Next Trend In Custom Motorcycling

I just got back from the Indianapolis Dealer Expo, where an odd thing happened to me. As you’ll read in the article, American Iron was the sponsor of the Expo’s first-ever Ultimate Dealer Bike Show. The awards ceremony was held on the last day of the expo, and the audience consisted of many accomplished builders in our industry, as well as their co-workers, friends, and family. At one point, I was asked to go up on stage and talk about what I thought the next trend in custom motorcycling would be. Normally, I don’t have any trouble speaking about this since I’m always watching where things are going as I look for new bikes to feature. However, this time it felt all wrong. But the reason why didn’t hit me until later that night. Whenever I’ve spoken about this in the past, it was to people attending the show. This time I was speaking to the guys that built the bikes in the show! That’s a totally different gig. When I got the microphone, instead of telling them where I thought things were going, I should have been asking them. After all, these are the guys designing the bikes and doing the building. These are the guys deciding where the custom bike industry is headed. Want to see what’s the next trend in custom bikes? Just read AIM because I’ll be watching what the builders create and bringing the best of their work to you in the pages of American Iron Magazine.

Chris’ Travel Tips
In keeping with the theft protection theme of previous issues, here’s another one for when you’re staying at a hotel overnight. Back in the day, when I travelled on a narrow chopper, I always rented a ground-floor room in a cheap motel, so I could roll the bike right into the room. Back then, we didn’t have alarm systems on our bikes. Heck, we didn’t even have key switches, just a couple of toggle switches: one for ignition and one for lights. Nowadays, I doubt you’re going to be able to pull that one off with a modern stock H-D. The next best thing, of course, is to park the bike right outside your first-floor room’s window and set the alarm. Thankfully, I do see quite a few guys do this with their bikes. It’s not as secure as having the bike by your bed, but it does make it a lot easier to get around the room!

See you on the road.
Chris Maida

So Many Rides, So Little Time

The winter of 2010-11 was too much for any rider to deal with considering all that snow we had. This winter was quite the opposite in most parts of the US and Canada.  If you have not yet done your first ride safety check, I hope you can soon. At the very least, check the condition of your tires, set the proper air pressure, and inspect your brakes and lights. You should check or change the oil in your engine and transmission. A bit of preventative maintenance goes a long way toward a fun and safe riding season.

We here at the magazine have a few rides planned in the next couple of months and hope you can join us. The first is our Motorcycle Kickstart Classic on May 17 and 18. This is open to the first 100 riders to register and might be sold out by the time you read this. Call Rosemary at 203/425-8777, ext. 114 for details. If you don’t have a kicker or just want to meet up with us, we leave from Wheels Through Time in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, the morning of May 17 and arrive at Cross Roads Harley-Davidson of Wilkesboro, North Carolina, late that afternoon. It will have an open house and bike show for the general public. The next day, we ride to the AMCA Southern Meet in Denton, North Carolina, and will be there for a few days.
A week later, we move north to join thousands of other Harley riders near Washington, DC, for the annual Rolling Thunder event on May 27. Details are still being worked out, but several motorcycle magazines, including American Iron Magazine, will be involved in a special salute to our military services.

The following month, we’ll hit the road for America’s heartland and the annual J&P Cycles Open House in Anamosa, Iowa. This is one of the biggest and best motorcycle events in the heartland states with tens of thousands of motorcyclists joining the fun. On Saturday, June 23, our three magazines (American Iron Magazine, Motorcycle Bagger, and RoadBike) are sponsoring the three custom bike shows (American, bagger, and import), and we will have photo­graphers on hand to shoot bikes for features in our magazines. On Sunday, American Iron Magazine is sponsoring the classic motorcycle show. Our photographers will still be on hand there, too. While in Anamosa, be sure to check out the amazing National Motorcycle Museum just down the road from J&P Cycles. It is a world-class
museum well worth a visit.

American Iron Magazine
As I travel around, I meet a lot of our readers and try to ask as many of them  as possible how we can improve this magazine. No matter what we do here, there is always room for improvement. And who would know better how to improve a magazine than our readers? So please consider this me asking you for ideas on how to make American Iron Magazine better. We really do want to hear from you.

