Inside: Cro Customs


When last we visited our friend Caleb Owens he gave ChopCult readers a peek inside his personal life and times. With this installment of Inside: Cro shares secrets and insight on his eponymously named bike-building and fabrication shop. Caleb's spacious barn in west LA is a bike builder's dream, and a sweet surprise in a neighborhood surrounded by monesteries, college campuses and film studios.

So what happens at your shop? Do you build complete bikes for strangers, tune and service for friends, work strictly on your own stuff or is it really just a tree fort for grown men?

All of that. I like to think my space is the best-kept secret on the west side of LA. Although my shop is a glorified garage, it is a legit business, so aside from fixing the neighbor’s dirt bike for beer, I do get a few commissioned builds throughout the year from clients that find me via the web, on a ride or word of mouth

Do you consider it a hobby, art, work, lifestyle or what?

Labels? I've always said it's a serious hobby, but like most things you obsess about, it takes on a life of it's own. It's a hobby when it's fun; it's work when it's not. I owe my chopper problem to my brothers Buck and Chuck—yes, their names--so I guess in some ways it’s inherited. Lifestyle? I have a hard time with that word. I am from the school of thought that the things I do I hope don't define who I am or my "lifestyle". I had a friend that would say things like, " I am in the lifestyle" or, " I think that chick is in the "lifestyle". He was referring to swinging and wife swapping

How many hours in a typical week do you spend in your shop? Is this more or less lately compared to years past?

Not really sure. Of course I would rather have more hours on the road. It varies depending on the projects I have going on. As of late I am here every night ‘til midnight or so, and weekends if I have a deadline. The last two years were lots of hours in the shop--2010 will be more hours on the bike and fewer hours under it

What do you see happening in this space in five years? More of the same, or something completely different?

Five years is so long term for me. I love my shop, but I have always been a bit of a nomad so who knows if I'll even be here. My dreams for this space are to close off the back end and loft and turn it in to a really nice living space without sacrificing the shop

Has the Internet had a significant impact on your business in the last few years?

I think the ‘net has had some impact, but not as much as people think. At the end of the day building the kind of bikes I like to build is still an esoteric endeavor so no matter what your press outlets are the kind of clients I get are people that would have found me without the web. Most of the connections I've made over the years have been from meeting people on the road, or riding. I take pride in the fact that the bikes I build see more miles on the road than on some web site or parking lot at a show

Does your shop area break down into different areas, like clean work, assembly, et cetera, or does all work happen everywhere in your shop?

I have a little machine shop area with the mill, lathe and band saw. Next to that I have a sort of finishing area with a few sanders, chop saw etc. On the other side of the shop I have two lifts. One I try to keep as fab work, and the other as assembly and tuning. It works out, but I’m not anal about it. The sooner the bike is on the road, the better I feel

Any rituals for your shop like cleaning every night before shutting down, never work with music, no booze, lots of booze, etc?

No serious rituals. When JD and I are working on a project together the Jim Beam always seems to pop out. I try to keep the booze to a minimum, but it's nice to have a "snort" as my Dad would say, every now and then. I have a great sound system with two huge speakers hanging over the front roll-up door. When I get into a zone I usually put in what I like to call the "real" music, Coltrane, Miles, and other greats in the jazz vein, then there are those times I need to hear Waylon, George Jones and the other "outlaws" sing about drinking themselves blind over a woman. Sometimes, silence is good

Who else would we find in your shop on a typical Friday or Saturday night? What about late on a Tuesday night when you've got some deadline to meet and you are way behind with too much to do?

Ninety-eight percent of the time I am alone. JD and I have collaborated on a few projects together and he has been a great help, but generally, I am the lone soul in my shop. Of course my rock star old lady Kris comes in with food and some love. She is a keeper!

What do the neighbors think?

Generally I have zero problems. The neighbors behind me are a gay couple with two annoying yapping little dogs. I love animals but I swear I would tape these things to those dude’s faces! I digress… if they had anything to say to me, I would laugh my ass off because of those little fucking mutts! Then, across the street is a Jesuit monastery, very quiet place but I make sure no youngsters go near it

What's your favorite kind of work to do?

My initial inspiration for getting into bikes was to ride, period. My first few bikes I toyed with were to get them on the road, then your start tweaking this, then that, then next thing you know you have shop! So, I love all of it with the express reason of riding the piss out of the bike as part of the entire creative experience

There has to be something you don't like about your shop, what is it?

The neighbor’s fucking dogs!

Any tips for a novice just starting out working on his own machine in a small space?

Where there’s a will there’s a way. You don't need a huge space, or all the nifty tools to build a cool scoot to ride the shit out of. The first bike I ever built was in a one-room studio garage apartment. I slid all the furniture out of the way and built the damn thing in the middle of the room. If you love it or you are driven, you'll find a way

Anything else you'd like to share?

