Thursday, February 28, 2008

Billy Joel flys in for a visit at Kiwi MotorCycles

Billy with the Kiwi's
The Piano Man Chillin' on our Replica Chief!
Billy with the Kiwi Crew

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Exclusive Build for Michael Lichkter at Sturgis

Custom bike building in my mind is quite a misused term today as many builders who say they are a custom bike builder are no more than a parts assembler. A custom bike builder has a good eye for style, is creative, has an artistic flavor and is a talented fabricator and when you stand back and admire the bike as a whole it shows through.
At the Cincinnati V-Twin Expo trade show in Feb 07 Michael Lichter made me an offer that I could not refuse, it was his “One World Choppers” exhibit for Sturgis 2007 and his exhibit was to feature foreign born bike builders and I felt honored to have been asked to represent down under New Zealand. This was a big deal for us being part of one of the main attractions at Sturgis.
Now that we had the invite the tough part of the project was the concept of what to build to show case our abilities, talents and products and I needed to get my head around a project that was cool, old school and unique which is what Kiwi Indian is all about. I started a list of what features the bike should have, leaf spring fork, rigid frame, sissy bar, 21” front wheel, 18” rear wheel, narrow tires with old style tread, peanut gas tank, remote oil tank (un-Indian), tank nose art graphics, narrow rear fender, no front fender, straight exhausts, ape hangers, left hand throttle (typical Indian), right side hand shifter, foot clutch, custom seat, steering dampener and some design theme worked into the frame. I felt these were some items that would make a good starting point.
Just a few years ago I was told by one of the industries top magazine editors that my products and motorcycles were not main stream and that we’ll never be eligible for any industry awards. Well to me this was a pretty good sized kick in the guts considering I’ve been doing this almost 20 years in the US and designed and manufactured about 2500 different part numbers and others within the industry have acknowledged our bikes and talents. To me the reason most of us got into motorcycles is because I did NOT want to be main stream. I was determined to build the most kick ass and authentic old school bike ever built to this day. We are Kiwi Indian MotorCycle Company and we are gonna be noticed come hell or high water for all the right reasons.

In March my son Ross and I went to the Pomona Calif car swap meet and this became the starting point of what was to become the Kiwi “Arrow Space” rocket bike. Here we found a cool 1940’s-50’s little fender marker light that would sit upon the top of the sissy bar, a cool Buck Rogers head light, rocket air cleaner cover, a cool old tail light that had absolutely no relationship with anything else on the bike other than it was just plain cool as well as a few other bits and pieces. I find I do most of my innovative thinking while behind the handle bars of my Indians and in April I rode my 1948 Chief to a road run in Texas putting on 3300 miles in a week. On the return trip I went a bit out of the way to stop and look through Roswell New Mexico, the land of the space aliens. I’m not sure why I made myself stop in at Roswell at the time other than I had heard so much about it but in hind sight it was most likely because of this bike build, maybe space aliens????.

Since leaving school (almost 30 years ago) I have always been dedicated to the Indian brand and while I have seen many attempts made at reviving the brand come and go mainly because none have ever understood what Indian is really about however, for me I enjoy bringing to life a part of America’s past motorcycle history. There is history to everything that we are doing today and I feel someone has to keep the history alive so it might as well be us.
One of my inspirations is Indian Larry and I was fortunate enough having met him before his unfortunate passing. He brought to life (and to the world on TV) some old things some of us already knew and did. I remember him heating and twisting metal for his frame on TV in a very simple fashion without any fancy tooling and people went wow and still remember it to this day. He was the real deal and he thought Kiwi was a cool company knowing what we did to keep vintage Indians alive. When he would call up to talk parts, he didn’t mix words, he was coarse and straight to the point yet likeable as he was a real bike builder in the raw.
In mid 2006 Trevelen from Super Company in Los Angles approached us about being involved in a TV biker build off with him featuring our bobber rolling chassis and engine (he is the creator of the Crazy Horse copper tank and fender bike). He brought us into his custom bike building loop and it was a great experience to hang with such a guy. Trevelen is a very talented and artistic guy and he builds a bitchin’ style of bike. I enjoy all of the different cultures influence in America that play into the past and present of motorcycles and Trevelen exposed me to the Hispanic culture and the Frisco Chopper. I just love the style of the Frisco Chopper, lean, clean, simple, ooh la la.
Jesse James is a very talented builder and some of his nostalgia builds of past chopper styles really tickles my fancies. I have built Jesse 2 Indians and both were fun as he likes to have something different and we can get creative, the 1st a customized 1948 Chief while the 2nd was a 1937 Chief. Jesse commented that the Indians were his most favorite bikes and the 1937 Chief bobber (rigid frame and leaf spring fork) was his most favorite bike to ride. I remember going to his shop to drop off some parts years ago on a Sunday morning and there he was fabricating and welding away up in his loft, just him. He’s a very talented guy and always shown respect for what we do with Indians.
Brian Klock is another super talented builder who can build anything anyway and to me he is one of the most talented and versatile builders this industry has yet to fully recognize. Everything he builds is 1st class and I admire a guy with such talents and a positive attitude.
I like Chica, his style and his way of doing things, simple and without fancy equipment. Chica comes from the same vintage back ground as us and I respect him for where he has come from and what he is doing. For years people thought what we were both doing was odd, out of place and non mainstream but many years later people come to appreciate what we build as it’s the real deal with the real history because that’s what we really know and are all about.
Donny Smith built cool choppers during the 70’s and he’s a very cool guy. I have spent a bit of time looking through old magazines recognizing his talents. He’s one of the old and genuine bike builders that I just have to admire for still going on like the energizer bunny.
I also have a lot for respect for the past designers and builders of the Indian mark, that is the original Indian factory guys in Springfield Mass. Over the past almost 20 years of developing Kiwi Indian MotorCycle Co I have designed and reproduced approx 2500 different part numbers for Indians and I admire Briggs Weaver for his designing talents. If we go back in the historical style of things, he was the guy who was directly responsible in bringing in the art deco style to the automotive and motorcycle industries. Briggs had been working for Indian in the late 20’s under the DuPont era ownership of Indian (late 20’s to 1945) and I feel he started catching his stride with his art deco styling influence in the 1934/35 models. The front and rear fenders had a nice curve from side to side and they both had a flare at the rear bottom of them. He then introduced little skirts or shields to the sides of the fenders giving them a flowing style which also flowed in with the chain guard. 1938 saw the integrated dash panel so the speedometer and gauges were no longer an after thought just placed up on the tank and handlebars. To me the 1938 and 1939 Chief’s were the most beautiful styled bikes ever created even to this day. Brigg’s also brought to us the fully skirted fenders in 1940 which even to this day are the most recognizable thing ever introduced to any automotive design. I love these original factory guys, without them we’d have nothing to work with or appreciate, may they live on forever.