One way to freshen up the magazine is this new design for our editorial columns. I felt the old look was getting a bit stale, so our art directors created a new look and feel. Not a big deal, but we hope you agree it’s an improvement.

Another change, starting with this issue, is a new feature called Object of My Desire. Every issue, we will share something motorcycle-related that a staffer or freelancer desires and why. Because of what we do for a living, we get to see and try a lot of products and services most enthusiasts might not be aware of. This new section allows us to tell you what we like for our own use and why. I’m starting it off with a wonderful seat from Heather’s Leathers, a small American manufacturer you might not have heard about.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz Kanter
American Iron Magazine

Our Magazine Plans & Harley Show In Daytona

Bring your bike and friends to the H-D Ride-In Custom Bike Show presented by American Iron Magazine.

This magazine (along with Motorcycle Bagger and RoadBike) is owned and published by TAM Communications. If you think that sounds like a big fancy corporation run out of impersonal offices in an ivory tower, you’d be wrong. My wife and I created TAM Communications in 1989 to publish Old Bike Journal in a spare bedroom (the garage was reserved for my motor­cycles). Gail and I still own and run the company 23 years later. Like you, I am passionate about motorcycles and spend an insane amount of time riding, wrenching, and discussing motor­cycles. I love my job and feel very fortunate to be here. Thanks.

As the best-selling Harley magazine in the world, you should expect more from us than other publications. As enthusiasts, our staff wants to offer the best in print, online, and in person. We have been working on a number of improvements around here, some we can discuss now and others will have to wait until we finalize them.

One area I can share now is that we want to increase our one-on-one experience with our readers and their bikes. We plan on doing this at various motorcycle events around the country. Another is to become more accessible to our readers online through Facebook and Twitter as well as on our web sites and forums.

Harley bagger fans should note we have increased the frequency of our Motorcycle Bagger from six to nine issues this year. We will continue to offer custom baggers, bagger reviews, and bagger tech in American Iron Magazine as we always have, but Motorcycle Bagger is dedicated to the subject, if you can’t get enough in AIM.

I am not sure on the timing, but in response to many requests: yes, we are looking into offering subscriptions to our magazines in a digital format on tablets and smart phones soon.

Daytona Harley-Davidson Show
We love to meet readers and check out what they ride. So I’m pleased to announce that we are teaming up with Harley-Davidson for a free custom and classic bike show in Daytona during Bike Week. If you are thinking about going to Daytona Bike Week with your Harley, I’d like to invite you to bring your bike and friends to the Harley-Davidson Ride-In Custom Bike Show presented by American Iron Magazine.

This event, with classes from mild to wild, old and new, will be on Wednesday, March 14, at the Harley-Davidson Experience at Riverfront Park on North Beach Street. Our staff and I will be there to photograph a number of bikes to feature in our magazines. For more details visit or

The Daytona show should be a nice balance to the dealer-built bikes from the American Iron Magazine-sponsored custom motorcycle show at the dealer-only American V-twin trade show in Indianapolis in February. And if you can’t get to either of these shows, we will also be sponsoring the J&P Cycles Open House bike shows in Iowa on June 23 and 24. As I said earlier, we really do like meeting our readers and sharing their bikes in print. And I suspect you do, too. That’s why we go to all kinds of motorcycle events around the country with our cameras.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz Kanter    
American Iron Magazine

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Winter Motorcycle Projects

TAKING AIM by Chris Maida, Editor

TAKING AIM by Chris Maida, Editor

“I built it with my dad”

it’s cold during the winter where I live, which makes it the perfect time for a ground-up bike project! This year I’m building a 45″ flathead-powered bobber with my youngest daughter. My first chop (back in 1971!) was a handshift 45 flathead. And while this engine is as dependable as a stone, it doesn’t make a lot of power. To me, that makes it the perfect engine for a low-dollar, first custom bike for a son, daughter, wife, — whoever. However, the drawback to using a 45 has always been the three-speed, handshift, foot-clutch transmission.

