The Secret Life Of Jeff Nicklus

I don’t know for sure how the 1995-2005 decade will be remembered in motorcycle history books. Among many positive developments in the custom motorcycle industry, abundance of creativity and emergence of new talents. But also some less flattering components like the arrival of too many business people and companies with no motorcycle background, just jumping in because these new ventures seemed as a cool way to make fast money, no motorcycle love necessary. Do You remember how many Harley cloning manufacturing companies were created? Most gone as fast as they appeared, and this before our economic recession. A few others giving up when our economy started to hiccup.

Contrary to the already defunct companies, those few custom motorcycle manufacturing companies still active today are animated by men who were loving motorcycles well before they became shrewd business people able to manage a motorcycle company. Among these companies still with us and deserving it, Desperado Motorcycles manufacturing seven different custom motorcycle models for a total never exceeding, by choice, 300 bikes every year, a safe and smart marketing approach. To answer the requests of those wishing a pure one-off, Jeff also created Jeff Nicklus Customs building one-of-a-kind American V-Twin High Performance Motorcycles. Jeff began building bikes at age 15 in Dallas, Texas. That passion has grown later into a lucrative business with Jeff relying not only on motorcycle dealers to sell his production customs but also spending months on the road meeting directly with his potential clients.

His yellow semi-truck is a fixture on the show tour and recession coming was the only exhibitor I know to be able to rank each rally and exhibit on a criteria of profitability that only him knows. Advice to all industry vendors: follow his yellow truck… Contrary to other custom motorcycle manufacturers trying to cover many styles to please a wider clientele, Jeff Nicklus builds only what he likes (reliable and powerful cruisers), got a strong personality style and doesn’t care much about the latest motorcycle trends or fads. He is a strong voice to advocate the cause of vendors with big rally organizers, has strong opinions about the motorcycle industry and, as my readers know through his comments in my Blog, about everything else… Among all my interviewees to this day, he was the quickest to answer my questions and reveals a little bit more about himself.

Cyril. Who were your childhood heroes? Jeff. My Father, Sky King, Superman and Roy Rogers.

Cyril. When you were a teenager you wanted to become a? Jeff. A Fighter Pilot.

Cyril. Tell me about your first time on a motorcycle? Jeff. When I was 11 years old there was a guy who lived a couple of streets over from our house who had a Cushman Eagle. I would ride my bicycle by his house almost on a daily basis to see if the scooter was outside where I could see it. One day, as I rode by his house, the owner, who seemed at the time to be an old guy of 15-16 years old, was outside. He stopped me and asked if I would like to ride his scooter. DAMN RIGHT! He gave me a brief “how to” lesson on the scooter, said it was no different than riding a bicycle and he turned me loose in the street with the Cushman. After killing the scooter about 10 times I managed to get the scooter down the street and back without damage, and without ever shifting the scooter either I should add. I was hooked from that day on.
Cyril. If you were not active in the motorcycle industry, what would you do? Jeff. It is hard to think of not being in the industry, that would really suck. I have always been a speed freak. So I suppose I would turn Pro in the drag racing industry. Of course I would also make a great Wal-Mart Greeter now that I think of it.
Cyril. What is your favorite way to relax? Jeff. I never relax! There is plenty of time to relax when I am dead!
Cyril. Best quality, best personality defect you still try to correct? Jeff. My best personality defect ??? Who me? I am not aware I have one. Best Quality: My modesty naturally!
Cyril. What is the last music you downloaded in your iPod? Jeff. I don’t own an iPod …. I get so little quiet time now that sticking some noise in my ears just doesn’t appeal to me much.

Preferred actor and actress? Jeff. Robert De Niro & Angelina Jolie.

Cyril. What are you afraid of? Jeff. Mediocrity.

Cyril. Do you watch any sport, which ones? Jeff. Baseball (I love baseball!) , Drag Racing, Boat Racing, Golf.

Cyril. The car(s) you drive now are? Jeff. My daily driver is a Ford F-350 Dually, people tend to get out of my way when driving this!

Cyril. What is the person you would love to meet? Jeff. Wow, that is a good question … I would have liked to meet Ronald Reagan before his death, so now I would like to meet the Pope???
Cyril. Preferred motorcycle to ride? Jeff. Either a Jeff Nicklus Custom or a Desperado …. duh!

