Mike Avila's bike that you see here won the America's Most Beautiful Motorcycle title at
Quit licking your lip or I'll rub dog poo on it to make you stop," Mike Avila's dad told him when he was a kid. That's some inspired parenting, right there. Had pop gone through with the threat, Mike might be spending his days in therapy, rather than creating a badass bagger like this one. Instead, dear ol' dad took his son to the doctor.
"Mike's a chronic thinker. Let's try chewing gum instead," the physician recommended. The elder Avila went with his advice. What would be the harm? After all, it's not like dog dookie was in short supply, just in case.
Fortunately, it all worked out without anyone having labrador poop on their chin. Since then, Mike's harnessed his constant thinking and daydreaming into a life of striving to be the best, be it as a multi-time world champion water ski racer, boat racer, or, in this case, custom bike designer.
Inspired by the curves, lines, and length of old Caddy's and Mercs from the late 1940s, this beauty is just one of nine bikes he's owned since he first met Arlen Ness about seven years go. Deann Shannon, one of Mike's water ski racers, had a father who was a Hamster and through him and her husband, Mike got connected with Arlen when he decided to build his first chopper. Arlen and Mike bonded instantly. After that chop was done Mike eventually joined the proud ranks of the Hamsters. He recalls, "I'm all about passion in anything I do. I hate to be second best at anything. When you feel Arlen's passion in his bikes, it's so cool."
Having Arlen as a good buddy doesn't exactly suck when it comes to creating a custom motorcycle. This one started off with a similar idea to Arlen's Eagle bike but veered off when Mike started talking about taking a Lowliner Y2K skeleton and building a really long, low bagger on it to one-up Arlen's Eagle and Mike's similar Warpath bike. Mike wanted it to look like an old lead sled but with bags on it for their utility. Mike started making chicken scratches that he'd turn over to Carl Brouhard who brought them to life as finished designs. That gave Mike the blueprint, but he still needed someone to fabricate all the one-off stuff he now had on paper. Cory Ness suggested Greg Westbury. Mike made the trip out, he talked it over with Greg, saw his stuff, and signed him on to breathe life into the sheetmetal. All the one-off work on this bike was done by him and a Russian who goes by the name of Sollis. "That's his first name. No one knows his last," Mike told us. "He used to bend metal for Jesse. I think he's one of the few guys who've built and chromed a metal gas tank."
Not only did the two fabricators give the bike its gorgeous, flowing curves and lines, they also went the extra mile or 10 by hiding all the fasteners. Meticulously. So much so, that it takes three or four full days to assemble this baby because it's so hard to access the nuts and bolts and, more importantly, the paint doesn't stop at the outer frame, fenders, and bags. Every painted part got zapped even on surfaces you can't see when the bike is fully put together. Beyond that, the frame is completely molded; you can't see weld one on it.
Bringing reality to the dream wasn't exactly straightforward, though. The hardest part was coming up with a time for Mike to stop making changes. Mike just kept looking at the project and making alterations. Even now, if he went to build another like this, he says he might just drag the bags out a little bit longer. One change came about when he rode it to Sturgis in bare metal: "When I rode to Sturgis, I wanted true duals. The indent in the bag was to emulate what you'd have with the old skirt on a lead sled. The problem was, between the exhaust, the hot weather, and the bare metal, that bike cooked my nads like I was riding a George Foreman grill. It got so hot every time I came to a stop light, I had to hop off the bike." After Sturgis, he recruited Mazz Enterprises to lay down some Candy Brandy Wine and Candy Red Metalflake so he'd no longer be riding a burger grill.
Since its completion this two-wheeled lead sled has seen its share of shows. It even won the America's Most Beautiful Motorcycle title at the Grand National Roadster Show. Mike's bagger has hit more shows since and heads to Europe at year's end to compete across the Pond. More importantly to Mike, though, is the accolade he reportedly received from his pal, Arlen, who allegedly called it the best bike he's ever seen. Mike might never have gotten that highest of praise if he were in therapy reminiscing about a dog-doo diet. Lucky for him the gum worked.