Thankfully, a few years ago Paughco came out with a hardtail frame that allows you to bolt in a Harley-Davidson 45″ flathead engine and Pan or Shovelhead four-speed, foot-shift transmission. That left one last glitch: how to connect them. BDL came to the rescue with an excellent belt drive system that does just that and gives you a modern clutch setup to boot.

Since Paughco has been a major player in the custom bike scene for decades, the crew there knew to design the frame so you can use Big Twin bike parts, of which Paughco makes many, to finish the build. We’re using a number of Paughco components on ours, namely 16″ chrome wheels front and rear, a chrome springer front end, gas tank, and oil tank.

What makes this build especially fun is that your son, daughter, etc. can do the build with you. This way, he fully understands how the bike went together. Of course, it also doesn’t suck that he’ll be able to say to whoever is admiring the bike, “I built it with my dad.”

Look for this build to start in a few issues. Of course, we’ll be showing you how to assemble the entire bike in our usual step-by step fashion. We’re also going to keep the sheet metal work to a minimum. After all, this is a beginner’s bike!


Chris’ Travel Tips
If you’re traveling without a full-face helmet on, a good set of riding glasses will keep dust and other minute debris out of your eyes. However, dust devils, strong crosswinds, lawn mowers, etc. can sometimes power past the best of eyewear. Whenever I encounter one of these common road hazards, I always close the eye on the side the blast is coming from. This protects me in two ways. First, it obviously protects the eye in the line of fire. Second, if stuff does get into my open eye, I can still see where I’m going with the one that was closed, so I can get out of harm’s way and stop in a safe location off the road to clean my affected eye.

See you on the road.

Chris Maida

New Year With Lots of Motorcycle Events

We are proud to be presenting the all-new Ultimate Dealer Bike Show at the American V-Twin Dealer Show.

Every February, motorcycle dealers, parts manufacturers, and distributors take a few days off work to meet in the heartland of America. We brave the winter cold and snow to gather at Advanstar’s annual Dealer Expo in downtown Indianapolis. This is where many of the newest products and services are revealed to the industry and the motorcycle press. And 2012 should have even greater significance to our readers as Advanstar is launching the American V-Twin Dealer Show inside its long-running powersports event.

The bad news is that, unless you work in the powersports industry, you can’t get into the show, which is closed to the general public. The good news is that our team will be there, covering the event and showcasing the most exciting news and products in print, on our Facebook page, and on

We are proud to be presenting the all new Ultimate Dealer Bike Show at the American V-Twin Dealer Show. In addition to sharing many of the best new products, we will photograph and feature some of the more interesting motorcycles. The bikes in this show are dealer-built customs from around the world, so we are curious to see what cool rides will show up.

If you are a motorcycle dealer or work for one — franchise or independent — this custom bike show is a great chance to showcase your work. Call my pal Bob Kay at 919/886-5075 for more details or to enter. And, remember that our editors will be picking several bikes from this dealer-only show to feature in this magazine.

Motorcycle Events for 2012
While the new year is just that, a new year, we are already making plans for the 2012 motorcycle events we will be attending. We can’t attend all the events we’d like to, or we’d never be able to produce American Iron Magazine every month or to increase our Motorcycle Bagger from six to nine issues in 2012. Here’s a brief list of some of the events we’ll be part of:

American V-Twin Dealer Show: The motorcycle trade show in Indianapolis in February.

Daytona Beach Bike Week: A must-attend event for us every year. It marks the start of another year for riding. Plus, we are usually suffering from cabin fever and need to leave the snow of New England for some sunshine.

Motorcycle Kickstart Classic: Our first one in October was so popular that we’re going to do it again and perhaps add a second ride in another part of the country so others can join us on this two-day ride for vintage motor­cycles.

Sturgis Bike Rally: Another must-attend deal for our crew. We love the craziness in Sturgis and riding the amazing Black Hills.

Motorcycle Cannonball: After the first one, I figured I was done with cross-country rides on antique motorcycles. But I’ve signed up again, this time for pre-1930 motorcycles. The two-week ride from Newburgh, New York to San Francisco starts Friday, September 7. Info at

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz Kanter  
American Iron Magazine

Contribute & Win A FREE One-Year Harley Magazine Subscription

If we use your photo or caption, you’ll get a free one-year subscription (or extension) to American Iron Magazine.

