Easyriders Bike of the Year 2014
Story by J. Joshua Placa
Photos by Michael Lichter
Motorcycling has its own version of the Oscars, just not with a red carpet or celebrities shoehorning themselves into absurdly expensive, ill-fitting gowns, too-tight hipster suits, and goofy Dudley Do-Right hats. Our Oscar ceremony would be hosted in an oily garage, where a statuette made of chrome is presented by someone in serious leathers and big black boots, and maybe a mini-skirt.
This year’s award would go to Bill Steele of Oakdale, PA-based Steele Kustoms for the Pan/Shovel he affectionately calls the Blue Baller. Easyriders Magazine named Steele’s ride its Bike of the Year.
Said Easyriders’ Editor, Dave Nichols: “Bill Steele is known all over the world for his amazing custom car and dazzling two-wheeled creations. This year he built a simple yet elegant, hand-built custom motorcycle for our Columbus Bike Show. It won Editor's Choice in the Regional Class before moving up to our Invitational Class, receiving the coveted Bike of the Year
honors. What stood out above the other custom bikes at the show was the
incredible attention to detail. Nearly every part on this motorcycle has
been massaged or built from scratch.”
Steele, 43, is not your ordinary custom bike builder. “I like to keep everything I build for awhile, and I build one thing at a time. I ride it, live with it, and have fun with it. That’s what riding is all about, isn’t it? Most things I eventually sell but some I have trouble parting with, like this bike.”
Steele’s practice translates to road-tested quality control. This is a good habit to have if you’re a customer. Most builders ride their creations around the block a few times before selling them, but Steele puts hundreds of miles on his machines, plenty of real world time to see what needs tweaking, tightening or tuning.
For now, Steele is enjoying the ride too much to think about putting Blue Baller on the market. The bike is an artful cobble: The master builder took an STD Pan/Shovel replica motor circa early 1990s and five-speed Sputhe tranny he got in a trade; added an S&S E carburetor; a re-fabricated Sportster gas tank; Paughco frame; a front end of unknown origin found sunk into the dirt and leaning against a barn wall; a 1937 Ford taillight; a rear wheel from a drag car; front wheel off a drag bike; Avon front tire; Coker cornhusker rear tire; a cut down, old Panhead handlebar with internal “deadman” solid throttle cable (doesn’t spring back); hand shifter, foot clutch, and if things weren’t interesting enough, only a rear brake to bring it all to a stop. The rear fender gets a solid strut and enough strength to carry Steele’s girlfriend, he said, if she doesn’t mind riding on a towel.
Steele and his crew added a lot of metal massage and modification, paint by Jeremy Seanor of Lucky Strike Designs, powder coating from AMF Power Coating, and a freshened motor from Bob the Engine Guy. The hand shifter, foot clutch, deadman’s throttle and single rear brake “will keep you focused and alert,” said Steele, unlike modern bikes with such ease of operation, bells and whistles they practically ride themselves. Steele is old school, living proof true riding is not dead.
“This bike,” said Steele, “feels more like a real machine. Modern motorcycles make you lazy and lackadaisical, but the Blue Baller makes you pay attention; you have to be aware of what you’re riding, how to handle shifting while steering, cornering, stops and hairpin turns. There are so many facets going on, there’s a lot more thinking to the ride. I love that.
Contact Bill Steele at Steele Kustoms Inc., 7201 Noblestown Rd., Oakdale, PA 15071; call 724-693-9097; visit http://www.steelekustoms.com/
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