The three amigos and the perro (left to right) Harold, Bill, Mike, and Willis the dog, aka
The past decade has been pretty unstable for the custom motorcycle scene. In the early 2000s, the long, low, $75,000 chunks of rolling billet with 420mm wide rear tires ruled the streets. But eventually the trend died out, the money dried up, the TV shows tailed off, and all those who jumped into the game trying to capitalize on a burgeoning industry were up a creek. Unfortunately, that is what happens with trends.
In the middle of the decade, Harley's median age demographic was 45 years old. Four years later it crept up to about 48. And while it's true that the older generation have the time and money to enjoy a Harley, if the industry is to survive and progress it needs to focus on the younger generation. Harley knows this, hence the Dark Custom segment, the continual tweaking of the Sportster line, and why it's targeted the action sports scene (skateboarders, surfers, BMX and motocross riders, etc.). For the most part these are pretty much individual sports that don't require a lot of money to get into; you can do them anytime, anywhere, you don't need a group or team of people to participate, and most importantly these forms of self expression are about one thing: having fun.
While Harley is doing its best to try and shift gears and recruit a younger audience, Biltwell out of Temecula, California, is making it a top priority. The name may ring a bell, that's because we've offered up its retro mini flake 3/4 helmets as prizes for our Letter of the Month winners in past issues. It's almost as if Biltwell has singlehandedly brought the 3/4 out of obscurity and resurrected the popularity of the '70s dome protector, as now every major helmet manufacturer is revamping and updating its 3/4-helmet line.
Comprised of three friends, Bill "Billdozer" Bryant, Harold "McGoo" McGruther, and Mike "Mike D." Ellis (no relation-at least I don't think so) Biltwell is steeped within everything that comprises this younger generation. Harold and Bill have been heavily involved in the BMX scene for the past couple decades in just about every facet from parts manufacturing and event organization to creative content, and advertising/marketing. While Mike is the younger of the trio, his roots are in motocross and brings another important element to the group, a strong knowledge of digital media; i.e. web base development, online store creation/management, social networking, and article management development.
Mini Flake and Mega Flake, Biltwell's 3/4 helmets have taken on a life of their own as artists and owners customizing them with pinstriping and graphics.
Mini Flake and Mega Flake, Biltwell's 3/4 helmets have taken on a life of their own as art
HOT BIKE and Street Chopper set up a motorcycle first-aid station at the Biltwell Bash campground so riders could
HOT BIKE and Street Chopper set up a motorcycle first-aid station at the Biltwell Bash cam
Together the three have helped progress the custom motorcycle seed to the younger masses through reasonably priced, cool, and functional parts, and grass roots events that are mysteriously reminiscent of the early days of the chopper scene. They have also heavily relied on the internet/new media to tie it all together and get kids talking, building, riding, and enjoying motorcycles via blogs, forums, and online articles on their websites, biltwellinc.com, and chopcult.com.
Some Mexican potholes are larger than the towns around them.
Unlike some companies that feel the need to flood the market with every part and knick-knack idea they can come up with, Biltwell has a very select line of parts that include, handlebars, seat hinges, risers, an exhaust kit, seat pans, stash tubes, solid struts, and an alcohol-powered ignition cover. "In the beginning of Biltwell Harold and I noticed the market was flooded with parts that were overpriced and under-delivered, it would take you months to get a part you ordered," Bill told us.
"We wanted to build affordable parts that we weren't embarrassed of. Parts that would last forever, stand the test of time like a classic Bates seat, and still be affordable. We want to share the wealth and build quality parts, and help bring young blood into this scene. And we've done it," Harold said. "We have $109 handlebars made of seamless 4130 chromoly with a 3mm wall thickness." Biltwell's handlebars offer the widest selection of their parts line with nine different styles, and the least expensive set is $77. In fact the most expensive part in the Biltwell lineup is its DIY exhaust kit, which is only $165.