This article was originally published in the 1999 October-November issue of Cycle World's Big Twin magazine.
Every time Todd Matteson builds a custom, it has a theme. That theme could be hidden like the coy elements in a da Vinci painting or a Frank Lloyd Wright structure, or it could be screamingly manifest. But there’s always an element of surprise lurking for the discerning observer.
To find the theme on the latest creature to spring from Matteson’s fertile mind, you’ll have to be really observant, able to detect small similarities or design eccentricities. Give up? Well, if you look closely, you’ll see some groups of three: three-blade wheels, swingarm-pivot covers with three holes instead of the usual four or two, three-hole front-axle covers, even a three-pointed star airbrushed on the gas tank. And if you could remove the rear axle-adjuster covers, you’d see that the adjusters themselves have three holes. So, the theme is three.
No big deal, you say? Way too subtle for your tastes? Perhaps. But to Matteson, subtlety is a virtue. “For each bike, I try to do something a little bit different,” says Matteson, whose shop sits beneath the eastern shadows of the Rocky Mountains in Longmont, Colorado. “I won’t duplicate a bike. They are similar yet not identical. I like every bike to be its own. Even if the owner of one of my motorcycles would paint the bike another color after buying it from me, I would know which bike it was. Like the wheels: I only make wheels for the bikes I build. My wheels before these were a two-blade wheel, and now I’ve gone on to a three-blade wheel. I’ve built six sets and that’s it. Just real limited numbers, and everything is clean and simple.”
And that, in case you didn’t already know, is the essence of a true custom motorcycle.
Although Matteson builds bikes to order for customers, he created this one just to show off his considerable fabricating skills. Once a year, he puts together a custom that showcases all the pieces and ideas he’s come up with since the previous year. “Not many people would pay me to do all the stuff I’ve done on this bike,” he says, “but it’s my own. This is to show people what I can do. I consider it my calling card."
There is a long and impressive list of parts on this calling card that Matteson has hammered and milled in his workshop. The spectacular swingarm: That’s his. Left-side rear-brake: his. Belt pulley: his. Triple-trees: his. Handlebar risers: his. Brake rotors: his. Belt drive: his. Transmission top cover: his. Not to mention the usual shaped and molded sheetmetal parts like the gas tank and fenders.
One exception is the frame, which is a Daytec, but it was specially made to Matteson’s specs. Most specifically, it has no forward control mounts. “There is nothing on the downtubes,” he says. “I got rid of the forward control mounts there because on the shifter side, all of the control hardware is built onto a modified inner primary. On the brake side, the forward controls are all built onto the cam cover.”
No only does Matteson develop a theme for every bike he builds, he also works to exacting standards. If a part he has fabricated doesn’t fit perfectly or have precisely the visual effect he had imagined, it’s immediately discarded. “I’ve scrapped a lot of the parts that I’ve made, even entire bikes,” he says. “I’ll make something, then stand back and look at it after putting everything all together. If I don’t like it, I take it off and throw it in the dumpster because it doesn’t have the look I thought it would. I built a real cool set of pullback risers for this custom, but they didn’t flow with the rest of the bike, so I tossed them and made the radiused ones you see here. And even these are the third set of radiused risers I made because I just couldn’t get the right contour, the right look, with the first two. I knew what I wanted and it looked great on paper, but it didn’t look right on the bike. That’s why this bike took over a year to complete.”
That’s quite a bit of work for a calling card. But unlike other calling cards, this one won’t be given away for free or tossed in a drawer and forgotten.
|Owner:||Todd Matteson, Wesminster, CO|
|Designer/Fabricator/Builder:||Todd Matteson, Billet 4-U|
|Paint and Chrome|
|Molding:||Soncy Road Body Shop|
|Painter:||Soncy Road Body Shop|
|Graphic Artist:||Soncy Road Body Shop|
|Make:||Custom Billet Evo|
|Displacement:||105 cu. in.|
|Cases:||Custom by Rocky Mountain Billet|
|Primary cover:||Custom Billet 4-U|
|Air cleaner:||Carl’s Typhoon|
|Pipes:||Custom by Fritz Race Cars|
|Primary drive:||Belt by Billet 4-U|
|Builder:||Reworked by Billet 4-U|
|Modifications:||2-in. stretch; 38-degree r|
|Modifications:||Billet 4-U custom triple-trees|
|Make:||Legend Air Ride|
|Swingarm:||Billet 4-U Wide Drive|
|Modifications:||On-board suspension air pump|
|Wheel:||Custom Billet 4-U three-blade|
|Wheel:||Custom Billet 4-U three-blade|
|Brake:||Custom left-side by Billet 4-U; PM caliper|
|Front fender:||Jesse James|
|Rear fender:||Jesse James|
|Taillight:||LED flush mount|
|Other modifications:||All wiring & switches hidden; all oil & brake lines stainless steel|