It takes a keen eye for styling to be able to combine two different sides of the V-twin spectrum that typically don’t ever occupy the same space. Chris Richardson of LA Speed Shop is one of the top builders in the world who specializes in lean and mean traditional lane-splitter-type choppers. Chris goes through extensive work to hand fab most of the parts for his builds. Let’s face it; today’s custom baggers are anything but small and narrow and are getting larger, fatter, and heavier by the minute with no end in sight. So what happens with the king of skinny decides to jump into the bagger world? Well, something like this…
“I always had this idea of building a skinny bagger,” Chris explains. “I pictured it in my head with a narrow front end, narrow bars, narrow gas tank, a bare-bones look, and most of all super-skinny bags. I finally got a customer on board, so I jumped in feet first and just went for it. I have a tendency to not really plan things out too much but just start working. I don’t draw a picture or make part specs; I just build what’s in my mind.”
Starting with a good base frame and motor is always essential before ever turning a wrench on any build. Chris is keen on the fact that if you have a good foundation, the end machine will not only run better but also retain a greater value in the future. “A customer brought me a complete 1959 Harley-Davidson Panhead, and I went from there,” Chris says. “I started with the rebuild on the motor, and I rebuilt the original 1959 trans myself. I had to stretch the frame about 3 inches to make room for the bags. I narrowed a vintage Springer front end went with a 23-inch spoke wheel with a spool hub and Firestone tire and a 19-inch spoke rim with a star hub and Coker tire in the rear. I custom made an oil tank with simple, clean lines. I decided to use a hinged rigid rear fender that I narrowed about 2 inches to keep that skinny look.”
Up until this point the build was pretty standard issue for Chris. What stands out the most is the custom made bags that he fabricated. The bags are skinny enough to flow with the narrow lines of the bike yet have enough volume to still be functional. “When it came to making the bags, I bought a few sheets of 16-gauge steel and began what would be the biggest challenge I have completed in building a bike,” he says. “If I knew before I started what a complete pain in the ass these bags would be, I probably would have never made them. I wanted the bags to be as skinny as possible to achieve the look I wanted. I built them to fit around the rear of the frame. Both sides of the frame are completely different, so each bag had to be made individually. It was like making puzzle pieces by trial and error. Along with fabricating the bags I also had to figure out a mounting system, lids, and a hinge system for the lids. It took a total of one week with more than a few sleepless nights to get the bags done.”
Combing a third element from a café style to the mix, Chris also handmade an upper fairing out of 16-gauge steel. “I also decided to make a custom front fairing for the bike, which housed the headlight,” Chris explains. “The fairing added some visual interest to the front end of the bike, and, more importantly, it added balance. I always like to stand back and look at a bike while I’m building it. I like the lines of the bike to flow and for everything to look balanced.”
When it came time for paint, Chris went buck wild! Well sort of. “My good friend Buck over at Buck Wild Brand in Covina, California, put the icing on the cake with a perfect paint job,” Chris says. “I wanted a slick, timeless paint job, and Buck always delivers. The guy is a true master when it comes to painting, and I’m lucky when I get to work with him on a project.” Once it was all flaked, raked, and ready to ride, Chris took a step back to admire what he had finished. “In the end the bike came out exactly as I had envisioned it in my head,” he says. “I’m always thankful when I get an opportunity to make something that has been an idea in my head for a while. It’s a good feeling and a big relief when I finish a build. Now on to the next project!” We can’t wait to see what styles will be combined next.