As this issue goes to print, we’re smack dab in the holiday season. It’s a time for giving and being thankful as we shove yet another bite of turducken into our overstuffed pie holes. What it isn’t a time for is pissing off the wife again. We’re looking at you, Bryan Schimke of TPJ Customs. The last time one of his cool creations made it into a bike feature, he or the writer forgot to thank Bryan’s wife, Kelly, and son, Luke, for their patience and understanding during the build. Bryan caught the appropriate hell for that later and in the interest of not repeating that mistake again, he wants everyone to know how grateful he is for the understanding his family showed while he worked on this custom chopper for his good friend, Keith McCoy. Especially since this project was for friendship, and not a cash cow. “With Keith’s bike, he’s a good friend who helps out, so there wasn’t a lot of monetary gain and the family was very understanding,” Bryan says.
This isn’t to say Bryan gave away a bike gratis. Keith met Bryan five years ago at a show and spends a lot of time helping out at the TPJ shop in Northern California. Keith’s help has been a great asset during more than one tight deadline. They’ve become close friends over the years and Keith helps out when TPJ goes on the road for shows, too. It also didn’t hurt that Keith had set aside parts for the project, such as the wheels, motor, and transmission.
Betty here marks Keith’s evolution as a rider, too. When he first met Bryan, Keith rode a Big Bear Choppers kit bike. He’d made a few changes to it but as he started riding with Bryan, he had a hard time keeping up in California’s twisties. It’s bad enough Cali riders have smog as a dietary staple, but no one likes a road dust appetizer. Those mountain curves got Keith’s creative wheels turning. They would eventually lead to Betty, here.
The scope of Keith’s riding experience expanded, which in turn shaped his plans for this chopper. We learn by doing, and for riders that means motorcycling all over the place. Keith realized he wanted the trifecta: a bike that handled well in a curve, didn’t break his back on a long trip, and hauled ass in a straightaway.
The suspension gave Keith long distance comfort, while the light design lets him jump to warp-speed on the straights, and the new ...
Bryan gave him that and more. Betty is centered around two elements—Keith’s 107-cubic inch S&S motor and the chassis TPJ tailor-made to his dimensions and desires. The frame sports a 34-degree neck rake with 3 more degrees in the trees. Bryan’s shop also added 1-1/2-inches of stretch to the backbone. It’s a swingarm chassis with Fox shocks and a Mean Street fork set that’s 2 inches under stock Harley length. It’s a step up comfort-wise that also sets the stage for the low, aggressive riding stance that defines Betty’s mean attitude. By keeping weight to a minimum, Bryan maximized Betty’s power usage. He told us that for having that big-ass tire, the bike rides like a super-light rocket ship.
Overall, the chop has a lean, hungry look, which isn’t normal for a bike with a 240mm back tire. Melding big tire and skinny chopper aesthetics was the hardest part of the build for Bryan. He made it work, though. The key was the rear fender. Standard operating procedure with a fat-ass tire is covering it with an equally extravagant fender. Not so much here. Keith has just enough fender to keep the mud off his back.
The suspension gave Keith long distance comfort, and the light design lets him jump to warp-speed on the straights, while the new control setup allows him to lean it deep and keep up in the curves. He can thank TPJ for the mid-mount foot controls and ergo-friendly handlebar that made that a reality. You don’t see mids on a bike with an open belt primary too often, but that didn’t stop Bryan from adding his own minimalistic mid control design.
Throughout the five-month project, Bryan’s wife and son understood the extra hours his shop spent bringing life to Keith’s collection of parts. They knew Bryan was helping a good friend, who was rewarded with a great custom bike. In turn, Bryan was rewarded with the good feeling you get from helping a buddy. As for the turducken, it’s rewarding us with two weeks of leftovers. Um, if you can call that a “reward.”