the longshot

In the earlier days of custom bikes many builders were assembling rides from parts available at the local bicycle shop or mail order. The full one-off frame building that we see now was only done by very few. That doesn’t mean that era of customs were any less than what we see now. In fact there was much greater market for custom bicycle parts that there is now.
The Huffy Rail was a great bicycle straight from the factory. Not having the popularity of the Schwinn Krate models they were no less cool. In fact, many of the more “off-brand” bikes have increased in value surpassing the Schwinn models in the last few years. Value aside, 60’s and 70s muscle bikes are cool. Throw the right custom parts on them and they are about the coolest rides rockin’ the cruise spot. If you know anything about hot rods you will know the 60’s brought us a new style and design for customs and hotrods but the 70’s took those new design and styles and set them on their head. The “Gassers” of the 60’s turned into the “Street Freaks” of the 70’s.
Enter Scott Burcham. Scott has had more than his share of muscle bikes and has done his share of collecting and restoring. When Scott’s son Ryan couldn’t even ride a bike Scott made a promise that he would build his son a banana seat bike for him to ride. Since Ryan is now of age Scott kept his promise and as any cool dad would do built his son a bike that would make the rest of the kids drool over.
Scott had purchased the Huffy 20” frame five years ago from his friend Mark Wilson and never bothered to take it out of the box. When it was time to start the build Scott blew the dust off the box and cut the tape. He pulled the frame from the box and knew this was the starting point of something great. No great custom muscle bike would be running a stock fork. Nothing says 70’s muscle more than the Top Fueler fork. Original Top Fueler forks are long gone and they were re-popped in a very limited run a few years ago. Finding one is impossible but Scott had one he picked up in the past stashed waiting for a home. One cannot simply get the “muscle” look running the same sized tires front and back so Scott decided a 16” model fit the bill. The front wheel was nothing more than a hoop and an axle, a long ago eBay purchase. The Bike Stop in Blue Springs, MO laced up the front wheel. The handlebars, stem and other odds and ends were all from past eBay purchases or swaps with friends from back when I was collecting banana seat bikes.

The chain guard was off of a 24" Huffy Super Stock 5. In true customizer form Scott found a generic bracket for some sort of screen door repair at the hardware store that was the exact length and predrilled to work with the chain guard and frame.

Scott kept it old school when it came to the drivetrain. The chain is an NOS Huffy item he got from Mark Wilson. The derailleur is an NOS part combined with some nice used pieces to make one really good one. The shifter #5 pool ball was an eBay purchased and Scott removed the OE ball from the NOS shifter and machined this diminutive pool ball to fit. The pedals are NOS Wald pedals and with the "Orange" ribs they look like they were a perfect match for this bicycle. .
Scott initially had an NOS set of HUFFY XKE 990 tires for this build but decided they were probably more deserving on a full-on resto of a bike deserving them (though we disagree). So he went with more common and readily available black-walls. The rear slick is a 20 X 2.125 and the front is a 16 X 1-3/8.
The rest of the parts list shows the detail of the build and shows no skimping on the custom parts. The green striped Persons Schwinn Stingray seat is mounted to the vintage 48” sissy bar complete with a NOS Huffy sissy bar pad. Hanging under the sissy bar and around the rear tire is a wheelie bar by “Raleigh Ron”. There was also a part pile raiding session where Scott was able to pick and pull from his lifelong friend Stuart Bays.


After initial assembly of all the parts Scott rid the purple paint from the Huffy frame and replaced it with a green to yellow back to green fade powder coat job by Groody Brothers in Kansas City, KS.
Scott came up with the name Longshot because he thought it would be fitting due to the length of the bike and the poll ball shift knob. He had the artwork done to match the original font of the original Huffy Slingshot decal package.
So there you have it. Kustomized Bicycle Magazine proves that you don’t need a welding table nor plasma cutter to build something that is custom and super cool. The right combination of parts is what makes an outstanding bicycle.

