Freakin' Flyers - When Motorcycles Run Amok

Words & Photos: Paul Garson

One man’s custom dream bike is another man’s nightmare, and of course that helps keep custom bikes pushing the envelope world-wide. Some would say that the good ol’ U.S.A. holds the record for stretching that envelope further thanks to more vehicles per square inch of ego than anywhere else on this planet. Why do people mold ‘57 Chevy tail fins onto a bike? Why do they strap a 12-cylinder aircraft engine on two wheels, bolt it to a couch and call it a family vehicle? Why do they spend a thousand hours building a Harley-Davidson small enough for Antman to ride? The answer: Why the hell not?

Driven by more than chemical imbalances, lust for speed and sheer derring-do, the list of maverick bike builders is nearly endless, but from deep within the bowels of this rider/writer’s Beyond Bizarre archives, we present ten motorcycles that pose the burning question… What were they thinking?!

A half century after the word “choppers” entered the motorcycle lexicon, bikes sporting 300 horsepower powerplants and $5,000 paint jobs are as common as, apparently, are exoplanets populating the universe, so our criteria for “Xfilish, whY? and Zombie” bikes focuses on the Best and Baddest of the Bizarre... all bikes encountered over the past many years by this rider/writer… hopefully with more to follow. We just can’t get enough weird to make the world right again.

Albert Einstein once said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Of course, that was easy for him to say. Then the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, said that he literally dreamed up stories when he went to sleep at night. Something about us urges to create things, including building motorcycles beyond the fringe of normalcy. Maybe it’s all thanks to the opposable human thumb adaptable to making things - although a good pincher claw can also come in handy.

Coming to grips with radical bike designs

 

A look back at the past – the 1930s, when crazy was cool

Weird has been cool since day one – Wheel within Wheels

This cover of a 1930s Popular Science issue offers a vision of the future of motorcycle transportation.

 

Don’t leave home with your boat camper trailer - circa 1936

 

Rolling with the times

Another 1930s design focusing on the big beach ball wheel design shows a concept for a fully enclosed “bus bike.” The smaller red wheel in the center is one of two that extend on either side when the machine comes to a halt, thus keeping it from falling over.

 

1. Holy Batcycle! My Cape’s Caught in the Back Wheel

We just had to start out with something bat-crazy, like this design by Tom Daniel, built by Korky and Dan Korkes at Kustomotive. The Batcycle sidecar outfit made its TV debut in 1966 on the popular pop series. This was actually the second Batcycle, the first model being a ’65 Harley-Davidson sidecar combo that was used for only the first season episode. The new version was built around a Yamaha 250cc Catalina for which the builders were paid $2500. Years later, the detachable sidecar went up on auction and fetched $30,000. Yeah, holy Batcycle!

 

2. Hogzoooom! Shark-Finned Chevy-Davidson Blast from the Past

1957 was the year of Sputnik and fins. The Russians got their satellite in orbit first, but Chevrolet built a car that would put car buffs in orbit for as long as there are cars and buffs. The ’57 Chevy’s fabulous fins became an icon in the history of the automobile. Now an oldie goldie itself, built many years ago, Hogzoom echoes that history, albeit on two wheels; the shark-finned beauty was built several years ago by a guy named Vini, who worked his metal magic out of a company called Ultra Kustom Cycles located in Riverside, Calif., an adjunct of an enterprise that built outrageous stretch limos and super plush motorhomes. UKC built one-off cars and bikes for the rich and famous, who are looking for the ultimate conversation piece in the form of transportation - in this case, one endowed with the classic styling of the '57 Chevrolet Bel Air.

 

Zoom for Hogzoom

Powered by a 1995 80 cu. in. S&S V-twin, the actual wrenching time took only 23 days. It drew mega-attention from day one. The flawless metal work, hand-sculpted from aluminum and 18-gauge sheet metal, was a team effort by Ultra's staff including Beamer, Rice, Rey, Jim Powel, Tennessee Joe and Al Helland.

And that rear taillight? That's a genuine '57 Chevy piece.

 

3. The Baron Blasts Off

Polished aluminum bodied bike is powered by a 600cc Kawasaki motor and a million cc’s of imagination.

Baron Margo is literally the mastermind designer behind a series of Flash Gordon/Jules Verne/Steampunk inspired street legal vehicles. The L.A. based artist has been infusing machines with his distinctive vision of the retro-future as far back as 1965, including by building his own house/workshop with another larger shop located in nearby Long Beach.