Do you have any tattoos or piercings? Jeff. Nope.
Cyril. Which style of bike is yours? Jeff. What I call a Boulevard Cruiser, long, low and way over powered!

Which film made you cry? Jeff. Forrest Gump.

Cyril. Name five things you hate. Jeff. Know it all people, Someone bitching at me, Scripted “reality” shows, People on blogs who use the term “haters” for anyone with a different opinion than theirs and people who find it necessary to Tweet their every move … I don’t care if you are brushing your teeth now or not!

Cyril. What is your best life achievement? Jeff. I think the work I do with the different children’s foundations, which gives me great personal pleasure, has to be at the top of the list.

Cyril. What do you miss most at home when you are in a rally? Jeff. My Family (including my dog Astro)

Cyril. What was the last book you read? Jeff. “The Overton Window” by Glen Beck.

Where is your favorite vacation place? Jeff. Key West, FL.

Cyril. Do you have any guilty pleasures? Jeff. I am a sucker for a great Chicken Fried Steak!

Cyril. Do you collect anything? Jeff. I collect as many pictures as possible of Ben Franklin, AKA: $100 Bills.

Cyril. What was your worst buy? Jeff. Enron Stock ….. now that was one of my best investments, NOT!

Cyril. What was the most embarrassing thing you have ever made? Jeff. A Desperado Sport Bike!

Cyril. What is the best thing you can cook? Jeff. Venison Back Strap pan seared with a wine mushroom sauce.

Cyril. When was the last time you were really angry? Jeff. I try not to get over the top angry….. I would rather concentrate on getting even.

Cyril. What is your perfect weekend when you are at home? Jeff. Flying into Key West with my wife for the weekend and leaving my cell phone, computer and the kids at home!

Cyril. What is your preferred rally? Jeff. The Black Hills Rally.

Cyril. What is the worst question a journalist asked you? Jeff. An interviewer on Fox News ask me once: “So Jeff, do you actually ride motorcycles? And if you do, isn’t that dangerous?”

47 Responses to “The Secret Life Of Jeff Nicklus”

  1. 1 Harry Jan 5th, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Desperado, Big Bear, Big Dog. Which company will last longer?

  2. 2 Donny Jan 5th, 2011 at 8:36 am

    The man has strong opinions and a loud voice in this blog.

  3. 3 Rick Fairless Jan 5th, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Jeff is a great representative for our motorcycle industry & an all around cool cat. The fact that he’s a fellow Texan just makes him that much cooler!

  4. 4 Wiz Jan 5th, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Jeff, I still contend you are one class act! Damn, I know we would have a Great time if we ever got together. Ya know if you take I-35 north you go right by Sioux Falls before you take a left to Sturgis. You’ll no doubt be tired ’cause it’s a good one day run, done it many times. Used ta live in Austin,TX fer over 20 years, Stars ‘an Bars Baby!! Anywho I got a Bed ‘n Breakfast ,no charge, for you ‘an yer posse to rest up a bit before goin’ into the madhouse of the Rally. Yeah Conrad, you’re welcome too! I prefer the long ‘an lean choppers myself even in our old age! Keep up the good work ‘an good attitude! Thanks fer talkin’ to me in these blogs. Wiz

  5. 5 Mike Jan 5th, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Um, cough, it’s I29 that takes you by Sioux Falls, lol. Take I 35 and you’ll end up in Minneapolis/ Saint Paul.

  6. 6 Wiz Jan 5th, 2011 at 9:12 am

    Hey Rick, You remember that old scooter jockey that needed a hunk o’ metal fer his CV carb that was fallin off his 1940 Flathead in the bike show at the ThunderDome a coupla years ago? I made one out of a shithouse door ‘an you let me use some of yer tools to fabricate ‘an install it. HOO-HAA! Be damned if I didn’t win second place out of all them $200,000.trailered in creations! Anywho the same goes for you as Jeff when you come through. I got damn near two acres to park yer rigs. I need to return the favor you gave me. We aren’t like them Damn Yankees in North Dakota, we’re SOUTH Dakota!! YUK-YUK!! Wiz

  7. 7 Wiz Jan 5th, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Mike, Yeah, initially you take I-35 out of Texas and then it switches to I-29 fer Sioux Falls. I stand corrected. Wiz

  8. 8 Cobb Jan 5th, 2011 at 9:33 am

    I’m a big fan of Jeff’s work awesome interview!!

