matches perfectly with the flat bars. I was really at a loss for words (anyone that knows me knows that that never happens). Is it a custom townie? Maybe a burly track star on steroids?
Taking a closer look and you find a square tube frame. Dimensionally it looks tall, fast and nimble. The camel back style top tube definitely adds the look of old school speed to this machine even while it is standing still. A huge gusset holding the bottom bracket shell in place has a perimeter of beautiful weld which you can really see because of the finish. I have always been a sucker for bare metal frames. This one was baked until blued then powder coated in clear. When you do this you have a whole rainbow of wicked organic colors that are permanently protected. The same finish has been baked over the handlebars and the square tube fork. Speaking of the fork…A square tube fork is something we haven’t seen often and it fits the industrial look of this bike perfectly. The polished triple trees and the blued metal legs really gives it a great contrast. Ted did the design work and supervision but you can thank Alejandro Rodriguez from Alejandro’s Garage for the tube rolling and welding.
Normally cruisers are all about the style and not so much about the mechanics. This bike is mix of new school custom and high tech. Let’s start at the front and work our way back. There is a monster Shimano hydraulic brake with a 203mm Dirty Dog rotor spoked to a nice not overly wide 2.5” wheel in black wrapped in some pretty sick looking Shin all terrain tires. The tires aren’t quite knobby nor full city. They are a cross breed and look perfect on this machine. Also on the front end is a chrome headlight for your night riding needs that match the polished triple trees. Before we leave the front end check out the stem with integrated White Stem Captain clock. Shaft can’t be late and Ted will always know “What’s the Time” while riding.
The Shaft….why “Shaft” you ask? Look down. Attached to the bottom bracket shell is a polished aluminum shaft drive system that has been ripped from its original home, sat in Ted’s parts bin for five years, then powder cleared by Wions Powder Coat in Sacramento Ca. but he did his magic to give it it's finish. Completing the drive train are forged and highly polished three piece cranks to match the shaft system and completed with Polished Velo Orange pedals. Things get super funky in the rear with the tail end of the shaft drive. The frame drive side chain stay matches the shaft on the drive side but has a nice curve on the non-drive side. The shaft drive system then bolts to the rear dropout via dual button head screws. The magic happens when the rear shaft drive gear matches up with an off the shelf Shimano Nexus three speed also laced to the other of the set of 2.5” black hoop and Shin tire.
What bike would be worth its weight if you couldn’t put on the miles? The mens Black Brooks B135 saddle on springs gives more cushion then Shaft’s Eldorado. The white grips, a Vintage 333 Sturmey Archer twist and matching sedentary twin are reminiscent and the white leather interior of said Eldorado as well.
In all this is one of the best matched, detail oriented, and technically sound build we have seen for quite some time. What more could anyone ask for than a custom cruiser that can log super long rides, the safety of lights and a disk brake, sealed bearings and a three piece crank, with the tried and true Nexus 3 speed and shaft driven? I have a feeling that a build like this could become a family heirloom eventually. This ride has both the bare metal and bling to make it the first thing you think of the next time someone mentions “Shaft”. Can you dig it?
Ted not only is the proud rider of this machine but also spends a great deal of time with bike related events. Does Cyclefest in Sacramento ring a bell? It is one of the largest custom bike events in the country and is Ted’s gig. When you pull in almost 400 riders just for the pre-show cruise you have to be doing it right. Every second Saturday of the month he also does a ride (and has been for the last 6 years) that brings in around 200 riders.
You can find info about Cyclefest on the web via the googles or Facebook or check back with KBM and we will get the information from Ted and keep everyone informed of dates and rates.
If you don’t know Firebikes then you probably aren’t reading this and life your life in a refrigerator box somewhere in a corner of your mom’s basement. Wait. But you are reading this….Whoa…ummm…yeah.
