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Karlee Cobb’s Klock Werks Custom Indian Scout

Custom Motorcycle Feature

Karlee Cobb’s Klock Werks Custom Indian Scout


Karlee Cobb has attended Michael Lichter’s annual Motorcycles as Art exhibit at Sturgis since she was a teen. She is, after all, a South Dakota girl, and Sturgis is a straight shot down Interstate 90 from her home in Mitchell. But motorcycles are also in her blood, as her mother, Laura, set a land speed record on the “World’s Fastest Bagger” and her stepdad Brian is a world-class custom builder whose work has graced the pages of many a motorcycle magazine. “My parents have been in it since like ’09. Every year they’ve had some kind of bike or have encouraged other builders in the show,” says Cobb.

The stakes were raised for her this year, though, as Karlee got her first invitation to be one of the featured builders in the 2017 exhibit. Considering she set a land speed record on Bonneville’s Salt Flats at 14, has grown up at Klock Werks Kustom Cycles, and was one of the first to customize the new Indian Scout, she fit the bill of Lichter’s Old Iron–Young Blood theme to a T.

“It’s an honor to be invited to something like that, especially at my age,” says Cobb. “When Michael asked me, he gave me two objectives: you have to build it around your own idea and you have to weld something on the bike.”

After working with Indian Motorcycle on several projects in the past, she chose a 2016 Scout as the base platform. “When I called Indian and told them what my ideas were, they were like, ‘Heck yeah, we’re in, anything and everything you need, we got you.’ They’ve been amazing to work with,” she adds.

To implement her vision of what the Indian Scout should be, one of the first items of order was nailing down a new frame. Luckily, Karlee knew just the person to go to, Jason Kangas at Twisted Choppers, another South Dakota-based business. “We reached out to them to see what they could do frame-wise as to what I wanted, but also to what they could build and offer to others as well. When I went in there and got measured up for the frame, it was exactly what I had drawn out,” says Cobb.

The Twisted Choppers rigid is a drastic departure from the cast aluminum frame with dual external shocks of the stock Scout. The new frame slams the rear and gives the bike a racier stance. It opens up the space under the seat that’s otherwise concealed by the castings of a stock Scout. The tubular frame also allowed the radiator of the water-cooled Scout to be tucked more cleanly within the downtubes than the bulky standard unit. And though it’s a rigid, there is a small spring under the Bare Bones leather seat to help smooth out the ride a tad.

The decision to use a Twisted Choppers frame also deepened the partnership between the two South Dakota-based businesses, as Kangas used the collaboration with Klock Werks as a springboard to develop aftermarket parts for the Scout, like the chain conversion used on Karlee’s project. Klock Werks’ Randy Rothlisberger gets an assist for crafting the clever chain guard. The custom back fender hugging the spoked 18″ Arlen Ness wheel is another Twisted Choppers creation, as are the mid-controls and license plate bracket.

While the internals of the 1103cc Scout engine are stock, they took a diamond in the rough and made it a crown jewel by polishing the cases and heads. Karlee says Steve Langston at Elite Polishing put in countless hours working his magic on the Scout powerplant. The end result is astounding, as the eye is automatically drawn to the sheen of the first fully polished Indian Scout 1103 in the custom world. Chrome pipes sweep down the right side before bending up with hot rod flair, another custom contribution from Kangas. A compact high-flow K&N air cleaner helps the engine breathe a bit deeper while the pipes snarl a little meaner as it exhales.

Karlee’s concept of her custom Scout included converting the front end to a chopper, another first for the platform, so the stock fork legs were shaved and filled, then sent off for chroming. While they were at it, they had the caliper chromed as well. With a new rake angle set by the neck of the frame, who better to create a set of custom triple trees than Twisted Choppers? The chopper look benefits from the choice to swap out the chunky 16″ stock wheel for a taller, thinner 19″ spoked wheel from Arlen Ness. The bars were salvaged from the donor Scout but have been slightly modified, chromed, and mounted on a set of Biltwell risers. The absence of a fender accentuates the streamlined front end.

Remember Lichter’s request that Karlee weld something on the build? She got her first crack on the custom tank that’s been narrowed and the sides angled in. Luckily, she had the Twisted Choppers skilled leader to lean on for guidance.

“I was a little intimidated because Jason is amazing at everything he does. I didn’t know exactly how I wanted it cut, but I told him what I was thinking. Sometimes I’m not exactly sure that the things I envision can actually be done, but Jason said whatever you see and draw for me can be done. So, I cut probably two inches off the tank itself and then welded the middle back up together. I didn’t do too bad, he just had to fill in a couple holes because I wasn’t good at filling in holes,” Cobb recalls.

The finishing touches on the tank were artistically applied by Brad Smith of The Factory Match. Instead of a traditional Indian Motorcycle red, Smith slathered it in candy paint to give it a little more pizzazz. Speaking of pizzazz, the Indian headdress logo and striping is inlayed with gold leaf, a classy touch that complements the highly polished powertrain.

Like many of the motorcycles built for Lichter’s Motorcycles as Art exhibit, Karlee and the Klock Werks team worked on it up to the last minute, the K&N air cleaner literally being mounted on the road to Sturgis. Scrambling to meet the deadline, they didn’t get a chance to fire it up until after the show. Hearing it for the first time was an emotional experience.

“It brought me to tears the first time I rode it. I was in the front doing accounting, and I heard a bike that I hadn’t heard before, and I’m like, ‘No way, is that my bike?’ So I ran to the back and me and three other people were like, ‘Oh, no, it’s alive.’ It’s a dream. It’s definitely got some balls to it. You need some clutch control because whenever I hit a bounce I get a big handful of throttle. You have to hang on,” she laughs.

Karlee’s work received the highest compliment at Lichter’s show, as more than once we heard people say her Scout is the one Indian should have built straight from the factory. She’s heard that sentiment as well and said feedback about the build has been nothing but positive. “That warms your heart.”

When Lichter challenged Karlee to build a bike for the show, she didn’t hesitate to rally the troops and tackle the challenge head on, using the opportunity as a learning experience.

“I can’t thank enough people for all that they’ve done and taught me. It ended up being a crazy cool project, and, once again, Twisted Choppers blew a lot of those parts out of the park,” she says.

It is crazy cool. Chopped, slammed, and polished, it’s easy to see why Lichter considers Karlee one of the Young Bloods in the industry. Somehow, we have a feeling there’s plenty more good stuff coming down the pipeline from this 23-year-old firecracker from South Dakota. AIM 358


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