  9. 9 LENA FAIRLESS Jan 5th, 2011 at 10:11 am

    I totally agree with RF

  10. 10 LENA FAIRLESS Jan 5th, 2011 at 10:12 am

    AND I think the ENTIRE Nicklus family is amazing!!

  11. 11 1550tc Jan 5th, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Cyril. What is your preferred rally? Jeff. The Black Hills Rally.

    Good one Jeff, to you me your will always be the guy that gave Sturgis a reality check and you have saved guys 1000’s on vendor space… to have met you and there is lots more to you than whats in this blog.

    Jeff too bad most guys on here will never meet you and get to see that you really do have your ego checked at rallys and when your in your booth.

    as for this question
    Desperado, Big Bear, Big Dog. Which company will last longer? Tuff industry right now so who really knows?? like i told Jeff its better to be small and profitable and you cant cash volume at the bank 🙂

  12. 12 WT Jan 5th, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Does that top bike have a McDonalds logo on the primary……ha.


  13. 13 Gina Woods Jan 5th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Yep that sure is McDonald’s logo….Jeff I remember when you brought that bike to Chicago and we rode it in the “parade’ to the Ronald McDonald Charity House and then to the black tie event with Danny Glover…was a great evening and it raised alot of money for charity…we interviewed (on Open Road Radio) the girl that won it in the raffle ($240,000 I think?) it raised alot of money for alot of children!! She was so proud to win it cuz her brother and dad rode and wouldn’t let her touch their bikes then she won this bike and she wouldn’t let them touch it! ha ha…great interview Cyril!

  14. 14 ChopperKulture Jan 5th, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Hey Jeff, Respect to you bro…At least being opinionated that way, you ll never be a follower…keep it up and give them hell!!!

  15. 15 fuji Jan 5th, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Good looking rides and great interview, Hawaiian style [ The shirts ]

    Thanks for taking the time in the past to communicate.

    I wish you well.

    P. S The professor of customs.

    Now my sister wants to fly to Houston. Gees

  16. 16 Jacky Jan 5th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    In Sturgis Desperado was nowhere to be seen during these last few years!

  17. 17 Chris Conklin Jan 5th, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    Jack, That is because they have not been in Sturgis, they now show in Deadwood/Lead. Jeff boycotted Sturgis many years ago.

    Cyril, great interview.

    Jeff, Keep it up brother!

  18. 18 Roger Eddington. Jan 5th, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Man, I love that bike! How come I’ve never heard of Desperado before? It’s got a very OCC style that I like very much, only with a better paint job. This Mc Dee’s bike even beats out OCC’s Wendy’s bike when it comes to the paint. I hope to see more in the future.

  19. 19 Mike Greenwald Jan 5th, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Jeff Nicklus is a straight shooter that builds damned good bikes.

  20. 20 Bob Johnson Jan 5th, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    To all you people that have not met Jeff and the family you really dont know what you are missin bought an assassin in 97 and since then bought 5 more just to show people what a real bike is. Jeff is a class act and not oppiniated at all haha

  21. 21 Brenda Fox Jan 5th, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Great interview of a much respected builder.
    Refreshing to see someone who speaks their mind, is so appreciated by many and someone making a difference in the industry.

    Keep up the Good Vibe Jeff!

  22. 22 nicker Jan 5th, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    “…Refreshing to see someone who speaks their mind…”

    And that would be because the man “has a mind” (unlike some others in the industry).

    Moreover, what wasn’t said is that Jeff is an academy jet jock with two Vietnam tours under his belt (who survived being shot down and fished out of the South China Sea twice).

    And for those who think he simply put’s out OCC-clones, some of his special one-of scooters are powered by his own engine (his design, his patterns, his technology), not some HD clone.

    To top it off, he designed his own mid-engined sports car that got a big three automaker’s interest.

