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New breed of biker prefers custom motorcycles

| Friday, Jan. 28, 2005

Put on your leathers and boots, climb on and hold tight. The first warm days of spring will be here soon and that means time to straddle thunder and ride the wind and join more than two million men and women motorcyclists.

Today, motorcycle riders have shed the 1950s and 60s image of Marlon Brando and his band of rowdy brigands that terrorized a small California town in the movie "The Wild One." Oh sure, a few "wild ones" still burn up the pavement on two wheels, but most bikers today are average blue-collar workers with good jobs and families. Some are even doctors, lawyers and accountants. A surprising number are retired senior citizens. All have one thing in common, they love to ride.

A growing number of bike riders, however, are not content with showroom floor bikes. More and more discriminating riders are demanding custom bikes, tailored to their specific wants and needs. Such custom features as super-wide tires, air-ride suspension, bigger engines, custom fenders, wheels and gas tanks, and certainly one-of-a-kind paint jobs are in demand. Richard and Rebecca Busch, owners of Busch's Chop Shop, West Penn Choppers on Route 422 East in Kittanning Township, has been meeting the demand for built-from-scratch bikes for the past 30 years.

"We usually buy frames from Rolling Thunder, in Canada, or from War Eagle Frames, in Florida," Busch said. "From there we build our own gas tanks, and fenders, add a custom engine and send the bike out for a top-quality custom paint job done according to what the customer wants. Each bike is unique in every respect."

Busch said building a custom bike is a project that can span several months, depending on what custom parts are used.

"If we get all the parts on time we can build a bike in a few months. Of course, the more complicated the project, the longer it takes," he said.

No custom bike is complete without a custom paint job. The Buschs subcontract custom painting to Wildside Ed, Custom Painters, of Creekside. A custom paint job can run from $1,400 to $4,000. Some parts of a bike may also be powder coated, and that work is done by Armor Powder Coating, located next door to Busch's Chop Shop.

Certainly no bike is complete without a custom stitched seat. Busch makes the seat pans. The leather work and stitching are completed by Sisco's of Pittsburgh, a well-known custom leather seat maker.

Busch said a lot of options are available on his custom bikes including heated handlebar grips for cold weather riding, air suspension for a comfortable ride, AM-FM radios with a weather band. Riders may even opt for a 6-disk CD player.

Custom bike buyers can expect to pay between $22,000 to $32,000 for their iron horse, and Busch added that while the "...sky is the limit" the average price for a custom bike is about $30,000.

"We build custom bikes the year round," Busch said, "but really fall and winter are the best time to have a bike built. Most of our customers come from Armstrong, Butler or Indiana counties, and we have customers in many surrounding states."

In addition to building custom bikes, the Buschs sell custom bike related items on E-Bay to customers throughout the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan and China. Internet sales are the domain of Rebecca Busch who said their E-Bay sales offer more than 750 items.

"I'm just your average hard-working man," Busch, a former miner, said. "And that's who most of our customers are, average, hard-working people who happen to love riding bikes. We're glad to give them exactly what they want."

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