Much like the dichotomy of a covert vigilante's psyche, Dante DePaola is a high-school teacher by day and a bike builder by night. Using powerful scientific skills, mechanical know-how, and hands-on experience, he's able to transcend trends and create two-wheeled vehicles that not only look exciting, but are also functionally exhilarating-and in the case of this bike, appearing almost factory built. Similar to the hidden lairs of famous dual-identity crime fighters, Dante's Santa Rosa, California, shop is not advertised, he doesn't have a website, and all his work is from word of mouth through his close friends, so don't go looking for it because you won't find it (unless he wants you to).
Dante loves teaching, but he wanted to create more than just intangible ideas in students' minds in a classroom. Over time he bought tools, taught himself, and honed his mechanical abilities through trial and error, hard work, and repair manuals. Now, he's been a moonlight fabricator/mechanic for more than 13 years and his time and effort building bikes has been recognized a few times by custom motorcycle mags featuring bikes he's built. In addition to the attention he received from custom motorcycle media, his evening activities have started to invade his daytime duties. "I primarily teach biology and anatomy and physiology, but because many of my colleagues are aware of my bike-building interests, I've been allowed the privilege to teach a new, exciting program at Piner High-School called Project Maker. Project Maker's main focus is to bring back vocational education into schools by familiarizing students with the use of tools and machines," Dante said. "Sponsored by DARPA, Piner High is one of 10 pilot schools testing the program that, if all goes well, is expected to reach 100 schools next year." His enthusiasm for the class was evident in the interview, and it's great to hear that the powers that be at Piner High recognized Dante's abilities, and his students are sure to benefit the most.
Due to his local popularity and national custom bike rag notoriety, it's no mystery why his friend, Andrew White, would ask Dante to freshen up the look of his 2000 Dyna. No stranger to motorcycles, Andrew is an avid dirt biker who brought his motorcycle to Dante to maximize the potential of the Dyna platform. "Within a few thousand miles, the bike's motor needed some top-end work. After some minor trials and tribulations, Andrew decided on a complete remake of his Dyna," Dante said. "Originally, he wanted the bike all blacked-out, but I was able to talk him out of it-there are just too many bikes like that these days-so we compromised by planning to keep the drivetrain dark to contrast with color I had in mind for the sheetmetal."
Instead of just pulling the heads off the bike, Dante pulled the entire motor from the frame and had it sent to RC Cycles. RC bumped-up the displacement of the engine from 88 cubic inches to 95. A responsive Mikuni carburetor was then fit between the cylinders behind a Screamin' Eagle air-cleaner cover and backing plate. Maximizing the expulsion of exhaust gases from the heads is a Thunderheader system that was blacked-out and accented with gloss black heat shields. In a few short weeks, RC Cycles had the blackened mill back to Dante, ready and waiting to be reinstalled in the frame.
While RC Cycles upgraded the motor, Dante worked on the rolling chassis. "There's nothing wrong with the Dyna frame and swingarm, but if you look closely at a stock bike you can see welding spatter and imperfections. Structurally, there are no integrity issues, but I ground and shaped the exterior of the frame to look like it had been meticulously custom-built using original factory pieces," Dante said. After cleaning up the welds on the frame tubes and swingarm, he drilled the chassis for a steering dampner to eliminate mounting brackets. Only offered from the Motor Company for a few years, he decided to keep the adjustable front and rear suspension, but fabricated new axles for both wheels. The original rims were blackened to match the drivetrain. They were then fit onto the new axles along with dual six-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors from PM in the front and an 11.5-inch rotor in the rear with a modified front caliper bracket to facilitate a third six-piston caliper. To say this bike has incredible deceleration capabilities is a severe understatement!
All the original sheetmetal was thrown out, so Dante had to create the fenders, tank, and fairing from scratch, which is just the way he likes it. "I began with a pair of half-length fender blanks. Dynas are known for an excessive amount of tire clearance under the rear fender, so I slammed it as close to the tire as possible while maintaining plenty of clearance. A stock front fender on a Dyna isn't much more than a narrow strip of metal that covers the tire tread, and I wanted it to better match the rear, so I fabricated a front fender with more 'skirt' around the sides," Dante said. Andrew had a set of old FXRP bags and support brackets that he wanted to use for a project in the future, but Dante talked him into using them for this project. "Andrew was hesitant to include the bags because he didn't want the bike to be a permanent bagger, but he finally relented when I explained to him I'd be able to make them completely removable, yet retain the original support bars and hard-mount look," Dante said. The custom quick-release mechanism is easy to use with only a single bolt to remove each support bracket and a turn of a key to take off the bags. Dante further strengthened the bags by replacing the original hinges with an aluminum version bolted together with polished stainless bolts.
Dante added a plunger to the starter to help keep things clean up top. Simply push the plu
One aspect of building Dante doesn't do is paint, and he's been working with the same painter for 12 years; a guy named Mike Taylor. Mike painted the chassis black and elaborately pinstriped the frame, swingarm, and support bars for the bags. He then laid down a brilliant coat of candy red on all the sheetmetal, accentuated by black and silver graphics. Andrew insisted that the license plate match the paint scheme of his bike, but Dante and Mike respectfully protested painting it because it's far from legal. Apparently, Andrew won that argument.
The necessities and accessories were bolted to the bike with care, some unusual, some quite ordinary, but many not normally found on a custom bagger. A subtly blacked-out oil cooler was fastened to the left downtube, yet hydraulic lines for the clutch were hidden. Brembo hand controls were employed on the handlebars in conjunction with PM grips, footpegs, and highway pegs. Auto Meter gauges ride high on 9-inch risers, while the rider sits low on a Bitchin' Seat Co. custom seat. Buttons and switches are conspicuously absent from the bike, but it still utilizes a key (for the bags and ignition) and a plunger-style starter. Eliminating the stock turn indicators was a fairly simple task with the addition of a license plate frame from Badlands that has LED lights on either side of it.
Within a week after Dante finished and delivered the bike to Andrew, he had almost 2,000 miles on it. "Andrew rides the bike hard, and that's no joke. His dirt bike background is real obvious when you see him treat this bike like one. He's real aggressive with it, whipping the bike around into sliding skids and popping wheelies all the time," Dante said. Certainly unusual treatment of a bagger, but then the builder and bike aren't all that common, either. B