No biker likes being told he can’t do something—especially Joe Pemberton of East Coast Baggers. Tell Joe he can’t do something and you can be damned sure he’ll buckle down and not let up until he’s proven you wrong. But what makes him different from your average, run-of-the-mill rebel biker is that when he proves someone wrong, the result is a bad-ass bike that shows that Joe doesn’t know the meaning of the word “impossible.”
“People are always telling me, ‘You can’t do that; it will never work,’” Joe chuckled. “Then I make it happen, and they still don’t believe it!”
The bike you’re looking at is a perfect example—for a couple of reasons. This build started off as a kind of challenge to Joe. Sitting around the shop one day a couple of years ago, shooting the shit with his buddies, Joe started talking about his idea of building a bagger with a 23-inch front wheel.
“Big deal,” they said. “That’s already been done.”
“Well, how about a 26-inch rim?” Joe countered.
“Impossible,” came the response—exactly the motivation Joe needed.
“I’ve always loved a challenge,” Joe said. On the East Coast in early 2010, no one was riding around on a bagger with a 26-inch front rim, but I knew I could make it work.”
Now all Joe needed was a bike for his project. And, as luck would have it, a friend of his was about to provide him with exactly what he needed.
Though both guys wish it had happened a bit differently, Joe’s pal ended up “donating” a 2010 Street Glide with only 9 miles on the clock. The only rub—at least for Joe’s pal—was that Joe made the deal with his insurance company to buy the bike as a salvage after his friend dumped it on his way home from the dealership!
“I made sure my buddy wasn’t injured before laughing at him,” Joe explained. “Luckily, the only thing he hurt was his pride.”
When the bike showed up at the shop, wrecked and covered in mud, the naysayers were once again there in full force.
“That happens all the time,” Joe reflected. I always look for decent salvage bikes that run anywhere from $3,000 to $7,0000 to use as projects, because it doesn’t make any sense to spend $20,000 on a brand new bike you’re going to spend thousands more on to customize. And when guys see these trashed bikes, they think there’s no way I can make anything out of them.”
Joe got right to work cutting and raking the front end. Then came a set of HHI trees and a 26-inch Renegade front wheel—you know, the one that wouldn’t fit.
A mechanical engineer with a bachelor’s degree, Joe seems to be able to turn whatever he imagines into reality. And as the build progressed, he made more things happen that people said he couldn’t, like modifying a chrome Küryakyn cover to fit the frame and molding a set of side panels into the Ballistic saddlebags, which he also stretched to fit the bike’s modified length. More modifications came to the custom Paul Yaffe tank and seat, as well as the front fairing, with its frenched-in running lights and turn signals.
When it came time for paint, Joe called up his pal Mark Long at Razor Graphics in Fredericksburg, Virginia, who he knew would be able to connect with his vision.
“I wanted the bottom to be black to make the bike look long and sleek,” Joe explained, “Aad orange and yellow are two of my favorite colors, so we went with those on top.”
What makes the paint scheme truly unique, however, are the stylized skulls subtly airbrushed onto the finish.
“I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs,” Joe said, “and those skulls represent my life, the different emotions I’ve experienced.”
You’d think that laying eyes upon what they said couldn’t be done would have been enough proof for those who told Joe he’d never be able to make it happen, but apparently even seeing isn’t believing for some of them.
“I have people—even other builders—calling me to find out how I modified parts to fit this bike, because they can’t tell how I’m doing it by looking—they still think it’s impossible.”
Don’t tell ’em, Joe—after all, no great magician ever reveals his tricks!