In traveling and doing work for Chop Cult, I’m lucky enough to meet a lot of multi-talented people. My bud Christian Herr, from Lancaster, PA, is one of those dudes. I first witnessed his on-the-fly talent when I saw him freehand paint some signs and posters at the Heavy Heads Helmet Show I covered for Chop Cult a few years ago. He, our pal Zach, and a few others organized the event that showcased hand-painted helmets from all over the world. As you can tell from the pictures, it was well produced, very well attended, and a shit-ton of fun. Christian also gave me a hand when I was invited to participate in the Fuel Cleveland show, hand-drawing some original work on the photography packaging. Not only is he an amazing artist, but among other things, he can build one badass bike. It doesn’t hurt that his circle of friends are a talented pack of dudes able to help him along in the process. With things finally wrapped up on his recent build, he let me shoot it on an early Saturday morning in our pal Matt’s garage. Considering this is where a lot of the magic took place, I thought it was appropriate to shoot it here. The riding shot is from Strange Days this past July, where it received tons of well-deserved attention. That’s his wife Janelle, another multi-talented local, enjoying the ride as much as him.
Below, Christian explains much of the process, from searching for the perfect project to the final touches.
About the search:
I've never spent so many hours frantically searching Craigslist for anything else in my life. Finding the right bike for the little money I had was a challenge I was going to meet. Even though it meant lying in bed while keeping my lady awake with the phone light searching, at the bar ignoring friends while slowly getting drunk searching, walking the dog and searching, and searching and searching, I was going to find it. It consumed me until I found a post that was vague enough that it might be bullshit or somebody selling something that they didn't know anything about. Perfect! The pictures were grainy and taken from the worst possible angles to truly see anything that was being described in the post. I remember trying to zoom in and count the fins on the cylinders with a buddy of mine at the bar to see if it had the right amount to be a stroker like the listing suggested.
After some back-and-forth with the person who wrote the post, I discovered it was the boyfriend of an ex-employee's bike currently taking up space in this guy’s shed and he wanted it gone. He basically cut the price in half so I would get it outta there. I couldn't believe my luck!
As the day neared to drive 3 hours from Pennsylvania to New Jersey to pick up the old FX, I got a call from the lady who owned it. She said she wanted more dough, that her neighbor said it was worth way more and that she wouldn’t sell it for any less than $5500. Damn it! The bike was already mine in my head and I couldn't shake it. It was a great deal even at that price, so I had to move forward with her, despite the last-minute price switcharoo. Unfortunately, it was triple cost of what I thought I was going to pay.
I agreed to cough up the dough and we made the trip. The bike was rough on the outside, with its purple-painted everything possible, but that didn't matter since it was the engine that was the hidden gem here. It was a 93" Morris magneto-fired ripper that sounded mean as hell. The rumor that accompanied the engine was that Morris himself helped install the stroker kit back in the early 90's. That was enough for me, so true or not, I paid up.
Over the years the bike went through a few changes...
The bike has seen many configurations over the years and has had just as many names. Naming a bike, for me anyway, typically comes from an event or moment that stands out, and something sticks from it. I had my bike for a few months and nothing major really came to mind. It wasn't until I pulled the oil bag off to clean up some previous owner wiring work that the name revealed itself. After cleaning years of sludge and road grime off of the bracket holding the capacitor, I found the word "baby" was etched into the bracket in a beautiful flowing script. It was sort of a cool moment to think that whoever had this heap before at one point loved it enough to add this little detail and probably whispered that name to it during cold morning kick starts or late nights leaving the bar. I'm not sure if this was just some off the shelf part from the 90's or if the time was taken to have it hand etched; either way, baby was the name it once had, and I kept that going.
After a vicious wreck involving a midnight rip and the headlight burning out at 70mph the bike was given a new chance at life, and me and buddy were lucky to have ours. My good friend Matt Bupp provided just the right amount of coaxing and dreaming, so we started stripping the bike down to the frame with the intention of a quick little rebuild. Everything was going as planned for once, swap meet parts were found, and plans were made to make something with all the cool little things I've stashed and collected. Of course that's not the way it goes for me. When I went to pick up the frame and components from the powder coater it was not flat black as I'd hoped, it was a very wet looking gloss black that started me down the path of changing everything. Needless to say I went with the mistake they made and dumped a shit-load more time and money into the bike.
The motor got a once over with a bunch of headwork and an Andrews C cam. We rebuilt the trans and found a belt drive and all the associated bits. I used a round swing arm and mated new brake calipers for a bit more stopping power, got an 18" rear wheel, and tucked it in under the fender just right to spit everything on the road on your back, bent up the sissy bar a few different times, had my buddy Duff machine me the perfect housing for the old taillight I had acquired along the way. The front end is a 39mm that is lowered a bit and is sporting Lowbrow lowers, the bars are from Zombie Performance -titty bars!- which we added an internal throttle into just to turn my brain to mush trying to figure it out. I made the pipes with some friends, lots of little things that were factory pieces were slightly modified for the correct look or fitment I was looking for and I wouldn't change a thing. Haha. The paint was applied by Brian at J&B Moto.
Many beers and problems solved or created with the help of Matt Bupp, Racho Mandy Savage, Zach Kolodziejski, good ole Kletus, J Hoiser, Joshy Endo, and let's not forget my loving wife, Janelle, who lets me get away with murder (of our finances).
Owner name, location: Christian Herr, Lancaster, PA
Frame: 4 speed
Next modification: More tuning
Huge thanks to Christian for letting me do this feature and to Matt Bupp for the garage space/make-shift photo studio. -Daniel
Article and photographs by Daniel Venditto / www.dv8sport.com / @dv8sport.