Most of those shows became watered-down dramas, featuring posers on 300 tire, 10-foot-long, solid-chrome choppers, with every Tom, Dick and Harry claiming they were a “builder.” Then the economy took a nosedive and in doing seems to have flushed out most of that nonsense with it. A good portion of the builders that remain have relied on their innovation and skills to create parts for the common man to use on an actual motorcycle on the road — not some billet-laden chrome turd that barely turns a wheel.
All this brings us to tonight where the Discovery Channel is bringing together three giants in the motorcycle fabrication field for the mother of all build-offs. Paul Teutul Sr., Paul Teutul Jr. and Jesse James will square off at 9 p.m. Eastern & Pacific Time, revealing their builds at the end of the show. Then you vote for the winner. That winner will be announced live at 9 Tuesday night on Discovery in the second segment.
Called American Chopper Live: The Build-Off, these back-to-back shows should attract a lot of attention from motorcycle riders and those who just like to watch. The Teutuls built an empire with Orange County Choppers, but when Paul Jr. left OCC (some speculation still points to a staged split), the show lost some of its ardor. Nonetheless, it is still awkwardly rolling along.
Meanwhile, Jesse James, the man who in my opinion started all this craziness with bikers on mainstream TV, is diving back into the bike-building spotlight. Arlen Ness may be the godfather of custom bikes, but Jesse James brought them into millions of American living rooms. After 100 episodes of Monster Garage, a couple of Motorcycle Mania documentaries and West Coast Choppers establishing itself as the benchmark for custom motorcycle shops, Mr. James become famous for things other than his fabrication skills.
He became a source of content for tabloids and websites across the country, with the focus being on his relationships. I never understood that. Personally, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass who Jesse James dates, or dumps. None of my business. I’m a fan of Jesse James because, to me, he represented the American dream. He built his empire with his own hands. He propelled himself to the top of his industry, self-taught, self-made.
After his torrid tabloid whirlwind, he pulled back from the public eye, wrote American Outlaw (it’s a good read — you should pick it up) and continued to hone his skills. He even went to Israel on a blacksmith apprenticeship. Mr. James closed up WCC and moved to Texas, setting up shop on his property.
I don’t really care who wins this televised competition because it really doesn’t matter. But I do think this is good for the motorcycle industry. Things are kinda boring in this industry right now, and this should spice it up. The Teutuls have remained fairly quiet about the competition to date, but Mr. James has not. Jesse has never been one to mince words and on a roll now, calling into question the abilities of the “cake decorators” and referencing their bikes as “shitty products.”
Discovery has put out a series of videos that document this epic smack talk, and Cyril Huze has a good interview with Jesse on his blog. For myself, I’m just not a big fan of the bike the Teutuls build. My preferences lean more toward functionality and soul in a motorcycle. And that pretty much discards the themed rolling clichés that come out of the shops in Orange County, N.Y.
I’m willing to bet that the general viewing public will probably be swayed by the whiz-bang gadgetry, the giant tires and TVs inserted in gas tanks that keeps people buying the OCC keychains from the gas stations. It doesn’t matter. Like I said, I don’t care who wins. I just want to see some bad-ass bikes. And welcome back Mr. James, I hope you’re here to stay a while.
Photos courtesy of the Discovery Channel.