Better clean your plate

Bicycles are simple machines. They have very few moving parts compared to their larger brethren like motorcycles and cars. A few bearings, a simple drivetrain is really all it takes. So when building a custom bike it should be really simple as well, right?  Sure, coping corners of round tube at angles, milling bottom bracket shells and head tubes, and getting all the proper measurements so everything is square and in-line……whoa…hold it.  We have just taken all the simple out of the common bicycle. So what would you do if you really wanted to build your own custom bike, you had a picture in your head of what you wanted, and you didn’t have an entire machine shop at your disposal? 
Boro, from Zaragoza, Spain decided he would build his own bike without welding anything. Though that seems simple enough in theory he also wanted certain design elements like fluid lines and sharp edges. But it also needed the comforts all bicycles should have. Front and rear suspension….check, disk brakes and multiple gears to handle the beautiful rolling hills of northeastern Spain’s Aragon region….check, light and comfortable enough for a quick trip to the pub or a ride overlooking the Ebro River while riding around the Nuestra Señora del Pilar basilica…check.

Being a realistic type of guy and knowing there was a lack of welding capabilities decided the easiest way to build his custom ride would to have a bolt together design. After getting his design in order and approved by his girlfriend Keli, he enlisted a shop in Barcelona to get the large aluminum sheets that would make up his frame and fork cut to the proper profile. From there he hit the local hardware store for a sizeable amount of threaded rod, aluminum tube, and polished cap nuts.
The frame plates were bolted together with pieces of aluminum tube used as spacers with threaded rod going thru the frame plate, tube, and out the other frame plate then tightened up using the cap nuts.  Pretty simple and efficient way of doing it really. The front fork used a cut down BMX fork for the head tube and a set of bosses that the aluminum plates are bolted to. The pivot is a pillow block assembly and a mountain bike coil over shock.
For seating comfort another pillow block set was used to give suspension to the no name Brooks styled seat mounted to a seat post hooked to two coil over shocks mounted to the frame.

The bikes drivetrain consists of the standard US sized bottom bracket and three piece crank set topped with Xpedo Travers pedals. A half link chain sends the pedal power to the rear hub.
Rolling stock is made from a set of 28”X80mm hoops with the front hub being a Shimano Alfine Dynamo hub that had some modifications done to it to fit the disk brake. The rear hub is a Shimano Alfine 11 speed hub. Capping the hoops are a set of Schwalbe Big Ben 28”x 2” tires. 
Both front and rear hubs were mated to 200mm Avid BB7 mechanical disk brakes. The BLB Bronson handle bars are fitted with some retro inspired inverted brake levers all hooked together to slow down the mass of aluminum and 11 speeds.

So building a custom bicycle is not a simple process. But with a well thought out design, some knowledge of the mechanical components, and the ability to use some tool you can turn something pretty wicked from the shop.

gear head customs

Head Customs may be your place. Do you need some really nice TIG welding done then give John a call.
Here is a brief look into Gear Head Customs with owner John Lerew. Past, present, and future all rolled up in one. You can find him find Gear Head Customs on Facebook and John is always available to build you want you need and answer any questions you may have.


(KBM): When did your shop form and what is your background pertaining to fabrication and design?
(John Lerew): Gear Head Customs was formed officially in 2014 and designed to focus on custom bike builds but ive been doing custom fab work for about 20 years, part time. My full time work is in the fire service which affords me a lot of opportunity for shop time. I cut my teeth on rock crawlers and mini sand rails than built a few motorcycles. A Shovelhead I built from scratch has been featured in mags. I’ll still take any type of job that come in if it interests or challenges me. I have a hard time sMost builders have a style whether it’s Chopper, Stretch or even theme bike. They do what they do very well and if you dig that style then that is the guy you go to. We stumbled on Gear Head Customs a while back and quickly realized that its owner John Lerew doesn’t have a specific style but can build just about anything. If you want a trike with deep dish aluminum car wheels he can do it. Do you want a stretched cruiser with a funky springer fork then Gear aying no when someone puts their faith in me to make their ideas happen.

(KBM): Who originally got you into bicycles and can take credit for your hands-on interest?
(John Lerew): I used to race BMX and freestyle as a kid and my bike was my freedom, so it spent the night in my bedroom and almost religiously it was torn apart, cleaned and lubed while listening to tunes in my room. At 15 I got my first car, a ‘56 Chevy Bel Air, after that it was quite a few years before I started working on bikes again but you never forget your first love! I grew up pretty poor with no men in the house, so my hands on skills kinda came out of necessity. If I wanted something I had to be creative to make it happen.

