By Gerde Applethwaite
When I was a kid my dad had this thing with gold spray paint. His version of a clean tidy look for many of his tools and most of his garden equipment involved a drill with a wire brush attached and some sort of degreasing agent – all of it topped off with his can of gold spray paint. We had a gold lawnmower or two, gold shovels, gold hedge trimmers, a gold sledge hammer (just the weighty end) and on. On a warm Saturday, late morning, we would often smell throughout the house the second pot of coffee on the brew followed sometime not long after by the distinct noise of the spray can rattle – then the coffee aroma would be overwhelmed by the spray paint. I didn’t inherit his penchant for spraying everything up. My shovels are all a bit rusty on the blade ends and his looked like he had just come back in from a groundbreaking ceremony. Not my thing.
Choppers and bobbers are not my thing. Scooters are also not my thing. I will support your right to ride a bobber until they pry the angled digital tire gauge out of my cold dead hands. Bobbers look comfy to me and I respect that – comfy works for me. Choppers simultaneously shout “hey, look at me” and “hey, what are you lookin’ at?” The thing that I respect about choppers though is the amount of real fabrication craft on display with most of them. Scooters just scare me – those small wheels. I lean in another direction.
One of my favorite bikes is a custom made machine by O.Ray Courtney using a 1930 Henderson as a base. It is a jaw dropper of art deco excess and I saw it on Bikeexif a while back. What an incredible piece of sheet metal sculpture. I also like the looks of an old Parilla 250cc race bike for pretty much the opposite reasons; it is spare, cut down and devoted to nothing other than the race. The stuff, any of the stuff, cranked out by Germany’s Kaffeemaschine is fine by me. They specialize in, among other things, turning Tonti-frame Moto Guzzi’s into exquisite cafe bikes. Some will disagree. The thought of turning any Guzzi into a cafe bike sends them into paroxysms of spew. To each their own.
On the West coast fabricators and the mechanically inclined have been puttering away in their garages all year long but in the East and Mid-West they have recently dug out of a cold tinker-inhibiting winter. It’s time to get out the box of sockets, the angle grinder and the (god help us) can of gold spray paint to start modding out your ride. I like sitting out at a picnic table with blank paper and a sharpened pencil to hand, a cold IPA within reach and good company to tell me what they think I should be doing to the bike instead of whatever it is I have just sketched out. Good times.
Watch out for bloody knuckles. Do not reach for the spray can until you have found your dust mask, make sure your bike is properly propped up and most of all have a good time.