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"Baggers", September 1, 2012



WORDS: Brian Wilcher

PHOTO: John Jackson

“All I’d ever owned were custom bikes,” Giovanni Cucuzza explained. “I’ve had a Big Bear Chopper and a few other customs, but I decided I wanted something comfortable that I could use to take my wife for rides with me. At first I thought I’d just make a few changes to it, but before too long, I knew that I’d have to customize it. I wanted it to stand out, and there was no way I could leave it alone.”

As you can tell by looking at it, “leave it alone” Giovanni did not! Shortly after purchasing it, his quest to make his bike stand out from the rest of the hogs in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, took him to Independent Cycle East in nearby Hanover, where he met with Jeff Kessel, who immediately started planning the build.

“The look and style is what’s most important to me,” Giovanni said. “And I knew that I wanted to go with a 26-inch front wheel. “Jeff had a lot of ideas that helped make sure the bike turned out exactly how I wanted it.”

And Jeff wasn’t shy about sharing those ideas.

“The first thing I told him was that, like it or not, all the chrome was going,” Jeff chuckled. “So after we tore the bike down, we sent all the chrome parts out to be blasted and powdercoated — 180 parts in all.”

When it came to the front wheel, Jeff actually tried to talk Giovanni into going with a 23-inch, but that was one battle that he lost.

“He was pretty hard-headed about wanting the 26-inch,” Jeff laughed. “We hadn’t done one before, so I knew the challenge was going to be a good one. Surprisingly, the bike actually handles even better than stock with the frame mods we did, which included welding on an entirely new neck section to achieve the rake and extended look we were going for. In fact, it handles so well that Gio wants the next one we do for him to have a 30-inch!”

Once the frame was completed, Jeff and his boys turned their attention to the 120R H-D motor that replaced the stock power plant — another mod that Jeff managed to talk Gio into. But not just any old out-of-the-box motor would do — not even one from Harley’s race division.

“The motor was chrome to start with, so obviously that had to change,” Jeff emphasized. “After we ported and polished the heads, we installed high-compression pistons, hotter cams — you name it. Then we blacked it out to match the rest of the bike. I’d say she puts out about 140 horsepower at the rear wheel now.”

When it was time for paint, Giovanni and Jeff decided to take the stock H-D root-beer-brown finish to the next level by making it two-tone and adding a pagan gold accent stripe.

“The bike was root beer to start with, and I really liked it,” Giovanni explained. It looked elegant and different from the usual colors, like black and red. And the gold really made the two-tone finish stand out.”

“The paint scheme really shows off the raked, stretched-out look,” Jeff agreed.

Apparently, plenty of people agree — from bike show judges to average Joes on the street.

“After we finished the project, we entered the bike in the big yearly Timonium, Maryland, Motorcycle Show, where it won First Place in the ‘Radical Touring’ class and wowed thousands over the course of the show,” Jeff said proudly.

“The first thing the judges noticed was the color,” Giovanni added. “And people always comment on it wherever I go.”

And so, another stock H-D tourer died a quick and painless death, it found itself resurrected as a radical custom, Giovanni now owns the traffic-stopping looker he was craving, and Jeff discovered that building a custom bagger is something he enjoys — quite a lot, in fact.

“The Street Glide was a neat change from the chassis and choppers that we manufacture every day at Independent Cycle East,” Jeff concluded. “I’m really looking forward to working with Gio on his next one.

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