Rosemary – A 1947 Knucklehead Bargain Build

Published In The February 2014 Issue Of Cycle Source

Article By: Will Ramsey Faith Forgotten Choppers

Photos By: Jazmin Monet Estopin –

Feature 1a Kerri Nov 13

When I looked at the list of featured builders at Artistry in Iron this year, I was excited to see the name Michael Barragan listed. I had never met Michael before, but over the years I have felt influenced by pictures of his work and intrigued by his talent as a musician. Even from afar he seemed to have a unique perspective on life. I just had a feeling that there was something different about this guy, something really special, and I wanted to meet him. I’m always anxious to meet other builders that I respect and as the date of the show drew near, I found myself wondering what Michael would be like in person. As I walked amongst the amazing bikes displayed in Vegas, I came upon a bike unlike anything I’d seen up close before. A gorgeous golden Knucklehead chopper with a nickel plated rigid front end, which presented a stance that I can only compare to that of a majestic praying mantis. This was Rosemary and she was built by Michael Barragan. I stepped back to get a good look at the profile, and rather than just viewing the bike from a technical standpoint, I could feel the intention of the bike… the purpose…the precedent.

Michael has been building bikes for more than half his life. His style has developed and evolved as he has honed much more than just his technical skills. “A build must have precedence,” he told me, “there must be a reason to build a motorcycle.” This axiom has come to define Michael’s approach to designing and constructing a custom bike. In the past, Evil Spirit bikes had a strong, almost street fighter, feel to them. In 2004, Michael built a bike he named Patience, which was heavily influenced by the tough New York style bikes designed by Indian Larry. Patience was built with a purpose in mind: to ride hard and withstand a serious New York style beating. Barragan’s long ride on Patience, from California to New York, solidified the precedent for which he built that bike. Now if you look back at pictures of Patience you are not going to see a bike that simply copied Larry’s work, but rather you will see a unique build that had a similar intention or feel as a hardcore New York motorcycle. This is how Michael defines influence and it is precisely this feeling of a particular style, or era, that he pursues while designing a build. Michael explained, “I build bikes like I play music. If you cover a song and can immerse yourself far enough into the song, it can become yours.”

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As I sat down next to Rosemary at the Artistry in Iron show, I began to learn about the journey Michael took through time in order to build this gorgeous, show stopping bike. Living in Southern California, he had spent time discussing the history of long choppers with his good friends Freddie Hernandez and the legendary Sugar Bear. These inspired tales of the chopper development lead Barragan to the next stage in his own evolution as a builder. Michael decided that he wanted to step back in time and build a bike that paid homage to the builders of the late ‘60s and ‘70s — the golden era of choppers if you will. In particular, Barragan wanted to design a bike that honored his good friend, and so the bike had to have the feeling and spirit of a Freddie Hernandez chopper. In order to truly comprehend the design process behind such a bike, Michael completely immersed himself into the era, studying everything from iconic car designs like the Instant T to classic cult movies like Barbarella. Wrapping his mind around the entire culture of this golden era, he was preparing himself to think and design as if he himself were one of the cats in Freddie’s pack of chopper riders. Michael had no intention of simply copying a bike that Freddie had already built, but rather Barragan wanted to understand the way in which Freddie thought about a build in order to capture the spirit of that era and then make it his own. This technique is much the same as that of a great actor who studies the behavior of a person, and then creates a unique character based on those observations. The initial purchase of an original 1947 Knucklehead motor and frame started the build off on the right foot. Originally Michael intended to use a Hernandez frame for the Knucklehead build, but during one of his long phone conversations with Freddie, Michael addressed the notion of chopping the original frame to obtain that true authentic look. Freddie’s only response was, “That’s what we did.” So after cutting the original frame, stretching, raking, and boxing the neck, Michael searched the swap meets to collect all the other parts that would be needed to complete this build. His goal was set, and there would be no new parts on this motorcycle. Having built dependable, performance oriented, street pounding choppers for years, Barragan remained focused on assembling an OEM Knucklehead that would start easy and run all day. Throughout the fabrication and mockup of Rosemary, Michael remained immersed in the precedent that had driven him to build this bike. He did not allow himself to stray from the design parameters of the chosen era; authenticity was paramount. Once the mockup was complete, it was time for an original paint job. Barragan turned to his friend Buck Wylde to lay down some genuine old school color on Rosemary. But before he could pick up the paint sprayer, Buck had to sit down and “go there” with Michael. Long involved discussions about the lifestyle of the era and the feel that was to embody this build ultimately led them to believe that Rosemary chose her own color. The last piece to this homage build was to dial in the front end. Michael had intended all along to narrow an old Springer that he had laying in his shop, but at the eleventh hour, Freddie stepped in and convinced Barragan to let him build a Hernandez signature rigid front end for Rosemary. In classic chopper builder fashion, the front end arrived during the last day of final assembly and now Michael could finally step back and see the final result of his long journey. The christening of Rosemary occurred when Barragan told Freddie, “I just wanted it to look like a bike that would have been in your pack.” Freddie replied “It’s better.”

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Rosemary Tech Sheet
Owner: Evil Spirit Engineering – Michael Barragan
City: Burbank, CA
Fabrication By: Evil Spirit: Abreham Gonzales & Michael Barragan
Year: 1947 Knucklehead
Model: 1969 California Chopper
Time: 4 Months
Year: 1947
Model: Knucklehead
Builder: Kiyo – Michael Barragan
Ignition: Stock Points
Displacement: 74”
Pistons: S&S
Heads: 2 Harley Rear Heads
Cam(s): Stock H-D
Carb: 2 Linkerts
Air Cleaner: A Present From Shinya
Exhaust: Fab. By ESE
Primary: Stock I Think – Ask Dean Micetich
Year: 1947
Make: H-D
Shifting: Standard
Year: 1947
Make: H-D
Rake: Stock
Stretch: 10”
Type: Rigid
Builder: Freddy Hernandez
Extension: Pretty Long
Triple Trees: Freddy Hernandez
Front Wheel: Narrow Triumph With Spool
Size: 21”
Tire: Avon Speedmaster
Brakes: No
Rear Wheel: Akron With HD Star Hub
Size: 18”
Tire: Forgot The Brand – Super Skinny
Brakes: Stock Drum
Painter: Buck Wylde
Color: Buck Wylde
Type: Paint
Graphics: F**king Crazy
chroming: Astro Plating
Bars: ESE Rabbit Ears
Risers: None
Hand Controls: None
Gas Tank(s): Hummer Tank Modified
Front Fender: Nope
Rear Fender: ‘47 Knuck Stock Hinged – Modified
Seat: Yeah, I Have One
Foot Controls: ESE
Oil Tank: Stock ‘47 Modified
Headlight: Swap Meet Find
Taillight: Gunner Accessory Lights
Speedo: It Goes Pretty Fast
photographer: Jazmin Estopin

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