In the late ’70s, Doyle Brunson became the only poker player in history to win back-to-back main event titles at the World Series of Poker’s main event. Almost 35 years later, Chris Richardson claimed a similar achievement in bike building at the Cashman Center—a few blocks away from Binion’s Lucky Horseshoe, where Brunson made poker history some three decades earlier. Richardson won both the 2010 and 2011 Artistry in Iron Master Builders’ Championships. Title winner number two is this copper-clad, knuckle-powered rigid seen here.
Take a good hard look at the bike and you can see why he won. It’s a café/boardtrack fusion-style chop covering the spectrum of the bike builder’s craft, from new aftermarket bolt-on parts to restored pieces, one-off creations, and heavily modified parts adapted to other functions. While the V-Twin Mfg. Knucklehead motor is a modern replica, the frame cradling it is a genuine 1927 Harley-Davidson JD chassis. And then there’s the artistic copper masterpiece laid down by Headcase Kustoms that serves as its paintjob.
Chris is the owner/operator of LA Speed Shop in California. He made this machine for Ben Bingham, who was only too happy to let Chris enter it in the 2011 Artistry in Iron show. We could yammer on and on about this project, but we’d rather let you hear the insights from Richardson himself.
HB: Why this style of bike?
CR: The customer came to me and wanted an older, racy style of bike. He’s into cafe racers and bikes like that. I wanted to go a little older, though. Finally he says, “You know what? Do what you want to do.” This one is my feel for a board tracky kind of bike.
HB: Obviously a ton of work went into this project. What gave you the biggest challenge?
CR: Getting that motor to fit in that frame correctly. I had to make up a jig for this one bike and it’s just time consuming.
HB: You used old Chinese World War II-era carbs on it. Why?
CR: I was looking online for some small carburetors that weren’t big and bulky with a bunch of shit all over them. I liked them and they were tiny. I needed something not so conspicuous.
HB: Tell us about the Triumph drum brake air scoops that you customized into air cleaners. How did you do that and why?
CR: I had gotten them from my painter Casey. He gave them to me awhile back and I wanted something small (again) and they basically fit the look of the bike. I welded in the back of them, cut a hole with a hole saw, and welded in a collar that attaches to the mouth of the carburetor.”
HB: What made you decide to make this frontend from scratch instead of narrowing one like you’ve done in the past?
CR: I wanted to kind of set it apart from everyone else. I was building for the Artistry in Iron Show. I wanted to separate myself from anyone else in the competition having the same type or look. I also wanted to give the customer something unique and different. Whenever I make something like that, I never make it again to keep it unique.
HB: Why the Flyrite sproter in the rear on such a vintage-style bike as this?
CR: I knew he wasn’t going to be running a front brake. He wanted to be able to stop though, and that was the happy medium we came up with. Otherwise, I would’ve put a mechanical brake on it. Plus it looks good stylistically. It’s a shame Flyrite is not doing much anymore.
HB: Tell us about your signature mid controls. What makes them stand out?
CR: They’re slim, narrow not bulky. Pretty much what I make when I do a bike from scratch.”
HB: Talk about the slide-on mount you used for the dual gas tanks. How did you come up with it and are you going to start selling it?
CR: I just basically started with welding a plate of steel to the backbone and bone support, then notched and made slider lugs that weld to the gas tank. I don’t plan on selling it. If someone wanted it, I’d do it. I wanted to have one bolt that holds it on and the gas tank slides on with these lugs. I winged it as I went.
HB: Why did you incorporate the oil tank into the rear of the right side gas tank?
CR: I made the complete gas tank, then I cut a little more than a quarter of a tank off, then plated it in and welded to the gas tank, then welded bungs for feed, return, breather.
HB: How did you treat the copper oil lines to protect them from the elements?
CR: Polished them out and used a high-temp clear to preserve it.
HB: What drew you to all of that copper for the paint?
CR: Me and Casey work pretty good together. He showed me some color samples. I pretty much let him go with what he feels. Me and him are on the same wavelength. He knows what I’m looking for, he knows I know that, and I let him roll with it. I’ve never had a bad paintjob from him. He used a copper flake over copper pearl with copper leaf and black with red pinstriping.
HB: Anything you’d like to throw in?
CR: I’m a one-man shop. My brother, Randy Richardson, helped me for several days to get it done on time. I was on majorly tight deadline. I’d also like to give thanks to the owner, Ben Bingham.