A majority of my fellow custom builders, as talented as they are, have difficulties or simply don’t like to explain their creations. It’s all in their mind, in their hands, and the creative itinerary to accomplish their work is so complex and wrapped in so many feelings and trials and errors, that for most, describing a logical building process is quite difficult. Others, like Paul Cavallo owner of Spitfire Motorcycles, have a very pre-established strategy and love to describe it in full. So, for this feature, I will reproduce exactly what he told me about this superb Chop called Rollin Bones.
But first, let me introduce him to you. In May of 2007 Paul Cavallo founded Spitfire Motorcycles after he parted ways with HBS Motorcycle Co. He spent the next few years cultivating a style that would replace the wide tire monstrosities that had taken over the V twin scene. Paul said “I built my first bike in 1990, a 1976 shovel that consisted of swap meet treasures from the crank to the bars. It’s funny how life comes full circle. Twenty one years later it seems like most builders are back at the swap meet, and creating their very own Frankenstein bikes in their garage. At least now we have Ebay, so you don’t have to wait all month for the swap meet…” Below, the way Paul explained to me the Rollin Bones build.
“Last May, I was asked to build a bike for the 2011 Artistry Iron at Las Vegas BikeFest by the crew at Las. I had spent so many years behind the scenes at my manufacturing company, American Made and at my HBS production motorcycle company HBS, that I figured it was time to get myself back out into the public eye. There was no outside pressure to build anything too elaborate, but with the current trend in our industry being “find a knucklehead, buy all of the parts that V Twin has in stock, and paint to look like a Indian Larry bike” making every event seem like ground hog’s day, I had to go all in. It took me about three months of soul searching before I realized that I didn’t have to draw a line in the sand between old, and new. The result was a collection of experiences from all of my years as a bike builder. My basic sketches were a long, slim chopper which has always been my preference.
I spent a lot of time on the wheel design. Simple spoke wheels were not going to cut it on this bike, but if I just cut a set of billet wheels, I might not be able to tie the design into the rest of the bike. My design philosophy is based on continuity. From the front wheel to the back wheel, it all has to flow naturally. I wanted to incorporate large diameter wheels, so a 26″ front wheel, and 23 rear wheel were put on the build sheet. The concept was early industrial age, so the first wheel designs were of a mechanical ship’s helm wheel. Adjustments were made for function, and styling, and 86 hours of machining later the modular wheels were done. We went to work on the frame next. A 36 degree, 4″ up, 2″ forward stretch, and 2″ back stretch with the sprocket brake sunk into the left axle plate for 0″ offset in the back tubes. This made the back end of the bike very skinny. One of the products that Spitfire is known for is our Girder front end. So I designed a version specifically for this build. In order to capture the industrial age lines, as well as tie in the wheel spoke shape, I spent hours drawing and cutting the components that would come together to complete the girder. At this point I had a roller, and about 20 days to make the rest of the parts, build the engine and tranny, get it painted, and assemble the bike.
I remained in the shop night and day cranking out prototype parts one right after the other. Casey Johnson from Headcase Kustom Art delivered the frame 6 days before the show. Luckily it was Friday, and all of my chrome had come back the day before. By Monday we were ready for the sheet metal, and Casey showed up that afternoon, and even helped us install it. Tuesday while we were wiring, and plumbing, Pascal Davayat from Riff Raff Kustom Leather showed up with the final piece of the puzzle, the Rollin Bones seat. Pascal had also done the engraving on the primary cover earlier in the build. We had a few hours on Wednesday morning for a parking lot photo shoot, then we were off to Vegas for Bikefest, and Artistry in Iron.
During the five weeks I spent building this bike, Sean Peterson managed to document, film, and photograph all 5 weeks, 12+ hours per day. He put together the Rollin Bones Build Book, to give some insight as to what an actual bike builder does. No TV nonsense, just a commitment to hand building an original work of art. I hope everyone who gets a chance to see this bike will look closely enough to see all of the subtle attributes that make Rollin Bones appear to have been born, not built. Spitfire Motorcycles. (photography copyright Sean Peterson courtesy to Cyril Huze)
The only components on the bike that I did not make myself, were theengine, transmission, and primary inner & outer cover. The drive train is a 1951 HD Panhead, with a 4 speed transmission. The primary drive is a Primo 1.5″ belt. Spitfire original designed components are as
Rocker boxes: Imperial. Primary cover: Imperial. Chassis: 4″ up, 2″ forward strech, and 2″ rear stretch Spitfire “Slim”. Rigid frame. Front end: 8″ over Spitfire “Super Deluxe” Girder. Wheels: Front 26″ Rear 23″ Rollin Bones. Tires: Vee. Rear brake: Spitfire Sprocket Brake. Final drive: Chain. Controls: Spitfire Darkside (chrome) Tank: Spitfire/Cad works. Oil Tank: Spitfire. Rear fender: Spitfire/Russ Wernamont. Kicker: Spitfire. Seat & Engraving: Pascal Davayat of Riff Raff Kustom Leather. Paint: Casey Johnson, Head Case Kustom Art. All component parts for Rollin Bones designed and hand made by Paul Cavallo & crew.