(KBM): What is your favorite bike you have built to date?
(John Lerew): I’m kinda weird about that, usually by the time I’m done I’ve poured everything I got into it so I’m kinda over it. I gotta say my favorite bike is my next one, cause that’s the one that excites me the most, although I still have separation anxiety when they leave to their new owner!

(KBM): With the explosion of the custom bike world in the last few years where do you see this scene going?
(John Lerew): The social aspect of rides and crawls is really helping to push it to the next level and even the most top end bike you can imagine is still far cheaper than other custom vehicles so it allows everyone an opportunity to be involved at one level or another

(KBM): If someone hasn’t seen Gear Head Customs bike how would you describe its style?
(John Lerew): You know, I pull a lot from hot rods and motorcycles but I don’t think you could look at a group of bikes and say “that one came from Gear Head” I really try to challenge myself and do something I haven’t done before and I want people to have to stand in front of it and look close to see all the subtle custom features that tie the bike together

(KBM): Is your shop a one stop shop? Do you build custom bikes that are ready to ride or a series of pieces that can be purchased together?
(John Lerew): Right now I’ve been doing one off custom builds and parts for folks and shows. I do have some parts in mind to pre-produce and offer in small amounts but right now I have no desire to stand in the shop and stamp out 100 of the same thing. I did design and still sell an upgrade for the Harbor Freight tubing roller that’s a bolt on kit and makes it a much more usable tool. I’ve sold several to builders I respect, and its actually cool to think I have a small hand in all the cool bikes that roll thru em. “Albeit really small” In doing the research, I’ve put a lot of time in the idiosyncrasies of these rollers. I’m always willing to talk with and help anyone starting to use one. I also plan on selling them this year at OBC so if you want to save on shipping you can get them in person and even pre-buy one to secure it for pick up at the show

(KBM): What is your favorite style of bike to build: chopper, bobber, stretched cruiser?
(John Lerew): I enjoy all styles, the more it makes me scratch my head to achieve the better.

(KBM): When not in the shop building bikes what do you spend your time doing?
(John Lerew): People do stuff outside the shop? Why? Hehee. I box at Busted Knuckles gym a couple times a week and spar whenever I can. Sometimes, if I’m out of argon, I’ll bass fish or go to concerts with my son, He’s really my partner in crime!


(KBM): What is your favorite tool in the shop and what is usually playing on the stereo?
(John Lerew): I guess I gotta say my Gear Head Customs tubing roller cures cancer and creates world peace, but aside from that, it’s probably Google. With that tool I can find info to make any other tool I need! As for music, its several generations of Punk, Psycobilly, Metal, but lately I think my age must be catching up to me I find myself jamming Lounge music “no idea where that comes from?” but usually Rancid, NOFX, Pennywise

(KBM): If a person hasn’t had access to the settings, tools, and skills like welding, fabrication, paint, etc. What is a good first step to take in learning what it takes to build a project bike?
(John Lerew): I used to have guys ask me to build them a gate and I’d tell them for less money they can get a small mig, do it themselves and by the time they were done, they’d be able to weld. They would own a welder, and no one gets hurt if a gate fails. It’s all about the repetition. A single bike doesn’t afford the same repetition and can get someone hurt if not done well. Design a bike how you want it and bring it to a competent builder that will work with your ideas and let you do the parts you know how to do. If you want to learn to fabricate take a community college class and you will even have access to equipment you couldn’t afford to buy and someone to watch over you as you learn. Also ask any bike builder out there questions, the community is so strong no one will turn you away and usually happy to chat with you and steer you right.