If you read this entire thing I would like to thank you. The fact that anyone is interested in what I do in my shop or even reading about it is always strange to me. There is a long history of chopper builders and I never lose site of that. Although my ultimate goal is to ride, I am greatly appreciative and humbled by all those who came before me and even more so by all the cats out there now who build some great bikes. To even be considered in that company is not lost on me. So, thanks to everyone for their support


Cro Custom's blog

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Commented on 3-3-2010 At 08:16 am

Great looking shop. Nice c10 too.

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 08:47 am

its always interesting to peek into the world of a builder. very cool

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 08:49 am

Thats what I need... My own house, with a huge shop, and the ability to just relax and let the work happen...

Cool Write Up

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 10:24 am

Very Cool!! set-up. I would to say thanks for giving us a view inside your shop. It's always nice to see other shops and the way there set up.

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 10:29 am

I like following your blog and a nice interview.

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 10:52 am

eponymously ?

Seriously good looking shop and work... I am ESPECIALLY impressed with the lines on that Sporster... PLS give us an update on it when done.

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 01:24 pm

sweet shop.i think i would live in there and give my kids the house.

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 02:46 pm

Awesome shop! Looks like you got everything right there. Nice Build as well!!!

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 06:05 pm

this website is so fucking cool. i love reading this stuff. that garage/house combo is ultimate.

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 06:52 pm

Great article. Nice to get a look in a spacious, well equipped shop. really enjoyed the photos at the end.

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 07:21 pm

that is a good setup,, livin the dream bud

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 08:11 pm

That's my combo. Long term goal, but still the ultimate goal!!!

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 10:24 pm

Great spot you've got there Caleb!

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 10:58 pm

uh oh... cat's out of the bag now. kickin' ass caleb ! finish that board tracker baby...

Commented on 3-3-2010 At 11:50 pm

so sick! right in my neck of the woods!

Commented on 3-4-2010 At 12:27 am

ha! Amen Gilby! Better put the place on lock down. The boys from Chop Cult bribed me with booze and shinny helmets, so I let them in.

btw We miss you my man!

Commented on 3-4-2010 At 07:02 am

"It takes on a life of it's own. It's a hobby when it's fun; it's work when it's not."

This is so true!

Commented on 3-4-2010 At 11:43 am

caleb! conrad showed me the pics of that tracker the other day!!!! that thing is so awsomeeee! your set up looks really nice. keep up the awesome work!

Commented on 3-4-2010 At 12:02 pm

Can't believe he bought Steve's old house...

Commented on 3-4-2010 At 12:06 pm

Not yet CreepyJack, working on it though, keeping the fingers crossed.

Commented on 3-4-2010 At 12:07 pm

Nice looking shop Caleb. Always love seeing your bikes

Commented on 3-4-2010 At 04:19 pm

seen a couple of his builds and i definetly dig them. beautiful work space.
keep up the good work.

Commented on 3-4-2010 At 04:30 pm

pissing myself over that wife swapping thing.

MASSIVE Garage. I've just put up a 3m x2.5m shed for building my bike in...!

Commented on 3-5-2010 At 02:00 pm

HEY MAN SWEET SHOP. takes some more pics and post em up on GARAGE JOURNAL under the Garage Gallery. You talk about causing a rukus over there. Those guys will go nuts.

Commented on 3-5-2010 At 06:47 pm

Glad folks dig the place! I am lucky to have it. Always try to keep the good vibes and help folks when I can.

Brew!!! Always a pleasure my man.. i look forward to seeing you soon.

muchas gracias

Commented on 3-7-2010 At 02:50 am

keep on rocking caleb. the sportster project looks like a blast!

Commented on 3-7-2010 At 07:08 am

"What do the neighbors think?"
"The neighbors behind me are a gay couple with two annoying yapping little dogs."

LOL! That was hilarious...

Commented on 3-8-2010 At 10:04 pm

Always great bikes out of your shop! Can recognize your tank work and mounts on any bike. Good stuff!

Commented on 3-10-2010 At 07:43 pm

that is cool and so is the man. know's as caleb!

Commented on 3-11-2010 At 12:20 pm

"I usually put in what I like to call the "real" music, Coltrane, Miles, and other greats in the jazz vein"

...Amen to that Cro...its no wonder your bikes always exude so much class. Nothing beats a bit of Monk or Coltrane when your workin!

Commented on 5-26-2010 At 12:49 pm

Lookin good buddy,keep up the good work!!

Commented on 6-3-2010 At 08:07 am

Now thats a bad ass shop.

Commented on 4-11-2011 At 09:43 am

2011 and I posting a little late...

I love Caleb. I really do. So much so that I'm writing a song about it, which I will debut at EDR. While I have no musical talents and my voice it horrific, I think this will lend well to the event.

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