategic.” When it comes to preparation, Sean explained that they normally discuss the track while driving to the race so it becomes a mental note by the time the two arrive. They take it slow in the first practice, then steadily increase speed to get into the groove and understand the track conditions. That’s when Susan is figuring out when and what position she needs to be in. Mike added that most people don’t realize that the driver might control the steering mechanism, but the passenger is the one that turns the rig. “The passenger is ten times more important than the driver. If they’re not in the right position, then the rig will be unstable,” he said. “Normally, the passenger will stay tucked in and as low as possible if you’re on a straightaway. When attacking a corner, they put the weight forward to bring you in like a pendulum swing. They are only going to move as fast as they can, so as a driver, your amount of throttle, clutch, and brake control has to match what they are doing. If you don’t throttle or clutch at the right time, the rig could lose control.” Another factor that comes into play is passing, where strategies depend heavily on the type of bike and class. For instance, Sean’s 750cc Yamaha has a lot of top-end, so they’re able to get around on straightaways or corners. On a vintage rig like Mike’s BSA, passing takes place mostly in the corners. Knowing how to slide around turns is a benefit when getting past competitors. The love of this sport and motorcycle racing, in general, was something the Stivason brothers grew up with. “Along with our dad, Dutch, we’ve always raced vintage stuff. The first time on a sidecar was fun because there was an excitement of doing it as a team,” Mike said. “It’s a specialized sport, and nothing will put a bigger smile on your face. That’s why it’s starting to become more popular again. It’s something different.” For those that want to learn more about sidecar racing, the brothers first recommend looking into AHRMA. Anyone can join and receive their magazine, rulebooks, and information on race weekends throughout the country. Those who want to get involved or ask questions are more than welcome to get in touch with Stivason Vintage Racing through email or social media. As Mike put it, “The entire sport is very friendly and always willing to answer any questions or help others when needed. Everyone supports everyone. The bond within the sidecar community is amazing.” Photo by NVUS Images. Photo by Etech Photo. Photo by Etech Photo. Photo by Tom Macconnell. Photo by Tom Macconnell. Featured in Issue 009 1964 BSA A65 Owned by MIKE STIVASON 1972 YAMAHA XS650 Owned by SEAN STIVASONSUSAN STIVASON STIVASON VINTAGE RACING firstname.lastname@example.org www.ahrma.org Words by KURT DISERIO Photos by ALEXA DISERIO TOM MACCONNELL ETECH PHOTO NVUS IMAGES
The Ideal Moto Camping Getaway Words by Ryan Zapko — Photos by Alexa Diserio The frantic pitter-patter of squirrel paws foraging through the dry fall leaves occupies my very first thought as I awake to my uncommon surroundings. The damp morning dew still holds the calming scent of last night’s campfire. I roll over in the coziness and perceived security of my tent, briefly relishing in the idea of waking with no schedule, no alarm clock, and no Zoom meetings. These soothing, comforting thoughts are quickly replaced by the excitement of another day riding the backroads of western Pennsylvania, and I happily acquiesce to the idea of going back to sleep. I am nestled in one of Pennsylvania’s largest and most popular offerings, Raccoon Creek State Park, which sits just 30 miles west of Pittsburgh. This park stretches over 7,500 acres including a 101-acre lake primed for swimming, fishing, and non-invasive water sports like kayaking, canoeing, and hydro-biking. Much like motorcycle camping can range from low-buck, spartan, single night getaways, to high end, gadget-filled glamping, Raccoon State Park provides accommodations ranging from secluded tent sites to modern cabins and lodges. While current pandemic realities have increased camping’s popularity exponentially, Raccoon does offer a large number of available options. Even the 172 remote wooded locations are furnished with access to warm showers, flush facilities, picnic tables, and fire rings. Additional amenities include a clean, sandy beach for catching some rays, year-round fishing, 5,000 acres of hunting opportunities, 42 miles of hiking trails, boat rentals, and a 314-acre wildflower preserve playing host to over 700 species of plants. Before packing up your site and heading off to explore the twisting ribbons of backroad that encompass every direction exiting the park, make time to restore yourself in the healing waters of the Frankfurt Mineral Springs. The intriguing history of Raccoon Creek State Park harkens back to a nineteenth-century Victorian era health resort featuring exclusive access to these springs. The Frankfort House Hotel and Resort was originally constructed in the 1800s, where it welcomed wealthy guests to drink from springs that were believed to hold curative health powers. The resort closed after a devastating fire in the late 1920s, but visitors can still hike to the old hotel ruins, mineral springs, and nearby waterfalls. I cannot personally attest to any ailments being alleviated by these particular waters. What I can suggest is that simple idea of a great motorcycle on great roads, interrupted by an intermission drenched in the solace and tranquility of nature. Pandemic or not, these are what I can fervently consider healing waters. There are a variety of camp sites available, including those with electric hookups. Cabin rentals available. The park offers kayak and canoe rentals. Featured in Issue 009 RACCOON CREEK STATE PARK 3000 STATE ROUTE 18 HOOKSTOWN, PA 15050 724-899-2200 dcnr.pa.gov/stateparks Words by RYAN ZAPKO Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
