Article By: Chris Callen
Photos By: Milwaukee Mike & Debi Holmes
Published In The February 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Debi Holmes, owner of this long ass chopper, is the type of person that is not only an inspiration for women riders but rides hard enough that most everyone could set their pace by her. She rides so much and has ridden through all kinds of weather and lives life through the bars. Her Instagram page alone is a constant reminder to me that whatever I’m doing when her daily posts come up, I should be riding like Debi. I figured at this point, so many people have been following her dream bike build that I would concentrate more on the story of the woman behind the bike. Debi came up around bikes her whole life. She had her first ride at the age of 8 and promptly crashed it into the root system of one of those big ass trees that grow in Arkansas. Shortly after that, and still a little scabbed up, she got back on and kept the wheels turning. Growing up in a single parent household, Debi and her mom moved around a lot. Early on, she found herself in Northern California where she was exposed to the Sand Hill Ranch. Tom Anderson, who owned the place, was a friend of Debi’s mother and spent tons of time there. The guys that rode the motocross track would let her take practice laps on their bikes when they came in for breaks. She was a self-admitted tomboy and was almost destined for a life of, gas, and oil.
In grade School, she lived in a pretty rough neighborhood, kind of a ghetto. They didn’t have much money, but there were always bikes around. Her mom’s boyfriend knew some of the guys in the club, and she remembers getting rides around the block from a few of them. Eventually, she got married, at a young age and to a man who didn’t believe in women, especially the mother of his children riding their own bikes. He did, however, give her a volume of hands-on information on combustion engines over their 18-year marriage and raising of four children. They loved drag racing, and the two of them built, rebuilt and raced all the time. When they split up, Debi moved to South Carolina for a while before landing in Colorado where her story continues. Still new in town and having trouble with a ‘69 Firebird, Debi went to Car Chat, yeah… remember the AOL Chat Rooms? Anyway, on Car Chat she met Reed, the other half of the dynamic Brady Bunch Duo. Reed had three of his own kids and was also living as a single parent. They were made for each other, riding 1500 miles on his first weekend visit to her Denver home. As time went on Reed moved there and started to work at a Harley-Davidson dealership.
He asked Debi if she ever wanted to ride her own bike and not long after, the first 100th anniversary Fat Boy was being delivered with her name on it. She immediately put together a list of add on parts she wanted for it, changed some things and had it for a while but eventually sold it to expand her base for a Dyna, salvaged specifically to have more room to build on. That was the bike that changed the game. No matter what day of the week you went on social media, there would be a picture of Debi on her Dyna riding somewhere cool. Sometimes with Reed, sometimes alone, but always riding. On one of these rides they went down to Galveston Texas for the Lone Star Rally and Debi ended up having the opportunity to ride Buddy Johnson’s long chopper that had a Sugar Bear front end on it. Ten minutes down the highway she was sold. She had the long bike bug and her wheels started to turn. By the time she got back to Colorado, Sugar Bear had left a message that he wanted to hear how she, as a woman, liked riding a bike with his front end on it. She was floored to get a call from Bear and thrilled to share her experience, the misconceptions with riding a long bike and plans to build one.
Debi is not the type to sit back and let other people do things for her. She loves to learn and loves to approach things hand on. So, when it came to this bike, she worked with some of the greatest artists and craftsman around Colorado, but she worked with the man much as possible. Starting off with the signature piece of the bike, the Twisted downtube of the frame. Debi had attended a blacksmithing school with David Norrie of David Norrie Studios so when it came time to twist some steel she called him in on the job. Since she worked at a machine shop, she brought the – inch square bar to David’s studio chamfered and ready to forge. With David’s guidance and encouragement, she heated and twisted the bar until it reached the desired look. Same with Irish Rich, Debi said that she would show up every Saturday with breakfast at 9:30 with Rich and from there the two would work until 4 or 5. At first, he had her just sit and watch and a little at a time she managed to talk her way into an apprentice type situation throughout the build.
The inspiration behind the build was all about her life. Debi wanted to have parts from the bikes in those early days, the ones that blew her mind and reminded her of how cool they were. She also wanted the performance and functionality that was impressed upon her from the days at the drag race strip. The combination was a killer build that goes like hell, and it better, to keep up with her. Now paint on the other hand was all about the experience. Debi took Rene Mattei of Rival Airbrush studio a kaleidoscope, the first one he had ever had. She made him look into it as she described what she wanted from the paint. He was overwhelmed by the idea but accepted the challenge and killed it in the end. Debi wanted to be able to express the idea of losing yourself like life through the looking glass, the sacred geometry and all the colors.
Sam Jamison, aka The Louver Man, aka The Louver Man, who added the finishing touches to the copper she had hammered and blackened. Sam doesn’t really do this work for many others these days, but Debi talked him into a command performance for the Twist Of Class. Beth Kearney came in for some of the most critical finishing touches. From the copper leaf featured all over, to the pin striping, she gave it the Lil Dame Stripe seal of approval. Some of the finest details look like simple stripes, until you see them in the sunlight and they dance around and changed color. Those are actually variegated copper leaf. In the end, Debi couldn’t be happier with the bike and couldn’t be more humbled from the people that helped her create the bike of her dreams. Of course, she hasn’t slowed down enough for most of you to see it yet, but maybe by this summer she can leave it on the stand for a second or two and you’ll get a shot. Until then, feast your eyes on her Instagram, you will be inspired.