My Path to Bike Building: Jay LaRossa

We’re interested in hearing about the origins and influences of motorcycle builders, whether they’ve been on the program or not. First up in this new series is Lossa Engineering’s Jay LaRossa.

Although Jay Larossa is a gifted car and truck builder whose work has been featured in dozens of magazines and who once worked for Jesse James at West Coast Choppers, his heritage is in motorcycles and his current business started just like so many do: in the garage.

Jay has been on Café Racer TV three times and we’re very happy to report that he is recently recovered from a second bout of cancer. Here’s Jay’s story in his own words.

I didn’t get into motorcycles because I just liked them or was trying to be the cool kid. I was born into motorcycling; it was pretty much in my blood from birth.

My parents met at a motorcycle shop. My mom’s family owned Van Nuys Cycle in California and my dad was a mechanic there. But it goes even further back than that when my grandparents came to California from New York. Grandpa opened up a motorcycle shop in North Hollywood and sold and serviced new Yamahas, Nortons, Matchless, Ossa, Kawasaki and Lambretta scooters. He serviced the brand new YCS-1s that the original TV series Batman and Batgirl motorcycles were built on.

At a very early age my pops would ride me around on the back of his bikes. He had Harleys and a bunch of different Yamahas. We would always go to the flat track races on the weekends. In the mid-1980s my dad, uncle and I rode up to Laguna Seca and watched one of Kenny Roberts’ last races. I rode up on the back of my dad’s Yamaha XS1100. I also remember riding in my uncle’s sidecar that was on his old Harley. He’d put that thing up at a 45 degree angle and scare the crap out of me.

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My first motorcycle that was mine was a brand new Yamaha GT80 my parents bought me when I was 9. Then, when I was about 14, I bought, with my own damn money, a Honda Aero 50. I completely painted it custom, installed a radio and air horns and terrorized the streets of my hometown. When I was in my early 20s I walked into a Yamaha dealer and bought a brand new 1992 FZR600. I fully customized that bike too and kept that until I moved to Long Beach.

Life happened, several cars and trucks later and the opening of a custom automotive shop and then getting the cancer. When I was done with my treatment and all clear, I decided I wanted to get a motorcycle again. I really wanted a Ducati Monster and I found a 1999 Monster Chromo Edition. I instantly started to modify the crap out of it and was actually modifying it more than riding it. At that point I wanted another bike and wanted a vintage bike this time, so I bought my first Honda CB550. I always dug motorcycle racing, so wanted to build a race-looking bike for the street (Cafe Racer).

While looking for parts to build my 550, I came across more CB550s and CB160s and amounted a horde of about 10 bikes within the few months. I built that first CB550, put it up for sale while building a CB160 in my four car garage. People dug my first two bikes so I stopped building cars, I love building motorcycles.

I put up the CB160 on eBay to sell to try and jump start the business. It sold and a few custom ordered bike builds started coming in. I was banging away at them and decided that wasn’t too professional working out of a garage and I didn’t want all these strangers at my house. So, in 2007 I put my 1966 Cadillac up for sale and used the money to pay for 6 months of rent in a real shop. I figured, if after 6 months, if I couldn’t start paying the rent with building motorcycles, I would shut down.

I’m still here.

Penton Movie: Trailer Released, Premieres in June

Seven years ago, filmmaker Todd Huffman was sitting on a plane reading a book written by the former president of the American Motorcyclist Association, Ed Youngblood; a biography about hall of fame motorcyclist John Penton. On June 20 Huffman and his company, Pipeline Digital Media will release Penton: The John Penton Story, a two hour plus documentary about John, now 88, his family and the impact they’ve had on the motorcycle industry.

Huffman said the more people he interviewed, the bigger the story grew and, while the finished product maintained his original intentions, the path he took there was longer and filled with way more information and tales than he’d expected.

“There’s always more to a story and a reputation of ‘a guy in a family’ than what the public thinks they know, even after 30 or 40 years of knowing the main story,” Huffman said. “And sometimes you can’t even dig it out of the family you have to dig it out of the people around the family, or who worked with the family, the people involved. The Pentons are learning stuff from this story themselves, John and his family.”

Penton’s motorcycle story started in the 1930s in Amherst, OH with his father’s 1914 Harley-Davidson that he and his brothers got running. The story continues today with KTM, the fastest growing motorcycle company in the United States in 2013. It was Penton, who in 1968, took delivery of ten prototype 100cc off-road motorcycles, that he designed, from Austrian bicycle manufacturer KTM.

In between, Penton raced the Jack Pine Enduro on both a Harley Knucklehead and a B-33 BSA; he rode from Ohio to Daytona on his NSU 175, won the Alligator Enduro, strapped his trophy to the back and rode home; he used a BMW R69S to set a new transcontinental motorcycle record of Fifty-two hours and eleven minutes; he competed in the International Six Days Enduro; and he ran a dealership. To the motorcycle industry, Penton is royalty. Penton says he’s just a “farmer and a mud runner.”

