Build-A-Bike

| May 01, 2006

Paul Teutul Sr., the man behind Orange County Choppers, and son and fellow bike builder Mikey, says truckers and bikers are both “part of the American image.”

Not all truckers want to enjoy the great outdoors miles away from everything, surrounded by the serenity of woods and streams, matching wits with big game or trophy fish.

Some love the road and road machinery so much they yearn to spend what free time they can find out on the road on motorcycles, free of the cab and its constraints, listening to the rush of the wind and the roar of a wide-open motor.

Buying a motorcycle is easy. But so is building one. Maybe not quite so easy, but it’s something most truckers with their knowledge of engines and suspensions, electrics and electronics, and their love of tinkering with machinery can do. It won’t look like a Harley or a Honda, but as you roll down the interstate, truckers will notice you because what you build will be one of a kind.

And you can do it. Just ask the best.

Paul Teutul Sr., 57, the man behind Orange County Choppers,* famously seen on the Discovery Channel since 2003 in the show American Chopper, says bikers and truckers have something in common: “They’re both part of the American image. There’s a crossover there.” Teutul says a trucker who loves to work in his shop or with engines can make a chopper, anything from a basic machine to something every bit as fancy as the ones his shop turns out.

“You need to have some mechanical ability but not a whole lot of expertise. I suppose welding would be the hardest thing you’d have to know how to do. Anybody can do it,” says Teutul. How long you take to do it is your decision. “It can take six months or three weeks, it’s up to you. There are a lot of things you can do that are time consuming but you don’t have to,” says Teutul. “But me, I don’t tell anybody to take their time.”

You can try and build something along the lines of an OCC chopper or something simpler. “You can buy bolt-together bikes today, and they’re a lot of fun to build. Or you can build something extra special,” says Teutul. “You can build a budget bike or go out and run up the cost.

“Motivation is the biggest challenge. If someone is building one of these, they have to be enthusiastic, and if someone is helping you build it, they have to have that enthusiasm, too. They have to be on board with the idea that this is something you get excited about and stay excited about.”

Exactly what your chopper will look like, or perform like, is also up to you, says Teutul.

“You can change them around or add something or take something off and change it as you build. But once they’re finished, we don’t touch them; ours pretty much stay the way we build them. If you want something different, you’re better off to start over. These machines are like pieces of art; they’re more than just a bike. They give a person like me, or anyone who builds them, a way to express themselves. To tear it down or change it would be like destroying a piece of art.”

If you build a bike, says Teutul, the main tool you will use is your imagination.

“It takes more than one part. When we’re finished, I’m most proud of the whole outcome – not just one part of the bike. You start with nothing, and it comes out like this,” he says, pointing to OCC’s Speedco Chopper. “When you’re finished, you stand back and look at it, and there’s this wow factor.”

If you have the right job, either as an owner-operator or as company driver for the right outfit, you might even be able to take the chopper along on a run. But at some point, ideally before you start building, you need to find out if what you have in mind will be street legal. “That’s a problem sometimes,” says Teutul, “because each state is going to have different regulations. But you can meet them and go riding legally; it’s not hard.”

Before he began building choppers, Teutul built a business, Orange County Ironworks, a steel fabricator. But he had loved bikes from the time he was a kid. So, he says, when he looked to do something a little different, he put bikes and steel fabrication together and the result was OCC. The company is so busy it built 100 choppers last year and plan to build 120 more than that this year.

By the way, if you do build a chopper and start to think about what sort of graphics you want on it, remember that Teutul has three taboos. He will never feature tobacco, alcohol or nudity. And be careful when you start building bikes – it can be addictive. Asked which one of all the bikes he’s built is his favorite, Teutul fires back immediately: “The next one.”
* How many of you knew that the Orange County referred to here is in New York, not southern California? The company is based in Montgomery, N.Y., on I-84.