 

Flash Gordon would fit right aboard what the Baron has named “The Wedge.”

When asked what inspires him to create his unique brand of fantasy-meets-reality, the Baron will tell you, "Everything!" though he will concede his second favorite artist (second only to himself!) is Dali. When asked "What is that?" by curious onlookers who’ve spotted one of his cars, bikes or trikes, he replies, "Just your everyday, average rocket ship!"

 

Sensational steampunk detailing… and everything’s functional

The prolific Los Angeles artist’s unique metalworks include robots, spacecraft, and strange and fantastic metal creatures as well as “conceptual” cars, boats, planes and trains. His work has been often used as Hollywood movie props and made appearances in TV commercials.

 

The Baron departs for new adventures….

 

4. A Stretch of the Imagination – Dale’s Big Blue

Honey, I shrunk the rider!

Okay, here’s a giant fork, but like my Uncle Max use to say, “When you come to the fork in the road… take the spoon.” Well, that logic seems to apply to this mammoth shovelhead parked right up at the front door of what has to be one of the greatest motorcycle museums in the world… and unlike the bike seen here, I’m not exaggerating. I spent two weeks in Maggie Valley, NC, a tiny town tucked away in the mountains, but home to Dale Walksler’s awesome facility. You definitely need to put it on your bucket list, not only because of hundreds of historic motorcycles and memorabilia (not to mention the full-scale restoration shop), but also because of Dale’s supersized hospitality and breadth of knowledge on all things motorcycles.

P.S. “Big Blue” does roll, thanks to set of outrigger wheels just visible behind the exhaust pipe.

 

Getting more down to Earth and lawn mowing in style

You’ll also find, and hear, this “chopper” trimming the extensive grounds of the Wheels Through Time Machine’s grounds.

 

Dale Walksler never gets Board…

The founder/curator of the Wheels Through Time Museum, surrounded by a collection of original Harley, Indian and Excelsior 1920-30s Boardtrack Racers, just an inkling of the hundreds of bikes on display for the public to enjoy.

 

5. Honey, I Shrunk the Rider – Part Wunderbar!

‘Go big or go home’ could be the motto of Eppingen, Germany’s Clemens Leonhardt, who brought us the jaw-dropping “Gunbus 410,” a fully functioning, ridable (if you dared) motorcycle.

Appearing in 2009, it was hailed as the world’s largest “ridden” motorcycle, having passed the ultra-strict German regulations. The monsterbike measures 11.3 feet in length; you climb into a saddle with a reasonable seat height of 31.5 inches (same as a Buell). The front measures 38 in. x 11 in wide, the rear 42 in. x 15 in. While the GUNBUS weighs twice as much as the average full-size V-twin cruiser, it features four times the displacement and almost six times the torque of a Harley Twin Cam. By that measure, the bike is a relative featherweight even at over 1400 lb.

 

Firing on both cylinders

As its name implies, the powerplant, a V-twin, is of 410 cubic inches chugging out 350 HP and 523 foot pounds of torque. Electronic speed controls “limit” the machine’s top speed to 150 mph, enough to occupy the fast lane on the Autobahn.

 

Contemplating his next big move

The bike’s builder, Clemens Leonhardt, went to a wide range of sources for components. For example, check out the tires. While originally planned to be sourced from a Boeing 746 jetliner, they were custom made in Germany by the Rigdon company. Oddly enough, the tire pressure is 34psi, standard on a “normal” bike. A trio of 310 mm disc brakes brings the 1433 lb. monster to a halt. (photos courtesy of Leonhardt Manufacturing)

 

6. Ultimate Trikester from CRD

RoadsterCycle vs. Copter

Call it a trike/go-cart/street tracker all rolled into techno-artwork.

It’s been five years since I first encountered Torrance, CA-based Jack Flemming and his RoadsterCycles, which left a lasting impression for both their engineering excellence and their seat-of-the-pants fun factor. In real life, Jack tests experimental helicopters, but when he wanted something interesting for earthly pursuits, he decided to blend up his own hybrid vision. A fan of the legendary Yamaha V-Max, Jack set his sights on its 120 horsepower powerplant as the heart of the beast matched to his own fuel injection system. He then plugged in three wheels and computations for a go-kart low center of gravity and high-G-force corner-hugging performance. The framework is constructed from heavy gauge rectangular tubing, while the front axle is inch and a half DOM (“drawn over mandrel”) seamless tubing.