(KBM): What is next for your shop? Upcoming projects, lines of parts?
(John Lerew): The business is young and growing! I’m in the process of purchasing the shop I’m in so there’s gonna be some changes comingto streamline my ability to take on more jobs at once. Watch for Gear Head Customs World Headquarters coming soon!!

gear ratio 101

Most of us aren’t looking to get that extra tenth of a second on the next lap when we are cruising down the boulevard on a 50 pound steel rolling work of art. But all of us defiantly don’t want to be sweating and gasping for breath and the last one to the local hot spot after a long hill climb. The easiest way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you is to properly set up your bike with the most advantageous gear ratio for the riding you normally do.
Let us briefly explain the parts that are a factor in the gear ratio on your bike. A single speed is the most basic with just the chain ring and cog. The chain ring is the front toothed sprocket attached directly to the bicycle crank arms. The cog is the rear toothed sprocket attached to the rear hub of the bicycle. Delivering the power from the chain ring to the cog is the chain. With some simple math you can figure out your gear ratio. If you add an internally geared rear hub your gear ratio has now multiplied your gear ratio set by the number of speeds in the rear hub (usually 3,5,7 or 8). You can also have a derailleur system won’t be discussed here as 99% of cruisers have no such system. There are also belt drives, shaft drives, gearboxes, continuous variable transmissions, and centrifugal systems as well but they are rare and non-cruiser related as well.

Internally geared hubs use internal planetary or elliptical gears which are actuated by a shifter to move the power line from gear to gear inside the hub. The nice thing is that they have a single chain ring and single cog, are not any harder to maintain than a standard non-geared system. There is a bit of difference in the setup instructions but any competent mechanic can install and set up the system. Internally geared hubs can range from two gears to 14. It is safe to note that the number of gears usually reflects the price. Due to all the internal components inside the hub they also tend to weigh two to three times more than a standard hub.
What does “gear ratio” mean? Gear Ratio is the ratio of the angular speed of the initial or driving member of a gear train or equivalent mechanism to that of the final or driven member (Yup, this definition comes straight from my Mechanical Engineering 101 book from college. I knew those books would come in handy).
Or to us bike people: The number of crank revolutions per revolution of the rear wheel.
How do you figure out your gear ratio? On a single speed bicycle figuring out the gear ratio is very easily because there is only one gear ratio. Simply divide the number of teeth on the chain ring by the number of teeth on the rear cog.
Example: If you have a 48 tooth chain ring and a 19 tooth cog the gear ratio is 2.53; if you have a 48 tooth chain ring and a 16 tooth cog the gear ratio is 3.00.

How does the gear ratio affect your riding? If you do the math and your number goes higher by either putting on a smaller cog or a larger chain ring then you will have a larger top speed but also makes it harder to accelerate. If the opposite occurs and either put a larger cog or smaller chain ring then you will be able to accelerate much easier but your top speed will drop.
So say you live somewhere with a lot of hills and spend a good bit of time straining to climb them…A larger cog or a smaller chain ring will really help you pedal through the hills without burning up your legs and lungs so easily.  But also if you live somewhere pretty flat where you can ride at a pretty quick pace you would gain efficiency by running a smaller cog or larger chain ring…maybe even both.
Internally geared hubs have multiple ratios. (We will use the popular Shimano Nexus 3 speed SG-3C41.) It is a standard internally geared three speed with coaster brake. Shifting is done with a bell crank style shifter. It has an easily changeable cog. Its gear ratio total difference is 186%. The first internal gear ratio is 0.733, second is 1.0 and third is 1.360.
Here is the math using the first chain ring and cog example listed above of 48/19 (2.53 gear ratio) if you installed the Shimano 3 speed hub you would apply the percentage to the gear ratio of 2.53.
First Gear:  2.53 gear ratio X 0.733 = 1.854
Second Gear: 2.53 gear ration X 1.0 = 2.53
Third Gear: 2.53 gear ratio X 1.360 = 3.441

The nice thing about the Shimano hub is the ability to change cogs in minutes with the removal of a snap ring and washer and after changing the cog, reinstallation. Shimano and many other companies make everything from a 16 tooth to 23 tooth rear cog for a vast array of gear ratios. There are even a few manufactures that make offset sprockets to help us custom cruiser guys the ability to get the chain around fat wheel and tires.
Things to note:
After many years of riding with our friends and fellow builders’ and taking a census of gear ratios we have found that the 2.75 is the perfect for most riders using a 24” or 26” tire. You can get there with many different tooth counts front and back but this is where we usually aim. If using an internally geared hub then shoot for this number in second gear. Example: Using the Shimano 3-Speed listed above, Second gear would be approximately 2.75. Of course this is of personal preference.