Specs:
Length: 117 inches
Height: 61 inches
Weight: 561 pounds
Width: 36 inches at handlebars
Frame: 300 Rigid Super Stretch Custom
Engine: H & L 131, 2250ccs, 135 horsepower
Transmission: Baker Six Speed – right side drive
Primary: Primo Brute IV OCC custom cover
Wheels: OCC custom for Speedco, 10.5 X 18 rear, 3.5 x 21 front
Tires: Avon Venom 300/35 rear, 120/70 front
OCC Custom: rear fender, front fender, gas tank, handlebars, exhaust, mirrors and headlight
Paint: Nub Grafix
Forward Controls: Accutronix
Hand Controls: Arlen Ness Petite
Front End: Mean Street

Helping Make Wishes Come True
This hot machine has the words “Tribute to the American Trucker” on both the front and rear fenders.

Mikey Teutul, one of Paul Sr.’s sons, was the main builder of the Speedco chopper. Paul Teutul Jr., another son, is OCC’s chief fabricator and designer. The bike took OCC three weeks to build for Speedco’s “Tribute to the American Trucker.” Speedco is a national network specializing in quick lubes and tire service for heavy-duty trucks.

OCC delivered the bike on stage at a concert sponsored by Bandag and Goodyear during the Mid-America Trucking Show. “Our chopper is like a rocket ship,” says Speedco President and CEO Mark Clark. The chopper will tour the country raising money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which helps children with life-threatening illnesses.

Trucking’s influence is everywhere on this chopper. The bike’s wheels are modeled on the wheels of a big rig with chrome stud nuts, it has dual chrome pipes shaped like the stacks on an 18-wheeler and the oil tank is shaped like a Shell Rotella T jug. It comes with twin air horns, and the headlight is made out of a Baldwin filter oil can.


CRUISE CONTROL
Heading out on the high seas can be the ultimate relaxation

When you’re cruising down the highway, every sense is alive, alert to danger and aware of what’s going on around you and how you stand in terms of delivery time. And that inevitably brings fatigue.

When you’re cruising the deep blue sea, you don’t have to think or worry about anything. And that inevitably brings relaxation.

The Caribbean awaits, or maybe Alaska, and once on board you never have to think about moving from Point A to Point B again. Someone else is driving. Boarding a cruise ship may just be the start of the perfect trucker’s vacation. A Holland America Line spokesperson calls cruising “the best bang for the buck in vacations – period!”

The cruise business is competitive, so there is a good range of cruise lines to choose from, and they offer a wide variety of destinations, itineraries, accommodation and pricing. And there is a terrific selection of ships, from huge to just big. They’re floating cities with restaurants, bars, movies and shops. More money puts you way up top in a stateroom with a private balcony, but even a few floors down, you’ll have a pretty nice hotel-style room.

But the main advantage of cruising, according to the cruise industry, is that once you’ve paid for your passage and gone aboard, you really don’t need to reach into your wallet again. So you keep your wallet in your pocket most of the voyage and still have a top-of-the-line time. “You’re not going to have to pay extra to enjoy the whole cruising experience; it’s all there,” according to Holland America. “You’re not going to have a lesser experience just because you don’t want to pay for extras.”

The second biggest advantage in cruising comes from having to unpack only once – when you reach your cabin – and pack again only once – when you get ready to leave. In between, you can visit several countries, enjoy different cultures, join in the fun or snooze by the pool and simply retire to your cabin every night.

Cruising also lets you decide whether you want your vacation to be fast and furious or smooth and relaxed. You can find a ship full of young people looking for non-stop fun in the sun or older people who have learned how to take it easy and make their vacation days just as full, but at a quieter pace. Maybe you’d like a ship that gives you the choice of both, and they are out there.

Another really neat advantage: your meals, from the finest gourmet dining at tres chic restaurants to lavish informal buffets, are all paid for when you go aboard. And you can eat what you want pretty much when you want to eat it.

