We thought we had heard all the hard luck stories behind building a bike that existed. No matter what, from the bike being finished and immediately crashed, to a divorce because of the cost of finishing a bike, we thought we had heard it all before. Then we heard Ken Shenberger’s sour grapes story and knew the bar had been raised again. This one tops them all.
Shenberger runs a pretty busy plastering company in the San Fernando Valley of California, and quite honestly, if he took the little bit of free time he had to build a bike, he would never get to ride. Knowing that, he went to a shop that he had spent a decent amount of money with over the years to contract a custom build. Ken wanted a top-notch, no-holds-barred bike and was prepared to pay for it. So, once he and the shop owner ironed out all the details, he cut a check for 25 grand to cover the cost of all the parts necessary for the buildup.
Here is where the story goes sour. The shop owner took the 25 large and used it as a down payment on a house instead of ordering parts. To say that Ken was upset would be a gross understatement. However, in the situation he was, there was very little he could do but be patient and wait for the guy to get his parts.
Six months later, the parts were in and the build was moving. With a chip on his shoulder, Ken would stop by to check on the bike as he went from job site to job site. At first, things were moving along very well, and then suddenly, the project seemed to lose momentum. Ken wanted the bike ready to ride at least by the Love Ride, which takes place in November, since he had already missed Daytona, Laughlin, and Sturgis. The shop owner told him it wasn’t possible. So having taken all he could take, Ken backed his truck up to the shop door and started loading up his parts and the chassis to take it to another shop. This was the motivation the shop owner needed to spring to life and get the bike done.
Ken was happy as he rode his new bike out of his neighborhood toward the freeway to join in the start of the Love Ride. He would have been much happier if the bike had not caught fire and burned up just a few blocks short of the freeway, thanks to some terrible wiring. The only bright spot in this sour grapes story was that he had insured the bike.
A month later, the charred machine was hauled into Thunder Rider in Newbury Park, California. With more than a little trepidation, Ken explained to Monty what he wanted out of his rebuild. The two shook hands and Ken left his insurance adjuster to work out a settlement with Monty.
A new Daytec frame was used, set with 36 degrees of rake and just 2 inches of stretch. A matching Daytec swing arm was mated to a Legend Air suspension unit, and to dress up the front, a chromed 41mm fork assembly was mounted in Thunder Rider triple trees. Performance Machine wheels, 19- and 18-inch, were covered up with Metzeler tires; P.M. rotors were covered up with Thunder Rider calipers to call the frame a roller.
To build some flowing lines on the high-end chassis, Monty ordered a tank from Independent Gas Tank and a Daytec oil tank and a pair of fenders from West Coast Choppers. The gas tank was treated to a Hot Match recessed gas cap, and the fenders were shaped and cut to fit the bike perfectly; the Daytec oil tank was left alone. Once the metal was looking good, Monty sent it to Doug’s Custom Paint for a rich coat of Butterscotch Pearl. Then Bill Carter was enlisted to put the purple graphics in place so the clear could be shot.
While the paint was hardening, Monty pulled the 97ci Thunder Rider motor out of the burnt bike to clean it up. These motors are simply beautiful, with an almost chrome-like finish on the outside. The motor is built from Thunder Rider cases, S&S; wheels and Carrillo rods, J&E; pistons, Thunder Rider cylinders and heads, and JIMS rocker boxes. A Crane ignition, a Thunder Rider cam, a Typhoon carb, and Samson pipes round out the jewel-like package. To complement the good looks of the motor, a Thunder Rider five-speed transmission is used and connects to the motor via a Rivera Brute III enclosed beltdrive.
Ken stopped by Thunder Rider the day Monty and crew were putting everything back together. He handed the drag bars and the Thunder Rider risers to Monty, then passed him the Headwinds headlight, the P.M. hand controls, and the Paul Yaffe mirror. He helped install the Ness forward controls and the Yaffe taillight. Then he watched closely as Monty slid the High End seat in place over the meticulously clean wiring harness.
When the bike started for the first time, Ken just smiled. Then he yanked the seat off to look at the wires. Satisfied it wasn’t going to burn again, he slid the seat back in place, clicked into First gear, and disappeared into the Malibu mountains. Isn’t that a happy ending to a sad story?
|Make/Year||’01 Thunder Rider|
|Build Time||Don’t Ask|
|Size/Type||97CI Thunder Rider|
|Year/Type||’01 Thunder Rider|
|Primary Drive||Brute III|
|Rear Suspension||Thunder Rider|
|Extension||2 inches under|
|Triple Trees||Thunder Rider|
|WHEELS, TIRES & BRAKES|