Designing a bike with our engine offers a lot of freedom in the design process since our engine is a 2-1/2 to 3” lower overall height than that of a Harley based engine. While it doesn’t sound like much it really is when it comes to the freedom of design and the other big factor is the low center of gravity. When you get on any Kiwi Indian bike you will immediately notice the low center of gravity and the unique and easy handling of our bikes, light, nimble, smooth and just plain fun. This is what motorcycles are all about and what most builders overlook and don’t build into their bikes today. It’s something we have known for years and it’s the foundation of what build making these bikes the most custom made bikes in the USA. That may seem like a tall order but consider who else manufactures their own engine from scratch. Yes we make our own cases, heads, rods, flywheels, cams, etc.

Creating an artistic bike is no small chore and things have to flow. I loved the flavor of the 1940’s-50’s Buck Rogers rocket shapes and I thought it would be cool to have some of these designed into the bike especially into the frame that we would build. I wanted the frame to be as structural as possible and I thought it would look better if we made the rockets with a hole through them and had them chrome plated and then slid them over the frame locking them into place with set screws (grub screws down under) and then welding the frame tubes to the neck and rear axle mounts. While it is lot of work I felt the end result would be surprisingly brilliant if I could ever pick the right shade of red as the color was going to be key in making our chrome rockets “pop”. If the color was not quite right then it’ll be a turn off and people will not admire what we had created. Nobody knows how much I really hate picking colors and picking the red was a big chore in itself and a very difficult pain staking decision that went on way too long. I went through every brand of car dealership, domestics, foreign, exotics, family, econo, you name it until I finally saw the red I was after, 1 lonely 2007 VW Jetta in Salsa red, that was it, no doubt about it. I painstakingly checked what it looked like against chrome and then black, ooh I could see the choice was right.
During the fabrication stage of the build some things were pretty tough to do in order to accomplish our mission goals and we have a saying here at Kiwi, “if it were easy, everyone else would be doing it, that’s why we’re doing it”. We drew some rocket shapes out on card board and sat them on the frame to get the right proportions. From here we bored the frame tube hole through the long pieces of steel which was a job in itself since we could not find a drill bit long enough. We ended up making one ourselves by welding on a long extension and turning the other end down to fit into the tail stock chuck. Since the 1-1/8 diameter drill had so much force on it, it wanted to spin in the tail stock chuck so we clamped a Vise Grip (kindly sponsored by Irwin Tools) on to the drill bit shank so the Vise Grip would rest on the carriage and not allow the drill bit to turn. We were figuring on machining the outside rocket shape on our own lathe but since each rocket needed to be an exact match to its mate, we felt the P&A boys (Paddy and Nigel) were the right guys for the task. We then drew up some cool rocket fin designs on cardboard and sat them on the rocket to get the desired shape which we then cut the fins out of 1/8” steel and welded them onto the rocket body, drilled in the set screw holes and off to Riverside Plating for chroming.

Trevelen gave us a cool oil tank which we had to be use on the build as it was a special gesture from him however for the longest time we could not find an appropriate spot for it (we must have tried 6 different places) yet towards the end of the fabrication stage (2 weeks to go) we finally found a suitable spot right above the battery and box. Here it would reduce the direct visibility of the battery yet sit centrally above it, fill in a dead area, look very cool while supporting the rear fender. The oil tank fins added a certain touch to this bike. Everything on a custom bike has to be cool and thought has to go into every single thing, after all that’s what it’s all about.

