(See correction notice below.)
Back in the old days, a custom motorcycle, aka "bobber" or "chopper," was pretty much an old Harley with the windshield, saddlebags and front fender removed. Other parts, like half the rear fender, engine guards and stock exhaust pipes, also ended up in the backyard junk pile. Added were some extra chrome, loud pipes and a snappy paint job. Hog Heaven.
Not any more.
Today, with the resurgent popularity of big bikes, and endless technological advances in the custom motorcycle world, the sky's the limit. Bikers can spend tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars on just the right look.
If you want to see some of these magnificent motorcycles and meet their owners and riders, come to Saturday's 11th annual Xtreme Bike Show and Street Party in front of Habañeros restaurant, 142 N. Front St., in downtown Medford.
Enjoy live music from the rock band Three, along with food, vendors, and a beer garden. And, of course, scores of custom Harleys vying for trophies as part of the custom bike show. Everything from street bikes to full-blown customs will be there, including examples of a new classification this year: "rat bikes."
"It's not just for radical customs, bring what you're proud of riding," says Mark Daley, founder of Thunder Struck Custom Bikes and the event's organizer.
All proceeds go to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Jackson and Josephine counties. The bike show last year raised nearly $20,000 for the clubs. This year they want to top that, says Daley. Money raised at past bike shows has paid for a new playground, helped buy computer equipment and allowed clubs to take kids on field trips, Daley says.
Other event sponsors include D&S Harley-Davidson, Oregon Motorcycle Adventures, Next Concepts, and Naumes Inc. In addition, Southern Oregon Pawn has donated a hunting rifle and The Jewelry Studio a piece of custom jewelry as raffle prizes.
One of the custom bikes that will be on display is called "Soul Shaker." It's Daley's latest creation, built on a U.S. Marine Corps theme for John Barker, a former Marine who lives in Grants Pass.
The bike is painted Marine Corps gold, and features mini-murals of a Guadalcanal jungle scene on one side of the gas tank, and images from Vietnam and the Iraq war on the other. On the back fender is a reproduction of Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima during World War II.
Baker, a retired lawyer from Southern California, says the fact that he's been separated form the Corps since 1969 hasn't dampened his attitude.
"The Marine Corps turned my butt around, made a man out of me," he says. "Once a Marine always a Marine."
Barker says the bike symbolizes Marines everywhere.
"The Vietnam-era vets were paid no attention when they got back home; now patriotism is starting to come back," Barker says. "This bike is for my buddies who didn't return from Vietnam. It's a tribute to them."
Daley says Barker wanted a bike that captured the essence of the Marines, and told Daley to add his own twists.
"I'd always wanted to do a bike with a military theme," Daley says. "It was an honor for me to do that."
Daley has been invited to enter Soul Shaker in the fourth annual "Artistry in Iron" master builders' competition at the Las Vegas BikeFest in September. The custom bike build-off is open by invitation to the nation's top 25 bike builders.
Daley, 41, started out fixing Harleys in the garage of his Medford home, then moved on to creating custom bikes, fabricating his own sheet metal parts and making a name for himself across the nation as one of the top rising young builders. His Thunder Struck Custom Bikes business has become associated with many prizes at custom bike contests throughout the West. And now, the business is taking on a new challenge.
Now a licensed manufacturer, Daley is planning to build a line of production bikes that will cost $20,000 to $25,000, which makes them competitive with Harley-Davidson and other big-bike manufacturers.
His production bikes will be similar to an old "bobber," a throwback to the first choppers of 1960s and '70s. Daley expects to produce about a dozen bobbers a year, in addition to his more specialized radical custom work.
Mark Howard is a copy editor and page designer at the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 776-4475, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction: This story has been corrected to include the correct date of the show. An earlier version listed the incorrect day.
They're not just 'choppers' anymore
(See correction notice below.)