In past columns I’ve asked for photos of your bikes, Memories, and cool destinations to publish. Now I want your fun photos. Yup, I want fun photos you took for our new photo and caption contest. Here’s how it works. We want to run a reader-supplied photo of a person, place, or thing (that also involves an American-made motorcycle) to feature in the monthly Quoted & Noted section.

We’ll then ask readers to send in a funny caption for that photo. If we run your photo, you’ll get a photo credit and a free one-year subscription (or extension) to American Iron Magazine. If we use your caption, you’ll get a free one-year subscription (or extension) to American Iron Magazine. Simple, right? The contest will start as soon as we get usable photos, so get those cameras out and start taking pics! Sorry, but we can’t use cell phone images as they are way too small (low resolution) for print reproduction, nor can we use prints. All submissions must be sent electronically to

With a new reader-supplied feature starting, another regular feature is retiring. After several years, we are discontinuing the Fit To Ride column. Our thanks to Phil Halliwell for covering all the exercises and stretches we need to stay in shape, as well as caring for any muscle cramps that may prevent us from enjoying our motorcycles.

Chris’ Travel Tips
Whenever I travel, be it alone or with a buddy, I always take a stupid amount of disc locks, chains, and such to secure my bike. And since I’ve locked up my bike so it’s hard to steal, it’s also impossible for me to move it if I lose any of my keys! Let’s face it; misplacing a key can happen to any of us. To keep from becoming a victim of my own paranoia, I always carry spare keys for all the locks and the bike on a separate key ring. If I’m traveling alone, I keep the spare keys in a secure pocket I do not use for anything else. If I’m travelling with a buddy, I give the spares to him and offer to carry his spares. I never put the second set of keys in the luggage or on the bike. If you can get to them, so can a thief.

See you on the road.

Chris Maida

Winter Motorcycle Wrenching & Sharing

Some of our readers are world-class mechanics, others are weekend tinkerers, and some would rather ride than pick up a wrench.

I know we still have some great riding season left in most parts of the country. But the early morning chill in the air around here often leads me to start thinking about off-season projects for when my bike is hibernating in the garage.

As editor-in-chief of this magazine for more than 20 years, I have been privileged to meet and learn about a lot of our readers. All of you are passionate about your motorcycle, or you would not be reading American Iron Magazine. I recognize that some of our readers are world-class mechanics, others are weekend tinkerers, and some would rather ride than pick up a wrench. As far as I’m concerned, who works on your bike is your business. But if your winter plans include some shop time with your Harley, I’d like to suggest including someone with fewer mechanical skills than you.

Do you remember the first time an old timer showed you how to spin a wrench, change a tire, or customize your bike? Remember how daunting it was? Hopefully, you took a deep breath and did it anyway — without doing any damage. For me, it was at a local aftermarket shop near where I went to school. I first reluctantly laid wrench to my pride and joy because I knew there was a more experienced wrench looking over my shoulder. Well, I have a news flash: you could be that more experienced wrench to the next generation rider and/or wrench. When is a better time than now to share your mechanical knowledge and pass on your skills? And, if you do it right, you get someone else to help work on your bike for free.

One suggestion is to encourage your kids, nephews (or nieces), or even a neighborhood teen with a dirtbike, bicycle, or skateboard to join you in the garage and share your motorcycle passion. In addition to passing on your skills and knowledge, you might have turned another young person on to motorcycling. Once he picks up a wrench and does it himself, his skills and self-image might improve.

And just because you’ve been riding and wrenching for more years than you’d like to admit, don’t think you know it all. Whenever possible, I like to watch friends work on their bikes as I often learn some clever trick or new way to find or fix an issue.

The gift-giving holiday season is coming on fast, and we’ve got a great deal where you can give a gift and get a gift, too! If you are wondering what to give your riding buddies, may I suggest a year-long gift they’re sure to appreciate. Buy them a gift subscription to any or all of our three motorcycle magazines: American Iron Magazine, Motorcycle Bagger, or RoadBike. A subscription to a great magazine lasts all year and costs less than an oil change for your Harley.

