Article By: Chris Callen
Photos By: Will Soltes
Originally Published In The February 2013 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
When you hear the name Yaniv Evan or Powerplant Choppers, the first thing that comes to a lot of our minds is probably the iconic images of him tearing ass down the busy streets of LA, tank surfing his black and yellow striped bike. I’ve been a fan of his work for a good long while. I’ve seen pictures of his shop, and figured he had a Zen surfer / skate punk philosophy driving him. However, when I finally got to talk to him about the bike you see here, it blew my mind. So first, the big news is that the Black Mantis has added another credit to Evan’s already impressive list of accomplishments as a builder. But the interesting part about him was that he was still disappointed in the build; Yaniv felt he could have done so much more. I knew immediately I was talking to a cat who was beyond driven, and more of the real deal than professors at the university of the old ways. So I grabbed my pen, a pack of squares and sat back to hear his story.
Yaniv was born in Israel and his first exposure to the two-wheel world was his old man’s Vespa that had a sidecar. He loved that thing, and as soon as he could get his hands on a bike of his own, he was all in. His uncle was a welder so even at eight years old he was always dragging some crazy-ass shit in for him to help weld. By 14, he was in LA and getting an early learner’s permit. This was when he scored a YSR 50. He saved up the money on his own as an extra project since he was already restoring a Mustang and an old Chevelle. Yeah man, at 14 he was already kickin’ it with some serious metal. At the time, his old man had a buddy that serviced private airplanes. He saw that Yaniv was into fabrication and working on machinery so he offered him a spot. He told him if he really wanted to have a future he should take some classes which Yaniv did, and then promptly dropped out of high school. Although he was on a better path with the work he was doing than wasting time in school, he still knew it wasn’t his life’s calling. He’d much rather be Frenching in headlights and doing bodywork.
Jim Brunz Jr. at Brunz’s Kustom City was a huge influence on Yaniv back in the day. He told me that Jim was probably responsible for a lot of the sickest cars out there today. He started hanging around the shop, cleaning up, and doing anything to learn. They started to teach him to use the lathe and the mill. He scored a little Triumph; everyone wanted it once he was done throwing a hardtail on it and making it cool, and then he started into Harleys. Of course the first Harley he picked was the one every Harley owner secretly lusts after: a Knuckle. Even the skills he needed to work on that bike he picked up by trading manual labor to Harley shops. The secret, Yaniv said, was that he was never afraid to ask questions, and not in the way of not wanting to pay for work, he’d pay, he just wanted to watch and learn. This cat’s like a sponge and as I said in the beginning, he is beyond driven. The skills that he uses to build a bike today is at or above anything I’ve seen at an AMD show, but his bikes are all about riding. He told me that there is still a lot he hasn’t done, but at the end of the day, he has to make a living doing what he does. Not everyone is of the mind to pay you to try something five or six times until you figure it out. He would, however, like to build an entire motor for a project someday, all from scratch.
A lot of his attitude comes from years ago when Indian Larry visited his shop. After inspecting his work, Larry told Yaniv he was doing it right. He told me that after that, he could care less what anyone else thought about how he did things. He lets styles come and go; he feels that at 37 years old he’s seen the motorcycle thing change three or four times, but he stays with what he loves and hopes one day that he becomes known for his style, the way Larry was known for his. So what the hell, let’s talk about the bike. How does a person sit down and think about a project of this magnitude? Well, for Yaniv, it started with a clapped out Santee 180 or 200 frame. He said that he is so cheap that he loves to buy a piece of shit and cut it up. He changed the geometry at the back axle to make it short and accommodate the real world use for lane splitting that it would surely need. If it were u p to him, all bikes would ride like F X R s , but they can’t all look like one so he does what he can to get the best of both worlds.
