Chris Burke of CBurke Customs has been pushing out custom bicycles to very selective buyers for a few years. Having built a fleet of custom stretch cruiser, he was making a name for himself in the custom bicycle world. When he was invited to compete in the 2017 Bike Build-Off, he decided an all-out attack on the competition was in order to show the world what he can do. Going up against some of the very best wouldn’t be an easy couple of weeks of welding and grinding. What he delivered to the event in Las Vegas what an eye blistering custom that has so many features that people were literally stunned while viewing the creation. Anyone can see the custom frame and the one-off fork but what about the fender mounts or the rider suspension tucked stealthily under the seat and even the machined spiked cap nuts covering everything?
Chris started with some sticks of tube and slowly created a stretched cruiser frame. The frame consists of a long, slightly arced top tube and highly arced and bent down tube that gracefully make their way to a few inches past where the chain stays would eventually mount. The top tube grafted itself into two arced down tubes that would support the suspension seat mounts. Chris kept the head tube at a very rideable angle knowing that too much rake makes a stretched frame hard to control during a ride. The bottom bracket mount is a tightly rolled tube welded to the down tube.
Chris then welded in a mid-tube before welding in a panel to both sides forming a faux tank (i.e. a great place for artwork). Before Chris was done with the main frame, he went a little old school and peaked the top tube from neck to crotch.
Moving towards the rear, Chris picked a few smaller diameter sticks of steel tube and fitted a set of chain stays. These tubes, with a series of compound bends, were finally welded to the main frame that would eventually fit a massive rear wheel. Note the custom cut and very form fitting dropouts that accentuate the rest of the curves on this machine.
With the frame complete, Chris added a seat of mounts for a suspended seat and mounts that would hold the rear fender in place.
The front fork is a custom suspended springer styled unit…..kind of. Instead of fork legs a set of rounded and arced legs that match the tire diameter were fabricated that match on both sides. From those rounded legs a set of custom dropouts were welded on while a set of mounts to attach the fork to the head tube and to the “spring”. Instead of an actual spring, the front fork was designed around a Fox adjustable air stock that is held in place with a set of polished spacers and clamped in place with a set of polished brass washers and spiked cap nuts. On top of the head tube was a custom mount made for the top of the air shock.
The rolling stock on this machine consists of a 29x3 front wheel and a 26x5 rear. Both wheels were built with 72 polished spokes each by Robert at Most Hated Bicycle Parts with a set of red anodized nipples. Wrapped around the rear custom wheels is a Vee 26”x4” rear tire and a up front is a matching Vee 29”x1.9”. The rear hub is a polished basic wide single speed coaster brake model while the front is a beautiful sealed bearing polished unit.
The accoutrements to Chris’s wicked machine are numerous. He took a 32” big wheeled bagger motorcycle rear fender and after some creative cutting and custom peak to match the frame he used it to cover the rear tire. The seat is also a motorcycle bobber number the has a custom polished aluminum shroud mounted with polished brass rivets and some wicked plush leather work to keep the rider in comfort. There is a little surprise under the seat for added cush. Some custom mounts were welded to the frame which mounts a mountain bike shock to the bottom of the seat. The matching custom hand grips and the one off kickstand were milled by Tim at Michigan Built.
For the finish…yeah, that retina searing custom paint job. After Chris finished the massive amounts of bodywork EZ Customs out of Clearwater, Florida did the numerous coats of different colored flake. After the color was laid down a very awesome lowrider inspired custom airbrush murals were sprayed to both sides of the tank insert.
In the end, Chris Burke of CBurke customs ended up with one of the most beautiful bicycles we have ever featured. If you ever get a chance to see the Muerte Roja in person spend a half hour checking out all the amazing details whether it is the fabrication quality, the amazing details in the part choices and geometry or the stunning paintjob.
There are many different kinds of bike builders. You have the people that purchase everything new and build everything from scratch. There are the people that use what they have laying around. There are people that polish and powder coat everything and yet others that leave everything raw for that weathered look.
Adam Copeland is a little bit of each. Though most of his builds look vintage there is very well thought out and advanced geometry involved, hard to find parts installed and his builds have a distinctive flow to them. This would be expected since Adam is also the owner of Patina Kustoms in Elk Grove, California.
Adam started with a very normal 1960’s Huffy men’s frame. With a few minutes of time with the cutoff wheel the frame was missing everything from a few inches behind the seat post and several inches behind the head tube. Using a lot of new steel tube (and a little used pieces) Adam stretched the back of the frame and brought the saddle height down to a much more respectful 18”. Not only was the rider height dropped but also Adam added much needed space around the rear tire and welded in a healthy set of chain stays. Adam designed the new back half of the frame to the original front section so when welded together the head tube has added rake for that low down nastier look. Note the piece of tube welded in so that the chain has a direct path from chain ring to cog.
