Those who love the thrill of drag racing and the style of old choppers probably have a thing for diggers. If you’re unfamiliar with digger choppers, just think prism or geometric tanks, powerful engines, and often very wild paint jobs. These stretched and narrow bikes exploded onto the scene and filled the pages of many custom motorcycle magazines throughout the 1970s thanks to a name that needs no introduction: Arlen Ness.
If you happen to have a copy of issue Number 004, you might connect the dots. Josh Howells had a feature in that issue of his shovelhead chopper that has since been given a facelift. He’s also started a shop on Forbes Avenue with friend Andy Mak called Uptahn Metalworks, where the two have been turning out custom fabrication work, choppers, and more. I asked Josh some questions about the shop, their projects, and the local community.
When you think of a scrambler motorcycle, the last thing that probably comes to mind is a Harley-Davidson. With Triumph and Ducati both using the term as the name of two popular current models, it can be a little confusing these days what “scrambler” actually means. Although, a quick search through internetland proves that the label has always been somewhat complicated. Let’s jump into the background of this unique style and the reason I went in this direction after acquiring a totaled 2015 Sportster XL1200.
Matt Cohen got into motorcycles through the gateway of bicycles. At a young age, he started with BMX and mountain bike racing, and it took off from there. He even did the bike messenger gig in his twenties. This obsession with two wheels has led him to the chopper seen here. We asked him questions about his journey through the years and how this Yamaha came to be.
Things are always interesting with Sean Shaffer or “Peep” as his friends call him. I knew Sean had this bike for some time, but it wasn’t ready to ride until this year. Now he’s out on it all of the time, riding it wherever he can. You might have even seen it parked outside of the Fuel Cleveland show in late July where he impressively kick started the beast by hand before losing his oil cap down a storm drain. He had to be lowered into the hole upside down to get it back.
Without visiting the place and seeing it with your own eyes, there is no way to accurately explain Cycle Warehouse in Butler, Pennsylvania. No matter how over-the-top I make it sound, you will still be blown away by the sea of parts and history throughout the five floors of the 85,000 square foot building. Whatever part you need is probably there somewhere.
One day before leaving on an epic chopper road trip around the country last year, Tyler Valentik was kind enough to meet up at South Park’s county park for a feature on his 1998 Harley-Davidson Sportster, a motorcycle that he originally purchased for a measly five hundred dollars. As you can easily tell from the photos, the bike didn’t stop there.
In September of 2018, I had worked out what it would take to start an annual custom and vintage motorcycle show in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After running around the city trying to find a venue, I landed on the only option that would work—Carrie Blast Furnaces. The national historic landmark was originally built in 1907 and is known primarily for its pre-World War II iron-making technology. Towering ninety-two feet over the nearby Monongahela River, the location was perfect for a motorcycle show. It was gritty, rough, and had a lot of character. The history of the site paired up well with vintage bikes and the theme I was going for. Plus, it was the only spot I found that had enough parking and indoor space to easily fit over 100 bikes. It took quite a lot of work by the folks at Rivers of Steel to get the site to pass occupancy inspection, but after the permit was granted in late April of 2019, the show was officially set for Saturday, September 21.
Fuel Cleveland returned again this year at a new venue, The Madison, on Payne Avenue. The invitational custom motorcycle show is presented by Lowbrow Customs, The Gasbox, and Forever the Chaos Life. The weekend kicked off with a wild pre-party at Saucy Brew Works. Saturday's show got rolling around noon but was instantly packed with bikes from the start, filling the surrounding streets and parking areas.
When building a motorcycle, inspiration often comes from the legends of the past. Every period had its style, and every builder tried to create something original. The hot rod era was a time with some big personalities in custom culture—names like Ed Roth, Von Dutch, and Dean Moon to name a few. The art created by these individuals resonated in motorcycle builders like Indian Larry, who would in turn inspire the blockhead chopper you see here by Travis Dittman of Oil City, Pennsylvania.
Time is a tricky subject. No matter the preparation, the weight of time will often sneak up on us without warning. The less we have, the more important this measurement of moments becomes. Time can also alter the value of an object over an extended period, sometimes even in sentimental ways.