Back “in the day” there was no custom bicycle scene. Sure there were a few guys who loved “the bike” that were doing things in the dark recesses of their garages and showing them off to the world by riding them around the block. Unfortunately the world did not take notice for many years. The best a guy could hope for was swapping out for a set of Ape Hangers, a tall sissy bar, or maybe stretching a fork. In the 90’s the best we could get was the Dyno Roadster which is still a great ride but let’s face it, this is Kustomized Bicycle Magazine and we believe “the Factory Sucks”. In those days if you wanted something really custom you didn’t have any options unless you wanted to fire up your own chop saw and buzz box. That was until a few people around the world decided that custom bikes were indeed cool and there was a small section of the market not yet filled.
Firebikes has been around since before the custom bike scene was classified as custom. Kustomized Bicycle Magazine was lucky enough to meet up with Sam McKay of Firebikes fame a few months back. When we say “meet up” what we really mean is a long late night ride on a warm Las Vegas night. We had a chance to ask the now notorious “11 Questions” as well as a bonus question about his relationship with Ruff Cycle.
(KBM)- When did Firebikes form and what is your background pertaining to fabrication and design?
Firebikes formed in 1998 on a bicycle road trip in the back of a van. We were just throwing out names randomly I shouted FIREBIKES straight away. I then at that moment decided to give it a go. Firebikes first product was bars, Axe handles. Then one BMX frame was made. A few years later I was building up old cruiser / chopper bikes and got the bug to just go for it. The Morgitition was born, there were 5 made for friends and a few left over. I decided to try to sell. Well, the rest is history. The style, people couldn't get enough of was selling worldwide in months. The style I had created from over a decade has influenced what you see here today and journey has been amazing. The future will be even greater.
(KBM)- Who originally got you into bicycles and can take credit for your hands-on interest?
(Sam McKay): My Grandma is my hero. After a BMX race in 77 or 78 I was hooked. She drove me to shops and races. I’d tinker with my bike in the front yard taking wheels off etc. (for no reason). It was freedom, a way of transportation and becoming a way of life. Thx Grandma
(KBM)- What is your favorite bike you have built to date?
(Sam McKay): When I see a frame I made and see an individual’s creativity with it. I think wow, it’s a killer bike in my books. It makes it all worth it. If I had to pick one it would be this raw steel bike I made with Gabor in my shop from Holland. It has no name but I love it. I've been riding it for 7 yrs.
(KBM)- There was a steady flow of people around your display at OBC this year. How was the OBC weekend for you?
(Sam McKay): OBC was a great time for me to catch up with old friends and meet so many other great people. I wish I could just go to any event at any time as everyone has the same mission. Good times!!! Seeing old friends, meeting new. With memories that will last a lifetime.
(KBM)- If someone hasn't seen a Firebikes frame how would you describe the style?
(Sam McKay): A Firebike is one of a kind, very distinctive with its use of round and square tubing. The body has points, curves, and low slung tubes which makes it is very separate from the norm. Seeing it in person you will see that it truly stands out but is very functional and ahead in bicycle design
(KBM)- Is Firebikes a one stop shop? Do you build custom bikes that are ready to ride or a series of pieces that can be purchased together?
(Sam McKay): I can sell you a Firebikes products such as frames, sprockets, shifters, forks, bars etc. and you can piece it together, or I can provide you the whole package. If you want a one-off frame, I will do it so make it your own...kustomize it. FTF
(KBM)- What is your favorite style of bike to build: chopper, bobber, stretched cruiser?
(Sam McKay): Favorite style? I go through stages one week I'm all board tracker next week long and low. I 'm all over the map from jet powered to drift trikes anything that rolls catches my attention.
(KBM)- When not in the shop building bikes what do you spend your time doing?
(Sam McKay): When I'm not building bikes I'm doing hot rods I have a wild 41 Ford custom and a few Apache trucks I work on. In the summer this year I just built a boat house by the lake so I just go fishing, boating, swimming, and relax. It’s my getaway. Got to take time for yourself and I've recently been target shooting with all sorts of rifles with my friend's.
(KBM)- What is your favorite tool in the shop and what is usually playing on the stereo?