Up front, a 24”Rat Trap springer fork was used. Adam went with an old school trick by flipping the fork rockers around so the action rods now sit in front of the fork. It changes the forks action nominally but sure looks a lot cleaner in conjunction with the added rake. Under the Rat Trap is the front wheel from a Schwinn Tandem which measures to a thin 1 3/8”. Wrapped around the tandem wheel is an original Allstate tire that Adam had somehow picked up for $1.00.
On the front of the springer is a custom mounted Doo Ray headlight. Above the head tube is a standard quill styled handle bar clamp which hold the Patina Kustoms STDtear drop bars in place. (If you have not heard, Adam makes some super cool bars…you may want to look into that if the need arises).
The drivetrain consist of the tried and true basics. Up front is a Schwinn skip tooth chain ring that had been rechromed. Two skip tooth chains were put together to cover the full length of the drivetrain. The rear consists of a Sturmy Archer hub with a Sturmy Twinshift which is clamped within arm’s reach to the bottom rail. The rear tire is a 24”x3” Fattio that engulfs a double rim setup. For those not in the know a double rim is two hoops fastened together side by side. Then the hub is spoked using both hoops. This assembly requires two rim strips and two tubes which are then equally inflated within a single tire. That is the old school cool way to go fat.
Adam says he has about $50.00 total into the build but this machine is worth much more in time, effort and super coolness.
From KBM January 2016:
In this day and age bad things happen to good people too often. The Los Ryderz Bicycle Club has done amazing things for their community for some time and unfortunately were cleaned out when their building was broken in to. The bikes, parts, and the fabrication tools were long gone.
A handful of bicycle builders partnered with the awesome Amy Tuleen (of OBC fame) and decided to use their skills and give something back. Everyone started scrounging for parts and rolling tube in order to make a one of a kind raffle bicycle. Having some of the best builders around getting together on one build hasn’t happened in the past. We were sure the outcome would be everything you would expect. Amy took care of all the tickets sales and advertising.
Amy, T-Flo, Pee-Wee, and the rest of OBC helped spread the noise for this build and let the masses know all the information and how to purchase tickets.
People around the world bought over 120 tickets for $20.00 apiece and watched the build come together on the Custom Builders Challenge Facebook page. The winner was picked at the end of November with Skipton Skiba being the winner. Of course, the funds from ticket sales were given to the Los Ryderz Bicycle Club to build their shop back up again.
Lance at Tudorbuilt was tasked with frame fabrication. He drew up the initial design making sure that it would be rider friendly for both male and female riders. The frame consists of the neck to neck head tube design that is almost the standard fare for Tudorbuilt bikes. The long sloping backbone runs the top chain stay where it reverses angle and heads to the lower chain stay area. The downtube heads straight to the ground in a hard arc before heading the rear of the bicycle. Lance went a little off the wall with the bottom bracket shell mount by making it with a long scallop of tube from the lower tube. Jimmy Peek at Peek Cycles donated the bottom bracket shell. He added a mid-bar to the front end for a little extra support and a place for more custom paint. The chain stays were designed with the same arc style of the bottom bracket shell mount. The dropouts are tucked nicely between the series of tube and were fabricated and donated by Joe Cavaliere of Lowtide Customs fame.
Back up front is the Lowlife Bike’s Knuckle forks donated by Gary Sheron. Custom legs had to be made fabricated to fit the tall head tube and head tube angle. The triples trees were polished up nicely and a good amount of bling to the front end. The fork is topped with a polished neck donated by Chad Morgan of Chop Shop Customz. To keep the front wheel pointed in the proper direction and set of custom bars were fabricated then donated by Peek Cycles.
The drivetrain consist of a three piece crank set and chain ring dontated by Peek Cycles. Tudorbuilt put together a series of chains to run to the rear hub. The rear hub and shifter were donated by PCB Joe and Pacific Coast Bicycles.
The outrageous rolling stock consists of 26”x4” hoops that were donated by LowTide Customs. Gary Sheron donated the wrap for the hoops which were done before the wheels were built. Matt Molner at Matt’s Bicycle Center stepped up and donated the front hub. Chad Morgan of Chop Shop Customz donated the 26” Thick Slick tires, tubes.
The frame ended up being painted with a blistering silver metal flake platinum and a flaked deep blue which matches the wheel wrap perfectly. The silver head tube matched the triple trees perfectly then cuts down in a single scallop fashion on both the top and mid tubes. Randy and Carrie Blackledge donates a hefty amount of cash and the flake for the paint.
