Much of the news around the custom bike business in recent times has been concerned with the closure of businesses as riders can no longer afford ground-up custom builds, turning instead to maintaining existing bikes. However, that does not mean that there are not opportunities for shops to generate new business from custom builds, one innovative example being the work being done by Three Two Choppers of Fort Worth, Texas.
In order to keep work flowing in to the shop the brothers at Three Two Choppers, Jimmie Lee and JC Coen, have created a Build Your Own Bike (BYOB) program. The idea is that the brothers will mentor customers as they build their own custom bike in the shop, working through the design process, skills, and as the brothers describe it ‘the stuff they don’t show on TV’.
‘pay it forward’
” and help out people who have the same passion and love for motorcycles they share. As youngsters, Jimmie Lee and JC found themselves searching for knowledge and someone from whom they could learn the skills of bike maintenance. Their search led them to the door of Joe Cox and Steve Hersch, who took them in and, taught them the main workings of bikes, like motors, wiring, troubleshooting and the most important thing, patience.The lessons learnt provided them with the knowledge they needed to go on and establish Three Two Choppers. They then moved on to fabricating the components they needed, because at that time specialty parts weren’t as readily available in the catalogs as they are today. They taught themselves machining and welding too.
The Build Your Own Bike program came to fruition when Bill Conway went to Three Two Choppers looking to work a deal on parts. He was originally planning to build a custom bike using an American Iron Horse frame he had acquired. He wanted to support a local shop for his parts and was looking for help with the build. After a few meetings with Bill, the brothers discussed their idea for a mentoring program with him, telling him they wanted to give him the opportunity to start the program off.It was a simple decision for Bill to make. He sold the AIH frame on and began working with Three Two Choppers on the design of a new one-off bike build. Such was his enjoyment of the program that he told many of his friends about what he was doing. Among those friends was Manny Mercado, who was looking to start a bike project too.
Like Bill, Manny approached Three Two Choppers to discuss the idea of doing his own build at the shop with Jimmie Lee and JC’s help. His original plan had to been to use a basket case Knucklehead for his BYOB project, but that was dismissed as being in too bad a condition. The replacement base for Manny’s build became an ’83 FX Shovelhead that the shop had picked up cheaply due to the numbers on the motor not matching the frame. Fortunately for Manny the original bottom end and barrels were also available from the seller and so BYOB number two was underway.As the build progressed so did the ideas about what was possible, and the idea was born that the finished bike would be shown at the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building in 2010. However, Manny’s full-time work commitments did not allow him enough workshop time to complete the build in time for the show.
The setback of not finishing the build in time for the ’10 World Championship has meant that all involved have had time to pool even more ideas and create a build ready to be entered in the 2011 World Championship of Custom Bike Building.
With Three Two Choppers’ help Manny has taken a stock ‘83 swingarm Shovelhead frame and removed the whole seat and rear section of the frame. The stock box-section swingarm has been replaced with an early round-section unit that has been extended 2in. This extension has allowed for a dropped seat to be designed and built.
In order to mix good looks with structural integrity a single seat rail with gussets is being used instead of a traditional double rail. Using a single tube seat post the brothers and Manny have designed and built a hidden, internal spring seat system. The design allows the spring action to be seen from the back of the tube. The original plan was to cover it up so that it went completely unnoticed, but after seeing it work it was agreed that it had to be out in the open for all to see.
Showcasing the skills that can be learnt on the BYOB program at Three Two Choppers, the bike’s stock gas tank has been narrowed and sectioned to create a custom tank that retains the stock look but at the same time looks custom. By introducing the Build Your Own Bike program at Three Two Choppers, Jimmie Lee and JC Coen have introduced an extra revenue stream to their business and have the added advantage of a possible Championship winning bike build too!