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Sweet Return

By Mike Seate

In a Hammonton, NJ garage a drag racing legend has accepted the most emotional 2-wheeled challenge of his life; the same motorcycle that he raced the quarter mile on as a teen, the same motorcycle that killed his father in 1982, has come back into his life and he’s rebuilding it for season 5 of Café Racer TV.

Rickey Gadson is a ten-time World Drag Racing champion and a brand ambassador for Kawasaki. The self-proclaimed “Fastest African-American on 2 wheels” (217 mph), Gadson came up on the hard, inner-city streets of West Philly where, as a scrawny teenager, made his bones in the winner-take-all world of outlaw street motorcycle drag racing.[nggallery id=94]

The entire Gadson clan were bike riders, including his late mom and brother, both of whom encouraged him to take his skills to the strip where he’s dominated. In 1982, at 14, he raced his father’s 1979 Kawasaki 1300, a fearsome, 560-pound six-cylinder beast of a bike, at New Jersey’s Atco Raceway. Later that same year, his father was killed in a crash on the big Kawi and the damaged bike was sold. He never saw it again.

Nearly 30 years later, without notice, the second owner showed up at Gadson’s garage with the 1300 in tow. “It had been sitting outside his house on the street in Philly,” Gadson told us during a recent visit to his bike-packed workshop.

It was a real mind-blower to be back in possession of the first motorcycle he’d ever raced, let alone the streetbike that claimed his father’s life. Bad demons aside, Gadson will appear on season 5, trading in his leathers for welding gear. His goal is to tear down the Kawasaki and transform it into a sleek, street-worthy café racer.

And the test ride? “We’re definitely taking it back to Atco where I first raced it,” Gadson promises.

The Budget Bike That Time Built

By Mike Seate

Twenty four hours isn’t much time to build a custom motorcycle, or even customize one. We learned this lesson the hard, sweaty way in the summer of 2010 during production of the first season of “Café Racer TV”. In a series we called the Budget Build-off, two teams squared off at Mid-Ohio during the AMA’s annual Vintage Motorcycle Days, one of the largest motorcycle swap meets in the world.

I was paired with A.J. Fulgado and Frank Ford from New York’s XPO Streetfighter, while CRTV’s narrator, Ben Friedman was partnered with Long Beach, Calif. builder Jay LaRossa of Lossa Engineering. Each team was given $1,000, a golf cart and a garage, and let loose in the sea of parts and bikes that is VMD. The mission was to show the viewers how much you could do with just a little bit of money. But, unlike the viewers, we only got 24 hours.

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A.J. Fulgado, left, gets pressure form producer Brad Jones. “15 seconds builders!” It was like being on an episode of “Chopped”.

Our team found a clean, stock 1978 Suzuki GS 750E but we spent $800. We only had enough money left for a seat, handlebars and a bikini fairing. Ben’s team clearly came away smarter, having purchased a pair of running Honda CB360s for half that much. The shoot, which was in July, was the warmest, wettest, most humid weekend this side of a Panamanian rain forest. It was challenging, crazed but, I admit, fun. In the end, crowds liked both bikes but A.J. asked that he take the bodge job Suzuki back to his New York shop so “People don’t think I can’t build a better café racer than this,” he said.

So off it went to the Big Apple.

Two years quickly passed before I started wondering what had become of our budget build. Not much. A.J. got busy with other projects and left the 750 to rust in his yard. After retrieving the old girl from a weather-induced fate, we decided to see what sort of custom streetbike could be salvaged from the bones of a motorcycle that had clearly experienced a hard knock life.

Almost four years after the initial purchase and, (ahem), rebuild, the Swap Meet Special GS 750 is finally looking like the sort of motorbike any self respecting road burner would be proud to own. The lengthy rehab has been chronicled in the pages of Café Racer magazine where the final assembly and road test will run in our October/November issue, which hits newsstands October 1.

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You’ll barely recognize the old “‘Zook” when you read about it in the Oct./Nov. issue of Cafe Racer Magazine, on newsstands Oct. 1

Most of you who recall what the GS looked like at the end of the Velocity show build will hardly recognize the old girl, proving that given enough time, you can make any motorcycle shine.