    The point is, to try and make a comparison between OCC and Jeff would be like suggesting that Pewee Herman and Rembrandt both “painted by the numbers.”

    Seems those who have the most to crow about are the least likely to do so.
    Sorry Jeff, some one had to blow your cover ………. 🙂

    (honored to be a friend)

  23. 23 Quint w/ Jan 5th, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Right on Cyril! Jeff is a fantastic interview. When we talked to Jeff on HogRadio, I swear, he seemed humble and not outspoken at all…oh wait a minute…wrong guy. Sorry. But seriously folks,Jeff had us laughing all the way through the interview and during the breaks. A straight-shootin’ good ol’ boy. Keep on Jeff!

  24. 24 John Nasi Jan 6th, 2011 at 10:17 am

    We have always enjoyed our neighbor Jeff for many, many years in Daytona. Even with the influx of new show trucks coming and going, you could always count on the big Red and Yellow trucks being there, and Jeff’s cool & calculated crew was carefully avoiding the flash of fame that the industry was provoking – just keepin’ it real.

    See you next time,

  25. 25 Robert Filla - Thunder Press magazine Jan 6th, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    A talented builder and innovator, savvy businessman and good friend, Jeff has provided me some of the most beautiful and powerful bikes I ever had the opportunity to test ride for the magazine.

  26. 26 Steve Hog Radio Producer Jan 6th, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Hey Great interview Cyril!

    We had Jeff on the show a while back and indeed Jeff is a lot of fun and just a down to earth type person. I look forward to meeting Jeff in the not so distant future.

    Keep building those fab machines Jeff?

  27. 27 mark Jan 6th, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Can I say Over and Out! After many years of Jeff’s mantra, I looked him up and saw what he does. That research certainly improved his credibility in the industry for me. Others on the blog that are in the industry should be interviewed as well. I am glad others know more about this generally low key industry icon.

    thanks Cyril.

  28. 28 Olive Oil Jan 6th, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Great Interview Cyril, I have always enjoyed the comments made by that over and out guy on this blog. I’d love to try out one of those powerful Desperado machines one day.

  29. 29 burnout Jan 6th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    I’m still waiting for his album of Willie Nelson cover songs!! WTF? Seriously, I knew Jeff was a smart guy BEFORE actually meeting him. peace

  30. 30 Roopair Jan 6th, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I had the honor and pleasure of representing Jeff and Desperado before Katrina. His quick wit, kind heart and real sense of what is real made him an easy interview, easy to represent and easy to be around. I miss my days working with him and count my blessings that we are still friends. San Antonio’s River City Bike Fest kicked off a season of amazing interviews from every radio, TV station to every print medium and not one interviwer left feeling that the had gotten anything but the best. The only time I think I was literally floored was when Jeff lost his voice as the MC at a bike show on the east coast and handed the mic to me; uh, what? Class, integrity, true grit and he loves his wife and family like no other. Here’s to you Jeff. Thanks for the ride!

  31. 31 martin Twofeather Jan 6th, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Excellent job Cyril,Jeff is a great guy and turns out superb work……….

  32. 32 Jan 6th, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Jeff You are a very much a Loved Guy, so why not stick around another 20+ Years and loose & about 70 Lbs. I see myself as well, standing up wearing a 4XL and not being able to see my Penus while i stand over the Head. If you will try, I will as well. I quit smoking and gained about 8-9 lbs a year over the last 12 years. Just think we can get another 20 + HP if we loose the weight!

  33. 33 Jeff Nicklus Jan 7th, 2011 at 12:19 pm,

    LMAO !!!!!!! Finally, finally someone has put this in perspective for me: ” Less blubber means more HP! ” Now I can understand that!

    Fact of the matter is, I started a diet this last October and to date I have lost 30 lbs+/-. My goal is to lose 70 more before this October, so you need to get started and we will compare notes as we go. Anyone else out there want to join us?

    Also, I never got above a 3X Shirt and what is up with not seeing the penis ??? I can still see 75% of mine, wonder what that means?????

    To everyone … thanks for the kind words!