Room service is always available, and on most ships you have a steward you’ll get to know a little who’ll do your bidding whenever you ask.

Cruises are also very flexible. You can go for a week or two or just a day or two. If you decide to go alone, or as a couple, with friends or as a family, there will be a cruise to suit you.

Your fare pays for most everything you need. The room and all it amenities, such as the TV and all of its variety of shows. In addition to meals you get to visit the casino, pools (most ships have several), gyms, libraries, movies, children’s amenities, nightclubs, dancing and music (oh yeah, got to go dancing), shows you’d expect to see on Broadway or in Las Vegas and daytime sports on deck. You must admit that walking into a top-of-the-line restaurant and having the best food and wine they have to offer and walking out without paying the bill, night after night, is going to be fun.

Some things do cost extra (but you’d hardly call most of them essentials). For example, some spas and massage therapy visits are extra, some aren’t; same with some beauty salons, shops and fitness trainers. Two things you might want to pay extra for are bar drinks (for many people a cruise is not a cruise without lying in the sun with a frothy, multi-colored drink with an umbrella and a piece of pineapple in it) and shore excursions (why go to Jamaica if you stay on board and miss the reggae concert or sail to Cozumel, Mexico, and not go reef snorkeling?)

Cruises, says Holland America, are the perfect balance of complete relaxation and excitement. Both are available all the time; pick the one you want and go for it.

The cruise lines are more and more aware that families like to travel together, and cruising, they say, is the ideal family vacation. “We can put together a family package,” says a Holland America representative. “Tell us how many of your family will be coming, and we can work something out that will keep everyone happy. And it’s very economical because you’re not paying extra for food.”

Another advantage of cruising is that couples get to spend time together – and apart. If you’re a husband and wife driving team, a cruise will let you spend lazy time together, but by simply heading to opposite ends of the ship or different on-board events, you can find a few hours of free time to do your own thing. And you’ll meet back at the cabin to dress for dinner together.

As a trucker, you will also be able to stand back and admire the way the crew maneuver these giants into tight spaces. You’d have to believe that anyone who could park an ocean liner at a pier would be terrific backing a reefer up to even the tightest dock.

Here’s another bonus: As the cruise gets closer to sailing time and all cabins are not sold, prices begin to fall and bargains begin to appear. Perhaps the best way to find a cruise is to begin surfing the cruise line websites or websites of companies who handle cruises for all the lines. Over time you will begin to see a pattern and recognize the best experiences for you at sea. If you want Jamaica but not Aruba, Mexico but not Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands, The Bahamas and the Cayman Islands but not Trinidad, you can find something to fit.

The cruise lines all have very detailed websites. The easiest way to find them all laid out for you is to go to www.google.com and type “cruise lines” into the search box. You’ll get more than enough information to start searching for just the right cruise.

If you have an idea which one you’d prefer, you could go directly to the major cruise lines individually – Carnival is at www.carnival.com, Norwegian Cruise Lines at www.ncl, Royal Caribbean at www.royalcaribbean.com, Princess Cruise Lines at www.princess.com, Holland America Cruise Lines at www.hollandamerica.com, Celebrity at www.celebrity.com, and Disney at www.Disneycruise.com.

But sometimes the way to the best deal is to go to a website that isn’t just for one company. Try some of these to find the full variety of what’s available and the best deals: www.Expedia.com, www.Orbitz.com, www.Vacationstogo.com, www.Cruise411.com, www.affordabletours.com, www.Cruisesonly.com, www.cruise.com, or www.americasvacationcenter.com. On sites that don’t take you directly to cruise information, just look for the “Cruise” button to get through.

There’s one final little bonus: many of the cruise ships have Web cameras on the bridge. So after you’ve come home from the cruise and you’re stuck waiting to load or your log has forced you to park it, or maybe you’re just waiting in the rain and the dark at a truckstop, you can use your laptop to see the view from the ship and drift away back to that sunny vacation feeling.

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