Archive: Independents Choppers

The Gold Bike

Believe it or not, some people are quick to jump on the bike-building boat in rough waters without a life jacket and end up drowning. Although the industry is flooded with custom bike shops, it shouldn't deter anybody from starting another one as long as precautions are taken. Playing it safe was Jeff Shelton's life jacket prior to starting Independents Choppers (IC) in Newark, Delaware. He continued to build bikes from his garage (keeping the overhead almost nil) until enough dough and market research were obtained to safely enter shop ownership.

Although it was going to be a bumpy ride in the beginning, Jeff was confident that with his wrenching abilities paired with a small experienced crew, the shop would be sailing smoothly in no time. After 20 years of working in the auto repair business, half of which were spent building bikes on the side, Jeff took his day job and shoved it. "It was kind of funny," Jeff said, "that I was at the top at the auto business, and I was going to the bottom by trying to start up my own place." He added, "You gotta start somewhere; plus, I got tired of working for somebody else."

The gold chopper spread across these pages, called "The Gold Bike," is the end result of Jeff's transition between career paths and (for that matter) in life. The build started in 2001 out of his garage, and it got as far as a motor and trans selection, in addition to a KraftTech Megatube 200-series rigid frame. It's got a mild 38 degrees of rake at the neck, 4 inches of upward stretch in the downtubes, and 2 inches added to the backbone. Jeff has tinkered heavily with every type of engine and transmission in the past, but The Gold Bike was his first to harbor an Evo motor and five-speed tranny. He selected an 80ci H-D Evo, which was mated to a RevTech trans by a Primo 3-inch beltdrive and clutch setup. A Crane HI-4 ignition fires the combustibles mixed up by an S&S; Super E carburetor. Jeff's custom-made belt guard is some additional protection that he claims is there "to keep small animals and children from getting pulled in the primary as I ride by."

At this point, Jeff put The Gold Bike on hold while he figured out a way to become his own boss. After a diet rich in cutting corners and PB&J; sandwiches, he opened the shop a year later and got to work finishing the gold chop. Jeff doesn't like to use catalog parts "when something cooler can be made at home, err, the shop," therefore some custom goodness was going to finish ol' goldie off. The exhaust system, for example, is a 2-into-1 setup that dumps out behind the tranny on the right side to keep the bike clean. The fuel tank is a modified Sportster with a Hotmatch pop-up cap, painted in-house with an 8-ball motif, which is matched by an 8-ball mirror on the custom-made and powdercoated handlebars. The barrel-style oil tank was a modified unit and houses all the electronics for this bike. Both fenders are West Coast Choppers' items, with the rear modified by IC.