Patrick Kelley’s Flying F-Bomb

Written by  By Peter LaFrance Photos by Jack “I’ve Dropped A Few Bombs Myself” Cofano Thursday, 13 March 2014 15:15
Published in Bobbers
   Just when you think you’re getting a handle on what’s going on, along comes a guy like Patrick Kelley who blows you out of the water with a bobber that breaks all the rules and that ‘s what makes it a winner. Born and raised in a garage in Charlotte, North Carolina, The Flying F-Bomb (you didn’t think I meant Patrick did you?) is the creation of a guy with a lot of talent, determination, discipline, and a great sense of humor. According to Patrick, “I’m just a dude into Old School chops, cars, gym, and family in North Carolina. I’m really a software architect in real life. I just pretend to build chops.” Patrick, if you do think this is true, the only person you’re fooling is yourself and you’re no fool.



   Patrick’s Harley-Davidson Shovelhead bobber takes its The Flying F-Bomb name from the bomb-like air cleaner he made from scraps of metal he had lying around. That alone make sit cool as its pretty much how Patrick takes his approach to building a bike using whatever parts and pieces along with old and soon to be new skills he’s developed over the years. He really has a fresh take on building a bike exactly they way he likes it by throwing imagination and hard work instead of just wads of money at it. So many of the pieces on this build are just something he whipped up from nothing so to speak. Everywhere you look there are handmade pieces that are truly handmade and not just aftermarket parts modified a bit.


   When I first looked at this bike, it kinda reminded me of something but I couldn’t put my finger on it. No, I don’t mean it was a copy or trying to be a copy of somebody else’s bike or style, there was just something comfortably familiar about it. Turns out Patrick’s a big-time Billy Lane fan and now it all made sense to me. “It’s a tribute to Billy Lane and his style. He inspired me for many years and it was the least I could do to show some respect to the man,” said Patrick. With that explanation, one quick look back at the gas tank said it all in one fell swoop. Oh it’s Billy all right.


  The tank started out as a Mustang tank in another life before Patrick made it into the multi-dimensional fuel cell you see today. Concave where it was convex, reshaped and added onto until it reminded me of a multi-story zillion dollar whacky tree house you see on TV, and topped off with a Flying B hood ornament from a 1930s Bentley (check out the sleek release lever for the cap), the tank has a ton going on and we haven’t even covered it all yet. What I thought was a simple hammered gray paint finish turns out to be a pearl flake paintjob by Jeremy “Paint Monkey” Hromada and the engine-turned side panels held on by brass wing nuts are not what they seem to be. That’s not engineturned sheet aluminum like you always see, but steel and I think that’s a first for me. Probably for Patrick too. All the tank welding was left as is just for the metallic rawness with just a touch of thin striping outling and defining it by Dave Heggie. But wait, there’s more ─ the Moon Equipment tank mounted with leather straps on the left downtube is an auxiliary fuel tank and not some kind of oil or overflow tank as I first thought. Man, that Lane-inspired/Kelley-built tank just goes on and on and down.


   The rear fender is another completely repurposed piece that mimics the metallic landscape of the tank. Patrick whipped up the tasty fender stay/sissy bar and it’s in complete contrast to and yet in total harmony with the fender. That’s not just luck. He also made his seat base and unfortunately I’m not sure who made the stingray and leather cover, but if you slip and slide somehow on that raised 3-D surface, it’s gonna be tough on the boys. Directly under the seat is the unusually-shaped, shark-finned (my term) oil tank that’s got a bit of a car muffler feel to it from my eyes and that’s okay. It’s just a description, probably silly on my part, but that’s what it reminds me of. Just “reminds me of” as the five dorsal fins take it out of the Midas shop and into George Barris’ shop. Below that you’ve got a beehive oil filter to add just a bit more happy complexity.


   The rigid frame is a ground-up special and so is the girder fork Patrick whipped up from scrap tubing. The horizontally mounted coil-over Rock Shox shock was originally intended to be used on a mountain bike, but found a new life front and center on The Flying F-Bomb. I do like the way Patrick deftly snuck the headlight into the mix while the handlebar shape and mounting point reminded me of a Jesse Rooke fabrication. Hey, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with putting your own twist on some of the more interesting builders out there and I’m giving Jesse kudos on this arraignment although I’m probably dead wrong as usual. No matter how you look at it, it’s a clean and interesting setup.


   Rolling stock just couldn’t be billet and it sure couldn’t be the latest 30-incher stuff. Patrick chose fat-ass shiny spokes on black rims front and rear with a ribbed blackwall tire up front stopped by a Performance Machine master cylinder and disc/rotor setup. Out back a four-piston PM sprocket brake tires to make the dual-stripe whitewall tire howl in protest as necessary. Everything had to be rational and usable as Patrick planned to ride the hell out of this bike from day one.


   Leaving the Harley Shovelhead engine for last is my fault as there’s almost enough going on here for its own article. Unsurprisingly this piece was in rough shape after decades of use and abuse, but Patrick did the tough thing and assaulted it himself. Bringing back all the heavily oxidized and generally just crudded-up and worn out pieces to life required hours and hours and hours of boring handwork. If you’ve never spent time restoring and polishing metal crap back to life, don’t think you’ve missed out on something special. Man, it’s just hard, hard, never ending work that when you’re in the middle of it you can only think about why you started it. Yeah, it obviously is great when it’s done, but when you’re doing it you start wondering about all the choices you’ve made in life and especially this one.


   Patrick brought the bling to a boil and then put a twist to it I hope you’ve noticed. The front and rear cylinders and heads each have their own look. The rear is polished and chromed while the front has a sanded finish with brass accents. Toss in that Patrick-fabbed F-Bomb air cleaner mounted on a carb with brass hardware and you know this isn’t Milwaukee stock. There are some brass lines running around too, but the major oil lines are copper with rubber connecting sleeves to dampen vibration and not crack the lines. Might not be as perfectly showbike pretty as some totally-copper-line bikes, but this is meant to be driven and not just looked at. Last, but not least on this Shovel is the lovely Warren Lane of Atomic Metalsmith fame Virgin Mary kicker pedal. There will be no cussing anywhere near this bike if the Shovel refuses to fire. For most riders these days, just kick starting a Shovelhead to life would be a miracle by itself.


  Speaking of lines, you’ve probably noticed that Patrick took the complete opposite approach of most builders when it came time to hide the wiring. Most bikes look like they somehow get their juice by frame osmosis as there’s not a wire in sight. Patrick was prouder than proud of his vintage-style cloth covered wires that would drive a Brit bike lover to death with envy. Personally, I’m totally okay with this as I like my electricals handy and accessible when there’s a dearth of flowing electrons.


   Oh and in case you’re wondering , that rare 1877 coin mounted over the electronic ignition cover is not a product of  the U.S. Mint, but a novelty company so don’t think that’s where your new family fortune is when you see this bike in a show and Patrick’s not around. I doubt he won’t be hanging around his bike, though, because after winning Judged Class-Best of Show at the 2014 Charlotte Easyrisers Show, he’ll be keeping an eye on that novelty coin and everything else too. 

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