The original factory Indian clutch and foot brake pedals don’t have any style to them at all so creating new ones were mandatory for us. The ones created started out life as pieces of cardboard to get the right shape and proportions and then transferred to solid plate and plasma cut. We wanted to give the edges some style so we went for a rounded look and drilled some chamfered holes into them for a cool effect which also flowed in with the sissy bar. We wanted the pedals to have some cool rocket pegs built into them so once again we cut out the rocket shapes out in cardboard so they could be held against the pedals in order to get the right proportions. The left pedal is the foot clutch and we wanted the lower left rocket to also double as a foot peg so when the clutch pedal is in the fully disengaged position it rests against the front motor mounting bolt acorn nut and we have our left foot peg in the same plain as the right side peg. Paddy and Nigel from P&A alliance really rocked as we gave them the 2 rocket designs for our foot pegs to be CNC machined and we figured that once we got them back we would weld the fins on to them as usual but this time when they walked in with the parts they announced that the British invasion was here and they surprised us with having the fins CNC onto them. Wow, these were kick ass sweet and totally unexpected and took a lot to make. They were proud of their work and they rightfully should be. These guys were extremely fair, loved the bike we were working on and pretty much just charged us for materials and net labor costs. It was very much appreciated and considering they were both British, not bad guys. When the pedals were all said and done and when sighted from each side of the bike they both have the same contour and line up with each other. No small task on our part but it continues to make everything flow together in the whole overall package of the bike. So much time goes into every single part of the bike and in many cases things have to be done over and over again until it is done perfectly and the desired look is achieved. We didn’t settle for 2nd best on anything. It’s easy to say its close enough but that’s not the way we do things at Kiwi. It’s the price of perfection and the end result shows it, a bitchin’ bike with nice flowing lines representing a cool part of American motorcycling history.
A little funny side note on Paddy, I’d drop in and keep giving him some challenging parts to make. He’d hear me out and check out my drawing/sketch and then take me into his office and show me a T-shirt that he has stapled to the wall. “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”. I never did acknowledge Paddy’s t-shirt or give into his eyes being rolled around and like I explained to him if he can’t do it then I know a Kiwi who would show him how to do it. He’d mumble and hobble off across his machine shop floor and the next day we’d have our part our way. The 2 Pom’s, Paddy and Nigel were determined not to be beat by a Kiwi and they did some cool machining to give our bike some kick ass finishing touches.

Steering dampeners were cool back in their day and I wanted to create a totally custom Kiwi made steering dampener which took quite a bit of figuring out. Out came the cardboard once again to get the proportions just right and then redraw it out on steel plate and plasma cut it out. From here we went to town with our milling machine and the final blending was done by hand filing. Many think filing is old fashioned but I believe it is a lost art that requires great skill. I enjoy filing since it makes for a very precision part and few people now days know how or have the patience. I’ll pick up a file any chance I get just to keep the old tradesman skill up. The boys created the knob which represented Saturn with its rings around it. Quite a nice finishing touch which brings in the space theme

Designing an exhaust on a bike is one of those items that can either make or break a bike and we needed it to be outstanding and compliment the rest of the bike. One of our friends named “Bagger” dropped in during the fabrication stages of the build and when he saw the bike he went digging through his junk pile at home and donated us 2 very cool rocket shape exhaust tips. No one had any idea what they were off but they were just plain cool. We called in Dan Hellerud who lives around the corner from our shop to help out with the exhaust. Dan is a cool guy and I like to bring in others so as they have a chance to showcase their talents on our bikes. While we can build pipes ourselves I believe in networking and Dan is just a cool guy and we wanted to bring him into the loop.

Travis Bonde is a very talented fabricator who stops by regularly as he loves to see what we have going on at the shop. Travis is awesome at almost any type of design and fabrication (frames, tanks, fenders, etc) and brings so much talent to the table that having him involved in the build of this bike meant a lot to us. He is without a doubt one of the best welders I have ever come across laying down absolutely perfect welds. We wanted a cool peanut style tank but we tried several styles with out success as they just did not flow with this bike. After much frustration Travis disappears some days later creates a tank for us, sweet mate. He sat it on the frame and wow, now we got our tank, perfect. Since Chica’s rear fender had a rib down the center of it we thought it would be cool to have a matching rib running down the center of the tank but now the challenge was how to pull this off so as to make it Kiwi outstanding. We found a piece of 3/4” wide x ¼” thick flat stainless steel and started grinding and sanding away at it giving it a nice rounded shape on the top and making the front and rear ends come to a nice point. It was then carefully heated, formed and tack welded to follow the shape of the tank and then fully welded along all edges and sent to the polisher for a bitchin’ sparkling chrome like finish. Now Josh the painter can do his magic and Monte will top it off with his graphics. Another cool part about this tank is it has 2 gas caps (which is Indian flavored) and late one night while working on the bike we stepped back to admire it and the caps gave it the illusion that the tank looked like an aliens head when the caps were on. That might have been a midnight observation and could have come from sleep deprivation or what ever weird imagination we had at the time but that’s our story and we’re sticking to it. Actually when the tank arrived back from paint and final assembly to the bike we once again took a 2nd look at it and it still resembled a space aliens head and eyes. It all went along with the rocket and space theme and now it had a bit of an alien theme to it. Maybe it was the earlier Rowell NM ride connection, Hmm.

