There’s the customizing business, and then there’s the customizing business. Sure, you can readily find custom bikes in the $30,000 to $40,000 range, but the companies listed here offer top-line, hand-crafted bikes in the range of $40,000 and up. If your customers have the desire and wherewithal to own bikes that probably cost more than your first house, here’s a quick look at several builders in this market, who’s making what, who’s buying them and where to find these builders.
The company’s Signature Series starts in low $40,000 range to the 90s, and are available with S&S motors of 111, 117, 124 or 145 cubic inches, with right- or left-side-drive six-speed transmissions. Founder and designer Tim Edmondson said, “The customer is someone who wants a really one-of-a-kind bike. We want basic input from the customer, then I want them to step back and let me do the bike. I’ve turned down lots of jobs from those who wouldn’t give me the freedom. But when I have it, I’ve seen grown men lay down and cry beside a bike.
“I do believe in them as art objects,” Edmondson continued, “but the difference is we’re held to a little higher standard. As a manufacturer we have to meet DOT and EPA, with turn signals and taillights, all compliant.”
American IronHorse Motorcycle Co.
4600 Blue Mound Road
Fort Worth, Texas 76106
Most of the people who buy Jerry Covington’s $75,000 to $80,000 customs are business owners, and often retired. What makes his bikes unique, Covington states, is that they use all American-made parts, lots of hand-fabricated sheet metal, show-polished Patrick Racing motors, six-speed transmissions and air suspensions. Billet parts are chrome plated, and all welds are molded, smoothed and invisible.
“Most customers have a good idea of what they want,” Covington stated. “Often they’ll point to a bike they like and say, ‘I want something like that, but a different color.’ A true custom is having it your way.”
While wide rear tires are the big trend everywhere, “Detail is the big deal,” Covington noted. “We hide brake lines and cables. My customers say they like our bikes as much for what they don’t see, as for what they see.” The higher-end bikes have more one-off billet pieces, spinner wheels, extra metal shaping, and may use titanium.
Covington’s Cycle City
2424 Oklahoma Ave.
Woodward, Oklahoma 73801
Owner Kim Suter reports that he’ll build several high-end customs per year in the $75,000 range, and they usually go to business owners and “speed freaks” who also have planes and big boats. “They seem to be primarily from both coasts, Florida and California. Some are NASCAR guys and real estate developers.”
Suter said that these were primarily very busy people who had several bikes and did not generally put a lot of miles on them. However, he did have two customers who had put 15,000 and 20,000 miles on their bikes.
K-C Creations, Inc.
7524 Frontage Road
Overland Park, Kansas 66204
Rumble Custom’s bikes start at $70,000, and many of their parts are one-offs. A company spokesperson described them as, “pieces of art work.” Powerplants depend upon the customer’s desires, with everything available from 88- to 130-cubic-inch engines from Merch Performance, S&S and others.
To help decide on a custom, designer/owner Tom Langton asks customers to describe the top 10 things they like and don’t like in design areas, such as in cars and motorcycles, and they go from there. Next comes a complete a string of concept drawings, then they arrive at a price range and finished concept. Rumble Customs has built an R.J. Reynolds Camel bike, and Langton was named “Bike Builder of the Year” by Easyriders magazine.
45 Main Street
Delta, Ontario, Canada KOE 1G0
Thunder Cycle Designs in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, sees the attraction of these bikes in their craftsmanship. “It’s the uniqueness,” said Howie Jakobi, publicist of Thunder Cycle Designs. “Ours are all hand crafted. If you get a bike made by one of the assembly-line builder, a tank from one bike will fit the seven others next to it. But ours will only fit that one, particular bike. We also use the best of everything like Performance Machine brakes, RC Components wheels, S&S motors, Baker transmissions . . .”
“The tanks fit the frames perfectly,” Jakobi told us. “You see no welds, seams or wiring. Cables and wires are run inside the frames. The S&S 124-inch engine is our most popular.” Their buyers tend to be high rollers such as sports figures, car dealers, and CEOs including that from Sara Lee.
Thunder Cycles will be featured soon on the Discovery Channel in features called “Seven Wonders of the Motorcycle World,” “The Biker Buildoff,” and in the new V-Twin TV by Easyriders.
Thunder Cycle Designs, Inc.
629 E. Sunrise Blvd.
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33304
KENDALL JOHNSON CUSTOMS
“We take some input about style,” said Kendall Johnson, owner of the company that bears his name, but all the sheet metal I do is a one-off. I’m hard-headed about that.”
The company does all styles of bikes including choppers and pro streets, all with high-performance S&S engines, Baker transmissions, Bandit clutches and their own proprietary frames with one-off fenders. Wheels include those by Performance Machine, RC Components and one-offs by Carolina Customs. While their base bikes start at $42,000, most of them go out the door for considerably more.
Engines are purchased unassembled from S&S, then balanced, ported and dyno tuned by the customizer. Johnson claims that their 124-inch engines put out from 142 to 150 rear-wheel horsepower, and their 139-inchers will shred pavement with 168 to 178 horses.
Customers are from all walks of life and include businessmen, doctors, lawyers, NASCAR drivers, contractors, self-made people. “Some will spend every dime they have--it’s a passion,” Johnson said.
Kendall Johnson Customs, Inc.
4629 South Main
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27127
Perewitz’s bikes start at $50,000 and go up to $100,000. At press time the company was building a bike for Gibson Guitars; two for the rock group Aerosmith; two for Reuben Brown, eight-time Pro Bowl lineman for the Buffalo Bills; and another for Greg Zippadelli, crew chief for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart. All are powered by TP motors.
As for trends, “Choppers are a hot commodity, but we do a lot of everything,” said Dave Perewitz, owner. “We do a lot of dressers. People buy them new, drop them off here and we do the rest.”
As for the question if these bikes are art or riding machines, Perewitz definitely comes out on the practical side. “Our one main priority is to make bikes that are completely rideable. You have to coordinate both aspects, of course, the art and function.”
909 N. Main Street
Brockton, MA 03401