There are lots of reasons why people are building and buying custom motorcycles today and I thought I might write about why this trend is such a force in the motorcycle industry. The opinions are my own; so I am sure others have their own ideas. Well, this is America and we all are entitled to our own ideas. I just thought I would share mine with you.The custom motorcycle craze is a relatively new phenomenon. People over the years have always customized their ride but usually they were skilled fabricators, painters, or they knew people who were. When the chopper craze began many years ago the idea was to take the weight off and rake your machine out. The people who possessed the necessary skills were few and far between.
If you couldnt do it yourself (most couldnt) you had to have a friend or someone you could pay to do it for you. Its very different today. When I was first bit by the motorcycle bug there were choices but no customs to choose from. There was Harley Davidson of course, Triumph, Norton, some metrics and that was about it. Yeah, there were others like BMW and more but the point is there wasnt anyone building custom motorcycles. People would buy a stock bike and if they wanted to customize it they had to find another way. It remained that way for a long time and most were reasonably satisfied with what was out there. The motorcycle world was a lot smaller then and most people who owned one were hard core or “hippies” who were into an alternative lifestyle so a motorcycle suited them just fine. That was then, this is now.Today there are many more choices and many more people who ride. In years past you would never see a businessman, a teacher, a professional athlete, a builder, a stock broker, or a politician riding a motorcycle.
Today they all do. The thrill, the look, the sense of adventure, the “uniform”, the chicks, the rallies… These are just some of the things that entice people to buy a motorcycle today. The fact that it is now acceptable for almost anyone to ride also plays a big role. Harley still has its mystique and many affluent, middle class and ordinary people own a Harley. When I was growing up a Harley was the dream of anyone who wanted a motorcycle. The Harley sound and the Harley look were unique and anyone who really was a “biker” had to own a Harley or dream about owning one. I remember when Harley came out with a 1000cc motorcycle. Well, that was the biggest, baddest, most beautiful machine ever. There was a 750 Norton, a 650 Triumph, but only one Harley. There were Japanese motorcycles but although they were mechanically sound and fuel efficient, a real biker scoffed at them, the sound they made and the way they looked. They were sissy bikes.
The custom motorcycle came much later. I am not sure exactly when it began. I want to say the late eighties, early nineties, but as I said others may say sooner. I am just thinking about people like Arlen Ness (earlier) and people like Roger Bourget, Indian Larry, Dave Perewitz, Ron Finch, Von Dutch, people like that. Ness is the godfather and probably the most senior. He was doing things early on but mostly for himself. There wasnt a big market then. The others came later and the industry didnt really pick up until the last decade or so. People were fabricating, designing, painting, and engineering but there was not a mass market as there is today. I must not leave out Jesse James who was also into it early and became rich and famous building custom motorcycles and fabricating parts.
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