The only thing missing from this beautiful custom ride is the accessories. Danny Hazlewood of King Zebba Custom Cruisers contributed a seat, pedals, grips, and a custom built kickstand.
With all the parts in house and the fabrication complete, Tudor assembled the bike just days before the raffle where it was sent to its new home (Chop Shop Customz took care of all shipping costs).
Bad things can turn into good things when the right people are involved.
From Italy with love
The great thing about custom bicycles is that there is no boundaries. People on every continent in every walk of life have custom bicycles. Roberto Oddone is a car guy, motorcycle guy and also a bicycle guy that runs N.T.T Kustom. He spends his days at Mirafiori Motor Village in the providence of Turin, Italy. Though his garage if filled with Jeeps and Harley Davidsons he is also a fabricator of custom bicycles.
Taking the design pieces from some of the more popular chopper master builders Roberto fabricated a frame with tons of lift and stretch. Your eyes first catch the swooping top tube plunges to points under the seat where you then notice the massive rear tire / fender combination.
Getting back to the frame. It is very reminiscent dimensionally with the popular choppers from the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The frame features dual down tubes that eventually meet up with the bottom bracket shell tubes before heading back to the chain stays. Behind the main frame is a jungle gym of tube to mount a single shock/spring assembly for a suspension seat before heading down to the 7 speed multiple cog/ derailleur setup which offsets a single speed cog that ends the drivetrain at the rear wheel. The whole frame was hand fabricated and bent out of Cro-moly and parts were even bent using his grandmother’s dresser.
The main focus of this machine is the massive 240 / 40X18 rear wheel. It was custom fabricated by taking two automobile wheels that were scored from the local junkyard where Roberto is known to spend more than a little time. Once they were sliced into sections and tacked in place, Roberto fabricated the thick spokes before welding them to the outer ring and inner hub. Hooked to that hub is a large hydraulic disk brake that will slow this monster down. Wrapping around the whole assembly is a ContiRace Attack motorcycle tire.
The front tire was fabricated in much of the same way as the rear started with a downhill mountain bike hoop. There is no way to have a stock fork that could reach from the front axle to the head tube. Roberto ended up fabricating a stretched sprung girder fork that incorporates two dampers, a headlight mount and disk brake assembly. The springs are recycled from several Volkswagen Beetle hoods. Above the fork is the handle bars the house the controls. The hydraulic brake master cylinders, shifter for the Shimano Alvino 7 speed assembly and a set of rear-view mirrors.
Right before final assembly all the frame pieces and the custom built rear fender were bathed is a bunch of burn orange metallic paint and cleared. During assembly Roberto’s fabrication skills really show with the custom fender braces, license plate mount and rear axle covers.
Since completion, the bicycle has logged tons of miles and many hours. Roberto’s ride is a proven cruiser showing that even larger, more custom bicycles can be riders if you spend the time to design the chassis correctly with proven geometry and pick the right components to add to your build.
There is a rare class of custom bicycle builders who rework existing bicycles until they are a new and much better version of once was. They follow in the footsteps of 1930’s coachbuilders like Harry Westergard. These icons took stock higher end automobiles and customized them with such style and grace that you couldn’t tell they weren’t factory builds but you also couldn’t agree what model they started out as. These coach builders were true visionaries. They realized that you could make small changes and additions to develop a better flow with the lines. There was no need to chop the top of a 1936 Ford six inches when you could chop it two inches but then reshape the hood and deck lid to match.
Jim Henderson could be classified as a coachbuilder. He entered the Rat Rod Bike Bicycle Build-Off 11 with a unique vision. While others were cutting bikes apart and bolting doo-dads on, Jim spent many hours of working vintage tin, test fitting and even hours of graphic design to create a masterpiece. By the end of the Build-Off he had everyone drooling on their keyboards. Upon entering the competition, he brazenly posted “The concept for Decoluxe is to build a 1940's era bicycle that could have existed but didn't. The bike will hopefully look like it had been found in the back of a warehouse in a once thriving metropolis somewhere in industrialized America. Opulent uses of steel and chrome mixed with the graceful lines and colors of the art deco movement will set the tone. The grime and grit of use will cement it in time. In the end my hope is that Decoluxe with evoke a warm nostalgic feeling of that bygone era in history.”
