Article And Photos By: Pat Jansen
Originally Published In The February 2018 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
I’m a Harley-Davidson® guy. Why? Because I’m ‘Merican, I suppose. I mean, it’s what I know, its familiar, it’s been associated with cool and its suited my lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate other brands of motorcycle both vintage and modern. Hell, my first ride was on a 1974 Norton 850 Commando. My Uncle, Pat Kinser, had to babysit me when I was like 7. He didn’t have kids and still doesn’t, so it goes without saying his childcare skills are low. He asked me if I’d ever been on a motorcycle. No. Then, “Ever been 100 mph?” “No.” “Wanna.” “Yes, sir.” He took off across a mall parking lot on a Sunday afternoon with me looking over his shoulder, so I could see that magic number and as we reached it the siren and blue lights showed up behind us. The officer came over and asked if he knew how fast he was going. My Uncle told him he wasn’t sure. I piped up and said, “I do! We were going 100 mph. It’s called the ton.” The cop smiled and asked why I wasn’t wearing a helmet. I responded, “Uncle Pepe (his nickname) said helmets are for pussies.” With that my uncle reached in his wallet, pulled out a $50 bill and inquired if the officer could handle the fine for him. The officer thanked me, and my Uncle Pepe didn’t speak to me the rest of the day. As a custom motorcycle enthusiast, there are a lot of platforms out there that, to me, are just begging for a little massaging and tweaking and others, like the bike we’ll discuss here, was having a full-blown tizzy fit for a complete and radical re-imagining.
A couple of years ago while working as the spokesperson for Progressive Motorcycle Insurance around the country, I ran into Breanne Poland with Royal Enfield and commented how sexy the engines were in their bikes. They reminded me of all the great old art deco British bike motors of my childhood. As I thought more about it, I couldn’t remember seeing a vintage Royal Enfield chopper much less one built out of their new motor. If any of you can find one, please post it up on Instagram and tag me @sincentralgarage. I’d love to see them. Fast forward, and Breanne hooks me up with a Royal Enfield Continental GT to customize. I tried to l
et them know I just needed a motor but…I got the whole shebang.
A lot of cool shops have been asked to express themselves on these new Royal Enfields. Motorelics, Analog Motorcycles, See See Motorcycles and Chop Docs Choppers just too name a few so Sin Central Garage was all about it. Given that these other guys had built cool racers and what not, I decided to be true to my heritage and keep it ‘Merican. I embarked on the challenge of bringing “Skinny Minny” to life. True to my word, I only kept the motor, built a custom, narrow, chassis to hold it, built a narrow 10” over girder to point it down the road and shoed it with a 21” spool hub 40 spoke on the front and repurposed an old 19” sporty 40 spoke on the rear. The prism tank was a must for the vibe, and the old shovelhead fender in the corner was chopped, cut and loved on to hold the glass prism taillight. The most significant modification was to the operation of the motor. The 535cc engine is fuel injected. Carb conversions are on the market for these, so I acquired one.
That got rid of some wires but not enough. So, being the smart guy I am, I decided to eliminate the computer as well, which left me with the challenge of how to time the bike since that little black box had done all that magic before I went at it with my dikes. I should probably tell you at this point that I had been given three months to complete this build but by the time I worked it into my schedule I was down to 5 weeks to go from start to finish with part-time help from my son Andrew. And it had to be photoshoot ready and ride from Murrells Inlet, South Carolina to Rockingham, North Carolina for the Smoke Out Rally reveal party. So, after all the bending, welding, smoothing, plating, painting, fabbing and bleeding was done there was math. Here was this beautiful 10-and-a-half-foot long gooseneck 6” wide 70’s style chopper and no ignition system in the world to make it run. I talked with people in India, England, Germany and the good ol US of A and eventually pulled off a miracle. A trigger disk behind the stator with a 50-degree gap, a pick up, and a custom microprocessor later and it kicked over on the first try!
That little processor, a tiny battery, and a fuse live in the box under the seat neatly concealed with no wires showing anywhere. The 535 Continental GT, in its stock trim was fun around town but lacked the oomph I wanted for the interstate, so I geared up the front sprocket and now “Skinny Minny” has no problem cruising around at interstate speeds. Big thanks to Mike Essy for killer bodywork and Darren Williams of Liquid Illusions for the paint. In later articles, I’ll go into more tech stuff about the mystery of timing, fuel injection versus carburetors, custom sprockets for performance and aesthetics, fender modification for fun and profit, simple frame jig construction and why mixers are unnecessary when drinking whiskey. Royal Enfield is the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world; producing around 700,000 motorcycles a year (that’s more than Harley Davidson, KTM, BMW, Triumph, and Ducati combined). It is also the longest continuously produced bike having begun in 1901, a North American dealer network scheduled to hit 100 this year, and with profits recently going up almost 75% (not a typo) I’m proud to have been chosen to partner with this company.
I’ll also be begging Matt Gardipee of Royal Enfield to put in a good word for me with Breanne Poland and Rod Copes, Royal Enfield North America President, to see if I can get my hands on one of the new Royal Enfield 650 Twins!!! Wink wink, nudge nudge. For now, if you want to see “Skinny Minny” come to the Cleveland Progressive International Motorcycle Show. It will be in the J&P Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show right by the Royal Enfield booth, and you can find me at the stage hosting Grease & Gears Garage. Remember, different is good. Change is necessary. Challenges are opportunities for growth.