I could have easily titled this feature The Apology as I need to apologize to ChopCult member Jesse Pafford publicly. You see, Jesse has patiently waited for his bike to be featured here since the beginning of October. Since then, I dealt with email hacking (a big F U to whoever is to blame) and lost over ten years of contacts and many work-in-process features, one being Jesse's. I have to commend Jesse for not putting me on blast for making him wait. His bike and the touching story deserve to be featured, and I am thrilled to showcase it today. Jesse, I am genuinely sorry for the endless hassles and appreciate your assistance and level-headed banter through all of this. I also need to thank Chris McMorrow for photographing Jesse's bike for CC. You guys rule. - Lisa
This bike is a reflection of my struggles. In the summer of 2018, I got out of a very toxic relationship, so I went out and did what any man should do when he is feeling blue. I got myself a shovelhead! I found a straight out of the ‘70’s stock 1975 FXE locally, which I couldn't say no to. It had chrome covers over everything and braided lines everywhere. I rode it for the remainder of the summer as a stock bike, but I knew I wanted more for that bike as I was getting bored with it, and looking for a project to keep my mind busy as I was still struggling in my head.
That fall, I found a smokin' deal through Vanilla Cycles on an old Paugcho frame. I had the first piece, as I started disassembling my donor FXE. I had been in contact with an old friend Stanly at The Bone Orchard Cycles about making me a custom springer, which would be his first production springer. He and I went back and forth for weeks about length and stance and all that. We finally decided on the length, and I pulled the trigger.
I had a roller with the driveline, and all the pieces were coming together. I was working as a mechanic at the local Harley dealer, ordering parts for it every other day. I couldn't believe how fast it was coming together. Then one night, I was sitting there searching for parts, and I got a phone call that would rattle my entire world. My old man called and told me he was terminally ill and had only a year to live.
At that point, my build and everything I had been working so hard for had to be put on the back burner. My priority was no longer building my dream chopper. It was the primary support in my father's fight for life. I was only able to work on my bike a few hours a week at most. The next piece I was focused on getting done was the sissy bar. My good friend Ian Olsen told me to bring it over, and we'll get it done. We did just that. I almost had a completely mocked up bike after that night minus some odds and ends.
I then decided to pack up my shit and leave the great city of Milwaukee to be at my father's side during his fight. My bike sat for months, not being touched. I had no time to really work on it and questioned if I'd ever finish it. I had it stored in my father's shop with all the tools, welder, and everything I needed to finish it. As my father's condition worsened in front of my very own eyes, I slipped into a state of crippling depression and anxiety. It was evident that I was struggling, and even my father could see it in me.
Dad and I always talked about the bike, and he said, "Jess, I just want to see you start that bike and ride it down the road". He was pushing me to start working on it again. I knew right then and there what I had to do. I was working as a mechanic at a different local Harley dealer full-time and care-taking for my father as well. In the very little time I had in between, I would go out and work on the bike. There were many times my father would be up there in the shop, doing what work he could to help me.
I re-found my outlet to help me deal with the struggles I had in my head and my current situation, and my dad was right there with me.
Working on my bike was the medicine I needed. Instead of focusing on negative energy and thoughts on my reality, I focused on finishing my motorcycle. It was the medicine Dad needed. I was focusing on something other than the harsh reality we were facing.
I was right there on the home stretch. I sent my tins to an old friend Zach Hastings in Boston, MA. He was aware of the situation of my father wanting to see the bike go down the road and unfortunately, only having a limited amount of time left. He promised me he'd get the paint done ASAP. He knocked it out and got ‘em back to me. All the pieces were there. That night we went out and put the tank and fender on. My dad was there to help me line it all up. It was a completely finished bike. I just needed wiring and oil.
I wired it up that weekend. I was ready to start kickin’. My dad came out accompanied by my dog, Nugz, to watch me start it for the first time. Three prime kicks down and the moment was all too real. First kick it fired right up. I looked at my dad, and I will never forget the look he was giving me. A look of accomplishment and pride. He gave me a huge hug. I took it for the first shakedown ride down the road. I did it. We did it. You see it start and go down the road! It was finished. My dad couldn't stop talking about the bike. He was in disbelief about how it turned out. I wanted to do it right and make him proud. I sure hope I lived up to it and did just that. I gave my bike everything I had in me while giving my dad everything I had in me. The whole story happened within a year's time frame.
Now when I look at it as a completed bike, I see more than a motorcycle. I see pain; I see struggle and all that I was able to overcome. I see it as being in a dark place and still putting my focus on being the best I can be. I see it as turning a negative into a positive. A reflection of the struggles I've had. It's bigger than motorcycles. It taught me lessons. There will always be struggles; all you can do is put your best foot forward and do the best you can.
As I'm writing this, my father recently passed away. But I know him being such a big part of the story, and seeing it getting finished meant the world to him. He was so proud. He was a prisoner of his body during all of it, and I hope I was able to help him live through me chasing dreams and making them happen. I will always miss him, and I will always hold this bike close to me. I know what it represents, and I will hold on to that for the rest of my life. Things will be great at times; things will be ugly at times. Just keep giving ‘er hell!
I've never named a motorcycle. But I'd like to think of it as "the warrior"? It would be cool to find an old warrior name or something. But I feel like a name like that would best represent it.-Jesse
Owner name, location: Jesse Pafford, Poynette WI
Chop Cult Member profile: jespaf
Engine, year and make, model, modifications: 1975 Harley-Davidson FX Shovelhead
Frame: Some old Paugcho Frame, raked 40 degrees that I found in a classified.
Fork: Just about 10” over, century-style springer made by The Bone Orchard Cycles.
Tire/wheel size and style: 16" 8 spoke invader with a Skinko Tire in the rear and a 21" spool with an Avon SpeedMaster.
Favorite thing about this bike: I would have to say the riding position. It has a fun, aggressive, comfortable posture. Knees way up in the breeze while looking through your hands on the bars.
The next modification will be: Nothing. The bike is done and just needs some pieces chromed this winter.
Other mods, accessories, cool parts, etc.: CV carb conversion. Gold Holey air filter from the ‘80’s that I’ve been carrying around forever. Biltwell Whiskey Throttle. Lowbrow Wassel Tank. Throttle Addiction ribbed fender. Old Gold Cobra Seat. Frisco Mids I made from a ⅝" rod and a piece of flat stock. Old door knob shifter knob with chain clutch linkage. Softail-style rear brake caliper hooked up to a 58-69 rear brake pedal- Thank you, Ben! I'm also very stoked and fortunate to have some pieces from the hands of my very talented friends. Trident Style sissy bar handmade by Ian Olsen. Paint by Zach Hastings matched the original color I sent him; then, he ghosted some black into it with a torch. Springer front end by Brian Stanley from the Bone Orchard Cycles.
Any building or riding story or info you'd like to include: Life is a trip, and I'm just so grateful that I was able to finish this bike.
Thanks to: Jackson Zelinski, Nugz, My Dad Dave Pafford, Lowbrow Customs, Brian Stanley, Throttle Addiction, Ian Olsen, Zach Hastings, JP Cycles, Ben Marx, TC Bros, Ace Hardware, Chris Mcmorrow, and ChopCult for featuring my bike.-Jesse / Facebook / Instagram
Photos by Chris McMorrow