GIANT ALLIGATOR RAMPAGES IN MINNESOTA — FILM AT 11
WORDS: Mark Masker
PHOTOGRAPHY: Michael Mancini
According to Mike Suggitt, Road Kings aren’t nearly as common as Glide models in his part of Minnesota. Neither are alligators. Both of those things come together in this bike his shop Detroit Choppers re-imagined for a mysterious cat who goes by “Jay Dogg.”
Mike co-owns Detroit Choppers with the father/son team of Angelo and Rob Gallo, who, unlike some father/son operations we’ve come to know and love (or not), actually get along. While that may not make for good “reality” TV, it does make for a happier workplace. Yes, I know — what the hell is a place with “chopper” in the name doing building baggers? The moniker goes back to the shop’s birth in 2000. If you know anything about custom iron back then, you’re aware that the public eye set its gaze on long, crazy rigids with fat-ass back tires, crazy-long forks, and behemoth motors, usually topped by some poser with more cash than common sense. Baggers damn sure weren’t the stars they are now. Hence the name. Rob came up with the idea for Detroit Choppers, took it to Daytona Bike Week, and people loved the name, wanted the T-shirt, you get the idea. All three men have been mechanically inclined for years. Mike says, “We survived the chopper wave and you just have to go with the flow in a situation like that. Personally, I like working with baggers. We still do chops but most of the time guys come in wanting their baggers tricked out.”
Jay Dogg is, of course, one of those guys. He bought this 2008 Harley Road King off of a buddy and it was in sore need of a change up. Not because it was stock, more because he didn’t want to be known for somebody else’s sloppy seconds. The bike was already customized. Everyone immediately associated it with his buddy, and Jay Dogg wasn’t having it, yo. A man’s got to be original. That’s probably why he nicknamed himself “Jay Dogg.”
Unfortunately, he was less decisive about what he wanted done to the Road King than he was with the name game — not that there’s anything wrong with that. At first he wanted a 21-inch front wheel, then a 23-inch, and finally he settled on a 26. He even changed paint schemes several times. All he knew going in was that a complete rebuild was a must — anything less than tricked-out was unacceptable to him. The King needed to become an emperor with new clothes to match.
Naturally that meant a total teardown followed by a vigorous, ambitious re-creation of his motorcycle in its new image. To that end the frame received 5 extra inches of backbone and increased rake to make enough room for the 26-inch Renegade wheel Detroit Choppers added to it. “Those were among the first two-piece wheels Renegade had done,” according to Mike. “We tore both of them apart and painted the inside to go with the frame.” That’s the level of detail attention he and the Gallos paid to Jay’s ride throughout the whole process.
Paying attention to the little bits was vital for one of the other most ambitious alterations to Jay’s bike, the sound system. Thanks to Wow Electronics, he’s running 10 speakers, two tweeters, and four amps. And that’s not counting the gear in the pizza box (aka, the tour pak). Open it up and you’ll find four speakers and three amps inside it too. It fell to the Detroit Choppers team to route the wiring for it all through Jay’s crazy new handlebars, though, which they not only did, but went the extra mile by making it all quick-detach to boot.
Routing anything through those crazy BR’s Custom handlebars looks like it would be about as much fun as tying balloon animals to an epileptic cobra. That’s the downside of running wicked crazy bars on your bike, though. The upside is having some of the coolest unique handholds anywhere you ride. Mike likens them to a praying mantis or antlers, only slick as hell.
Detroit Choppers made its own mark on Jay’s bike through the skin. The sanitary fenders are its handiwork, as is the stretched tank. It’s a steel unit that’s just one of the elements in its new parts line. “Our gas tanks are all handmade and not something you pull out of a catalog. We put in a lot of hours to do that,” Mike told me. The shop’s line also sports fenders, side panels, overlay tanks, fairings, and dash panels. The guys are working on their own signature hard bags but they weren’t available for Jay’s Road King. Detroit Choppers took care of that with a set from Bad Dad that got some trick Harley-Davidson logo lights — flush mounted, of course.
Power-wise, Jay was happy with the bike’s 96ci Twin Cam motor and attached six-speed transmission. Even they got tweaked, though. Detroit refined the breathing, naturally. However, with all the sick work going into the aesthetics, the stock finish had to go. Thanks to the miracle of diamond cutting and some powdercoat for color, Jay Dogg’s powerplant looks like a totally new animal.
With Jay Dogg’s ride coming to fruition in its new life, pressure mounted for him to pick a paint scheme and stick to it. After several aborted ideas, he finally chose a sweet Lamborghini Green tempered with gold in it. New York Designers gave him the odd combination of gator hide trimmed with ostrich over the new seat. You can’t go much greener than this bad boy. Now no one gets his bike confused with anyone else’s ex.
Editor’s Note: Mike gives special thanks to his crew for all the great work they did on this very fun build.