 

Rocket sled comfy at 110

Jack also fabbed the forward controls as well as the front end assembly, which includes a torsion bar system that serves to stiffen up the suspension and prevent the bike from rolling in fast turns. (Jack has hit 110 mph and the RoadsterCycle remains completely stable. He laughs and says, “It’s the best barhopper ever, because it can’t fall over.”)

 

Taking a three-wheeled stance

U.S. made Wilwood disc brakes clamp down on all three wheels.

And yes, that is a Simpson dragster parachute packed onto the backrest. Jack has also built machines powered by Harley V-twins, depending on customer’s preferences. RoadsterCycle also offers a selection of state of the art electrical components for a variety of motorcycles.

 

Two-Upster

Jack and Lisa can share a RoadsterCycle thanks to the seat conversion feature. Bike weighs about 750 lbs., meets all DOT and U.S. standards and is fully street legal, even in Calif.

 

7. Move Over Mad Max – Meet Mark Dugally

Now for something a bit more crusty, but definitely an eye-catching one-of-a-kind machine. Los Angeles designer/builder/rider Mark Dugally breaks all the rules with whatever he touches – from futuristic home architecture to radically built motorcycles. In this case, his creation is based on a 2006 Yamaha 125cc scooter. He calls it the Blemmye (pronounced Bleh-me or pretty close to ‘Blame Me.’)

About the strange name for a strange machine… says Mark, “The Blemmye was a mythical creature from ancient Greece. It’s an unnatural creature with a human body but with no head. Instead, its face is set into its chest. And all the bikes I built are pretty unnatural.” No argument there.

 

Firepower red-flagged

The bike is festooned with military surplus gear and parts, including the aircraft sleds for footrests. The WWII era Russian rifle is non-op, so not to worry.

 

Yes, that is a refrigerator ice tray welded onto Mark’s helmet

Pointing out the fact that he is a very cool-headed guy in order to pilot his metal monster.

 

Mark’s volcano-inspired techno-terror Aprilia

Getting a little higher off the ground, Mark unleashed another creation he calls “Somma,” the highly modified Italian made 2010 Aprilia Futura named after an Italian volcano, a smaller one on the side of Mt. Vesuvius. Mark paid a visit to the famous city of Pompeii, destroyed back in 79 A.D.

Says Mark, “Pompeii was also home to all kinds of technical innovations that would have drastically changed the progression of technology in our world if it hadn’t been covered in ash. So the Somma Project for me was all about the Old and the New. All in all, it’s an exercise in challenging the aesthetics and ergonomics, questioning what motorcycles are and what they should look like.” Commenting on the drastically reconfigured lines and truncated engineering, Mark says, “It’s like riding a rhino. People either run for cover or crowd around for Q&A time.”

 

Tactile textures add to the otherworldly “feel” of the bike

The homage to Old World techniques includes the use of bronze and copper patinas, not to mention the oval lava-like flow and “rocky” gas tank side panel treatment. “I used the Dupont Line-X coating,” explains Mark, “because the bike is very much about texture, plus the fact that it’s like almost grenade proof material.”

 

8. Taking a “Hit” – Pumping Out some Serious Pipe Organ Music

L.A.’s George Harris is the hard- driving force behind a multi-tasking company called Mean Machines Custom Bike Designs/Tap’d Out Studio. He’s no stranger to one-off bikes that often prompt the question… ah, why? Basically it’s like asking a mountain climber, “Why do you want to scale Mt. Everest?” the answer being “Because it’s there.”

But in George’s case, relative to his unique bikes, his answer is, “Because it wasn’t there before.”

 

All that gleams is polished copper

The Hit’s theme, inspired by ‘40s gangster movies, is punctuated right down to the bullet hole-scarred air cleaner, the switchblade fairing graphics and the “RIP” 3-D steel rose gracing the rear fender, not to mention the incredible set of polished copper “organ” pipes reaching skyward from where you’d expect a gas tank.

 

Show me the Benjamins

A bankroll of 100 dollar bills is decoupaged all over the bike.