He likes apes and taller bars so he’d end up using a design he made for his friend Joey who is the drummer for Queens of the Stone Age. He thinks Joey hates him for duplicating his bars, but this is his personal bike and he just loved that original design he came up with so much that he had to use them. He split the rockers on the Shovel, like many do, but the devil is in the detail of the build up of metal here and there to achieve a different shape: the rounding of corners, the use of uncommon hardware. It all adds up to a very not off-the-shelf custom. Like all of the Powerplant builds, Matt the Monk did the motor using S&S internals, right in his backyard where he has every tool known to man. Yaniv says his favorite part of Matt doing the motor work is that you don’t even have to break his work in; you just get on and ride. The stainless pipes that look like a puzzle are truly a work of art. Each bend has been meticulously calculated to go exactly where it needs to be to pick up a little more air, to run within the lines of the bike, and dip exactly under the rider’s foot: flawless. Another top secret trick on the Mantis is the rear fender mounting. I first saw this in Vegas and was like man, that’s a very European looking way to mount a fender. Yaniv confided in me that it was just that. He found some ears on a fender at a swap meet, drilled out the spot welds and then braised them on to his new sheet metal. He’s always inspired by the 1940’s military bikes and this BMW mount design would give him that look. The fender was an old British fender he radiused for his wheel diameter, hand rolled the rib down the center and then handmade the struts to compliment it.
The gas tank and mounting hardware is truly Yaniv’s signature. He does this on all of his builds and although he’s seen many try and imitate it, few have come close to acing it. In the end, it’s solid as hell and lets you pull the tank off in minutes. The battery tray was made from an Evo cylinder, which he thought would be a great idea until he cut through the aluminum and started into the sleeve. He wishes good luck to anyone else who wants to try that again. So here’s the deal, I could go on for another 3,000 words about the details on this bike and I’d still be short changing it. I can tell you that it deserved to win the Artistry in Iron at Vegas BikeFest hands down. Yaniv sends special thanks for that to Ramos from V&C Polishing who stayed up around the clock helping him get the bike ready for that show. The only thing I can suggest so that you can truly appreciate the craftsmanship in this bike is to see it in person. Find out where this cat is gonna be, go there or visit the damn shop. It’s well worth the time, but ya might have a hard time tracking him down. You see, he loves to ride his bikes as much as he loves to build them. As we got to the end of our conversation, he told me that he was so relieved to be back from Japan, where he rode the bike as part of the Mooneyes’ event, so that he could really start to get on it. He figures that he’ll probably lay it down within the first couple of weeks; he mentioned this as he laughed his ass off. In closing, he thanked the entire crew at Powerplant Choppers and everyone involved with Vegas BikeFest and Artistry in Iron. The $10,000 first prize will go fast on another project, but the title of winning in Vegas will last a lifetime.
Black Mantis Tech Sheet
Owner: Yaniv Evan
City: Hollywood, CA
Fabrication By: Powerplant Choppers
Model: H-D Split Rocker Shovel
Time: 800 Hours
Builder: Powerplant / Matt the Monk
Ignition: Dyna S
Carb: S&S Dual Throat
Air Cleaner: Dual Velocity Stack – Powerplant
Exhaust: Powerplant Stainless
Primary: Powerplant Choppers
Make: H-D Fully Polished – Powerplant
Shifting: Suicide – 5 in a 4
Make: Powerplant Single Downtube
Rake: D-Rake 1 Degree
Type: 1942 Springer
Front Wheel: Custom Laced
Tire: Avon Speedmaster
Rear Wheel: Custom Laced
Brakes: Custom Powerplant Choppers
Polishing: Ramos – V & C Polishing
Graphics: Oil Bag – Tay Herrera
Bars: Powerplant Choppers
Hand Controls: Internal
Gas Tank(s): Powerplant
Rear Fender: Powerplant
Seat: Azteca Customs
Foot Controls: Powerplant Choppers Mids
Oil Tank: Powerplant
Taillight: Powerplant Choppers
Headlight: Powerplant Choppers
Photographer: Will Soltes