Article By: Lisa Ballard Photos By: Sean Peterson

If you went to the Slab City Riot or even Sturgis last year, you have probably run into Gilby Clarke. Most people know him as a member of Guns N’ Roses, I just knew him as Gilby. I am not shitting you, for months I just thought he was one of the local guys supporting the scene. He stopped at our booth numerous times and was always gracious and polite. During last year’s Easyriders’ show in Pomona, he told me he was almost done with his next build, a 1965 Harley FL. It was 95% completed and he was letting us feature it. I was stoked but not as much as Chris; he giggled like a little girl. Our excitement ended by the time we got home that night as word spread that Gilby was involved in a hit-and-run accident that left both his legs shattered. “We went to the show with a few friends. Calling it a night, we all went our separate ways. I was leading and JD King was behind me. This car came out of nowhere and crashed into me. I was on the ground, took a moment to gather myself and watched the car peel off. JD stayed by my side and got me help,” Gilby explained. The bike was trashed and it took six months for him to get back on his feet.



This is not a Hollywood script at all but could make a pretty killer film. Back when Gilby was 16, he quit high school, taught himself how to play the guitar, moved to Hollywood, got a gig, and the rest is history. “Playing the guitar is my job but anything relating to motorcycles is my passion. I owned a Trail 70 at 16 and my first motorcycle was an ‘89 Harley Davidson. I have always been a Harley fan, it’s all about the motors: loud and mean. I try to ride as much as I can. When we were on tour, the motorcycles had to be put away as the insurance company didn’t like the possibility of me hurting my hands. I took a small spill once and we had to cancel a few concerts, they didn’t like that at all,” he stated. Gilby has been riding to Sturgis the last few years. The first time was in the late ‘80s; he tried making the trip but they broke down in Sacramento and had to turn back. He swore he’d be back the next year, 20 years later he went again, but made it. “I don’t play during my trip to Sturgis, we ride. I do take a vacation with my family but I go to Sturgis for my personal vacation. I normally ride with Ricky Rachtman, JD, Taime Downe, Grant Reynolds and a few other friends. We stay at a lodge in Spearfish, away from the insanity, hit a few shows and do a lot of riding. It’s all about making the destination and experiencing it with my friends. Last year, I was leading the pack and didn’t realize I was going a little too fast for the law; we all got pulled over, all 12 of us. Thanks to my buddy Grant, we just received a warning. I did ride to a gig from Sturgis once to meet the tour bus in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That was, by far, the most beautiful land I have ever ridden through.”

Gilby takes part in local motorcycle events in So-Cal and even donated his time and band for the David Mann Chopperfest this year. He has also gone on the El Diablo Run 2 & 3, rode out to the Salton Sea twice and enjoyed the fire at the Biltwell Bash. He has walked numerous shows spending time talking and supporting the vendors. Gilby has been going to the El Camino swap meet since the early ‘80s and has a keen eye for vintage parts. His garage is a true testament as parts hang neatly on the walls, and there are plenty of stickers on his motorcycle lift and tool box. A well organized peg board held parts from JP Cycles, James Gasket, Primo Rivera and Hippy Killer waiting to be installed on the next build. Gilby builds his own motorcycles and then turns to local talent to put the finishing touches on them. He also showed us the helmet, created by Joe King, that saved him from more damage during his accident. Seeing him hold the battered helmet was eerie to say the least. He has just gotten word from the doctor that the steel rods in his legs would be coming out soon. A year after the accident, he rebuilt the Harley. The insurance company wanted to total it but Gilby fought to keep it his. “It was hard to get motivated in the beginning but once I started feeling better, it all seemed to come together pretty quickly.”

The first thing he had to do was come up with a plan on what to save and what to trash. The engine, built by Jesse James was intact, transmission, oil tank and handlebars could all be used. He replaced the frame, and the hunt for parts was on. He purchased the Springer frontend and went with 5 Star HD Timkens with a 21” Avon Speedmaster in the front and a 16” Firestone bringing up the rear. He made many trips to Glendale Harley and Exile Cycles for the hard to find pieces.

One thing you will notice about this motorcycle is that there are parts from familiar cats: Biltwell handlebars, Detroit Bros’ fuel tank, West Eagle rear fender, Hippy Killer pegs and grips, Fab Kevin taillight, Anvil seat, and saddlebag by Garage Leathers; this man supports the scene. He also spent time creating the one-off exhaust with the Biltwell exhaust kit, creating an angle to always be heard. “I am really stoked on the rear struts; I created them myself. It took many hours but looks pretty cool.”

After Gilby completed the mock-up, he turned to Sonny Boy for the paint, and man did this kid deliver. You should
see this copper paint in the
sunlight, it’s absolutely amazing!
The gold leaf is placed just so
not to take away but add a whole
other dimension.
We are happy that Gilby is
recovering, currently working on a
solo album and riding this beauty
when he can. “I would like to
thank my friends for their help but
mostly to my wife, Daniella and
daughter, Frankie. Daniella has
been there through thick and thin,
puts up with my crazy hobby and I
look forward to spending the next
twenty years with her.”

‘65 Pan resurrection tech sheet

owner: Gilby Clarke city: Hollywood, CA Fabrication By: Gilby Year: 1965

Model: FL Pan time: 3 Months Value: ??


Year: 1965

Model: Pan

Builder: Jesse James ignition: Electronic Displacement: 74 Pistons: HD

heads: HD cam(s): Andrews carb: S&S Super E

air cleaner: Goodson exhaust: Gilby Primary: Primo 1 1/2”


Year: 1965 Make: HD shifting: Hand

FraMe Year: 1948 Make: HD

rake: 30 Degrees

stretch: 0

Front end

type: Springer Builder: HD extension:


Front Wheel: 5 Star HD Timken

size: 21”

tire: Avon Speedmaster

Brakes: Drum

rear Wheel: 5 Star HD Timken

size: 16”

tire: Firestone

Brakes: Drum


Painter: Sonny Boy color: Copper/Gold Leaf type:

Graphics: Sonny Boy


chroming: Supreme Plating


Bars: Biltwell risers: V-Twin hand controls:

Gas tank(s): Detroit Bros Front Fender: None rear Fender: West Eagle seat: Anvil Customs

Foot controls: JayBrake Grips & Pegs: Hippy Killer oil tank: HD headlight: V-Twin taillight: Fab Kevin speedo: None

Photography By: Sean Peterson

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