When a project gets assembled for the very last time it’s a bittersweet moment, the bitterness comes from knowing that your journey of creation is all but over, the sweetness is the realisation that the ideas you had weeks, months and years ago have all been realised and now you can step back and see that vision in real life.
Speaking of bittersweet, this project has been exactly that, as this build progressed so did the point of reveal, the 2020 Born Free Show in California was the destination and coming from Australia I wanted to make the most of the opportunity.
The bike was to arrive in New York, I had a 1970’s Econoline lined up to load it in, then a bunch of amazing locations to visit along the route west to California. That virus you may have been hearing about put a stop to all this and then the show was delayed so I did the same with the finishing stages of the bike.
With the show set to return in 2021 I got busy getting the bike finished off and painted, again my plans to take it over to the show got derailed as that same virus had Australia on its knees and the government ordered me not to travel revoking my opportunity to fulfill my position as the Born Free 12 Invited builder.
Dejected but not down I pressed on and finished the bike. I had Karl at KDS Designs complete the paint, the brief was to really harness the raw look of the unfinished bike, but seal it all so it’s a completed motorcycle that has a high level of finish about it.
This is different to all the times I have clear coated things, I really have not found a sweet spot for clear coating, powder coat lifts and the rust forms underneath, clear paint doesn’t stick to the steel all that well and almost all other finishes are temporary.
This way we had a finished bike but the colour was neutral and the finish put an emphasis on the shape and stance of it.
Speaking of stance, I was most of the way through the reassembly stage (which is a easy due to the removable bottom rails of the frame) and the time came to reinsert the front wheel onto the forks.
To my surprise I had to raise the bike a lot to do so, this changed the angles of the frame and stretched the wheel too far out from the chassis, I had not played around with front end heights since making the forks but with the paint now on and the bike assembled it just didnt look right to me.
I went ahead and measured the drop I needed, it was 100mm and although it wasnt ideal making changes after paint I had no other choice if I wanted to be happy with the finished product.
So I clamped up the front end in the drill and used a 1” holesaw to remake the front dropouts 100mm lower. After TIG welding some new countersunk lugs it was ready for final assembly.
Once I rolled the motorcycle stand outside I could really appreciate the finished bike, with all the highs and lows that this build has put me through I honestly didn’t know if I would still love it, but in the end I was blown away.
When I look back to that first conversation with BMW Australia I promised that I could build a BMW Chopper, that in itself was me trusting in my ability to overcome all the obstacles that I would face throughout the build.
From there my promise to Born Free to bring a finished and show worthy BMW Chopper to the biggest show in the world was again a promise to myself to go above and beyond and build something that no one had ever seen before.
This drove me to learn skills and processes I had not ventured into before, take the wheelset for example, this was by far the biggest feature of the bike and their execution was paramount to the bikes success. I couldn’t be happier with the finished product.
If I had my time again I would have made the wheels from mild steel and ground all the spokes so that they had rounded edges, this would have allowed me to chrome plate them and really bring them up another level.
It’s been a hell of a ride and although the debut of the bike didn’t go to plan I sincerely hope that it can one day sit on the world stage and inspire people to go away from the conventional. This bike sums up my love for fabrication and creation, anything is possible, just because you haven’t seen something before doesn’t mean it wont work, if its a radical design then tone it down with a lack of colours and really bring the shapes into spotlight.
I built this bike to fit me, so it seems appropriate I throw up some footage of the finished riding product.
As always thanks for reading.