We all know that vintage women’s frames are less desirable to collectors and therefore are worth less than half of a men’s frame in the same condition. Jim decided to step out of the mold and make women’s frames worth their weight. He did that by doing some molding of his own. He designed a mold that when completed was a “top tube” of sorts that can be attached to vintage women’s frames. He dubbed these pieces the TRM Convertible Tank which he has started doing limited runs of and sells. The design is based on 1940’s art deco bike tanks with two headlight pods. The graceful design flows beautifully and will convert most women’s frame from something usually piled in the corner to something. Many people have grafted the TRM Convertible Tank to different vintage frames without much effort.
Jim started with a 1941 Elgin women’s frame and fitted his signature TRM Convertible Tank to it. Though it fit very well he added several inches to the rear to fit the frame a bit better. Other than this addition the frame was left relatively stock. Like the coachbuilders from nearly 100 years ago, sometimes less is more. The front fork is a CWC Shockmaster fork which is a pretty rare piece. The twin chrome springs and front supports really fits the style of the rest of the machine. Plus, the fork would also leave enough room for the headlights on the TRM Convertible Tank.
The next item Jim designed and fabricated was the fender set. Anyone could have bolted on a set of fenders but to get the look but Jim ended up using three different Monark deep fenders to fabricate the rear fender. Think of the street sweeper style of a Pierce-Arrow or vintage Cord automobile. The front fender was modified with some hammer and steel work to have the fender fit the front fork as if it were done in the factory. Details like this go unnoticed by most but are necessary to form the overall look of the bicycle.
Nothing says “vintage” like a drop stand on a bicycle. Not having one laying around Jim used a J.C Higgins Colorflow fender brace and some 5/16 stainless rod and after many dies and directions on the bender created both a left and right side that were welded together than welded to new fabricated mounts. Using a piece of a barbeque tong he bought at the local thrift store he fabricated a clip for the stand to hold in in place when the drop stand was not in use. Once the drop stand was functional in the down position and followed the lines on the bike in the up position everything was welded in place. The drop stand was made to look like a fender brace and crash rail when it is in riding position.
Jim scrounged together set of mismatched ColorFlow skirt guards from his stash. Once mocked up he used a CWC Western Flyer chain guard and some creative cutting to get the skirt guards and chain guard to look like a single piece while still keeping the chain clearances. With a ton of planning Jim was able to hide the mounting tabs and bolts for the guards. He took another piece of fender and cut it into sections to give the appearance that it passes through the frame. Jim then used T-nuts and had them welded under the bottom so once the skirt guards were mounted no fasteners would be visible. In the end “there are a total of 56 fasteners holding the fenders, braces and guards in place and only two of them are visible. The two that are visible were purposely made visible to look like original rivets holding the custom drop stand holder (made from BBQ tongs) and can only be seen when the stand is lowered”, he says.
Covering the drop stand bolts Jim used some metal discs he picked up years ago and had an elevator bolt welded to the back of each. After a session with a drill motor and a scotch brite pad they were ready to be installed.
Keeping with the vintage look a prewar long spring saddle was torn down. After a metal work session that fixed years of abuse Jim mounted art deco interior car door handle to the nose before padding it with high density foam and reupholstered with pieces from a thrift store leather coat. It was bolted to a Lucky 7 seat post before being slid and clamped into its resting place on this beautiful machine.
Moving up front, Jim added a 1930s/40s era Torrington art deco handlebar stem to Huffy middle weight handlebars then capped the ends with Foxgrips reproduction Airflo grips.
The drivetrain consist of set of Prewar Elgin triple step wheels wrapped in Schwalbe Fat Frank 26x2.35 tires which with some magic, chemicals and time have all the logos removed. Keeping the vintage flare a Lazy Heart chain ring was added and wrapped in a prewar Diamond skip tooth chain. To get the crank rotation is a set of Persons majestic tear drop pedals.
A ½” EMT conduit elbow was sliced down to mate against the skirt guards. A nut was welded inside of each so a set of LED tail lights could be screwed into the EMT then wired to an onboard battery.
As if all of the above wasn’t enough for the best of custom bike builders, Jim decided he needed to add some custom art deco fender braces. They were hand formed from steel tubing made for lamp pipes. The total length of tubing in the fender braces adds up to over twenty-one feet.
With fabrication complete the entire bike was taken down to bare metal and then painted to look vintage. Jim also did the pin striping. To keep the factory look the Decoluxe and Elgin logos were designed by Jim and silk screened on the bike.
Amazingly, the bike was built in three months for the RRBBO-11. Since then it has been getting rave reviews and is the mascot for Jim’s TRM Convertible Tank.
Jim did all of the work on the bike except for the welding which was professionally done by Charlie Barnett of Unique Motorcars (Gadsden, Alabama).
Lee Workman of Workman Reflections (Gadsden, Alabama)