Cycle Electric kindly gave us with one of their high quality generators which we pulled apart to “carefully” weld on a custom bracket that we had designed up. I do say weld on “carefully” for good reason as the armature rotates very closely to the filed coils and any distortion to the generator body will cause the armature to contact the field coil pole shoes.
One of the nice things about being in the motorcycle industry for so long and creating cool bikes is networking with people and bringing them into the project. Irwin Tools stopped by our shop one day and were amazed at what we did and while at lunch they kindly offered us a tool sponsorship which we are very appreciated of. Chica is a cool custom builder and from the same back ground as us and he gave us one of his bitchin’ cool rear fenders which we had him hand beat a lip to the tail of it. Gard Hollinger from LA ChopRods hooked us up with his ISR brakes and sprotor while Corky Coker from Coker Tire donated some cool bitchin’ period tires.
Shirley from Bad Ass Seats in Las Vegas got word of our bike build through a mutual friend and she insisted on donating one of her awesome hand crafted custom seats that Ronnie from Pyrographix designed. Shirley is a cool English lady who is so sweet that even though we had other offers to do our seats, she was the one. Ronnie from Pyrograhics is one of the most talented illustrators I have ever come across and no matter what design we want, be it for a t/shirt, promo printed material, shop interior, etc he delivers the goods. When we were brainstorming the shifter knob Ronnie disappeared for a bit and then re-emerged with a sketch that resembles the 3 stepped rings on the back of the head light (that was before they were buffed out unfortunately). That’s what has been cool about this project is that everyone has contributed something to the bike and nothing has been off limits.

I like powder coat on some items like our cylinders, frames and forks as it’s very durable. Usually all our frames and forks are traditionally black but this custom bike was to be all red so everything would flow together like the late 60’s and early 70’s era custom bikes. A company in Corona said they could do custom colors and I explained that we had a specific custom red color that needed to be matched to our sample of red that we had painted out on a piece of sheet metal so as they could get it perfectly matched (and there could be no misunderstanding). The cylinders came back a Candy apple red with white underlay showing through on all the edges, hardly anything close to the sample solid red provided but what amazes me is that the boss would argue that it was the right color when it was far from reality. We ended up having an on site meeting so we he could see them for himself and cut the bull crapping. I listened to all the excuses and I explained that I had been in business for almost 20 years and I would not buy off on his excuse. Sometimes you just gotta cut to the chase and say it the way it is. I don’t appreciate someone filling me with bull after taking my money and promising to do the job that was promised and coming up short. He finally agreed to redo the cylinders and he stated the new color would be in either that afternoon or the next day but in the mean time he’d send out the cylinders out to have them chemically stripped. A few days after the promised due date I phoned him up and he said the powder finally arrived but now he decides to send the cylinders out for stripping. Let me figure this out for you MATE!, they have been sitting there for several days holding down your concrete floor like overweight (23 lbs a piece) concrete weights with you knowing that they had to be sent out for stripping but when the powder finally arrives and you are ready to rock and roll with the job you now finally get your thinking cap on and send them out for stripping which delays the project even longer. You gotta be shitting me MATE! A week after the promised date we finally got them back BUT now they are a burgundy color, several shades off the other way. Some outfits seem to be so in love with themselves that I wonder how or why they are even in business. I ended up going with a textured flat black color provided by B&B Powder coating who did them with out any drama, under ½ the cost of the other guy and the color we wanted within a day. These guys rock, thanks Donny.

The paintwork on this bike is super nice however I purposely did not want a deluxe finish on the frame and forks. This took Josh from Nostalgia Restyling quite by surprise as it is contrary to what Josh likes to produce. All of our frame and fork joints are TIG welded and are absolutely perfect and there is no way we were going to have them covered up with filler and smoothed over for perfection. What we like and have is a bygone era where we produce the finest craftsmanship in our workshop right down to the welding and in my mind anyone can create a crappy weld and smooth it over with bondo or filler but that does not happen with our bikes. Our good craftsmanship that is under the paint WILL be seen. About my only exception to the rule are the fenders and tanks as these are expected to be perfect and silky smooth. Josh really did us good, went about his work without any drama and turned our stuff around quickly so we could keep rolling along. Josh rocks!
We have a good friend Monte Moore who is an outstanding artist and is personally commissioned by George Lucas (Lucas Films) as the official Star Wars artist and it was nice to have Monte on board for our tank graphics. Monte was excited to be the tank graphic artist for our bike build and I had to wonder why he was so excited since he is the official artist for so many big time outfits like Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc so I had to ask him, he replied man you build the most kick ass bikes on earth, why wouldn’t I be. Thanks for your confidence mate. Monte is all about quality and he wants to bring a higher quality level of detail to motorcycles. Monte is a perfectionist and his attention to detail shows in his work. When you look into his work on the tank you will see the finest of details for yourself and his work speaks volumes for itself. You will notice some squiggly lines on the rocket and flags (US and New Zealand) as this is done purposely since WWII nose art was done this way and he wanted to reflect it as such. Just in case anyone has any doubts check out the straight lines in the bow and arrows. Monte also draws the best boobs which this chick just had to have and he has to be without any doubt a boob man (normal male). During the build Monte was doing a show in England while the build was going on, landed back home (Colo) with the tank waiting for him. He spent one day at home working on the tank and then he was off to San Diego for another show. After his shows he would go back to the room and paint the tanks till 2am. Sweet mate and we appreciate the great work and late nights/early mornings efforts.

Our handlebar height had to be no higher than 48” as it had to fit inside of a van. Generally overall height is no problem if it was only being transported in our big rig but we wanted to cover all bases so it could fit into most vehicles if need be. Likewise with the sissy bar as it too could not exceed 48”. We wanted to bend our own handle bars however our Hossfeld pipe bender was not designed for making them so we were wondering who had a pipe bender that could do some tight bends for us then, out of the blue we were offered a fancy Itallian tube bender, roll former and other related equipment that would make us fully self sufficient. Nothing like spending a ton of money to bend up a set of $20.00 bars but at least we were now completely independent in our shop and could create anything from this point on. Since we’ve made almost everything else for this bike, why not make handlebars ourselves too. We’re now figuring since we have all this fancy equipment we’re going to start producing stock Indian bars and crash bars for our catalog of Indian parts. It’s the Kiwi way, we can do anything.