    Over & Out,


  34. 34 Wiz Jan 8th, 2011 at 7:04 am

    Jeff, It’s easier to put more inches in the motor than to lose them on the belly. I’d rather be fat ‘an happy than skinny ‘an miserable. Bring on the vanilla ice cream ‘an Hershy’s syrup! Double Cheezeburger Please! Ya know, when Armageddon hits them skinny people will be droppin’ like flies while we’re living off reserves! As far as the pecker goes, I can still find it when I need it! YUK-YUK!! Wiz

  35. 35 Jan 8th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Hey Jeff, I always say you know when you’re Fat : When you go to the Head and Pee and you can’t see your Schmeckel, you know you are to Heavy. The truth Jeff, I havent seen mine for 3 Years except for the full length mirror in my Bedroom! Ha! I aien’t kidding one bit, Jeff. I need to do 70lbs. right now. I talked to a Hypnotist last night and she says she has very good results..Let you know soon. Happy and Healthy to us all.

  36. 36 Jan 8th, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    One more thing Most Important, Congrads on the 30 Lbs. Jeff, To me that’s a Miracale.

  37. 37 madpuppy Jan 8th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Thank you Cyril for this interview.
    Thanks Nicker for telling the people that didn’t know, about Mr. Nicklus giving us air support in Nam.
    And thank you Mr. Nicklus for doing the interview ! I enjoyed reading your answers, you look and sound as i imagined you would. Just a little off topic, i thought you and a few other builders were doing a weight-off contest a couple years ago ? Never did here anything else. Anyway, great interview, stay safe and keep the faith.

  38. 38 Admin Jan 9th, 2011 at 11:00 am

    To “Ha, ha, ha” in St John’s, Canada. Comments made with a fake email are not posted.

  39. 39 Rick Jan 9th, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Finally. An interview with a builder that is what he always seemed to be. I ain’t ever met ya, Jeff, but I look forward to the day I do. Just from reading your opinions and thoughts on here, I figured you were a stand up guy that thought a lot like me. I, too, have been stricken with a flavor for the chicken fried steak and it definitely shows. Bigalyts let me know how that damn hypnotist works out for ya. I need all the friggin help I can get. Later all.

  40. 40 Harlan Schiilinger Jan 10th, 2011 at 8:55 am

    All Well Said!
    Now you need to work on your Golf game.!

  41. 41 Miltrane Jan 11th, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Looksa like he needs to diet!

  42. 42 Hillary Guerra Jan 12th, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Thank you Cyril for this interview. Thanks Nicker for telling the people that didn’t know, about Mr. Nicklus giving us air support in Nam. And thank you Mr. Nicklus for doing the interview ! I enjoyed reading your answers, you look and sound as i imagined you would. Just a little off topic, i thought you and a few other builders were doing a weight-off contest a couple years ago ? Never did here anything else. Anyway, great interview, stay safe and keep the faith.

  43. 43 Jeff Nicklus Jan 13th, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Hillary & madpuppy,

    You are both correct concerning the previous group diet attempt. The magazine editor who initially came up with the idea of a diet “contest” of sorts ended up so busy with the day to day operation of his magazine that the “contest” just fizzled out. Some of us, who were participating in the “contest”, continued with their diet regiment while others, including me, fell back into eating from all four food groups …… steak, beer, apple pie and ice cream! Now it seems, at least in my case, it is time to pay the piper and get serious about the diet program once more. Damn I hate salads!

    Over & Out,


  44. 44 Walt Lumpkin Jan 13th, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Jeff: You are an original. It is my pleasure to call you a friend. Since you are on a diet I assume you have given up alcohol and our bar tab will be halved next time we get together.

    I’m on an alcohol free diet. If someone else is paying I’ll drink for free.

  45. 45 C JAYE Jan 28th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    From all my encounters with motorcycle builders/manufacturers in the motorcycle industry Jeff Nicklus and Desperado are by far the best company with the nicest crew and most generous charity supporters around. Jeff is one hell of a bike builder who knows what it takes to “get the job done and get it done right”. He and his crew are never to busy to sign an autograph, talk to you about bikes and teach you a few things about life. I think this particular “Secret Life” series is a wonderful tribute to a well-deserving person and company. If you have a sequel or Part II on this guy I’m there! Truly a class act.

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