Anybody can break the rules. Give a chimp Red Bull and a shotgun, and chances are, you've busted a few regs somewhere. Some might call it edgy, others might call it entertaining. No one calls it a bright idea. It gets back to the old adage, "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
In creative terms, this means knowing and understanding the rules before deciding how best to break them. Experienced artists look at what's popular, see what's good about it, and try to break away to keep their work fresh without losing what makes it worthwhile. The same applies to creating a custom motorcycle like this one from veteran iron maker Barry Cooney.
"Veteran" might not be a strong enough description. Barry's been around forever, as in one of the top-10-shops-in-the-1970s forever. He's one of the original Hamsters and his two-wheeled work has been featured in magazines all through the time he's been making his machines. Officially, he's out of the business. He creates two to three scoots strictly for friends or friends-of-friends. This particular bike belongs to his old buddy Harlan Schillinger. It's the third motorcycle Cooney's built for a compadre and fellow Hamster.
"For us 40-year-plus builders, doing stuff to be different but ugly is pointless. Who cares?" he told us when describing this machine. "The custom bike scene is about style. If it doesn't look good and have nice lines, what's the point? When you see an ugly motorcycle, you have to question what the purpose was." For guys like Barry, handling is also every bit as important as looking cool, if not moreso. That's part of the reason why he based this bike around one of Arlen Ness's rubbermount Y2K chassis.
Still, the squeaky wheel gets the greasin.' If you're going to be as selective as Barry is, would you get out of bed to copy the same trend everyone else is following? Like any artist worthy of the title, he wants his creations to stand out. That mandates a middle finger to conventional thinking. A few years back Barry decided to target a trend and bend it to his will.
Specifically, frame stretch. "Everyone stretches up 8 to 10 inches, I went outward instead," he told us. A stout 12 inches out, to be exact. "I used one of Arlen's great rubbermount Y2K frames. Arlen and I have been best friends for a long time. It's a special frame he built just for us. That frame rides smooth with a big motor. It's a long bike. But it works." With a 42 degree neck rake, and a set of Progressive shocks, the bike runs low and mean. Barry powered his buddy's steed with a 121-inch TP mill.
The Y2K chassis aside, what really catches eyes on this scoot is the Wernimont bodywork. Russ Wernimont and Barry Cooney go way back. "Everything was one off from the stretched tank to the rear fender," Cooney told us. "Russ has the rollers and benders to make all this happen. When we're doing a 300 tire with a full encompassing rear fender, that's who I call. Russ is up to his neck in work but he's always down for something interesting too." Russ fabricated an aggressive flat top stretched gas tank for Harlan's machine but it's the rear fender that makes onlookers stand up and take notice. Not only is it all-encompassing, not only does it have a frenched-in license plate frame, it also covers the mammoth 300mm back tire. According to Barry, "The biggest hurdle on this bike was the rear fender. It's a real piece of work. I told Harlan off the get-go, if you ever get a flat tire, God help you. Stick a for sale sign on it. It's hard to get that wheel off with that fender."
When it was done, the Hamsters were on their annual ride to Sturgis, only this time Harlan was breaking in his own new custom baby. Even with its long and low stance Harlan was able to dip into the curves and whack the throttle on the straights to help lead the way to the motorcycle Mecca.