Custom motorcycles are for the true enthusiast
Dave Pereda of St. Paul, Minn., loves the sound and look of his custom motorcycle — and says both turn heads.
“I say my cycle is basically what a Harley wants to be,” Pereda says. “Most Harley owners buy a stock motorcycle and then spend a lot of money to trick it out.”
The web designer used to ride a Kawasaki Eliminator, but wanted something bigger, louder and built just for him. Pereda’s $20,000 chopper is 100 percent custom, including the rims, brakes, frame, engine and paint.
Experts say motorcycle customization like Pereda's isn't as common as riders buying parts and accessories to reflect the owner's personality.
"A lot of people refer to their motorcycle as custom if they get it painted or just add new wheels," says Greg Klopp, owner of Pro-Performance in Brooklyn Park. "A real custom motorcycle is built from the ground up and doesn't roll off an assembly line."
Mike Jacobson, owner of Jacobson Handcrafted Motorcycles in Hastings, Minn., has been in the industry for more than 18 years and says that a true custom needs to have at least 50 to 100 percent of the bike altered.
"Every part imaginable can be customized," Jacobson says. Klopp agrees and says in order to make sure his clients get the ride they want, they need to do their research.
He suggests that his customers look through magazines to see what appeals to them.
When Klopp built Todd Lambright's $30,000 motorcycle, it was a collaborative effort.
"I wanted to mix some of the old-school lowrider look with the power and technology of the new bikes," says Lambright, a Maple Grove resident and tattoo artist.
He was impressed by Klopp's ability to fabricate his vision of how he wanted it to look and function. Lambright named his custom road bike the "Mean Green Machine" as a nod to the bright green custom paint job. Klopp says it took around eight months to complete Lambright's bobber. The stripped-down and basic style of Lambright's motorcycle reflects a current trend in customized motorcycles.
Jacobson says throwbacks from the 1960s and '70s, like the Captain America bike in "Easy Rider," have gained popularity, with retro bikes being the perfect marriage of old-world aesthetics and high technology.
"The clothes and hairstyles have come back, so why not the motorcycles," Jacobson says.
Both Jacobson and Klopp feel that custom motorcycles are a form of art, but stress the importance that they still have to be ridden.
"My palette is steel and aluminum, and they're beautiful, but I don't look at motorcycles as just art," says Klopp, who has been building motorcycles for more than 30 years. "You need to be able to swing a leg over it and go have fun. I want to see people drive the wheels off them."
And like fine art, custom motorcycles can fetch a handsome price. For a standard fully custom bike, the general range falls between $10,000 to $40,000, but the price can go as high as the ego and wallet allow. Klopp says performance and customization go hand in hand with how much you're willing to spend.
"I can build a motorcycle for $250,000 or $3.5 million, but you need to know how much you can afford," he says.
Custom motorcycles aren't only pricey, but according to Jacobson and Klopp, they usually take around three to six months to build. Because of this, some smaller shops like Jacobson's only do two one-of-a-kind builds a year.
"All original pieces - large or small - consume a great deal of time, but I believe old-world craftsmanship is always worth the wait," says Jacobson, who also repairs and fabricates motorcycle parts year-round.
It took five months for Pereda's bike to be built, but he didn't feel it was complete without a custom paint job. He took his motorcycle to Rowan Lynn Glaser, an award-winning painter and owner of Customized Creations Motorcycle Art in St. Paul, to add the final touches.
"When you add an eye-catching paint job, you have onlookers of all ages stopping to look at your ride," says Glaser, whose designs have been in museums and have been used in national advertisements for Rinehart Racing.
Pereda wanted his bike to stand out, so he had it painted black with a red tribal design, which Glaser says is a "really hot" graphic right now. Pereda's paint job alone took three weeks and cost $2,500.
"Every day, I walk out to my garage and have the satisfaction of knowing that no one else has the same bike as I do," Pereda says.
Pereda, who has been riding for eight years along the Minnesota lakes, admits he loves the attention his custom-built bike brings and that he's a bit of an adventure seeker. Jacobson and Klopp agree that's one of the things that unite most motorcyclists. Klopp says he sees all walks of life inquiring about custom bikes - from attorneys and CEOs to blue-collar workers.
"It's one of the most democratic hobbies I've ever seen," Jacobson says. "There's a common strand that crosses all borders, cultures and even religions. I think it's the way they look, feel and sound. It's freedom."