A great idea can be taken a long way — 1,000 miles to Key West, Fla., for instance.
That was the length of the 10-and-a-half-hour inaugural ride of Mike Walsh’s custom-built chopper, a ride based on a concept all his own.
This month’s Cycle Source magazine features the Shickshinny native’s ride built by Wilkes-Barre-based James Custom Cycles. The chopper was completed in February of 2007.
According to Brad James, owner of James Custom Cycles, there’s not much to the bike — and therein lies the beauty.
Walsh’s chopper began with a Redneck frame and oil bag, 41-millimeter Mean Streets front end, 250 Patrick Racing V-Twin engine, and 80-spoke wheels. The paint job was done by Scott Franks, a local artist who often works with James. It features orange and yellow flames on a black base. A well-dressed devil smoking a cigar sits below the seat.
Walsh was in the presence of hot rods and motorcycles all his life. He jumped on his first two-wheel vehicle at the age of 5 when his father would take him out to ride dirt bikes. Walsh isn’t even positive what his first motorcycle was, but there is one thing he’s sure of.
“I’ve never been without one,” he says.
In addition to his custom chopper, Walsh owns a 2002 Fatboy Harley Davidson.
He knew James from years back when the pair worked together. Walsh was familiar with James’ work, liked it, and felt he was the right guy to take on his cycle’s concept. He couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
“The character of the bike, it’s more or less what I wanted, not what somebody else wanted,” Walsh says.
It’s also a bike that will never be found sitting in a garage. Unlike many riders who let their bikes do just that, Walsh would rather his hit the pavement.
“A lot of guys will let them sit and just take them to shows,” Walsh says. “Not me. The bike was built to be ridden.”
Walsh couldn’t have made this notion more apparent than on the day after the bike was built. He made a 1,000-mile trek to Key West with friends over a span of five days, much to James’ protest.
For a bike that did not have a single mile on it, it performed quite well. Since he rode with stock Harleys, Walsh knew to stop at 400 miles for an oil change. He put on an additional 400 miles, accumulating 800 miles on his newly built bike in a short time. He was out of commission with a blown fork seal.
Besides its excellent performance capabilities, one of the highlights of the bike is the gas tank, something James is proud of.
“It sits tall on the bike, and I really pride myself on integration and hand fabrication on my tanks,” James told Cycle Source.
Walsh took the chopper to only one show last year at Split Rock Lodge in Blakeslee. For a one-time appearance, the bike did just fine, taking first place in the modified chopper category.
Though the bike was completed in a mere six months, once in the hands of James, its foundation began in 2004. Four years ago, Walsh bought the frame for the bike, a Redneck with a 48-degree rake.
Among the parts that were fabricated in-house at James’ are the custom HPC coated exhaust with stainless tips, custom handlebars, chrome rear fender, engine mounts, gas tank and custom seat pan, which was covered by Dwayne Ballard.
James Customs Cycles is a three-man operation founded in 1996 that produces roughly five to six bikes a year. Each bike is built for a specific person; no bike is built and just thrown on the floor for purchase. James’ will not do kit bikes or theme bikes.
This isn’t the first time the work of James and his shop has gained recognition. Cycle Source magazine also featured the crew’s creations in the “My Way” section of the publication in December 2007.