SWAG V4.0 Portaband Table

Kustomized Bicycle Magazine did an extensive review on SWAG Offroad’s square tube roller dies last year. We were very impressed with the dies and the companies’ owner promised to keep us updated with new product. Last month they released a new version of their portable band saw mounting table. What is this you say? If you mount a portable band saw to a table it no longer is portable. Well yes, this is true. But we have priced an upright band saw that was of quality and sized for a small fabrication shop and found that at a minimum you would be dropping $1,500.00 and up to $4,500.00 very easily. If you are looking for a band saw to cut smaller parts (dropouts, fish plates and filler pieces) there just aren’t tools available for the DIY guys. It is also made in the USA.
SWAG’s V4.0 Portaband Table design is very simple. It consists of 1/8” thick bolt on steel legs a 3/16” thick steel plate top. Both are formed on a CNC press brake for perfect cuts and bends. The table dimensions are 9.75 tall, 11" deep & 13.5" wide. With the saw installed the overall dimensions are 22" tall, 18" deep & 13.5" wide. The legs have 90 degree bends on the bottom so the whole assembly can be easily mounted to a tooling stand or work bench.
The V4.0 Portaband Table is designed to fit the Milwaukee 6232-20, 6232-21, 6238-20 & 6238-21 Deep throat portable band saws and provide for a very simple install. It is as easy as sliding the adjustable foot guard to the furthest forward position then inserting the saw into the stand and tighten the provided red thumb knob. So not only can you have a vertical band saw but in seconds you can remove the saw from the table and use it as a standalone band saw. All without requiring any tools.

Using the saw once installed in the table was simple. (Note that we picked up the foot switch for ease of use and extra safety.) The table top is large enough to fit 90% of what we do while fabricating and allows enough room to be able to use a pretty large chunk of ¼” thick flat plate we had lying around. The table top blade slot is tight and keeps the blade true and provides plenty of room all around the blade to keep your feed location and post cut area wide open. There was no movement in the saw in relationship to the table once mounted. The table top also has two built in dual miter gauge slides to aid in getting those exact cuts. We pulled a miter gauge slid from the table saw and it worked flawlessly. Swag also offers a miter gauge that fits as well.
If you have a different band saw including models from Dewalt, Makita, Harbor Freight and Grizzly they also have a Portaband Table for you. Check their website for the proper model number to fit your saw.

The table is $124.95 and the Milwaukee 6232-20 Deep Cut Band Saw is $279.00. The foot switch was $26.95. Compare this vs the Drake 14-10 Vertical Band Saw and $4,515.00 I think I know what is the most cost effective product for our small fabrication shop.
So if you are looking for a cheaper alternative to an all-out vertical band saw for you shop that also allows you to use a portable band saw as a portable band saw then this is your product. It is perfect for those with limited space and with the foot switch accessory (offered separately) it is a safe and robust tool in a small package. SWAG Offroad has proven again that they have innovative design and engineering and offer quality products at a price point that everyone can afford.

fist full of peek

We love new products. Jimmy of Peek Cycles has dropped some new parts on the crowd that look amazing. Jimmy is a former Custom Builders Challenge winner and innovative designer that is on top of the bike builder list. Check out the Peek Cycle Knuckle Bars. They are available with or without a crossbar and can be set up with some pull back or drag bar style. These are released but not on the market yet. Jimmy is hoping to have some ready for you at OBC this year or contact Peek Cycles and pre-order a set. Be the first on the block to run these bars.

Chop Shop Customz Dropouts

Chad over at Chop Shop Customz has a new line of dropout available for purchase. They ship to you with the standard 3/8” axle slot and come in three different models currently (with more to come we hear). At $10.00 a pair it actually saves money to purchase them then do it yourself.

The Pac Man rear are 5.5” long, 2.5” wide with 1 leg angled at 30 degrees and are $10.00. (they also have a blank set of rears for $8.00).