Our sissy bar outside shape simulated a launching pad for a rocket but how to make it look exquisite and make it kick ass and flow with the rest of the theme was the challenge. Some time earlier I bought a cool old rocket hood ornament off ebay which had 2 out rigger wings on it making it about 12” wide so we decided to cut the outer wings off it which just left us a bare rocket. This rocket was nice and petite and we sat it within the sissy bar and it looked real cool. So cool in fact that the consensus was to leave it in it’s tacky pitted condition but we made up a new one and welded on the fins, had it chrome plated and it’s now a brand new one which suits the rest of the bike. The sissy bar and rockets job was not only to look cool but it also supports the rear fender. We cut many designs out in cardboard to support the rocket before settling on the final design. Funny how some things happen by accident but when Travis was holding the final design card board template within the sissy bar it would not sit flat and kept kinking. Well it looked so cool kinked that it gave it sort of a 3 D effect and that’s what we went with. From the day I bought the Zeplin fender marker light it was going to be mounted to the top of the sissy bar. Fender marker lights were used in the 40’s or so when the cars had long high hoods and the driver could not see the right front fender so different things were attached to an antenna like rod and clamped to the fender so it would “mark” the location of the outside edge of the fender. The one I found had a cool Zeplin shape to it and I figured it added a cool touch to the bike.

The tail light was a car swap meet item and I have no idea as to what it is off and nor does anyone else for that matter so far. It was made by Guide and to me it had a Desoto feel to it but that was only my gut feeling. I found it at the bottom of a pile of junk and the guy wanted $185.00 for it in its tacky condition. That was a lot of money for it BUT it just had a cool factor to it and I had to have it. It did not have anything to do with rockets or much of the rest of the bike for that matter but it had a built in mount for the license plate and license plate light. We battled with it for quite a while to get the ideal location of where it would look the best but it was no easy feat since it was such an odd duck for this bike. But it was just so cool and odd that it was going on the bike come hell or high water. Unfortunately upon re-chroming it revealed a lot of pitting which we then had to do some fancy paint design work in order to make it look right. Even to the last minute the pits played hell to cover, disappointing but considering how much custom stuff we created for the bike something had to not go by plan. The headlight adds a certain touch to the bike as it was a spot light of UFO origin and was so cool that we could turn it into a Buck Rogers head light because can do anything. The Kiwi guys Scott and Mader contributed to the build as well and had the idea of making a rocket look like it was coming from the engine area and piercing through the steering neck and coming out the front and incorporating the front part into a head light mount. Hmm seems like a great idea so we all hunkered down and made it happen.

Custom builders have different ways of laying the colors out but for this project I had it all in my head. It was to be a contrast of red against chrome pieces throughout the bike and with the rear fender just having a chrome center rib and tip. When I saw the chrome work that Nick and Mariana (Riverside Plating) did on the rear fender it totally blew me a way as they fully chromed the fender and it was a beautiful work of art, just absolutely perfect. I had to rethink the rear fender now as I wanted it to pop in order to showcase Chica’s quality in his fenders and Riverside Plating good polish/chrome work. I thought about leaving the rear fender fully chromed but visualizing it would not flow with the rest of the bike as there would be too much chrome focused on the rear end of the bike especially when the sissy bar is taken into account. I decided to have a red insert panel in the fender which would leave the sides and center rib highlighted in chrome. I drew it out with red marker pen and oh boy saying it looked sweet is a gross under statement, it rocked. Interestingly enough and this was one of those flash back moments but in the teens, 20’s and early 30’s, the factory Indians had their frame, forks and sheet metal all painted the same color which was generally Indian red. Indian red was more burgundy/maroon color than what I went with but it was one of those cool flashbacks when I was steering and marveling at the frame and forks and I had that flashback. Some things are meant to be and I think we are pretty much in tune with the original Indian factory more so than we might think. I have a special place in my heart for the original factory engineers and feel we keep the tradition alive.

As the bikes final assembly started coming together, 1st off with the leaf spring pack with its chrome and red alternating leaf colors, then the forks onto the frame, a front wheel and then the rear wheel and before you knew it was up on wheels and looking mighty “tight”. We tacked up a set of our newly made handle bars and threw on a seat and I had the guys push me around the shop while I made motorcycle noises. For the 1st time everyone could see 1st hand all the hard work, design and thought that went into it finally start to take shape in front of their very own admiring eyes. One just had to stand back and admire it at the end of the 1st day.

. I have several kick ass Kiwi Tribe guys working with me on this build which I can’t speak highly enough about, Scott Mills, Justin Hale (Mader) and Joe Lambert (Engine Joe). Joe builds our Kiwi engines which are totally made from scratch. We have the cases cast and machined and we insert the races and bushings and hand hone them to size. Flywheels and rods have to be assembled with the rods, hand trued and balanced. It requires great skill and is quite an art or more like a lost art. Today’s modern mechanics are used to engines coming in sub assemblies or assembled complete but in our case we make the whole engine from scratch which we’re extremely proud of. After all we’re one of the few motorcycle engine manufacturers who actually make a proprietary engine in the USA!!!. Everyone has contributed a lot to this project bringing something special to it. I’m very fortunate to have these 3 kick ass guys as they stepped up to the plate and brought a lot to the table. They’re idea guys too and there is nothing they can’t do. Travis and Ronnie were essential members of the Kiwi team also and wanted to be involved. No one sat on the side lines and the bikes show cases our talents.

