Bike shows at Sturgis may come and go, but for the last 30 years, the Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show has been a constant in the Black Hills. Its panel of judges are seasoned professionals who bring decades of experience to the table, and there’s nothing quite like the custom-made Rat trophies. As a bonus, it’s a family affair, with Ted and Pam Smith carrying on the legacy started by Ted’s father, Karl “Big Daddy Rat” Smith.
The 2018 Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show in Sturgis attracted a crazy cross section of custom motorcycles to the Buffalo Chip CrossRoads, as builders competed for top honors in 14 classes, from Pre-1966 Antiques to Over 1,000cc Super Radicals. The 2018 Sturgis Rat’s Hole also featured the Black Hills Bagger Showdown.
It is the Rat’s Hole’s long-standing reputation that helps it attract competitors from as far away as Germany and Switzerland. Sven Nisch marked his journey from Berlin, Germany, to Sturgis, in ink on the homemade panniers of his well-worn Sportster. The trip took him through Moscow and eventually Vladivostok, where he loaded his bike onto a ship that ferried them across the Pacific to Vancouver, Canada. Nisch’s bike featured post-apocalyptic flair, from the gas mask shrouding his headlights to the heavy-duty ammo boxes he turned into saddlebags. The uniqueness of his Sportster earned Sven top honors in the Rat Class.
Reini Servello of Bobber Garage traveled all the way from Zurich, Switzerland, to enter his bike, “Der Monarch,” in the Over 1,000cc Radical Class. Servello’s build featured a 1936 Knucklehead engine with distinctive copper plating and engraving. A copper theme runs throughout, from the bike’s springer fork to its custom wheels. The bike reportedly features a special painting technique which illuminates individual color particles at the press of a button, as applied by Marcus Pfeil. This feature surely helped it attract the attention of guest judge Ryan Evans, head painter and air brush artist at Count’s Kustoms, who awarded Servello with the special Count’s Kustoms Pick. “An award from the Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show is regarded as a veritable Oscar in the customizing scene because it was in this land of unlimited possibilities that the foundation stone for the art of customization was laid,” Servello said in a post-show interview on Swiss-Moto.
The big winner of the day was Hawke Lawshe, who won both Best of Show and the Over 1,000cc Super Radical class with his ultra-clean chopper called “Hades.” Anchoring his bike’s kicked-out front is a 30-over narrow springer by SIK Dalton. Lawshe nailed the high-necked frame by using era-correct forgings. The bike’s polished 1946 Knucklehead and powertrain dazzles with jewel-like polish. The way the tank and tail meld seamlessly into the backbone shows serious fab skills. Hawke’s chopper has been slaying the competition on the bike show scene this summer, as it also won top honors in the Invited Builders class at Born-Free 10.
Another build that had people talking at the Sturgis Rat’s Hole was the double hubless motorcycle Tim McNamer of Ballistic Cycles brought to the show. To see a hubless motorcycle is a rarity. To see a bike with two hubless wheels almost never happens. McNamer machines his hubless wheels from a solid piece of billet, with a braking system integrated into the back wheel, while the front uses a giant perimeter brake. The fork is single-sided, adding to the free-floating illusion of the front end. A turbocharged JIMS 120 provides more than enough punch to get those big wheels rolling. An open belt primary begins the process of getting that power to the rear while a chain final drive finishes it, the chain wrapped around a massive sprocket mounted on the back wheel. With internal wiring and a brushed metal finish, Ballistic’s double hubless motorcycle was constantly surrounded by curious onlookers at the show.
Rolling away with the trophy in the Black Hills Bagger Showdown was Warren Vesely and Scooter Shooterz Hot Rods & Motorcycles of Cedar Lake, Indiana. With a behemoth S&S 124-inch engine, the ground-pounding bagger with fluid bodywork is truly is an “American Badass.” We found the following passage on the Scooter Shooterz Facebook page:
“For the better part of the last year, Warren and his talented team have been hard at work creating a beautiful masterpiece. The finished product is nothing short of stunning. What everyone doesn't see, though, is the behind-the-scenes work and fabrication that goes into a truly custom bike from a real bike builder. Warren has taken raw metal and welded, grinded, sanded, and bent his materials into submission until the result was nothing short of perfect. He has spent hours upon hours at his fab shop, brainstorming and working and manipulating his creation until there were no flaws left.”
And while there was plenty of glitz and glamor among the winning motorcycles, Ken Schmoldt of FTD Cycle Repair is more partial to the nitty-gritty of everyday riders, evident in his coffin-tanked chopper, “Dirty Bandit.”
“This started out as a 2002 Softail Standard. Back in ’02, my best friend bought the bike. I didn’t know him at the time, but he put 230,000 miles on this bike. I built the engine at 130,000 for him, and he used to live off the bike,” Schmoldt said.
“The reason it’s called ‘Dirty Bandit’ is because my kids, ever since they were little, called him Uncle Bandit from the movie Smokey and the Bandit. It’s got a 95-inch engine, heads off my ’01 Road King, Woods TW-6 gear-drive cams, it puts out 94 horsepower and 100 foot-pounds torque. On the frame we did 12-up in the downtubes, 3 inches in the backbone, and we did 12-over fork legs. Then we made the rear fender rigid mount with a TC Brothers sissy bar. I took second place in the Cycle Source Rodeo yesterday and ol’ Lichter photographed me drifting my bike.”
Gotta love a guy who wrings out his buddy’s old Softail in a good old-fashioned biker rodeo one day, then rides it into a bike show the next.
The Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show wraps up its 2018 season during Biketoberfest in Daytona Beach.
The Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show 2018 – 30th Annual Sturgis Rally Winners
|Rat Class||Sven Nisch, Berlin, Germany|
|Three-Wheeler||Gene Bateman, Bridgeport, NE|
|Pre-1966 Antique Class||Horse Hawthorne, Ukiah, CA|
|1967-1993 Antique Class||James Duffy, Romoland, CA|
|1 to 1,000cc Class||Timothy Scates, Waller, TX|
|Over 1,000cc Custom||George Brewster, Munith, MI|
|Over 1,000cc Radical||Reini Servello, Zurich, Switzerland|
|Over 1,000cc Super Radical||Hawke Lawshe, Columbia Falls, MT|
|Sportster Class||Hawke Lawshe, Columbia Falls, MT|
|Bobber Class||Brian Buttera, Lakeland, FL|
|Full Dresser & Touring Class||Ronald Carriere, Blainville, Quebec, Canada|
|Extreme Full Dresser Black Hills Bagger Showdown||Warren Vesely, Cedar Lake, IN|
|Count’s Kustoms Pick||Reini Servello, Zurich, Switzerland|
|Rat’s Hole Best of Show||Hawke Lawshe, Columbia Falls, MT|