2003 H-D Road Glide
If you wanted to build a truly unique bike, one that has at its core masterful fabrication, finding an artist who also knew his way around a motor would be ideal. Enter John Shope, former sculptor, maker of custom teeth, present bike builder extraordinaire, and the resident genius at Sinister Industries.
The owner of this Anniversary Edition 2003 Road Glide, Rick Inman described the creative process like this: "John and I started thinking about doing something unique. I wanted a one and only, and since John is a one of a kind kind of guy, who better to turn over the project to and let their imagination run?"
"Rick didn't have any idea what he wanted," said Shope. "I always tell guys they should have a hand in the design, but many times they just want me to do with it what I want. Haven't had any complaints yet."Shope can draw artistic inspiration from nearly anything, including a woman's belt buckle. "I saw a chick with a bandana/skull belt buckle and it gave me an idea. I thought it would be cool to do an asymmetrical bandana paint job for Rick's Road Glide, plus fabricating the bandana skull air cleaner and horn covers. The bike is real ill, that is some sick cycle."
Before building bikes, Shope shaped bronze into human form. "I was a sculptor for 10 years," said Shope, "and I've learned what 'wow' is, and what it isn't. Rick's bike is wow." Shope also built teeth. "I worked for a dental lab making crowns, implants and dentures. But I didn't just build them to be perfect, I made them to perfectly suit the owner, just like I do now with bikes."
Inman is a 60-year-old former flat tracker from Vancouver, Washington, and says he's been on bikes his whole life. A mild custom job was not going to impress him. It had to be something fresh, a little radical, a lot wild. "But it had to be drop-dead reliable, comfortable, something I could ride all day with complete confidence. I got all that I expected and more," said Inman. "The bike is incredible, when I'm out riding it's nothing but cameras, smiles, and stares. This is my only bike, the only bike I need." The relationship between builder and owner goes back years and a couple thousand miles. "I knew Rick when I owned a shop in Portland, Oregon, where I did some work for him. I was building mostly choppers then, doing mostly anything that had anything to do with bikes," said Shope.
"I got tired of the cold and wet weather and moved to Phoenix, where it's nice and dry; I just like the desert. People back in Oregon called me a traitor for leaving, but what are you going to do? I can still build their bikes if they want," said Shope.
Shope, 46, won 2008's Chopper Challenge for his Seether Chopper, which was broadcast by Country Music Television, besting eight other nationally known master bike builders in a public vote. "Oh yeah, I can build a chopper alright. The CMT competition was particularly challenging because I was building a rock band bike on a country station, really nothing to do with country music by any stretch," said Shope, "I think I beat the odds there."
Since then, the newly crowned chopper king has gotten away from choppers and is fabricating full bore into bagger design. "The bagger is my thing now," said Shope, "I'm pretty much way ahead of everyone else who is building baggers. I can even sell them on eBay, where you can't get a good price for anything, and still get $40,000 or $50,000."What makes Sinister's bikes so special, said Shope, are their originality. "A lot of people are customizing baggers these days, or think they are. They throw a lot of bolt-on parts and hang a 21-inch wheel up front and call it a custom, but that ain't custom, that's crap."
This is custom: one-off parts made in-house, cutting, welding, and fabricating, and a creative mastermind to transform it all into rolling, working art. "We make our own tanks, fenders, air cleaner and horn covers, side panels, two sizes of paintable windshields, saddlebags, handlebars, and floorboards, that's custom."
One signature Sinister look is the 23-inch front wheel Shope is partial to. "It looks good, rides right and works well with my set-up. By the time I'm done with the torch, getting the proper rake and trail, the bike will handle better than stock."
For Inman's bandana bike, Shope cut the frame, added 2 1/2 inches on the neck, raised the neck about an inch, raked it to 46 degrees, and dropped the bike 1 1/2 inches to help the trail. He cut the fairing and tilted it to follow the line of the tank, then pointed the headlight down for the proper angle. An LED taillight was added, and some engine work for more go, and a combination of Hooker and Supertrapp pipes for the right pitch and growl.
Shope thinks choppers and bobbers have had their run. Today's rider wants both style and function and they get it with custom baggers, which boast high style and high function. "This market is just warming up," said Shope, "it's not even close to where it will go. It will take about a year or so before baggers pop into top gear." B