But wait, didn’t I mention something about a gift for you, too? You’ll get a $10 discount coupon for J&P Cycles with every $24.95 American Iron Magazine gift subscription you buy for a friend.

This coupon is good for your next order of $99 or more with J&P Cycles, one of the largest mail order companies in the world. It starts now for everyone in the US buying a gift subscription.

In spite of my passion for antique motorcycles, I am embracing the new social media technology and have been a regular on Facebook (Buzz Kanter) for awhile, and I’ve\ started to tweet (I can’t believe I just typed that) @BuzzKanter. I am exploring these as two more ways for you to keep up with my motorcycle adventures and also to let me know about yours.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Buzz Kanter  
American Iron Magazine

Indian, Victory & Big Dog Motorcycles

By now, you’ve probably heard that Minnesota’s Polaris Industries, the builder of Victory Motorcycles, has bought the newest incarnation (launched in 2006) of Indian Motorcycle from Stellican Limited and Novator Partners LLP, which are both UK private equity firms. Indian Motorcycle has been manufacturing in North Carolina, but, according to the conference call regarding the acquisition, production will be moved to Polaris’ Spirit Lake, Iowa, compound sometime this year. Of course, by the time you read this that could have changed, but that’s what we’ve been told at press time.
As we see it, this will give Indian the big lift it needs. One weakness for Indian has been its distribution network, and this purchase means Victory’s vast dealer network will be encouraged to put Indians on their showroom floors. Ironically, if my information is correct, when Polaris tried to buy Indian — back when it was owned by a different parent company and based in Gilroy, California — it wanted access to the Gilroy Indian dealer network. When the Gilroy venture went bust, many Indian dealers started selling Victory motorcycles.

Polaris stated in a press release issued just after the acquisition, that this “adds one of motorcycling’s legendary brands to its strong stable of Victory cruiser and touring bikes.” Very true. While Victory has made some inroads into Harley-Davidson’s traditional market, we think purchasing Indian will give Polaris another strong brand to further grow its share of the heavyweight motorcycle pie. The press release also stated that “Indian will [continue to] operate as an autonomous business unit.”

Unfortunately, a couple of days before we heard the good news about Indian, Big Dog Motorcycle was taken over by the banks holding its debts and closed. I’ve ridden thousands of miles on various Big Dog bikes, crisscrossing the country on my way to Sturgis or Daytona Bike Week. I’m bummed that the company, which I felt made excellent motorcycles, was not able to survive the current economic downturn. Though the fat-tire bike fad has passed, many riders still like the style, and Big Dog did a great job of building this type of bike; at one time, it was the biggest producer of this style of American V-twin. Personally, I think whether you like the brand or not, it’s a sad day for motorcycling whenever any manufacturer passes from producer to a page in history. Let’s hope this is the last one we’ll hear about for a very long time.

See you on the road, Chris Maida.

Story as published in the July 2011 issue of American Iron Magazine.

Harley Engine Experts, To Rebuild Or Upgrade A Vintage Engine

When I’m looking to rebuild and/or upgrade a vintage engine — namely a Shovel, Pan, Knuckle, Ironhead Sportster, or flathead — I go to a shop that’s expert at that type of motor. And though I’ve rebuilt many of these engines when I had my shop back in the day, I want someone with more experience than I have in spinning the wrenches. Truth is, these engines need an experienced hand, one that knows that type of engine’s problems and the correct fixes.

In my opinion, for decades the best all-around vintage engine builder in the New York tri-state area was “Big” Jim McCalley in Beacon Falls, Connecticut. Jim was also a master at repairing broken engine and tranny cases. And though Jim has retired from the business, I mention him because he deserves the recognition.

For a Shovelhead motor, I go to Andrew Rosa at Rosa’s Cycle in Huntington, New York. Andrew, who often does engine builds with us, is a master craftsman of everything Shovelhead, be it vintage restorations, performance work, or a dependable rebuild. And like his mentor “Big” Jim, Andrew is also great at repairing broken engine and tranny cases. Andrew rebuilt the Shovel engine in the boardtracker that Kip Watkins is finishing up for me.

