Sometimes three fingers of Jack Daniels will give you a different perspective, and honestly, I was working nine fingers of Jack when Bandit, the editor/owner of the online custom bike magazine bikernet.com, called and asked what I was good for, as he hadn’t seen an article from me since 2014?
Dr. Jack Tequila (a hobbyist chiropractor) and I were sitting beachside in Wilmington, NC, watching the sun go down.
I got caught up on the question, “What good was I?” I’d been working pretty hard since getting off the Progressive International Motorcycle Show and the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show series. I’ve started a new business, All Clean, where we remove coatings from any surface quickly with virtually no dust, no damage or deformation. Then with Sin-Central, we headed down to the Baja Peninsula of Mexico to help renovate some facilities at an orphanage in Vincente Guerrero.
Bandit then bellowed, “Hello, hello, get me something for BikernetBaggers.com or don’t call back,” and then banged the phone down.”
You know Bandit has been working on his own bottle of Jack when you get calls like that, but he was right. Eight months is a long time to produce written work. I’m now engaged to provide a few articles and videos over the next year for J&P Cycles as well as Bikernet.com.
Dr. Jack and I were talking about Daytona and how I had crashed this kick-ass party at Bling’s Cycle, and how Bill Dodge has this huge shop with no sign out front. Dodge is this 2-wheel custom bike savant that got his notoriety working for Jesse James back in the day.
“I’d been hunting for about an hour until I saw Roadside Marty, the humorous and foul-mouthed master of ceremonies for numerous events and rallies, and hooked a euwie and followed his train of choppers into the party.”
Dodge just rolled up his overhead door, turned on the music and put a cooker out back. You could see the bikes in different stages of customization—and it was really cool and packed. Tools were on the bike lifts like they had just been left, moments before the party started.
Music, chow, and that crazy-cool Hell Cat pinstripe girl were hanging out back with Odie, her English Bulldog; she was humming a tune and throwing grill scraps to the pup. Hell Cat told me that she will be in Miami at the International Motorcycle Show doing pinstripe training on January 8 -10th of next year.
While I was walking around and checking out the effort, I saw this bagger that looked more like a bobber… A Bobber/Bagger . It’s one of those antithetical sleds to the big-wheel bikes that you see in the magazines. It’s a bike that you walk up to and you just want to throw a leg over, drop the hammer, and go…
So I got on the horn with Dodge, and we set a 6AM phone appointment to talk about his bagger. Bill starts his day early, and he wanted to get the call out of the way before he gets into the zone and starts creating.
I’d met Bill at the Road 2 Smoke Out DVD launch party a few years ago in Daytona when Edge, the Smoke Out promoter, had a bike failure. While we were doing the reception, Bill grabbed it up and fixed it by the time the event was over. That theme of connecting with people is what makes Dodge a special guy. He converts acquaintances into long-lasting friends, and he builds bikes to fit their riding style and lifestyle.
So this bike, a 2004 Police Special Road King, is owned by Jim Root, also known as “#4”. He’s the guitarist for the heavy metal band Slipknot. Root is one of the band’s main songwriters and has written lead guitar parts for Slipknot’s later albums. Slipknot is an American heavy metal band and is known for its attention-grabbing image, aggressive music and chaotic live shows.
After a ride to Sturgis on one of Dodge’s custom rigid choppers, Root decided that he needed something more comfortable and parked his old bagger at Bill’s shop.
Bill wasn’t all that interested in the project since he builds choppers and bobbers, so he tossed Root a few wrenches and said, “Disassemble it and we’ll see…”
Bill’s build philosophy is to build something that is cool, light, fast and then ride it for as long as he can [he rides the piss out of it –ed.] to work out the bugs, and give it back to the customer, ready-to-ride down the street or across the country. The newly-built Jim Root Road King captures the essence of long distance rider: packing only the essentials for cross country riding without worrying about anything other than the destination.
Bill’s not really into Baggers. He had this to say… “I certainly don’t build a bagger only for the purpose of boosting the owner’s ego, just so he can win a gold plastic trophy from a bike show.”
And I would say that his Baggers could possibly be the next trend. They are such a departure from the big-wheel brethren that you see out there that his work draws you into “the Bill Dodge outpost of design.” Meaning, even though each of Dodge’s bikes are unique, you can tell when he has put his stamp of approval on one.
After everything was apart, he decided to give it a go and build his interpretation of a bagger. He eyeballed the frame and removed mounting points, filled holes, and notched and smoothed everything out. All the metal covers were cut out and replaced with aluminum. A new aluminum seat pan was fabricated. While he was working on the frame, the engine was packed up and sent to Kendall Johnson’s son, Zach Johnson.
The bike went on a starvation diet. In the electrics alone, Bill stated he was able to throw away 140lbs.
Zach lightened the crank, bored the cylinders and slipped in 30-over pistons to deliver an amazing 135 HP to the rear wheel. Dodge modified the Thunder Header to deliver better mid-range power, and new electronics were mapped to extract the greatest horsepower gains. Results? It’s a bike that hits like a dragster and delivers stand-up wheelies at any time or place.
One of the first things that you notice about this bike is the Bling Cycles signature wheels, cut by Revolution Manufacturing (23″ x 31/4″ front, 18″ x 5.5″ rear.) From bars and risers to pegs, all hand-made parts are typical of Bling Cycles’ style, keeping riding functionality and an industrial-look as the 1st criteria for designing each component. “Just the bare essentials” is Bill’s take on making a 2-wheeler perform as it is supposed to. The sled is dressed in polished aluminum and stainless steel with a paint job by Chad Chambers.
Bill is a mad scientist when it comes to suspension and chassis. What he is looking to accomplish is to get the bike to hook up when you drop the hammer. And he makes sure it has good balance and good road manners, aka a corner carver.
As he said, “To get the power to the ground, you need suspension.” Without suspension you will see the rear hop like on a rigid. If it is too soft, the rear will just smoke the tires.
Bill kept the stock geometry but built a custom set of trees that delivered 7 degrees to accommodate the 23” front wheel. He then stiffened the front and rear suspension by dialing in preload. Suspension is a dark art because of all the variables: riding styles, frame geometry, single and double-up rider weight, and bike weight.
Dodge works up a suspension protocol in his head and then fine tunes it on the asphalt.
The last suspension tuning component is not even suspension. It’s a pair of sticky Pirelli donuts. Sure, they don’t last a long time, but you are riding a freaking super model. In every relationship there are a few items you must pay for—for the privilege.
It’s said that we are exposed to millions of messages each day, and I have a tendency to skim over a lot of stuff so it took me a while to decipher the badging on the Bling’s bobber/bagger. The tank badge says Harley-Diamondson, and this gives a nod to Harley and Bling’s Cycles logo, which includes a diamond design. The Remade in USA badge was harder to decode.
Bill contends that the last true American made bike was made in 1972. In ’73, components were coming in from Japan. Now they come into Milwaukee from China. Bill fabricates his parts, so he remakes everything under the red, white and blue banner, his Re-Made in USA Harley-Diamondson.
Ahhmen. God Bless America and custom metal artists like Bill Dodge.