When most bike builders build for a show they want to win, they pull out all the stops. They get a game plan in order. They get a design in mind, research all the best parts, figure out who to call for help, give themselves a timeline for the build itself, and then get ready to kick butt.
The idea to build "Radical Simplicity" started at the 2005 Grand National Roadster Show. Mike Stafford, owner of MGS Custom Bikes in Lancaster, CA, was all fired up with what they thought was a show winner, the "Teaser" bike. Although all the bikes in the show were top-notch-the best of the best in the industry-the Teaser was a showstopper and grabbed a lot of attention for MGS. But the shop walked away with Second Place. Mike wasn't sad about not winning top honors. In fact, all the second-place finish did was make him think about how he could do better next year.
Immediately after the show, Mike's mind moved on to 2006. That night, Mike and good friend and painter Dave Little walked the floors of the Pomona Fairgrounds, looking at all the beautiful cars on display. Mike thought to himself, "How can I build something that flows like these cars, that looks radical and beautiful at the same time?" It was from this question that the wheels of inspiration started turning. Determined to answer Mike's question, both guys agreed, "We are going to win this next year."
During the next few months, the design process unfolded in Mike's mind. Because Mike doesn't have the artistic capabilities he might like, it's a struggle for him to get his bike concepts out on paper. Often it's difficult for anyone else to grasp what he's going for until the bike is done.
Another hurdle for MGS was the cost of such a bike. The small shop has built some great bikes, but the really expensive works of art don't sell very quickly. Since Mike's not the kind of guy to hold back what's on his mind, he began discussing the build, now dubbed Radical Simplicity, with his friends in the industry. He hoped they'd be able to give him advice on how to deal with the high cost of such a creative build. Explaining his concept did more than solicit advice. The project quickly became a collaborative effort among many great manufacturers and industry leaders who believed in Mike's ability to create a show winner.
Mike wasted no time getting started on winning the 2006 Roadster show. He got his hands on a Low Life frame from Independent with 40 degrees of rake in the neck and 8 inches added to the backbone. The bike was going to have a long and low-to-the-ground look-just like so many of the cars at the show that inspired Mike in the first place. To further help pull off this look, Mike called Tim Hanlon from Mean Street. Mike described what he wanted in a frontend, and Tim was certain he could come up with something great. With more than three weeks of trying to get the internal brake lines to work with no luck, Mike called to check with Tim and see how things were going. At that point Tim told Mike about all the challenges he was facing and how he felt like throwing in the towel. Mike told Tim not to give up and that the two of them would be able to make it work. Because of the tight time frame, it was a tremendous undertaking for them to come up with the beautiful Avalon-design frontend with internal brake lines, but everyone at Mean Street stepped up and got it done.
Mike needed wheels and tires. Just three weeks after the 2005 show, he ran into an old industry friend, Greg Hoeve of Ego Tripp. Greg told Mike he'd be happy to help him out with anything he needed. So when it came time to put wheels on this bike, Mike knew whom to call. The two were on the phone for more than two hours, with Mike telling Greg the look he was after, and Greg telling Mike how hard it would be. By the end of the phone call, Greg knew just what to do. It wasn't going to be easy, but it was definitely worth it once he was done. Simply put, the one-off wheels on this bike are amazing. They were painstakingly designed and machined with precision like nothing else from Ego Tripp. Greg explained that there were so many steps involved, they're not sure whether these wheels will ever go into full production. When the wheels got to the shop, Mike was blown away. It was then that he got inspired to start shaping the sheetmetal and have all the lines flow in a manner that mimics the shape of the wheels. It's not every day that a bike gets built around a set of wheels, but look at what happened here. Next, Mike installed a set of Avon tires and placed the wheels on the bike. This allowed everyone in the shop to see where the bike was at that stage of the build.
Mike needed to get the powerplant in the bike before the sheetmetal could get started, so he placed a 131ci fully polished show motor from H&L; into the frame. When Burt Baker heard about the bike build, he shipped out a new fully polished RSD six-speed trans to match the motor. Mike tucked it just behind the H&L; and coupled the two with a 3-inch Primo belt drive. To keep the bike clean and free of any lines or cables, he installed a Grandeur clutch and a hand shifter complete with a custom-grip handle. He then made a set of custom pulley covers to hide the bolts and give everything a smooth finish. Since the gas tank would be the starting point for the bike's lines, Mike went to work on shaping the top piece to get the right size. He then stepped the top as if it were the hood of an old car and worked the two side pieces to get the two-dimensional look of a round tank, but with a more pulled-in feel. He moved the seat post down where the swingarm meets the frame, covered all the empty space, and then flowed the lines back to the rear fender, giving it a one-piece look. MGS produces a line of spun fenders that fit tires perfectly, so all Mike needed to do for the front fender was pull one from the stock room. An oil bag was made to fit under the transmission while keeping room under the seat for all the electrical.
Mike started on a set of handlebars that would work with the look of the bike and yet still "feel right." He worked on fitting an internal throttle and custom risers to let the throttle cable go through the triple-trees and down though the frame. The next day Mike called Joel Felty with Headwinds and explained what he was building. Joel asked if Mike would use one of Headwinds' new distinctive Mariah model in the build, and Mike told Joel, "That's why I'm calling. That's the headlight I wanted for this build." Joel told Mike, "It's in the next UPS shipment. If you need anything else, just call."
Finally they came to the point where Mike and all the guys at the shop could begin thinking about the paint and color. One of the most important components of this build was the paint. As with most hot rods, the paint grabs the eye first. Only on second glance does the quality of work get noticed. Mike knew he wanted it radical in color and simple in design, hence the name Radical Simplicity. The sheetmetal was radical enough for the paint job to be simple. With most of the mockup done, Mike needed to start the teardown so that everything could get out to paint and back in time for the show. It was coming up fast.
Although the paint job was simple in design, actually accomplishing the incredible finish on this bike proved to be a very tedious task. Dave Little of Little Designs wanted to use a new, very expensive paint from PPG. He turned out to be the first person in the country to use it. After five days of molding and sanding the sheetmetal alone, Dave started with the first basecoat of PPG's Oh-So-Orange. Then he blended the green pearl with the next few coats of orange to get the paint to show off green highlights in the sun. Exactly how Dave managed it is a secret he prefers to keep, but call him and maybe he'll tell you. Dave spent the next six days color-sanding and clearing over and over the base paint to achieve the final look. The photos don't really show it, but this bike has a brilliant green flop in the paint. Dave contributed sweat, time, and that all-important dollar for this creation. He also knew that MGS would pull off a win at the Roadster show.
When this bike was finally viewed throughout the industry, by the public, and by other people in the custom business, the bike got what MGS was after-First Place at the Grand National Roadster Show's America's Most Beautiful Motorcycle event. MGS hopes that Radical Simplicity is seen as a great collaboration. MGS Custom Bikes could not have accomplished what it did without all the help and support that came from the relationships it had built in this industry. Relationships and trust are what really made this bike happen.