The 25-year story of a one-of-a-kind sidecar rig
It’s taken 25 years to create this work of art, stretching back to 1996 when Dan Stern first saw conceptual illustrations of what was called “Rumble.” It was created by artist/designer Tim Conder, and Stern instantly fell in love with it. He tracked down Conder to find out more about this unique rig, which then existed only in Conder’s mind.
Taking Rumble from concept to fruition is a story that spans a quarter-century. Stern’s career in the Harley community kept him otherwise occupied, serving 10 years at V-Twin aftermarket parts company Custom Chrome before leaving in 1998 to start up the House of Thunder Harley-Davidson dealership in 2000, located in Morgan Hill, California.
While setting up the dealership, the almost-forgotten illustrations of Rumble fell out of a folder onto the floor. Because he now had a workshop and a bit of free time, he began building the rig that ignited his imagination a decade prior.
“I literally created cardboard cutouts as templates to start, then progressed to building bucks, then molds,” Stern described. “And then I pulled body panels and fenders out of that. I owe Guy Ruchonnet for a lot of help during this process.”
The Rumble project stalled while Stern’s dealership grew. Stern sold the dealership in 2015 and retired, giving him time to realize his 26-year dream of this custom bike and sidecar rig.
“The project went off and on for a few years until I stepped back from running the dealership and got serious,” Stern explained. “In 2020, I realized I needed to knuckle down and worked on it 40-50 hours a week until I finally got it done.”
The bike powering the rig is a 2004 H-D Softail, with a mildly built engine featuring double-bronze powdercoating. Custom Cycle controls hide brake master cylinders and wiring, but many parts were handmade just for Rumble. The underside of the bike and sidecar have louvered aluminum belly pans polished to a stunning sheen, and the wheels are genuine Halibrand knockoffs running radial tires.
Stern believes this is the first air-ride sidecar, which uses a pair of automotive air-shocks with a pump in the nose of the sidecar controlled from a switch under the bike’s fuel tank. The sidecar has an exotic wood floor and a ton of detail work inside, including matching luggage behind the seat.
Sidecar aficionados will notice the nontraditional placement of the car on the left side of the vehicle. Stern jokes it’s this configuration because passengers are facing traffic and will be able to tell you if it’s okay to pass!
Rumble is the first sidecar to be featured in the Iron & Lace Custom Motorcycle PinUp Calendar during its 30-year history.
“So, the story is,” Stern explained, “when you see something that alters your state of mind to the point of almost addiction, you’ll keep working on it until it’s done, regardless of how long it takes. Started in 2004 and finished in 2020 … whew!”
Rumble made its public debut at The One Motorcycle Show in Portland earlier this year and won the Custom Street division of the Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show at the IMS Outdoors event in Sonoma, California. Stern plans to display it again at SoCal’s Born Free show in late August.
Dan wishes to thank his close friends that are listed on the build sheet for their help with this extensive project, who he credits for keeping him motivated to finish the rig. More photos can be found @dangerousdan2 on Instagram.