As for Panheads, Knuckles, and flatheads, there are several shops around the country that I personally know do excellent work. For straight-up, restoration-correct rebuilds, it’s the Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, and Carl’s Cycle Supply in Aberdeen, South Dakota. When I needed to rebuild a 103″ motor consisting of a Panhead lower and Shovel top end, I went to Billy at Departure Bike Works in Richmond, Virginia. Billy was my choice here instead of Andrew because the stroker Panhead lower end would be more of an issue than the big-bore Shovel top end. Plus, Billy’s also a master at Shovels, Knuckles, Ironhead Sportsters, and flatheads. For the 45 flathead motor we will be building a bobber with in a future series of articles, I went to see Billy of B&B Racing in Metairie, Louisiana. Billy and his crew are also expert rebuilders of all the vintage motors I named. In fact, Billy rebuilds many of the classic engines in Dave Perewitz’s customs.

For Ironhead Sportster work, I go to Dan Umstead at D&S Performance in Lake City, Pennsylvania. Yup, this is the same Dan that writes our Sportster Corner column. Dan is a master in all things Sportster, which is why I have him writing that column! Dan will be building an Ironhead stroker motor for another bobber project to be shown in a series of future AIM articles.

Of course, there are many other quality shops throughout the country that are experienced with these vintage and special engines. My intent with this column is simply to introduce you to some of the ones we use for our various builds and projects.

See you on the road, Chris Maida.

Story as published in the August 2011 issue of American Iron Magazine.

More Harley Changes To American Iron Magazine

As I reported last month, in response to the almost 1,000 reader surveys, letters, and e-mails we’ve received, we’re making some changes to American Iron Magazine. This time around, I want to let you know about two new features that start with this issue, as well as bid farewell to a columnist who has been with the magazine longer than I have.

As promised, the new feature, called My Sweet Hog, is a shorter version of our three-page Reader’s Ride and another way for our readers to get their bike in American Iron. My Sweet Hog is a single-page color feature that uses a reader-supplied image and story. To be eligible, your letter must include the year and model of your American-made bike, what modifications you have made to it, why you chose those upgrades, and would you make the same mods again if you had to do it over. To be eligible for this feature, send a few high-resolution (300 dpi at 8″ x 8″ minimum) images or photos, plus your story, to or American Iron Magazine, 1010 Summer Street, Stamford, CT 06905. These images of your bike and, hopefully, you, must be in focus and well lit, with no bike or body parts cut off. You’ll find this issue’s offering on Page 92.

In case you’re wondering, we’re going to continue running our Reader’s Ride feature. However, for several months, I haven’t been getting in much that I can use. Though people are submitting, the photography is not anywhere near what I need for a three-page, full-color feature. To be eligible for Reader’s Ride, please shoot your bike the same way we shoot one of our five-page color bike features. I need a full right- and left-side shot of the bike without glare spots. Do the same for the cockpit, as well as any details you want to bring to our attention. Please also include a shot with you and the bike. As for the photography requirements, they’re the same as for Snaps and My Sweet Ride.

The second new feature is a bimonthly biker rights column written by Jeff Hennie. Jeff is the vice president of government relations for the Motorcycle Rider’s Foundation (MRF). The MRF is a grassroots organization that monitors and reacts to legislation, executive actions, or judicial decisions that affect motorcyclists on both the state and national levels. Long-time AIM readers should remember the series of articles we did with the MRF a few years ago concerning EPA regulations. In his column, Jeff will talk about specific instances where the federal government has targeted motorcyclists and tell us ways to defend ourselves politically. Jeff’s introductory column is on Page 111 and, being bimonthly, Jeff’s column will alternate with Fit To Ride, which will go back to bimonthly frequency.

As for who is leaving us, sadly Stephanie Feld has, after over 15 years, decided to retire her column. When I took over as editor in 1997, Stephanie was already a part of the AIM team. This month’s installment is her last. You’ll find it on Page 26.

See you on the road, Chris Maida

Story as published in the November issue of American Iron Magazine.