I got this homemade hammer I found it 16 years ago in the trunk of a car I bought. Weird but if I lost it I don’t know what I would do. I use it on everything I build. Tunes are from Vanilla Ice to Devil Driver. I'm all over the map but Eazy E always gets me thrashing in the shop.
(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?
(Sam McKay): I would say the Internet is your best friend. There are so many people involved now building and cruising which will help steer you the right direction. Most importantly use what your resources are available to you now. If you can buy a bike or frame cool. Try painting it. Assembling it make it your own. Find out if there are any local clubs or if there is a cruise going on. Go out on a ride, meet the people and work on your skill set over time. With trial and error it will come. Take your time slowly hone your skills. Most importantly do what makes you happy, build what you like just have fun with it.
(KBM)- What is next for Firebikes? Upcoming projects? Lines of parts?
(Sam McKay): I feel the next step is continue to push the limits of design by just building it. No CAD or planning ever on a frame I just go for it.
And I'm planning to take over the world…just kidding. Well, maybe not!!
I'm going to revive Maydaybikes which was a side project I did in 2004 with limited run of frames that mainly went to Europe. These frames will showcase these new ideas in my head and be priced very reasonable....Stay tuned
As for future plans I'm really wanting to fulfill the need for high end cruiser related components. Not just something out of a catalog and throw my name on it as most companies do, that's never been my style. Be on the lookout for stems, sprockets, and bars.
(KBM)- Everyone has been talking about the collaboration between Firebikes and Ruff Cycles. How did this deal come about and what does it mean for Firebikes
The collaboration with Ruff…
I just couldn't keep up with demand of frames and to be honest was tired. Kinda burnt out with the same old thing. I really don't like repeat… That’s why there has been over 50 models of Firebikes. So I figured to have their team build my mainstream frames leaving me that time to focus on new products and bring you some of my personal one off designs and allowing me to fun with it again. I've been doing some drift trikes and other things challenging myself.
I have a lot of new products, mainly components that I would like Ruff to produce for me and they have a facility to provide it. In the early 2000’s I could just design a stem and make 20 but it's hard to find a shop that will do those types of things now. That's why the pedals, stems etc. haven't been around. So in turn I get to be creative and focus on the ideas I have and bring the highest level of quality components to your local shop.
Be on the lookout as you should see these products soon...and to anyone that has bought a Firebike product thank you for your support. Sam McKay
Trikes are Bikes (AKA the Legend of Billy Jack)
Remember Born Losers? The B Action movie from 1967? Introduced the world to the character Billy Jack? Some of you may be too young and if this is the case you may want to check the Billy Jack film. It is a true classic indeed. Let us get to the subject at hand. In the movie there is a scene with V-twin powered trike with car wheels and tires on the back. Since most custom bike guys are also fans of hot rods and motorcycles who is not to like that? Editors Note: I just watched an episode of ChiPs where another VW trike was filmed. Good Ol’ Officer Frank Poncherello could hardly keep the front end on the ground let alone chase some law breaker on a really nice pan head.
Michael Spinelli saw the notorious trike on the screen and it must have left a hefty impression since he built his beautiful version of a trike named "Billy Jack". Doing some research on the interwebs he stumbled across the Atomic Zombie website (Note that this website is still on the web at www.AtomicZombie.com and should be a go-to to any new bike builder). Among many bike frames, plans, and how-tos there was a set of plans for just the trike Mike was looking for, a trike with rear tires from a car with a pillow block supported rear axle. While he was at it he sourced rear hubs to connect the axle with a set of car wheels. Purchasing the plans and parts he dove into the deep end of building the ultimate trike.
With a www.bikedesigner.com frame on the table he constructed a wood mock-up of the frame he would need to get the rear axle to work. He sourced fabricator Mark Canter who copied his mock and made it from 2" square tube then had it all welded up by Bill Moss.