I like fostering different ideas from everyone and thrashing them out with others who also share the passion. Even the name “Arrow Space” was contrived by our team after many failed attempts at other names. Everyone involved with this bike build had the passion and contributed heavily to the build and it showed. If you look the bike over you will see a theme carried throughout the bike with some rockets being rather inconspicuous. It makes you look even further to see if there are any that you have missed, a good testament to a job well done.

Some companies really rocked and made things happen for us and without them this project would not have been done from start to finish in 6 weeks. Riverside Plating (Nick and Mariana), P&A Alliance (Paddy and Nigel) and Nostalgia Restyling (Josh). I can’t speak highly enough of these guys as there service and quality was outstanding.

On the last Friday of each month we have “Final Friday’s bike night” at our shop. June was our 1st one we ever had and it was very successful. We used our July bike night as our unveiling of the Sturgis bike and since this was only our 2nd such event we had over 100 bikes showing up over the course of the evening. In June people saw what partially resembled our Sturgis bike in a rather raw form but 1 month later they saw almost a completed bike less the gas tank. The comments that were over heard were extremely favorable and everyone was thoroughly impressed. It makes everyone on the team and associated with the build extremely fulfilled.

Looking back I think about the only stock things we bought were the wheels and brakes. We had a few donations along the way but we pretty much created everything ourselves from scratch which is pretty cool in today’s society where it is so easy to throw down the credit card and buy anything or pay someone to make it for you. This bike is a good testament to the Kiwi crews capabilities. The Kiwi way is we build it all, engine, frame, forks, etc. We did it and you bet we’re dam proud of it. We have a good attitude and when the going gets tough and we find ourselves wanting to take an easier route I kept saying to the guys, “if it were easy everyone else would be doing it. We’re the Kiwi crew and we can do it and we’re not quiters”.
We are “the Principal of old school” and when school is in session others will pay attention to the principal. We’ve set a new standard.

Thanks to Michael Lichter for a wonderful opportunity. We felt we built a kick ass bike for Sturgis top exhibit. What’s next, well this is just warm up and a stepping stone for the next project which will utilize our talents even further.

Josh Nostalgic Restyling
Coker Tires
Ronnie Martinez
Monte Michael Moore

Riverside Plating
Vidal’s Polishing (aluminum polishing and heads)
Paddy P&A Alliance, CNC machining
Cycle Electric generator
LA Chop Rods Sporotor brakes
Bad Ass Seats
Chicas Custom Cyclse( Fender)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Texas Road Run 2007

The ride when all said and done covered 3300 miles in 8 days with the longest days ride being 725 miles (all on secondary roads).
Riding an antique Indian motorcycle is a unique experience that you will not get with any other motorcycle.
First off we have to dispel some false misconceptions.
Indians aren’t reliable, can’t go far or are slow.
Fact is Indians are very reliable so much so they can go around the world (Doug Wothke proved that on his 48 Chief in 2006 and I’ve proved it many times riding across the US). Indians do cruise at highway speeds and are extremely comfortable. Built right Indians are very reliable but like anything, there are builders and there are builders. I pride myself as being one of the top builders in the world. Taking it 1 step further today we manufacture improvements into our engines and components for better durability making a Kiwi engine the best engine in the world. Our own proprietary Kiwi 84ci is an awesome strong pulling engine coupled to a 4 speed synchromesh overdrive transmission, wow you have the best Indian touring m/c ever made.
There is always plenty of cheap talk around the Indian camp fire (or websites) and I’ve always been an open kind of guy who just goes out and does it, no fan fair, cut the crap, just do it. Like the old saying goes, when the flag drops, the bull sh-t stops.

I’ve always had confidence in my products and I like to prove just how reliable our Kiwi manufactured Indians are so I decided to ride to the Texas road run which was head quartered around Big Ben National Park along the Mexican boarder.
Texan Stanley Miller was kind enough to extend a personal invitation which I promptly took him up on it, after all Texans are known for their warm hospitality and I was looking forward to some down right Texas ho down hospitality.
Texas is a cool state and it has a pride that I have never experienced in any other state. I keep hearing Texans saying “We should never have joined the union”, gotta admire them.

I was almost ready to set off from Riverside by myself and my Irishman mate Josh Armstrong calls up to see what I’m up to. I told him I was ready to pull out for Texas upon my Indian. He asked who I was riding with which was no one. He said you are crazy. No not at all, I have confidence in my equipment I replied. Riding by myself never bothers me after all I left New Zealand by myself and rode most of the US and Canada by myself, no big deal. Josh was looking for an excuse to get out of town and I enjoy his company. He’s a no BS guy, easy to get along with (well for me anyway) and we both take each thing as it comes with no drama.
The 1st day out we stopped by Arizona Bike Week to visit fellow bike builder and friends Brian and Laura Klock of KlockWerks. Brian built the World’s Fastest Bagger in 06 for Discovery Biker build off and Laura was the rider, 2 super nice people.

