I’ve always been a gearhead, grew up with a wrench in my hands. My father taught me everything I know about anything mechanical. He and I restored, rebuilt, and wrenched on several of his cars, out of necessity vs. hobby. Our bond was wrenching and gasoline.
In this eclectic and motley world of motorcycling, much is often made of innovation and original ideas, but where do our local builders actually derive the concepts for their modern builds? In the case of the 1974 1000cc ironhead pictured here, it begins nearly sixty years ago at a 3,000-acre fresh water lake in Southern California.
Let’s be real. In the past, if a person had casually mentioned that they were building a Honda Shadow chopper, I wouldn’t exactly know what to picture. I might have even tried to talk them out of it. To someone who isn’t very familiar, a Shadow just sounds like a complicated project compared to the popular, traditional models. However, if the true intention of building a custom chopper is to be different, then I suppose it’s somewhat appropriate.
The traditional approach to getting your son a street bike is typically choosing a lame starter model that tends to focus largely on safety and affordability. That isn’t always the case when it comes to us gearheads though. It’s hard to shake that belief that if you’re going to ride, why not ride something that genuinely excites you?
“I found it on eBay. I hit the bid button, and all of the sudden I won. What a rush,” said Ryan Mazzaferro, explaining how he acquired the original 1974 Harley-Davidson XLCH Sportster that he would use as the platform for his first custom build. Most motorcycle projects use eBay at some point for parts, but this one in particular literally started on the e-commerce bidding website.
BMW Motorrad changed the market when introducing the R80G/S family of dual sports in 1980. They were the first large displacement multisports manufactured, and essentially created a whole new category of motorcycles that helped boost the company during a particularly rough period. The engine produced 50 horsepower and could reach speeds of over 100 mph. At the time, this was quite an accomplishment.
Everyone enjoys a good comeback story. As modern-day Pittsburghers, some of us are not old enough or simply fail to remember the malaise era of our region especially through the 1970s and 1980s. The devastating deindustrialization that preceded Pittsburgh’s renaissance and rebirth as one of the country’s most remarkable cities is one we often take for granted. Not lifetime Beaver County resident Mark Weber, whose most recent build metaphorically and literally resembles the revival of a legend.
The term “brotherhood” is often referenced when it comes to motorcycle riders or even biker clubs. Typically this is associated with the trust or respect of one another. In the case of this 1975 Harley-Davidson shovelhead chopper, two brothers with a common interest worked together over a winter to create something from the ground up.
Pennsylvania ranked fifth among all states in rider crashes in 2017. Motorcycles are dangerous. We’ve heard this far too often. What’s more dangerous? Other people in cars. Getting into an accident isn’t something you can plan for, especially if you’re unfortunate enough to get rear ended by a drunk driver. After living in Pittsburgh for only two months, that’s exactly what happened to Travis Gaines on Stanton Avenue while riding his 1979 Kawasaki KZ400.
To me, it’s always great meeting younger people that are interested in building custom motorcycles. It’s even better when they build something truly impressive. On his own time and in his own garage, Andrew Frederick slowly put together this meticulous 1973 Honda CB350G that he calls “Princess”, simply because it requires a great deal of love and attention. This was his first true custom build and took roughly seventeen months to finish—hence the number seventeen on the tail.
Do you know what’s enjoyable to sit and think about sometimes? The evolution of our own personal interests. Time has a definite influence over our curiosities. In John Wagner’s case, the progression that led to his interest in choppers makes perfect sense. Dirt bikes led to skateboarding, which led to cars and more motorcycles. There’s a good chance this sounds familiar to many of you.
Do you ever think ahead about where your interest in bikes might lead you over the years? Motorcycles exist throughout the countless stages of our lives in various forms. They become a dependable accomplice connected to our past, present, and future. Down the line the stories will start to pile up—and so will the parts. This connection of man and machine manifests in someone like Greg Gump—a true motorhead with a passion that stretches through generations.