Originally Published In The February 2012 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Winner: Panhead Mike
With the “Year in Review” issue behind us, we started to think of what it was we wanted to focus on for our annual special issue. In years past, it’s been Bobbers, Choppers, and the Next Generation, but this year it seemed as if nothing would fit better than a salute to the Garage Builder. Through the help of our good friends at Lincoln Electric, we put a quick call out over Facebook and asked people to send in some pictures and stories about the place where they do their thing. With only a week to do it, we got an overwhelming response and had a bitch of a time picking our top ten. It was extremely difficult to select from them the person that would get the Grand Prize from Lincoln, a complete set of their new Red Line welding apparel and a Viking auto darkening helmet. I W have this same gear and man, I gotta tell you it is the cat’s ass. What we were looking for was the one builder that would turn in a description that was as close to what we wrote in the front of this magazine about garage builders. The winner hit the nail on the head in that regard so we are happy to award Panhead Mike from Joliet, Illinois as the Grand Prize winner.
let me tell you a little about Mike and you be the judge. At 4 years old, Mike got a K-Mart knockoff Stingray; it’s been nothing but 2 wheels for him ever since. His dad and older cousin introduced him to Harleys and the biker lifestyle early on as well. In 1990, his dad gave him a ‘48 Pan as a graduation present that he still has. He has been riding, building and wrenching ever since. As a full time industrial maintenance mechanic, he is pretty busy. Between his job and his family, building bikes is not at the top of his priority list. That doesn’t mean he does it as a hobby either as you can see here. Mike’s been working out of the same garage for 20 years, and under the name Suicycles for the last 10.
A one-man operation, which is the way he likes it, Mike does as much as he can himself. He also admits being fortunate enough to have some seriously talented bros to call on when needed as well. Specializing in old bikes, he does both restoration and custom work. All the people Mike does work for are close friends and keeping them safe, happy and in the wind is his main goal. “As much as I enjoy building bikes, I enjoy riding them even more. I ride year ‘round, which isn’t easy in the Chicago area. I have ridden to Sturgis 15 times since 1990 on everything from Panhead choppers to Evo baggers and try to average at least 10,000 miles a year. Riding a lot helps you discover what works and doesn’t when building bikes,” said Mike. In closing, Mike is the exact kind of man we were looking for to make our point about who it is out there that makes up the custom culture today. He has a day job that he raises a family on, and a motorcycle job that gives him the freedom to ride and build bikes. Sounds about standard to me, of course I grew up in a good part of the world.