“How do you feel about giving veterans their freedom back?”
When Mark Daley of Thunder Struck Custom Bikes was asked this by a customer, he wasn’t sure what to think of the ambiguous question. Turns out the question came from John ‘Hardcharger’ Barker, a vet and Combat Hero Bike Build Chairman. A division of the non-profit Eagles Up! the Combat Hero Bike Build is “a program designed by warriors, for warriors, to give our wounded heroes the freedoms they once enjoyed. The motorcycle is long associated with freedom and adventure.”
This statement couldn’t be truer. “Moto-therapy” is one of the best ways many veterans deal with PTSD. The Combat Hero Bike Build program takes it a step further as it tailors a motorcycle to soldiers who might not otherwise be able to ride because of traumatic bodily injury. Once Barker explained to Daley the cause behind the question, he didn’t hesitate to jump onboard.
This year’s Combat Hero Bike Build recipient is one tough hombre. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shaun Meadows has undergone extensive training in demolitions, survival, air traffic control, airborne operations, scuba, close air support and more. On July 31, 2008, Meadows was on combat patrol in Afghanistan when his convoy struck a roadside bomb. As a result of his injuries, doctors had to amputate both legs above the knee. SSgt. Meadows was flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center where he began the recovery and rehab process. Being a bilateral above knee amputee wasn’t going to keep this soldier down. Meadows started walking two-and-a-half months after his injury. By six months, he was running. In June of 2010, Meadows became the first active duty double amputee in Air Force history to parachute from a military aircraft. If you look up tough hombre in the dictionary, I believe you’ll see a picture of Meadows.
You can’t just build any old bike for a guy whose idea of fun is jumping out of airplanes. Considering who the bike was for, Thunder Struck Customs created a mean, clean machine, to match Meadows’ disposition, converting a stock 2005 Dyna Low Rider into a hot rod of a trike.
The swap from two to three wheels started with a rear end conversion from Frankenstein Trikes. Thanks to a Frankenstein swingarm adapter, the kit slides right in to the stock swingarm mount making the process fairly painless. Thunder Struck lowered the trike with a set of Progressive shocks to make it as easy as possible for him to climb into the La Pera seat. But what really makes the trike stand out is its monster backside. The Cooper Zeons, usually reserved for cars, give the trike serious attitude, the 18×10’s mounted in a sharp-looking set of Ridler Wheels. Can you say burn rubber?
In tailoring the trike to Meadows, Thunder Struck moved all functions to the bars so he can control everything with his hands. Housed on the left-side is a Pingel Electric Speed Shifter. In addition to the throttle, on the right is a Kliktronics K-Lever 2, a system that puts hand levers for both brakes on the same control housing. Both brake reservoirs are also mounted on the bars. Finally, Thunder Struck added a reverse gear from Motor Trikes to the stock 5-speed transmission to make backing out fuss-free.
A 21-inch tall RC Components wheel sets the tone up front, the wheel stripped down and powdercoated by Jesse Ruiz at Legendary Coatings LLC. Black 10-inch T bars and a Ness fairing give the build a little club-vibe. One of the trike’s defining features is the Maltese cross and skull painted on the fairing. The image represents Meadows’ 22nd Special Tactics Squadron. Last summer the Airman flew to Thunder Struck’s hometown of Medford, Oregon, to get measured for the trike. Meadows was wearing a hat embroidered with the emblem representing his unit when he arrived, and the idea to put that image on the trike in honor of his squadron spawned. The incredible paint, pinstripes and graphics were artistically applied by Thunder Struck’s go-to guy, Jason Titus.
While the engine is a stock Harley Twin Cam 88, it’s outfitted with a Thunder Struck MD Designs air cleaner and a set of Bassani pipes Daley cut up for the build. The floorboards and front axle covers are also by Daley’s MD Designs. The Thunder Struck team customized the struts and bobbed the stock Dyna fender on the front as well. On the rear, they cut up an RSD license plate holder, used the light in the fender and affixed the license plate holder to the Frankenstein rear.
After completion, the trike was hustled down to SoCal just in time for its presentation in Ontario, California. With much fanfare, Meadows received his new ride like a rock star, the expression on his face priceless.
But his journey with the Thunder Struck Combat Heroes trike was just beginning. Meadows then embarked on a cross-country trek with a group of veteran riders making the Run for the Wall, the huge yearly gathering in Washington, D.C. in honor of Memorial Day. Meadows’ group planned on visiting Arlington National Cemetery to show their respect for POWs, those killed-in-action, and MIAs.
A cross-country ride on a trike for a new rider would be a monstrous endeavor for anybody. Fortunately, Meadows is getting the VIP treatment as he and his Thunder Struck trike were flown to stops along the route so that Meadows could lead the procession into town.
On this Memorial Day weekend, we tip our hats to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and to Meadows for his bravery and service to our country. We hope he enjoys the freedoms his new ride provides. We’d also like to acknowledge Mark Daley and the Thunder Struck Customs team as this is the third Custom Heroes Bike Build they’ve completed, all in the name of “giving veterans their freedom back.”