We soon learned that gas stations are a rarity as they were usually far and few between. We were in BF Egypt Az and running real low on gas and Josh needed to take a leak (he has a wally mart bladder). We saw a side road that ran parallel to the freeway so we jumped off the freeway and onto it and Josh did his thing. We decided to head off down this nice country road since it was going in the same direction as us only to find out after 5 miles that the road came to a dead end with out any warning. Josh suddenly realizes that he’s real low on gas so that makes 2 of us almost out of gas. Not an ideal situation really since either one of us knew if we’re going to make it. Ah well nothing like an adventure, like I say, make every trip and adventure when you ride an Indian. We back tracked the 5 miles (which now used up 10 miles of precious gas), got back on the freeway and finally coasted into the welcomed gas station out of gas, good timing.
Our next investment was a 2 gal gas can which allowed us to get cocky and take risks knowing we had 2 spare gallons up our sleeve. I ran out 3 more times, nothing like pushing things to their limits.
While cruising into El Paso and looking at 3rd world Mexico just across the river (a stones throw from the freeway) an El Paso cop on his Harley came up along side me to get to get a closer look and he give me a thumbs up. I acknowledged him with a nod and when I looked back into my lane ahead the traffic had suddenly stopped. I hit both brakes and managed to stop in time and I saw him looking back with a horror look on his face to see if I had managed to stop. Of course my Irish mate Josh (behind me) just laughed his guts out. It’s just another adventure upon an Indian.

I like my 1st stop in Texas to be Barnett’s Harley in El Paso, gotta stop by to say hi to the Barnett family. I needed to buy a bike lock but all they had were Harley Davidson embossed locks. I went around with the parts guy for a while bagging on the Harley name as it was an issue. He finally felt my pitty and almost gave it to me since I wasn’t a Harley lifestyle guy wanting to pay extra for the Harley name.
Once we got to Van Horn we turned south heading towards the Mexican boarder and along the way we noticed US boarder patrol officers doing their job, surely seems like Washington has finally stepped things up a bit. Even though I’m an immigrant I could never understand why the US has such a knowingly porous boarder with Mexico, after all shouldn’t it be difficult to enter the US illegally especially since terrorism or terrorist is the key person to keep out. At any rate it was a welcomed sight seeing the boarder patrol agents doing their job. Every time we saw a boarder patrol agent Josh and I would point to each other, I’m not sure what they thought though. At one boarder road side stop I managed to talk a boarder patrol agent into taking my picture along with my green card and their building as a back drop. They all had a good laugh.
People are intrigued with an old Indian and every time I stopped people would come over and talk.
At a gas stop on the 1st day of the ride while on the way to Arizona Bike Week a pick up with 2 new Harley dressers on a trailer pulled in for gas. While he’s filling up the pick up I asked him “do those bikes run”, he replied “yes, why”? “I was just wondering” was my answer. It was my nice way of having a dig at them, here are these 2 dudes with almost brand new Harley’s that’s supposed to be super reliable and the ultimate American tourer and they’re on a trailer while I’m riding my classic without any back up vehicle or anything. Hmm, what’s wrong with this picture???? I call them “chromosexuals”
Antique m/c road runs are always fun as it’s a place to meet fellow riders from all walks of life and all over the country and in some cases all over the world. We all get out and ride our motorcycles and enjoy the sights as the runs are in different scenic parts of the US so it can be a great way to see different parts of the country. While I enjoy the scenery, I especially enjoy the friendships made along the way. Everybody is great and I enjoy being in the country of Texas and in the company of Texans. One respectable guy I have always admired is Roy Reeves. Roy’s dad used to be an Indian dealer and Roy’s a die hard Indian enthusiast making sure his mates get hooked on Indians too. Quite a few of his mates came along and it was a treat to ride and dine with them. I certainly had to keep my wits about me (being a non Texan) as they are characters to say the least and just looking for something to poke fun at. My impression of the Texas countryside is its usually flatish land with gentle rolling brown hills however Big Ben National Park actually has mountains and the Rio Grande river that separates the US from Mexico, wow, pretty cool area. 1 piece of road that was just outside the park and along the Rio Grande river had a hill with a 15% grade either side of it. The cool part about it was the view at the top but the hill had no flat or level spot at the top as you were either going up it or down it, it was one of those rare roads that came to a point.
After doing the road run Josh and I wanted to take a more northerly route home on Thurs however there was a bad cold and wet front coming down from the north due to hit either Wed night or Thurs morning. We packed all of our gear onto our bikes by 7am and the weather looked ok so we said to hell with it, let’s do it. We wanted a scenic back country trip for the return ride to Calif so the chance of hitting ugly weather didn’t out weigh us having the prospect of some good scenery in a part of the country neither one of us had traveled, another adventure. We headed north from Alpine TX to New Mexico through Carlsbad and Roswell helping a fellow motorcyclist broken down on the side of the road along the way. I had to do Roswell as it’s known the world over for its space aliens. Our mission in Roswell was to find something with space aliens on it to have our bikes photographed next to. A local cop pointed us towards the space alien museum which did the trick perfectly. Another adventure. From here we headed west through Socorro NM which was the only bit of freeway (2 miles) we did for the entire 725 miles that day. At about 9.30 pm we ended up near Eagar AZ and the only place open for a bite to eat was MacDonalds. As I parked my bike a nice guy came up to me and after a bit of talking realized I was Kiwi. He was one of our customers and we had a nice chat, took some photos, ate well and hit the highway again. The last 100 miles was at about 50 mph as we were in a wooded area and we did not want the chance of running into a dear. It was a long 100 miles that seemed to take forever as it was cold but we eventually ended up safely in Holbrook AZ at midnight. We seemed to have lucked out weather wise as the cold front was now behind us. The next day, Dallas and Alpine TX had snow so we were darn lucky to have enjoyed its delay making the countryside and ride just that much more enjoyable. The rest of the ride home was pretty normal except we took a side trip to Las Vegas via the traffic jammed Hoover dam which was over 100 degrees. We couldn’t strip enough clothes off fast enough. While in Vegas we had to stop in and visit our mates Nevada Bob and Jimmy Johnson. Jimmy has the coolest sports bar and grill and on his menu he has lamb chops. “Hey Jimmy are those New Zealand lamb chops” I asked jokingly. “Of course mate, just for you”. I had 3 helpings (12 chops) and 1 plate of big tasty juicy scallops (5 to a lb). Jimmy does it right, thanks mate.
While in Las Vegas we took in Viva Las Vegas, a rockabilly and chop rod show which was cool. Everyone got a kick out of my Indian being ridden in with bugs all over the windshield.
This trip was also used for testing out some new components that we had been working on for a few years which now got the final long distance testing done. All passed with flying colors which can be seen on our new products web page.
1/ The silent crankcase vent plugs into the end of the cam cover breather tube (after removing the breather disc) and avoids the engine pressurizing during prolonged highway speeds which tends to cause oil to seep out of many parts of the engine. This totally eliminates any oil seepage by using this vent plus the nice part about it is it is small and easy to hide and is totally silent, no audible clicking noise at all. Cost 29.99
2/ Re-useable and washable performance air filter which requires no fancy adapter plate. This performance air filter is a plug and play filter, economical and long lasting. Just pop off the air filter cover, pop the new filter in and re-fit the cover, it’s that easy. Fits Indian and Harley’s with J slot air cleaner covers. Cost 29.99
3/ Sport” windshield. I’m not a fan of windshields especially the big ones that is mostly seen on antique Indians so I wanted to give this small “sport” windshield a try. I was looking for something to break the wind from my body so when I got off it at the end of the day I was not beat up. Since this trip was a ride I wanted to cruise at around 70 mph, I wanted a windshield that was high quality, small and would not cause turbulence around my body. It won in all categories and did an out standing job. I hold it directly responsible for me being able to do the 725 mile day and me still being rather fresh at the end of it. Comes with stainless steel hardware and is easily removable in a minute with no fuss at all. Cost 159.99 with brackets
All in all a very fun, enjoyable and successful ride covering 3300 miles in 8 days. Good people, good motorcycles equals a good time. Another fun adventure upon an Indian, your turn next.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Borrego Springs Road Run

