Article By: Chris Callen
Originally Published In The February 2017 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
With the political climate we are in today, it would seem that our country is headed to a place where the American Spirit is getting a good swift kick in the ass. While this scares the hell outta so many people in our great country, for the people in and around the culture that supports this magazine, we couldn’t be more fired up. We have always worked with our hands, challenged our minds and done whatever it took to get the job done. The sense of pride of being good and honestly tired at the end of the day, has always been worth the price of admission to this group. I guess this comes from the fact that in Pittsburgh, at least for most of my adult life, the economy has always been an uphill battle. The steel mills started closing in the seventies and it’s always been a make-or-break lifestyle. In similar fashion, my boys from West Virginia have also been forged in fire with the kinda hard work that is life surrounding a coal mining town. They too, have had their ups and downs with the steel industry and more presently when the EPA made coal the enemy of the environment.
I bring all this up as I sit in the make shift mobile office at Cutting Edge Customs where we set up to do this month’s magazine. At the same time in the other side of the shop we were doing 4 straight days of fabrication on the Twisted Tea Chopper. We like to think that we do whatever it takes like nobody’s business, but the group of people that came to help out on this Part looks stupid, scrap it. Finish isn’t right, sand it. No amount of time or money in the end will take back a bad decision in a bike build that was made in a hurry … project are just as hardcore. While we may have been the only ones who had our temporary bedroom and kitchen on premise and actually slept in the shop, these cats had no good reason to be there for the 12 to 16 hour days other than this is what we do. I looked over at Bob Streets as he started his second shift on polishing and the level of detail he was going after required a lot of time and effort. As he walked over and showed me his latest accomplishment, I mentioned how much I appreciated
Part looks stupid, scrap it. Finish isn’t right, sand it. No amount of time or money in the end will take back a bad decision in a bike build that was made in a hurry …
the help. He simply commented that “we do whatever it takes” and walked away with a half ass chuckle. This struck me hard in comparison to the generation coming up behind us. Now, I know many good and hardworking young people, but the guys like my grand pap and the people of what we call the “Greatest Generation” may not think there are many. I wonder how many of them would sacrifice their own spare time anymore to throw a shoulder in to help a friend or just to be involved in something cool. I take great pride in being part of a generation that still throws bar raising parties, roof parties and will spend a weekend at another brother’s house for final assembly. We do it because, yes… we are good people and civically minded, but it’s also in part because we are driven by the work itself. And the way we carry out that work is always to the best of our abilities.
When this comes to the way we build bikes, it’s nothing short of what is needed. Part looks stupid, scrap it. Finish isn’t right, sand it. No amount of time or money in the end will take back a bad decision in a bike build that was made in a hurry to just get it done. I’m proud of these cats who I call my brother’s, and am as thankful for their help as I am the inspiration they give me to do better in my own work all the time. This brings me to the final topic of this offering: me building bikes. Over the past few years or so my time has freed up a little more and I have produced a few motorcycles that have gained some attention. Well, in conversation with a buddy last month he told me another builder had asked “So, what is Chris gonna be a bike builder now?” and I felt compelled to put the answer here. Twenty years ago I started the magazine you are reading now in the back office of my aftermarket shop. It was a shop that I bought from a brother who was getting ready to do two years on a gun beef. That was nearly 10 years after the first time I tore my original Shovelhead completely apart and redid it with the best custom parts of the day. I made that bike over at least a dozen times and have built several bikes over the years. This was how the magazine got started, it was what we did. We rode bikes, made them into cooler bikes, eventually even started to chop and grind and make our own parts for them. So today, when I get into a motorcycle project the fact that it ends up on social media or in these pages is just carrying on the work I started almost thirty years ago. It is art in its purest mechanical sense, my pallet of choice and a passion that keeps me from sleeping at night. If you can dig what I’m saying here, then this is the magazine for you.