Charmed Life

For more than 40 years, the staff of Hot Bike has been shooting, showing, and banging out some of the coolest custom motorcycles and I am lucky enough to be the current curator of just what is hot in the world of V-twin bikes. With the ebb and flow of wheel and tire sizes, what style of bike the “in crowd” is straddling, and the current trends of gaining horsepower through massive dyno tuning, I have been looking backwards to see what is coming up in our future. As I breeze through Hot Bike magazines from the ’70s and ’80s, I am awestruck at the handiwork that was done before CAD drawings, the usage of Solidworks and perfectly plotted CNC machines. Guys did it all by hand and with a keen eye to both style and proper assembly techniques. They weren’t emailing drawings from their iPads to China to have their stuff made. They were in a dimly lit garage getting metal shavings in their hands and acetone in their eyes. Knowing this and seeing the finished machines made from the sum of their hand-massaged parts, it is truly amazing to comprehend the amount of work that went into these old bikes. Since there was very little custom aftermarket support for Harleys back in that day, these motorcycles were quite the undertaking. From those lowly beginnings decades earlier, in came the ’90s where we saw the makings of truly fast V-twin–powered bikes that were built for speed and supremacy with forced induction and fuel injection being born and many of the first mass-produced aftermarket speed products being available to the public at large. This all evolved from an okay matter of business to the TV-fueled chopper revolution in the early 2000s where everybody had $50k to plunk down on a two-wheeled dream machine. Love it or hate it, the massive amount of marketing poured into custom motorcycles was an immense boom to many people’s pocketbooks as well as bike building proficiency. It seemed as if there was no end in sight until 2007 when the stock and housing market’s shit hit the fan. That’s really when the high-end Harley business all but died completely with only a few movie and rock stars having enough money for a ground-up custom-built bike. And here we are in the now. Riders today, both young and old, that have taken to the longstanding DIY work ethic our furry freak forefathers showed us decades ago. These men and women have been putting it to good use on each and every one of their home-built hop-ups. Trust me, I just love when I get emails and letters from people all over the globe showing me what they have been building with their own two hands. Offset that with the many stylistically insane professionally built bikes by talented builders from the world over and it gives us the best insight into to what our readers know, want, and expect of us in 2013. What am I getting at, you ask? Well, with $100,000 block-long billet-encrusted choppers being as extinct as a triceratops, the resurgence of owner-built and affordable pro-fabricated bikes is again at an all-time high. And we are loving it!