Borrego Springs road run had spectacular weather this year. We never know how it's going to work out but it was about as perfect as one could have wished for allowing us to ride around on the mountain top around Julian, Lake Henshaw and Warner Springs. To see so many fine antiques in 1 parking lot before and after each days ride and out and about on the highways is fabulous. I think the final tally of participants was 112 which is an awesome turnout for a local chapter run. It was all good to ride with the 2001 Century Ride Home riders Greg Johnson and Bob Clift, needless to say it was all fun for anyone who decided to hang out with this rowdy bunch and brought back fond memories of the cross country ride. It was also nice to see Bob Stark riding his Kawaski Drifter and for the 1st time at a road run Gary Stark. Bob is no spring chicken and it's nice that the old timers come out. A guy I always get a kick out of talking to is Hutch from Hutchinson's Harley in Yucca Valley Ca. He's a very long old time Harley dealer and I spotted him at a rest stop kicking back so I had to do a U turn and harass him as he's always good for some old factory stories. He wanted his photo taken of us together along side his 1930 Harley which him and his dad bought in 1935. It remained in bits for 70 yrs and he just finished restoring it days before the road run. I said well in all fairness you can get 1 picture of me alongside your Harley but it'll cost you 2 pictures of you next to the Crazy Horse Indian. He agreed with a big laugh saying you Indian guys just never give up do you. The SoCal chapter puts in so much effort into this ride each year to make it a very classy event. I rode Crazy Horse which was pure fun. This bike was built upon our Kiwi rigid frame, leaf spring forks, 84" engine and there is something very magical about the combination as it is a super nice and comfortable riding bike with plenty of torque to run through the mountain curves and hills. The solid copper tank and rear fender really makes this bike unusual. I look forward to going to the Texas road run later this month. I'm contemplating throwing saddle bags and a luggage carrier on my bobber and heading out across country. Congrates to everyone who made the SoCal chapter road run a great ride. Mike Tomas

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A visit with "Twisted Sister"

We are all so lucky in this business to be able to share our passion with others and for others to enjoy our creations. Thurs Dec 14th we had Twisted Sister stop in on their SoCal reunion tour. What a delight and we ended up having dinner together, going to their concert and after concert party. Dee and Mark wanted to cancel their show just to stay and hang out at our shop.They loved what we had going on and they're coming back to spend a couple of days riding around through Death Valley on our Indians. We wake up every day not knowing what great things will happen that day. These are the great experiences that we get from being in this fantastic industry" and passing along our enthusiam for others to share. Every day is a GREAT day

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kiwi MotorCycle Co. recieves Southern California Inland Empire Most Innovative Company award

Friday, November 17, 2006

Super Co Customs Wins Build Off, with a litte help from their freinds Kiwi MotorCycle Co.

Look for more pics at