It Is What It Is

Article By: Chris Callen

Photos By: Chad M of Luck U

Originally Published In The July 2013 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Feature 2a July 13 Kerri

Dale Yamada might not be a name that you recognize right off the top of your head, but under the assumed name Mad Jap, he has gone about the work of making some of the sickest sleds of the custom scene. While tucked away in his Alberta homeland, with rough winters and plenty of alone time in the shop, Dale has mastered the crossover from bike builder to craftsman. I’ve had the extreme pleasure of knowing Dale for quite some time now, and I’ve watched as his process has become refined, but the thing I love most about this cat is his attitude towards it all. He is such an old soul, never gets caught up in labels and just does what he loves — this is good energy. “I’m all about how a guy built his bike. I’m not a hipster, and I don’t care if a guy has an Evo or a Pan. I’m about the craft and if you actually made everything custom on your bike or not,” said Dale. Quotes like this come steady during a conversation with Dale. He is constantly reassessing his position in things, and then at once reminds himself that he doesn’t give a rat’s ass where he falls into it all anyway. He just loves to build, loves to create. Dale started his craze for two wheels in the world of superbike racing and that shows in the way he still rides his bikes today. You will rarely get to see a human being hard lean an Avon Speedmaster into a turn under power, braking the way he does; it’s just not normal. After ten years of doing the track thing, he was ready to move on to customs. In 2007, he opened the doors to Mad Jap Kustoms, named after his father, and he’s been turning out insane builds ever since.

When it came to this Knuckle, it was really the turning point for how Dale would start to do things. Up until this one, he had always kept a little bit of himself in reserve. But then he went to Sturgis, met a bunch of the other young builders through the Limpnickie Lot and became truly inspired. He actually had the gas tank done for years beforehand, but never thought he’d have the creative freedom to put it on a build. Once he was exposed to some of these cats, he realized that there was nothing stopping h i m from doing exactly what he wanted in a custom bike and the result was what you see here: “Is What It Is.” The tank is incredible, but Dale wouldn’t talk about it since he said that’s what everyone would expect him to do. He would only say that copper plating is for fakers and this one is not fake. The Knucklehead motor that sits on this chassis is the real story. You know how you always hear about some guy lucking into something this sweet? Well that’s how Dale came to own this Knuckle. He had a customer named Monte who came into the shop and wanted him to build a bike around this mill. Now the man is a little older and didn’t really want to spend time fixing an old bike, so Dale mentioned he could just build him a big inch turn-and-go Evo and take the Knuckle off his hands. Monte never batted an eye and Dale had the start of his first Knuckle.

Feature 2b July 13 Kerri

The next objective for him was to not use a single Harley component to resurrect it. Not that he has anything against The Factory, but more for the fact that he is a consummate smartass and wanted to tell the cats who would surely ask if it was period correct to piss off. This is one of the reasons we will always feature his bikes! Anyway, instead o f hunting OE stuff at swaps or stores, he used all kinds of cool shit from S&S and Sifton, learning the art of motor building as he went since this was his first experience with that as well. When it came time for the carburetion, he had held up the two Super B carbs and noticed the way they tilted upward and had a slight angle; he went to work on a dual intake on the spot. He didn’t even know if it would work and since it was like 20 below while he was building the Knuck, it would have to wait until he got to Daytona to get it finished and tuned. That work was actually done in a Motel 6 parking lot. Crazy bastards! He picked up his boy Leo from Leo’s Speed Shop and the two of them went straight from the airport to the parking lot where they drank beer and worked on getting the dual carbs to run. Once it was up, Dale promptly took it all around Daytona and collected the typical chopper jockey keepsakes: a few noise tickets, a couple disorderly conducts for riding crazy and a burnout or two; it was a huge success!

Other than the tank and the motor, there were several highlights we did get to talk about at length. Like most of Dale’s builds, this bike is an exercise in hand crafting parts. He made the pipes for it as a complete loop. He loves the ride-ability of mid controls so he made a set for it. The rear fender was a swap meet steal. Some cat was tossing it out and Dale grabbed it as a challenge, took it home and made it into what you see here. The bar craze was in full tilt while he was building this so of course he did a wicked bend of his own. Other features, like the placement of the oil filter in front of the gas tank, give the bike a look that’s all its own, but the one thing that’s a testament to his dedication are the aluminum lines. Dale said he went through 30 feet of tubing before he got it all right. This is easy to understand when you consider that one line consists of 13 bends over a six foot length of tube. So after Daytona, and blowing the minds of so many, he promptly took the bike back to his mad lab and tore it apart. See, Dale is a shiny bike guy and this thing was still too dull for him. He had the H.O.K. color in his head and went to chroming and polishing the rest of the machine while the tins were getting this paint job. In the end, he had a bike that perfectly marked his time at that point in his career and announced to t h e custom world that he would be a person to watch as this all moved forward. Currently he is working on his bike that will be at Born Free and we hope to bring that to our readers as well, once he beats the dog shit out of it, of course!

Feature 2c July 13 Kerri

Is What It Is Tech Sheet

Owner: Josh

City: Calgary

Fabrication By: Mad Jap Kustoms

Year: 2011

Model: 40 EL Knuckle (Ha! Ha!)

Time: 3 Months



Year: 1940

Model: EL

Builder: H-D

Ignition: Mag

Displacement: 80ci

Pistons: Pan

Heads: Stock

Cam(s): Andrews

Carb: Twin Es

Air Cleaner: V-Stacks

Exhaust: M.J.K.

Primary: Chain


Year: 1940

Make: H-D

Shifting: Sloppy


Year: 2010

Make: M.J.K.

Rake: 30

Stretch: 0


Type: Sporty

Builder: H-D

Extension: 4 Under

Triple Trees: Sporty


Front Wheel: 40 Spoke Spool

Size: 20”

Tire: Avon Speedmaster

Brakes: What???

Rear Wheel: 40 Spoke

Size: 16”

Tire: Avon

Brakes: Dual Radial Mount


Painter: M.J.K.

Color: Mix of Pegon Gold & Green

Type: H.O.K.

Molding: Like On My Car?

Graphics: Gold Leaf By Hand


Bars: M.J.K.

Risers: M.J.K.

Hand Controls:

Gas Tank(s): M.J.K.

Front Fender:

Rear Fender: M.J.K.

Seat: M.J.K.

Foot Controls: M.J.K.

Oil Tank: M.J.K.

Taillight: Leo Speed

Speedo: Ha! Ha! Ha!

Photographer: Chad M of Lucky U

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