Long Ain't Wrong Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio In our rapidly changing world, it might shock some to know that it’s somehow still legal to roll down a highway on a motorcycle this intense. What you’re looking at is an extended 1949 Harley-Davidson FL chopper from Tony Provenzano, a personal friend of ours who builds bikes under the name Choppers to the Grave. During the weekly grind, Provenzano keeps busy at Dark Horse Tattoo, his studio in Wheeling, West Virginia. On off days, he spends his time working on chopper projects and navigating his panhead around the Ohio Valley. You’ve had quite a number of motorcycles, including the shovelhead chopper from our first issue. What inspired you to do such an unconventional ride this time around?Tony Provenzano: I thought that the shovelhead I had back then was an unconventional ride until we all rode out to the Bull Pen bar for Pittsburgh Moto’s Outpost RideOut in 2018. That’s where I met Angelo Palmieri, the legend who created that stupid long ass front end. My bike at the time was twenty-over, but when sitting next to his bike, it looked like a stock Harley. I knew I needed that shit. Describe for those who haven’t ridden a long chopper what it’s like navigating our area.TP: It’s hard to explain what it’s like riding such a sketchy chopper other than it just being such a cool feeling. Maneuvering something this long makes riding a normal motorcycle feel like driving a car—it’s just boring. It can be bittersweet, though. I enjoy riding it, but the bike is borderline stressful. You constantly have to be aware of your surroundings, and anyone who rides knows how fast something can happen. This isn’t something you can really whip around. Riding on the Pennsylvania and West Virginia back roads is pretty intense on a regular bike, so having a forty-six over front end took some getting used to. What are some of the key parts of the bike you’d like to mention?TP: As mentioned earlier, Angelo Palmieri of Nickel City Metal Works made the front end. I constructed the seat with a 16-gauge sheet of steel, a yoga mat for the foam, and brown faux fur. Some other pieces are the custom copper-nickel oil lines, mini floorboards, high mids by Maindrive Cycle, and ripple tail light from Prism Supply. Do you feel having a creative craft like tattooing has aided your interest in building choppers?TP: Yes, but not just tattooing—any form of art. I have always been obsessed with starting from scratch and seeing things come together. When I’m looking at a custom bike, all of my attention goes to the stance, the shape of the bike, how clean the lines are, and how the builder made each part fit together. Everything needs to flow. Being a tattoo artist, I have spent years obsessing over how a tattoo fits on the person, making sure that it goes with the flow of their body shape. I use the same method when I put a bike together. It’s very important to me how each piece fits with the next. Bad placement can ruin a perfectly good tattoo, and the same goes for a bike. I have so many cool parts that I wanted to use on this bike, but they just wouldn’t work. It only takes one piece that doesn’t fit right to make a bike tacky as fuck. With this build, less is more. Any good stories you’ve had involving this latest panhead build?TP: Definitely the trip to Buffalo, New York. After months of bugging the shit out of Angelo, I finally talked him into it. The deal we made was that if I bought his front end, he would cut and rake my frame. My buddy, Shelton, and I loaded up my parts and made a little weekend trip. We showed up Friday night and caught up over beers. On Saturday, we busted ass cutting the frame, had many more beers, then met “the big deal” Jake Mahoney. Apparently, he knew his shit and helped by drinking beers and pointing his finger at things he would or wouldn’t do. Once the frame was finished, they took us out in Buffalo. The city is crazy. We went into one bar and people were buying us drinks and singing Country Roads. In the next bar, we just tried not to get stabbed. They eventually took us to a strip club where we met a stunning young lady named Satan, who was a sweetheart. After that, we hit a few more bars. I think we had about two hours of sleep that weekend, but it was worth it to hang out with Satan and have the frame finished. Who would you like to thank or shoutout for helping make this happen?TP: Obviously, if it wasn’t for Angelo Palmieri, this bike wouldn’t exist. He built the ridiculous front end. I still don’t know how I talked him into selling it to me. Ryan Rodriguez killed the paint job. Richard Adams helped a ton. If it wasn’t for him, I would probably still be working on it. Featured in Issue 009 1949 HARLEY-DAVIDSON FL Built by TONY PROVENZANO CHOPPERS TO THE GRAVE Tony instagram | CTTG instagram Words by KURT DISERIO Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
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