BROOKLYN, N.Y., SEPT. 21–As the last few hours of summer slipped into the Autumnal Equinox, Keino Sasaki, John Copeland and Jeffrey Schad managed to pull off the Brooklyn Invitational Motorcycle show for the fifth year in a row. Their combined efforts added several thousand motorcyclists to the 2.5 million people who call this 96-square-mile borough home.
The show is held along the north Brooklyn waterfront at the Root Studio. Along with Asahi Beer and Rev’it, the Root Studio is also a sponsor. Asahi Beer makes people happy and Rev’it is in the hi-tech, fashionable, functional cycle gear business. Entrance to the Root Studio is free with the goal of making just enough money to have a sixth Invitational.
A couple dozen bikes were on display in the studio. The artists honed their skills in the industrial arts of welding, fabricating, painting, leather working, electrical wiring, machining and all-around mechanics. It would be a tribute to blue-collar America to be good at any one of these trades, yet many of the builders are proficient at several of the arts. Without a creative vision these guys would be mechanics, welders, fabricators — it’s the vision that sets them apart.
John Copeland earns his living as an artist; Jeffrey Schad as a photographer and Keino owns a custom bike shop. Corporate trainers and motivational speakers talk about thinking outside of the box. It’s doubtful the builders in the show even know a box exists. Knuckle-busting physical work aside, there must be hours upon hours of just staring at the metal canvases. Seeing the connections, flow and symmetry of the machines would prove mind numbing to many would-be DIY builders. The artists with machines on the floor must see it and make it work.
This year’s lineup included Andy Carter of Panagea Speed, Brandon Holstein of The Speed Merchant, Caleb Owen of Cro Customs, Cicero De Guxman Jr., Chopper Dave Freston, Dave Polgreen of The Wretched Hive, Ernie Barkman, Ugh Mackie representing Sixth Street Specials, Jasin Phares of Harold’s Iron Works, Church of Choppers’ Jeff Wright, Keino Sasaki of Keino Cycles, Kenny Cummings of NYC Norton, Kim Boyle with Boyle Custom Moto, Lock Baker of Eastern Fabrications, Max Schaaf from 4Q, Mattias Anderson of LeBeef Customs, Noritaka Fukuoka, Paul Cox of Paul Cox Industries, Roland Sands from Roland Sands Design, Seth Rosko of Rosko Cycles, Stephan Pate from Restoration Werks, T-Rod, and Walt Siegl of Walt Siegl Motorcycles. When asked how all of this talent came together for a one-day show, Jeff Schad explained that the first Invitational was held at the Autumn Bowl, which is no longer in existence. Perhaps it’s as hard to put into words as the bikes themselves. Stars sometime line up and the laws of like–minded attracting like-minded worked for a brief moment, five years in a row.
Apparently DicE Magazine knows how to throw a party because catching builders with their bikes among the throngs of enthusiasts was an almost impossible task. The folks at DicE have supported the event in grand fashion by throwing a kick-off party the night before the show.
Caleb Owens of Cro Customs missed last year’s show to welcome his daughter Kaia into the world. His ’49 Panhead earned the Frankenstein moniker. Frankenstein’s motor had to be completely redone; it has an earlier front end, a narrowed and channeled original hinge fender and sports a taillight that was once a ’30s reflector that came off a Monarch bicycle. A hand-carved buffalo nickel found a home in the custom tank mount. And the custom-engraved primary really sets this scoot off.
Jasin Phares of Harold’s Iron Works showed up with a ’60 Panhead. The stock motor and trans were sitting in a handmade frame. Jasin made the bars and lights and modified the oil tank. The fuel tank is a modified Wassel with pleated sheet metal. The wicked stance is due in part to the 23″ front and 19″ rear. Bad to the bone. Jasin, a well-known skater from Richmond, California, also makes inner and outer primaries, custom manifolds and ground-up projects. He was inspired to build his first bike when he stopped by to visit his friend, legendary skater Jason Jesse. He credits Jesse with setting him on the right path.
Dave Freston built the frame for his turbo-charged 74″ Evo, which produced 108 hp at 66 percent on the dyno dial. Maybe the 6.5-pound subframe helped achieve his motto, “We race because we have to.” This hybrid has a swingarm from a Honda CRF 450 dirt bike. By the time this goes to press, Dave will have relaunched his casting company website where air cleaners, footpegs and bronze belt buckles are big sellers. The bike world knows Dave as “Chopper Dave,” and with a solid background in mechanics and fabrication he picked up along the way via Vic’s Custom Cycles, MMI, a four-year stint at West Coast Choppers and his own casting company, Dave may have outgrown his moniker. Dave is also a photographer and writer. Pick up a few bike magazines over the last couple of years and chances are you will be reading an editorial or article that he’s penned.
Walt Siegl comes from a background of art, welding, tool making and racing, which all culminated in the ultra-cool, technically-advanced 900SS Ducati. The Ducati weighs in at an astonishing 364 pounds, while the frame is an unreal 19 pounds. Walt redid the suspension, the frame is chrome moly and the bodywork is all carbon fiber. This is a real hot-rod bike that combined hand craftsmanship and advanced technology.
In addition to putting on the event, Keino of Keino Cycles in Red Hook showed a badass 1940 Knuck. More information can be found on his website, www.keinocycles.com, because the man stays in motion, making questions about the machine difficult.
Paul Cox was a friend and co-worker of the late Indian Larry; master leather craftsman, knife maker, bike builder, artist, photographer… the list goes on. Like so many other bikes on the floor of the Root Center, Paul’s bike doesn’t fit into a defined genre. The motor has a Shovel bottom and Knuck top end. Paul made the camshaft and custom pushrods. The frame he made from square tubing. Square tubing! The throttle is set up as mechanical gears and really captures the mix of industrial skill and art that the Invitational exudes.
Steve Bonge has been a fixture in the New York City motorcycle community for decades, and he’s also one of the founding members of the very exclusive Beatniks Car Club. This year, Steve left his ’48 Indian chief at home and set up a collection of photos and prints chronicling club life over the years. Like so many others, Mr. Bonge has an impressive resume including photography, slinging ink, writing for tattoo magazines and he published the books Tattoo’d with Attitude and Marked for Life. He also dabbled in acting. Anybody see A Bronx Tale? He played one of Satan’s Messengers in the film.
The street scene in front of the Root Studio is more interesting than most other bike shows. Modern antiques, vintage Harleys, Triumphs, BSAs, Nortons, BMWs and H-Ds from the ’40s to the present can be seen there. Handmade parts are commonplace and ingenuity is a given. Most impressive? The bikes are ridden! This is a great show for anyone with an appreciation for art, industrial skills or maybe those looking for ideas and inspiration for their project sitting in the garage.