Never before in the history of custom motorcycles have there been so many talented people involved in the industry. In the early days, only a handful of guys were capable of building the caliber of custom bikes we see in large numbers today. And it's not just the amount of bikes involved-it's also the geographic location of the people building them.
We found the HOK candy-violet beauty pictured here tucked so far up north in California that it actually turned out to be in Oregon. For all intents and purposes, Mark Daley and his right-hand man, Travis Linbaugh, at Thunder Struck Custom Bikes are right in the middle of nowhere. That's not to say Medford, OR, isn't a nice place, because it is. It just isn't where one would expect to find a shop building world-class custom bikes.
Mark opened the doors to Thunder Struck Custom Bikes in 1995 after spending the previous 15 years working at a local auto-parts store, along with building musclecars on the side. Mark's brand of choice was Chevrolet, with a focus on late-'60s 427-inch big-block Corvettes. When Mark left his job at the parts house, he didn't look back. His sights were set on building super-clean bikes.
He likes to personalize each bike with its own name; the moniker of this one is "Paranoid." This is also the name he chose for its rolling stock. Check out the rear sprocket and brake rotor, and you'll notice they match the design of the rear wheel. Look up front, and it's the same story-both the front wheel and brake rotor match. Thunder Struck's line of Paranoid billet wheels represents the beginning of an ongoing relationship with Ego Tripp of Lubbock, TX. Mark penned the Paranoid design, and then the aluminum artisans at Ego Tripp CNC-milled each billet-aluminum blank into a three-dimensional reality. Currently Thunder Struck markets three different exclusive designs of Ego Tripp-produced wheels. Spanning the gap between the axles is a Softail-style frame from Xtreme to use in conjunction with a Perse glide frontend.
Thunder Struck's specialty is metal fabrication; without these specialized skills it would have been impossible for Mark to build exactly what he envisioned. Mark told us he fabricated more than 60 individual pieces to construct this bike to the specifications he desired.
Major modifications to the Xtreme frame include 7 inches of stretch to the backbone, in addition to 5 inches of stretch in the single downtube. Mark fabricated a molded-in functional chin spoiler out of sheetmetal attached to the lower downtube. In addition to directing airflow to the front and rear cylinders, it houses the voltage regulator and ignition coils. The spark-plug wires run from the coils up through the frame, exiting into a custom top motor mount Mark fabricated to route the plug wires straight to the cylinder heads.
Drawing from styling cues he acquired from his street-rod experience, Mark modified the bottom of the Xtreme gas tank to flow continuously from front to rear without exposing the mounting brackets. On top he reconfigured the tank to flow uninterrupted into a recessed seat from Rich at Bitchin' Seat Company in Anaheim, CA. Rich covered the custom seat pan Mark fabricated with three different types of foam, then shaped the black upholstery, finishing it with a graphic insert matching the bike's graphic designs. Notice in the photographs how the seat recesses into a molded pocket? In search of a means to create the appearance of a fender-hugging rigid-frame bike, Mark fashioned the seat pocket and installed a Legend air-ride setup. With the air ride laid out, take note of how nicely the Thunder Struck custom fender conforms to the radius of the rear wheel.
With the exception of the upholstery, chrome, and custom paint, all of the work on Paranoid was handled within the walls of Thunder Struck. The person responsible for Paranoid's flawless House of Kolor paintwork and frame molding was Dennis Epple at Ace Custom Paint in Grant's Pass, OR. Thanks to Mark's metal-finishing skills, Dennis was able to mold the bike with a minimum of polyester filler and primer. Dennis squirted HOK's Kandy Violet with Kandy Purple for the main color, using Kandy Tangerine and silver to complete the graphics. Mark and Dennis worked together to create the Paranoid patterned artwork, which was sealed under numerous coats of House of Kolor clear. After a quick color-sand and rub, the bike was ready to be assembled.
Ever so carefully the completed frame was placed onto a padded Handy Lift. From there Mark and Travis slowly hoisted the 125-inch Patrick Racing Evo motor into place. The chrome pieces Mark bolted onto Paranoid, including the exhaust pipes he fabricated, were plated at one of Southern California's best-known chrome shops-Orange County Plating, just miles away from Patrick Racing's Garden Grove, CA, headquarters. Next in line for assembly was the six-speed right-drive fully polished billet transmission from Baker Drivetrain of Haslett, MI. Leaving the tranny bolts loose enough to shift for final alignment, Mark installed a primary drive from Billet 4-U of Louisville, CO, then completed the job with a torque wrench to the powertrain's Grade-8 fasteners. The last major components to hang on Paranoid were the beautifully chromed 12-inch-over forks from Perse. A built-in 6-degree rake on the Perse triple-trees allows a Headwinds headlight to shine its beam onto an Ego Tripp Paranoid wheel shod with an Avon tire capped with a Thunder Struck custom fender.
Mark modified a set of handlebars sourced from Matt Hotch to guide Paranoid's direction. He can bring it to a fast halt with a Performance Machine hydraulic brake master cylinder pumping to a Performance Machine caliper matched with an Ego Tripp Paranoid rotor. On the left side, a Performance Machine clutch master cylinder pumps juice to a Performance Machine hydraulic clutch actuator operating a Barnett Scorpion clutch. The last phase and finishing touch on Paranoid was for Mark to string the wiring in such a manner that it looked as if he forgot to wire it.
Mark had Paranoid sold before he even turned a wrench. Bill Smith of the Portland Trailblazers walked through Thunder Struck Custom Bikes' front door and asked Mark to customize his Springer Softail. Before Mark could ask his first question about what Bill was seeking, the basketball star spotted a chopper Thunder Struck had just completed. Bill asked Mark to build him a bike as nice as that one. Perhaps the best determination of a bike's quality is to pit it against the world's best builders. At the 2005 World Championship of custom bike building, held in Las Vegas, NV, Thunder Struck Custom Bikes placed two bikes within the Top 50. One of them was Paranoid.