Frames, suspension, engines and paint jobs, along with countless other components, must all be considered.
And then there’s the matter of making it personal – making it unique.
Why do people do it? Because it’s a labour of love, according to the following three people who’ve all done it.
Orange Paint Factory
Dan Daigle, owner and airbrusher at the Orange Paint Factory in Fredericton, N.B., has been painting since the 1980’s.
After getting his artistic start as a graphic designer, Daigle met a military master corporal on the job who was in the business of airbrushing vans.
“He showed me how to airbrush, and I just sort of went from there,” said Daigle.
He decided to start his own business when he discovered how much he loved putting fresh designs on stock vehicles.
“I love taking something and creating custom, unique designs. Most of my work is about personalizing items, whether it’s a tribute to someone or an expression of love for whoever owns the bike,” he said.
“Tributes and memorials are beautiful to do – that’s the fun part about this job.”
It is no easy task – Daigle says its common to spend over 150 hours on an airbrushing job.
“Most tend to be around 60-100 hours, which is still a long time,” he said.
“I do it because I love it.”
Kent County Custom
Luc LeBlanc is the owner and custom bike builder at Kent County Custom in Shediac, N.B.
His shop focuses much of their business on repairs and bike maintenance, but he makes time each year to build one or two custom models.
“You could put close to 200 hours on a nice bike,” he said.
Added on top of that is paint jobs, making sure the customer is happy, and finalizing the model.
“It can really add up,” he said.
“You’ve got to make sure it’s all looking prim and proper.”
LeBlanc grew up surrounded by bikes. Owning his own custom shop was a natural move for him, coupling well with his background as a machinist.
“It just kept having a demand. The first bike I built brought a lot of attention, and it took off from there,” he said.
Timo Richard, aka Mad Squirrel, runs a leather accessory company, but spent hours building his own bike, on display at the Wharf Rat Rally.
He started the process after Sean MacLellan of Non-Stock Customs suggested he build a hard tail frame.
“Once you have a frame, you don’t necessarily have a bike. There’s a lot of work that goes on after that, and that’s where I stepped in,” said Richard.
After sitting on the shelf for a year, Richard started piecing potential parts together, envisioning what the end project could look like from every angle.
He ended up going for a classic, 1960’s look inspired by what he’d seen in vintage bike magazines – a faded, pale yellow colour with flames, an intertwined leather seat, and some of his own unique finishes, including an antique doorknob, a Mad Squirrel leather inlay, and a Rat Fink model tucked away near the top of the engine.
Even a power outage near the end of the process didn’t stop him – Richard got multiple generators running and got the job done.
“If I had to count the time it took me doing this, I wouldn’t do it. I do it because I love it so much,” he said.
“It really is a labour of love. You’ve got to love this stuff to do it.”