Sending pedal power to the split rear axle is a SA-3 trike freewheel and a rear freewheel sprocket from www.sickbikeparts.com. The 1/2" steel rear hub plates are drilled to match the standard 5 x 4 3/4 Chevy bolt pattern and keyed axles were built by Roscoe Fabrications. Add a set of 2" drop blocks will get the rear out of the atmosphere and onto the ground where it belongs. Mounting up a set of too cool for school 16x8 American Racing Torq Thrust D wheels capped with 240 –55R-16 Bridgestone motorcycle rear tires and Mike got something rolling....literally.
Up front is your standard chopper triple tree fork with a 26" Husky wheel and a Sturmey Archer SF-XFD drum brake hub.
With the trike now a rolling it was time to get to the pretty parts of the project. Michael made a call and got a hold of custom 1.25” OD ape hangers built by Plan9customs. He then worked out a bent and drilled custom shifter out of 3/4" square aluminum tube. Wrapped up the bars, shifter and fork he has it all dunked and redunked by the one and only West Coat Plating in Oceanside, California.
In order to ride you have to have a place to sit. Mike called on Chad Morgan of the Cruizaderos B.C. to get one of Chad's laid back seat posts. (Editor’s note: Chad builds quality products and to any size or bend. He can be found on Facebook). Mike topped it off with a vintage Wrights British saddle that was recovered by Eric Vonfuct.
To finish everything off before assembly everything not shiny was sent to Johnson’s Powder coating in Burlington, NJ for a bath in Candy Purple and with silver flake powder coating.
For the final stab at coolness was the addition of the Resin Jersey Devil shifter knob made by Mike DiTrono. Since then Michael has been rolling with the cruise on the eye-popper jaw dropper. If you ever see it parked (which isn’t often) be sure to get a close of view of this rolling masterpiece.
ACS MainDrive Integrated Headsets
ACS MainDrive Integrated Headsets
I fought the good fight of sticking to what I know and not living with parts that those “dang overpriced high end mountain bikes that are just a fad” use. Then I was scoffed at by family and friends when I bought an $8.00 headset and threaded neck for a frame I had just built that was very “new world’ with its beautifully rolled tubes. I believe I was told an example that was something like….throwing Wal-Mart parts on a Ferrari. Yes, I went hi-tech and read the instructions on where the dust seals actually fit. It is true, after nearly 35 years of getting bike grease under my finger nails have finally left the dusty past filled with open caged bearings and threaded headsets. The future my friends is now.
Having just finished building a new frame it was time to acquire some parts to get it to roller status. A buddy of mine had just completed a new build that rides like a dream so I went to him with a few parts selection questions. The No Stack Integrated Headset came up. I replied to my friend in horror “What is this black magic you speak of?” A headset system that has sealed top and bottom bearings, require little grease, is hassle free, and can be installed in under 30 seconds? “You Sir are either mad or possessed by some dark lord to speak such fantasy” I scoffed. But I decided to stare the dark side in the face and purchased the ACS Main Drive Zero Stack Headset.
First off let us talk price. The whole system was just under $20.00. I had my doubts about a headset this cheap having seen the Chris King setups at 4-6 times that much. But I trust my friends not to steer me wrong…..get it…..steer…..headset…..steer….. o.k. let’s move on.