The Fork Dropouts are 5” high and 4” wide with a bottom fork gusset for a 1.25” fork leg. They even come with the cool speed holes predrilled. 

We have seen many great things come from Chop Shop Customz. If you have some wild custom design you may also want to drop them a line. You can contact them through Facebook ( or through email at and at their store at

Next month is the one weekend of the year that all custom bike lovers plan for. OBC will be rolling into Las Vegas on April 21st and will last through the 24th 2016. For those who aren’t in the know, this is a yearly event where custom bike people descend on Las Vegas for a long weekend to hang out, go on many scheduled rides (and some not so scheduled), hit the pool party and generally get to see all the great people you haven’t seen since last year.
The Golden Nugget will be the place to be again this year. They are always very accommodating and allow bikes to be brought through the lobby and into the hotel rooms. In our opinion it is the nicest hotel / casino on Freemont Street. The rooms are quiet and well maintained. The Bistro has great food and Vic & Anthony's is amazing. There is a water slide that goes through the middle of a shark tank…..
Though the show runners have yet to define the actual schedule we know from the past: Friday and Saturday have a series of rides stopping at some of the hot spots and lesser known hot spots in Las Vegas.
Of course there is the mandatory morning ride to the Las Vegas sign. It can be grueling for those who tipped too many back the night before so be aware. Last year there were a few issues with the rides not starting as posted and one or two that really just went a mile or two then broke up. But OBC has had such a huge growth that I am sure management didn’t expect the massive amount of riders to show up. We have no doubt that they are on point this year. In fact we have been informed that OBC will be creating an event on Facebook for each ride scheduled which people can join and receive updates and alerts for the rides they want to attend. Those OBC guys are geniuses. The best ride in our opinion to date was the strip ride from 2014 on Friday night. Imagine 300-500 of you closest new riding buddies headed up South Las Vegas Blvd. at 9:00 on a Friday night all the way to the MGM. We don’t know if it will happen again but we can hope.
There will also be a scheduled Meet and Greet where you can see people you haven’t seen since last year and pick up your swag bags. There will be a pool party scheduled sometime during the event I am sure as well as a night party with live music.
New for this year is an art show called Strokes n’ Spokes. Artists showing of their stuff that is bike related which we assume will be for sales sounds like a great time. You can buy some art and take it home as a memory of OBC 2016.
Speaking of rides, you can help OBC by respecting the town, hotel, streets and other visitors. There is a strict “Don’t Be a Dick” policy in place. We haven’t heard of any issues to date but there will be a ton of first time riders this year. While on a ride use the standard rules of the road. Leave a lane open for cars, obey all traffic signals, stay off the sidewalks, watch for pedestrians (its Vegas, there are millions), and open containers while on a bike will get you in trouble. At the show and other functions just clean up your stuff and have a good time. It can be disheartening to see the same ten people picking up trash from parking lots as everyone jumps on their bikes and heads to the next stop.
Keep your ears open as well. Groups of friends will put together off-time rides that you could tag along with. In the last two year we have hooked up with groups for rides to Frankie’s Tiki Room for umbrella’d rum drinks and to the Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame to play 100’s of vintage pinball machines and other arcade games.
The OBC Bike show is always the favorite event and will take place on the 24th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Our friends at OBC have stepped up the game this year. No more hot dusty parking lot for us. This year’s show will be at the Backstage Bar & Billiards at 601 Freemont Street. The doors will be open to get out of the weather and to fill up on food and drink. There will be plenty of room for bikes entered in the show, for people to buy their parts and swag, all for the vendors to show off their wares. (Kustomized Bicycle Magazine will be there so stop by and say hi). This year’s show will also be the place where awards will be handed out for the Custom Builders Challenge. If you have read about the challenge the past few month you know it will defiantly be a contest.

After the show tears will be shed, livers will be screaming in agony and everyone starts to head home. The OBC crew will most likely start planning 2017 that morning.
If you see anyone from the OBC crew during the weekend say hi, thank them for putting on a great event and buy them something to drink.
Go to for more information and a link to book your room with early bird prices. Registration and gift bag information will be coming soon.