I grew up reading car and bike mags, and I always envied those guys that got to do what they loved every day. As I was trudging through school, and eventually college, pointing towards an engineering career, all I could think of was cutting, grinding, and welding. That was all I wanted to do. Just a year or two after I graduated, I basically said, ‘F**k it! I’m gonna do what I love.’ I opened my own shop, and the world was right. Until a few weeks into it, reality set in, and it hasn’t gotten any less real since. You see, when you decide to take what you love and turn it into a (hopefully) successful business, you have to juggle about a million different chores on a daily basis. You’re no longer tooling around without phone calls or emails in your garage; you have to keep the customer happy, and that is priority one. When you run a custom bike shop, or even a custom production shop, you are building what the customer wants. Now don’t get me wrong, the customer goes to a specific shop for a reason, and you have to stay true to what got you there.
Brass Balls Bobbers does just that. BBB makes, in my opinion, the only production bike worth owning and riding. Dar Holdsworth and his crew have set the bar so high, that others cannot compete. BBB offers the highest quality parts on a bike that are tailored to fit the client’s riding style as well as his or her tastes. Of course you start with one of their models, but from there they build what suits you, and at a better price than anyone else. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it.
But, as I said, doing what you love, and doing it well, can get to feeling a little restrictive. That’s why it is so exciting when you are given a blank canvas and a reason to build a bike for yourself.
It’s like suddenly you are revived. You can start with as little or as much stock hardware as you wish. You are limited only by your imagination, and like many of us, your bank account. A couple of years ago, Dar was asked to participate in a build-off style competition, where there were basically no rules. Dar passed the challenge on to his faithful fabricator/builder, Bryan Nikkel. Bryan jumped at the chance. All the hours of making other riders’ dreams come true had given him his perfect model of what a hard riding chop oughtta be. So a hunt began for the parts to make his chop come alive.
Bryan searched out a reliable Ironhead as the powerplant for the basis of the project. As Bryan said, the Ironheads are still plentiful and affordable (keep in mind Sportster haters, the XL kept the Motor Company alive for many dark years). After finding a suitable ‘75 CH model, Bryan cracked the cases and the Brass Balls’ crew went to work rebuilding the 35 year old mill. After checking and rebuilding the unmentionables, they filled the cases up with S&S parts, including pistons and a P grind cam. Suddenly the old IH was sporting 1200 angry CCs. Topped off with a Super B from the fine folks in Viola, and newly nickeled rocker boxes, the motor was ready for a home.
As the new frame entered the shop, Bryan knew there would be a lot of work put into the frame to make the Ironhead drivetrain work. Apparently there is a little confusion as to whether an Ironhead and an Evo XL engine are interchangeable in their respective chassis’. The boys were a little discouraged to cut the motor mounts out and relocate them, but they did it the right way. Bryan cannot tell you how happy he is they did this, as the bike flies straight as an arrow down the highway. As soon as the frame was done, they hung the Knuckle Dragger forks from the steering head. A little extra time was spent making plenty of room for the forks to move left and right with proper clearance, and a set of Nash Midget Gimps were mounted up. Of course, the bars were narrowed and shortened prior to being bolted on. They next turned their attention to the rear of the scoot where their newly centered wheel received a Brass Balls’ fender and some super cool struts. As many of you know, HD moved the shifter from the right side to the left some time in the mid ‘70s. There is much debate as to the exact year the big switch was completed, but this particular ‘75 indeed had a right side shift. Bryan wanted to run a jockey shift, so they fabbed up a very cool linkage system to bring the shifting mechanism from the right to the left, using heim joints, machined pieces, and oil impregnated bushings in the process. The boys whipped up a great and simple set of short drag pipes, as well as modifying the Detroit Brothers’ tank to suit their taste.
The paint was sent over to Manny’s Ink & Air for some killer root beer and metal flake. This paint just screams class, and appears flawless. Perfect. After getting the painted pieces back, as well as the numerous nickeled parts, the crew went back to work on final assembly. One of the many cool things this bike offers is the exotic braking system from Beringer. Beringer is company from France that caters to the Moto GP crowd, and makes an extremely fine brake system. Bryan says this bike literally stops on a dime. It’s great to see choppers and racing blended into one finely tuned motorcycle.
Of course Bryan wants to give a big thanks to Dar for the chance to spread his wings a little and take on a great project for himself. He also wants to throw one out to the one and only Roadside Marty for the killer Flat Broke kicker pedal. Bryan couldn’t say enough good things about Marty.
“El Flaco” made its maiden voyage leaving from Santa Rosa, NM and landing somewhere in North Carolina. Bryan said the bike gave him only the simplest of problems, like a leaky base gasket. She screamed on down the road, fourth gear humming all the way along. Since the long trip it made last summer, it has turned into Bryan’s daily rider, not missing a beat once. Oh, and the name? Actually the painter named the bike, “El Flaco,” meaning “the skinny,” as the bike is so narrow and sexy. So now you’ve got the skinny on “El Flaco.”
El Flaco Tech Sheet
Owner: Bryan Nikkel
city: Oklahoma City, OK
Fabrication By: Brass Balls’ Crew
Time: 3 Months
Builder: Brass Balls’ Crew
Ignition: Dyna Tech
Cam(s): P Grind
Carb: S&S Super B
Air cleaner: Glass Jaw
Exhaust: Tim & Bryan
Year: 1975 Make: HD shifting: Jockey
Make: Heavily Modified Led Sled
type: Knuckle Dragger
Builder: Lightning Rod
triple trees: Brass Balls’ Crew Modified
Front Wheel: Ride Wright
tire: Avon Speedmaster
Brakes: Beringer 6 Piston
Rear Wheel: Ride Wright
Tire: Shinko (Twice White Stripes)
Brakes: Beringer 4 Piston
Painter: Manny’s Ink & Air, OKC
Color: Root Beer Candy Flake
Type: Sherwin Williams Molding:
Chroming: Various Antique Nickel Finish Parts
Bars: Nash Midget Gimps – Chopped Skinny
Hand controls: Beringer
Gas tank(s): Detroit Bros. Modified
Front Fender: Really?
Rear Fender: Brass Balls’ Crew
seat: Brass Balls’ Perfect Seat Pan – Hix Leather
Foot controls: BKC
Oil tank: Led Sled
Speedo: Prefer Boxers
Taillight: Shade Tree
Photographer: Sara Liberte