I was handed my box from the friendly big brown truck driver and headed to the shop to do a bit of assembly. Note that this frame’s head tube has the 1 1/8” Integrated Head Tube ends purchased from last months reviewed parts Solid Bikes welded onto both sides of the head. You can’t just slap this headset in to any old frame all willy-nilly. I grabbed a standard 1 1/8” triple crown fork off the shelf and a three way hex wrench and loosened the five clamp bolts on the fork. Sliding the fork apart I walked the lower tree and steer tube to the new frame. The ACS assembly comes with the bottom bearing race which I slid on first. I covered it with a very light coat of grease as more of rust preventer and dust seal than a lubricant. I then inspected both the sealed bearings finding they are dimensionally the same so they are interchangeable top to bottom. I slid one bearing onto the steer tube with the 45 degree chamfer facing up. I again added a light coating of grease to the chamfer area as it will be in direct contact with the integrated head tube end. The bottom part of the assembly now complete I slid the steer tube up into the head tube. The bottom bearing slipped into the head tube tightly. Not hammer in tightly but a light press fit that allowed me to seat the bushing with a few short smacks on the bottom of the fork tree with the palm of my hand. I coated the other bearing in a thin coat of grease and slid it onto the steer tube from the top and into the top of the head tube. Once again is seated itself with a light press fit. On top of the bearing is a very thin spacer / shim which is just thick enough to keep the aluminum top cover from dragging on the head tube. This aluminum cover then slid onto the steer tube. Now that was really simple even for an old school Neanderthal like me. So I grabbed a 1 1/8” neck and slid it on followed by the top cap with star nut. Tightening the star nut until there was a very mild drag on the bearings I backed it off 1/8 of a turn.
Blah Blah Blah I assembled the bike and went for a ride.
I did more than a few laps around the block specifically feeling out how the front end felt. It was smooth. What else is a headset supposed to do except be smooth. I can’t really review how they will hold up in the long run. The frame had some finish welding to complete then was torn down for powder and polish. After disassembly I did pull the dust seals out of the bearings and they look perfect. At least we know the bearing will take the weight that a lot of custom bikes (and riders) have.
ACS MainDrive Integrated Headsets have:
· Are a no stack style saving height.
· CNC Machined alloy tops.
· 1 1/8” 45/45 degree bearings with removable seals.
· Available sizes: 1 1/8”, 1”, or 1 1/8” – 1” combo that mounts a 1” steer tube on 1 1/8” head tubes.
· Weight: 3.3oz / 93g
· Included in assembly: Top Cap w/ Star Nut, Aluminum cover, Top and Bottom Sealed Bearings, Fork Crown Race, 2 inner sleeves (for the 1 1/8” – 1” conversion).
So, though I can’t give you a full review on how the ACS MainDrive Integrated Headset system will hold up over time I can say that price, fit, and finish makes it a good purchase for your ride.
CUSTOM BUILDERS CHALLENGE 2016
It is that time of year my friends…Summer is slowly fading away, I don’t need sunglasses for the first hours of our local weekly night ride, and I started packing a hoodie in my pack when I ride. Soon I will be pulling out the gloves to keep my hands warm as we bust ass bar to bar avoiding the ice and snow drifts. That is how we roll in the Mile High City.
Speaking of gloves….some guys are pulling them off for the fight of the year. Lowlife Bikes and OBC have put together another build off for the OBC 2016 event. This year it has been named the “Custom Builders Challenge”. For the few that aren’t in the know last year’s build event was the “Young Gun Challenge“.
This is how it goes. Six builders that were invited by Lowlife Bikes will build the ultimate custom bicycle starting September 1st, 2015. They will follow the predetermined rules that are:
1. Bike must be 100% complete, original, and rideable.
2. Bike must be rode, and finish a ride at OBC.
3. No motors of any kind. Pedal power only.
4. The frame must be one off and built by entrant.
5. All bicycles must have brakes.
Sounds simple enough right?
On September 1st the entrants will post theme, color. BUT…. Gary Sheron of Lowlife Bikes will give each builder a part that they must incorporate into the build and he will not let them know until the starting day of the Challenge. This will make the builders wait until the start date and force them to do some outside-of-the-box thinking. Gary is a bit of a devious character so this could throw a monkey in many wrenches. (Yes, I said that right). The unveiling and judging will be done in Las Vegas at OBC 2016 (dates to be released soon).
This year’s contestants are:
Jimmy Peek- Last Year’s Champ (see KBM builders article)
Joe Cavaliere (see KBM Featured bikes)
Kustomized Bicycle Magazine will be following the challenge closely throughout the season and hill hopefully ask the hard questions and get the inside look of all those involved. So stay tuned and check out the new issues that release on the 1st of every month at www.KustomizedBicycleMagazine.com.