After nearly seven years, 108 interviews, 150 hours of footage and an initial cut of five and a half hours, Huffman and Pipeline will premiere the movie in Cleveland on June 9, Hollywood, June 17 and on June 20 it will be distributed via Gathr films. Visit the movie’s Gathr Page and click “Notify Me” for information on the movie coming to a nearby screen.

Cafe Racer TV Represented in Velocity Branding

Cafe Racer Magazine Editor and our coordinating producer, Mike Seate was invited, by Velocity, to the SEMA Show (Specialty Equipment Marketing Association) in Las Vegas last November. Mike isn’t a car guy at all but he was still overwhelmed by the size and spectacle that is SEMA, which takes up two million square feet of floor space in the Las Convention Center.

“It was a weird, gi-normous celebration of auto culture that was about 200 times larger than any motorcycle industry gathering I’ve ever seen,” Seate said. After getting lost in the aisles of SEMA, Velocity escorted he and several other Velocity show talents like Jessi Combs from “All Girls Garage”, Wayne Carini from “Chasing Classic Cars”, Chip Foose from Overhaulin’ and others, out to the Valley of Fire State Park where they shot new network brand promotional spots. The 42,000 acre park is filled with red sandstone formations but Velocity went with a shadowy black and white look that makes the road pop on screen.

The theme for the spots is “Drive your Passion” and it features all the hosts and and on camera talent enjoying the open road. Seate chose a 2013 Triumph Bonneville as his transport.

It’s a coup for Cafe Racer TV to get a nod alongside the biggest stars and shows of the network.

“I’m so glad they’re behind us at this level,” Seate said. “They’re really behind pushing the show.”

Season 5 of Cafe Racer TV is currently heading into field production and will air 4th quarter 2014.

Own a Piece of Cafe Racer TV! For Sale: Lossa’s SR 500

If you’re looking for a bike that’s both a canyon carver and a show piece, then Lossa Engineering’s 1978 Yamaha SR 500 might be what you need. This bike is dear to us because it was one of the first built and featured on Cafe Racer TV back in season 1.

The bike has had a couple of different owners since its appearance on the show but it always winds back up in Jay’s shop because it simply isn’t being ridden enough.

Jay has posted the bike on eBay for his client. Here is the link to bid.

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Rearsets Explained by Loaded Gun Customs

If you’re looking for a good pair of rearsets for your bike then Loaded Gun Customs is a great place to start. Kevin Dunworth, who’s done a few projects for Cafe Racer TV explains his product in this video he produced.

You can buy these at Loaded Gun Customs

Superbike Family Season 3 Starts This Saturday

Chet Burks Productions, producers of “Cafe Racer” TV and “What’s in the Barn” are pleased to announce the the third season of “Superbike Family”.

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Grand Rapids, MI (January 29, 2014) – The Superbike Family is back in action for a third season to document the AMA Pro National Guard Superbike series. The “Superbike Family” is a reality show based on the excitement and adventure of Foremost Insurance Group sponsored racer Larry Pegram and his family-based racing team. The reality series will air beginning Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 3:00 p.m. ET on Velocity. You can also catch up on past seasons on the Foremost Blog at blog.foremost.com right now!

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Larry Pegram is a professional road racer who not only champions wins on his bike, but is owner and manager of his own team.

“The show is about our dream of becoming a Superbike Championship race team. My parents, wife and children all contribute to the season and my crew is the best,” says Pegram. “The third season of the show was especially exciting because it takes a behind-the-scenes look at my season riding Yamaha and the podiums I championed. It was an exciting time for my family and crew.”

Superbike Family is sponsored in part by Foremost® and documents the Superbike Family through the 2013 season at the Superbike races, as well as their entertaining home life.

“Pegram racing is a first-class operation and it’s great to give people the chance to see that,” says Randy Slotten, director of marketing at Foremost. “The show highlights Larry’s passion and drive for Superbike racing and how his family supports him. It’s not only entertaining, but sheds light on why he’s so well respected in the industry.”

The reality series will air beginning Saturday, February 8 at 3:00 p.m. ET on Velocity and continue to air on most Saturdays in February and March at 3:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. ET. Full episodes of the first and second season of the Superbike Family reality show can be accessed on the Foremost blog at blog.foremost.com.

Foremost is proud to sponsor the Pegram Road Racing team and the Superbike Family reality show. To learn more about Foremost Pegram racing team go to the Foremost Website or the Pegram Racing Website.

Foremost wants you to be safe in whatever adventure you choose. To learn more about Foremost products or to share feedback, visit Foremost, our blog, our Facebook page or our Twitter account.

A part of the Farmers Insurance Group of Companies®, Foremost Insurance Group (“Foremost”) has been a leader in personal lines insurance since 1952. Foremost is headquartered in Caledonia, Michigan. Farmers Insurance Group of Companies is a leading U.S. insurer group of automobiles, homes and small businesses and also provides a wide range of other insurance and financial services products. Farmers Insurance is proud to serve more than 10 million households with more than 20 million individual policies across all 50 states through the efforts of more than 50,000 exclusive and independent agents and nearly 24,000 employees. The Farmers Exchanges are three reciprocal insurers (Farmers Insurance Exchange, Fire Insurance Exchange and Truck Insurance Exchange), including their subsidiaries and affiliates, owned by their policyholders. Farmers Group, Inc., along with its subsidiaries, manages the non-claims insurance operations of the Farmers Exchanges. Farmers Group, Inc. is wholly owned by the Zurich Insurance Group. For more information about Farmers, visit its Web site at www.farmers.com or at www.Facebook.com/FarmersInsurance.