On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter

Over 40 years ago Bruce Brown directed what was, and still is, the greatest motorcycle movie ever produced: On Any Sunday. Simply put, it was a movie about motorcycles, motorcycle sport and people who ride motorcycles. In 1972 it was nominated for an Academy Award.

Steve McQueen helped fund it and showed the world how good of a rider he was and Mert Lawwill and Malcolm Smith gave it credibility with their diverse riding skills.

This fall, Brown’s son Dana will release On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter, which “journeys deeper into the humanity and excitement of motorcycle culture across disciplines — the passion for the race, the love of family and friends, and the thrill of the ride,” according to the producer’s press release.

Here’s a teaser video for the movie and, while we feel it would be almost impossible to try to recreate the magic of the original, it looks like Dana really has created something that’s going to be both magical and breathtaking.

We’re also happy to see one of our builders being featured in the movie: Roland Sands. Be sure to watch this video in full screen with the resolution maxed out. It’s incredible. 

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.

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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And…. We’re Back!

It’s been a while since we revved up Café Racer TV but we believe you’ll find the payoff well worth the wait. Season 4 returns to Velocity on Wednesday, November 6 at 10 pm EST and then repeats at 1 am EST on Nov. 7.

First up, a new one hour format provides the gearheads among us with far more in-depth, detailed coverage of each custom motorcycle build.

We’re talking about hands-on nuts and bolts footage of these high-performance bikes from their earliest stages until they’re finished, fueled and ready for a Boz Brothers test ride.

In episode one, two complete café racers will be built and ridden, the first emerging from Classified Moto’s Richmond, VA garage. Their decision to transform a muddy old Honda dual-sport bike into a café racer for actress Katee Sackhoff has to be one of the oddest–and most inspiring–builds to appear on Café Racer TV.

Also twisting the throttle this week is Bay Area custom shop Grey Dog Moto. Patrick Bell has the rare ability to see a sleek, fast ton-up machine hiding deep within a bulky Moto Guzzi California cruiser.

Later, you’ll feel like part of the pack as we join test rider Blake Kelly and comedian Alonzo Bodden to ride the legendary canyons of California in the first of our Great Roads series. You may think you’ve seen twisty roads but Mulholland Highway, high in the Santa Monica Mountains, will have your front wheel pointing westward for a piece of the action. Strap on your helmets and climb aboard – this is going to be a blast!

Mike Seate
Editor, Café Racer Magazine
Coordinating Producer, Café Racer TV

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Season 4 Video Trailer

It’s a tired cliché but good things really do come to those who wait. Chet Burks Productions, the producers of “Cafe Racer” TV on Velocity is happy to announce that the season 4 will begin on November 6 at 10:00 pm.

Please enjoy this teaser trailer and follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@caferacertv) and Like us on Facebook where we will be releasing new information, contests and merchandise.

The world has changed when cafe racers are welcome at Sturgis…

We’re so happy to hear that many of the builders featured on CRTV over the first three seasons are still going strong and are now embarking on bolder and bigger projects than ever.

A lot of our friends are getting ready for Michael Lichter’s 13th annual Motorcycles as Art show in Sturgis (August 5-11). It will be held at the Buffalo Chip and this year’s theme is: “Ton Up! – Speed, Style and Cafe Racer Culture.”

The gallery will include 32 bikes from different builders and lots of artwork and photos. Loaded Gun Customs is one of the builders and here is a look at the making of Bucephalus, named after the horse of Alexander the Great

Herm & Jason from Dime City Cycles – Interview with Democrathings

The good gents at Dime City Cycles we’re recently interview by Juan Chaparro who runs a neat BLOG called Democrathings where they explore design concepts from different industries to help grow the collective creative in the upcoming generation of the workforce.  Checkout the interview below:

Podcast 11: Jason Michaels & Herm Narciso from DimeCityCycles from Democrathings on Vimeo.

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