A big factor in the overall aesthetic appeal of a motorcycle is the geometry. No one wants a boring-looking bike, and the artistic choice of certain curves and angles in the frame often help to make custom bikes look distinct and stand out from the crowd. It also helps in adjusting a motorcycle’s size and measurement to fit the specific body type (particularly height) of the rider and to modify the handling.
Typically, this involves altering the rake and trail of the motorcycle. Rake is the angle, in degrees, that the steering head of the frame — not the forks (this is a common misconception) — is tilted back from the vertical. Choppers have a lot of rake with their forks sticking way out in front, while sport bikes have forks much closer to vertical and therefore less rake. What we usually find is that custom chopper builders like to extend that front wheel out farther.
We were drawn to Aric Heckman’s Harley-Davidson at Fuel Cleveland this year, in part due to its unique shape and accents. The build started out as a stock 1976 Harley-Davidson FLH before Heckman tore the whole thing apart almost nine years ago. Just recently, he’s gotten the finishing touches together on the motorcycle.
“I had Paul Wideman of Bare Knuckle Performance Choppers in St. Louis derake and stretch the frame, and then another buddy, Chris Klein, built the Girder front end for me,” Heckman says. “It’s stretched up nine inches and deraked three degrees, and then the front end is also nine inches over.”
Heckman enlisted the help of Joe Cooper from Cooper Smithing Company out of Olympia, WA to fabricate the tail section, which also inconspicuously doubles as the oil tank. Another interesting characteristic of the motorcycle is the unique handlebars made by Jason Ferris of Ferris Cycle Parts. The short, U-shaped bars are called “pansy bars,” and their high and tight resting spot make for a comfortable position for Heckman, who is 6’3”.
Other key features of the build include a BDL two-inch open belt drive that is hooked to the stock four-speed Harley-Davidson transmission, a 93-inch motor built by Kickstart Cycles, and a single-opening exhaust canister that gives the engine an aggressively distinct growl.
If you have a motorcycle, ATV, UTV, snowmobile or jet ski you’d like to feature in MPN’s Ride of the Week series, please email MPN Content Director Greg Jones at [email protected]