The bike’s components are hung on a vintage Paughco stretched two inches and given a 42 degree rake. The first piece George fabricated was the rear fender, turning it into a hidden oil tank holding 6 ½ quarts. Besides adding more engine cooling, the placement of the weight helps the bike’s balance. The oil helps lube the RevTech 110, to which George added a full menu of high performance internals, including reworked RevTech heads, the power controlled through a RevTech 6-speed transmission.

The obvious question is, what happened to the gas tank? With those copper stacks filled, there’s a total of one gallon, just enough for this thirsty motor, fed by a Mikuni 48mm carb, to get you about 25 miles before you need to find a gas station. George also designed an interchangeable set-up, whereby a larger capacity regular gas tank can also be bolted on in ten minutes when he plans some distance riding.

That six-pack of “organ pipes” was fashioned from 2 /12 inch muffler steel tubing fabbed up by A-1 Welding in North Hollywood, then copper-plated along with several other parts of the bike.

 

Show me the pennies…

Another builder was apparently on a budget, or cracked open his piggy bank, when he fashioned this uniquely “collected” gas tank treatment.

 

9. The Bossest Boss Hoss – From the Magical Mind of Eddie Paul

For getting around town, Eddie preferred his “customized” Boss Hosses, of which he had modified several.

Eddie was a true Renaissance Man. Self-educated, he had a complete library of books about Einstein. He was an inventor, innovator, artist, author, gearhead, fabricator, designer and all around great guy. From his huge shop in El Segundo, among other things he built over 300 specialty vehicles and special effects for TV and Hollywood, including cars for the Fast and Furious film as well as hotrods for Stallone and Vin Diesel, giant mechanical White Sharks that swam with Jacques Cousteau, special Ops projects for the U.S. military - you name it, Eddie could envision it.

 

Eddie Paul military concept bike

Note dual electronically-fired Gatling guns and camouflage netting carried on dual auxiliary gas tanks. Angular bodywork was influenced by stealth aircraft design. Eddie called this Boss Hoss “The Secret Weapon,” and it’s just the vehicle for maneuvering through Los Angeles heavy traffic.

 

Don’t let the POTUS pilot this one

Eddie built “Air Force One” in case the U.S. President wants to ride a bike instead of fly in a jet. The Boss Hoss came stock with a 502 Chevy 354 horse V-8, but he felt a substantial increase in power and performance was called for. Eddie first trimmed 400 lbs. off the bike, paring it down to a svelte 1000, then to further enhance the power to weight ratio, he added twin Weiand superchargers, one stacked upon the other and plumbed both with a 350 HP two-stage nitrous oxide system all of it fed via a Holley 1050cfm Dominator. Build time: 3 weeks. Estimated top speed: 300 mph.

 

10. Tokyo Express – Meet the Bosozuko

No, we don’t mean a Bozo bike. Bosozuko is a Japanese custom bike phenomenon all the rage in Tokyo and Yokohama, their version of an “outlaw bike.” Seems to be a mix of bio-mechanical and Salvador Dali - definitely a unique custom. U.S. owner Patrick Ladd actually builds rad Cadillac hotrods, but decided to try his hand on a Bozozuko themed motorcycle, in this case built around a ’79 Suzuki GS750E.

 

Krazy King and Kween seat in matching fairing colors… Notice the “accessory” aluminum bat.

The radical fairing and sissy bar ‘Sandan seat’ were sourced from Japan, but Patrick says he’s seen even taller ones in Japan. Regarding the color scheme, he painted the bike himself using rattle cans.

 

Six-pack of decibels

You can never have enough horns on a Bosozuko, especially a bank of airhorns that sound like a train is running toward you at ramming speed. And about those six orange air horns protruding from the rear… Patrick has them tuned to play the opening chords of “The Godfather” movie theme.

 

Postscript on Freakin’ Flyers

Have you hugged your motorcycle lately?

No matter the level of customization, be it mild, wild or way out of this world, the real magic is that we can realize our visions of motorcycling in about any shape and form we can imagine. (The bike is a 1978/1983/??? BMW R100/7 stitched together by this rider/writer.) Recognize the Alienator’s Alien? It happens to be a life-size rubber suit of the mutant creature from the 1955 sci-fi hit movie “This Island Earth.” And yes, I am inside just in time for the L.A. heatwave and now the rubber has melted to form a permanent bond with my skin. So if you see this thing riding around, it’s me, not to worry. Well, worry a little bit.