Preview: Season 4 Episode 4

This week’s episode is going to be talked about for a long time.

First up, we feature an old school café racer build by Trenton, New Jersey’s Cycle Icons, a shop determined to create a record-breaking speed machine from an ordinary Royal Enfield commuter bike. Trenton, we learned during the shoot, is the home of Shadetree Manufacturing and Cycle Icons stick to the region’s traditions, using blood, sweat and gears to make it all happen.

What this team manages to do to their trusty little 500cc single may surprise some folks, proving that bigger is not always better.

Clearly thinking outside any box whatsoever is MaceTech Industries, a Florida shop run by Mace Livingston and his wife, Ashlie, who is also pin-up pretty. This husband wife build blends KTM adventure bike power with, well, let’s just say their take on the café racer is anything but traditional, involving everything from snakeskin to firearms parts. And if you were ever thinking of building a bike with your spouse this could be a good episode for you to watch before you head down that road.

Hall of fame off-road rider Jack Penton pays Café Racer TV a visit as well, lending his formidable skills as a professional motorcycle developer to the ambitious MaceTech project. For Livingston, the young builder learns a valuable lesson in the end.

– Mike Seate

The Badger is going racing in episode #4, which airs Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 10 pm on Velocity

The Badger is going racing in episode #4, which airs Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 10 pm on Velocity

Preview: Season 4 Episode 3

Some truly funky and fresh ideas from a couple of the industry’s top young custom builders is the focus of this week’s show, starting with former AMA 250 Grand Prix champ Roland Sands.

Sands, whose Roland Sands Design studio has produced all sorts of mind bending machines including the prototype for BMW’s first ever retro café bike the R Nine T. For Café Racer TV, Sands and his talented team will strip a modern, but beaten and battered, Harley Sportster into a street tracker for professional skateboarder Lyn-z Adams Hawkins Pastrana. Parts fly when Lyn-z brings along her husband, action sports legend Travis Pastrana, who implements two tools in the teardown: a hammer and a Sawzall.

The Sands/Pastrana story finishes in the very place where this bike’s first life ended, the desert, where Travis does something he’s never done before.

Funny story about meeting Sands for the first time: It was back in 2002 and we were chilling at West Coast Choppers during their annual No Love Ride rally when I struck up a conversation with a young fella about superbike racing. After bragging about how “fast” I thought I was on a track I asked the dude what he did for a living.

“I won the 250 AMA class in 1998,” he said matter-of-factly. Foot firmly sandwiched in mouth, I realized that I was speaking with Sands himself. Ah, nothing like an awkward moment to impress people…

And speaking of impressive, this week you’ll see Tony Prust of Analog Motorcycles tackle a rare – and some would say pug-ugly – Bimota Mantra from Italy and change it into the sort of machine that draws stares for all the right reasons.

The Mantra was one of the strangest street bikes ever devised, combining a wood-paneled dashboard with a Ducati Supersport engine in a styling package that looks like the original Batmobile on acid.

Before he was building show winning café racers, Tony spent his days as a drum tech for alt-rock band Chevelle; the band’s drummer, Sam Loeffler owns the Bimota that Tony’s transforming, and he’s expecting nothing less than perfection from his new ride. And if you’re a fan of Chevelle, dig it the most as we join the band for a hangout on the road during a recent tour.

– Mike Seate

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What $500 and Elbow Grease Gets You

Gerry Granduke of Cold Hearted Custom Cycles made an appearance in last night’s episode when we visited the Oley, PA swap meet and asked the attendees what they could do get for $500 or $1000.

Granduke has done a lot with $500 projects many times in his career and here’s a link to the story behind the bike he discussed in episode number 2.

Troubled Past

CONTEST: “Wanna Be Like Mike”

You probably didn’t expect to be asked to do homework while watching season 4 of “Cafe Racer” TV but that’s pretty much what we’re asking you to do.

The good news is that correct answers come with free stuff!

We will keep this simple. Our coordinating producer, and the editor of Cafe Racer Magazine, Mike Seate knows bikes. He doesn’t always agree with every decision builders make on our show but he respects what they do 100%. Mike is going to make a lot of comments during season four’s run and your job is to remember and regurgitate!

To win a prize pack, watch Cafe Racer TV, pay attention and answer our question below. The first 10 people to do so will win a season 3 DVD set and Cafe Racer TV stickers. Mike is going to throw in a one year subscription to Cafe Racer Magazine, a patch, and a CRM badge.

Episode One’s Question: What specific kind of engineering did Mike say that Grey Dog Moto used to create their Moto Guzzi cafe racer for Olaf Hoff?

Answer the question through our comments section. We will contact you via e-mail if you were one of the winners. Good luck!

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