Having a natural keen eye for photography helps Jeff Cochran of SpeedKing USA to see and isolate life through the lens of a camera and I think that same talent is carried over to the jaw-droppingly gorgeous bikes he builds at his one-man shop in Cincinnati, Ohio. Some people just have an eye and some don’t and a damn good photographer should be on the good side of that equation. I’ve got to give my vote on that to Jeff having that designer’s eye along with the wicked skills needed to accomplish what he’s got rolling around in his head when he’s approaching a build. Like it says on SpeedKing’s web site, “Handbuilt Motorcycles and Alternate Photography” there’s got to be a correlation between the two passions where one unknowingly (or probably knowingly in Jeff’s case) intertwines with the other. You know, like the basic photography difference where one person takes a decent, but not great photo and another shoots the same photo but takes two steps to the left to get the trash filled garbage can out of the background. Simple things can make a huge difference.
Take the case of this surprisingly simple SpeedKing build based around a Harley Sportster engine. The lines are right, there’s not an extra furbelow anywhere on the bike. Well, maybe other than that amazing twisted knot exhaust which is about as coolly nutty-loo as you can get with a set of pipes, but being a wild focal point while still being usefully necessary scratches that off the list. I just like that extraordinary piece as the first photo I saw was the exhaust-free right side of the bike and figured Jeff just got a little whacky and ran it out to the left. But, when I flipped to the next pic, “Wham!” there it is and ain’t that a peach of a puzzle. I never saw that one coming, but I’m glad I did.
Same goes for Jeff’s SpeedKing hardtail on the Sporty that surprised me when I finally understood why his bikes have a certain look and stance that says SpeedKing at first glance. Basically everybody builds their hardtails around a typical axle plate that sets the tone of the bike. Not Jeff, he builds his hardtails with his own axle plate that allows him to put the axle where he wants to for the look he sees in his head as well as the finished product. Probably not too many people care about that as a hardtail is a hardtail in their view while Jeff just takes two steps to the left and gets the stance he wants. A simple yet complex (and possibly more costly) solution to getting that trash can out of the picture.
Just like editing even a good photo, Jeff cleaned up parts like the forks which are slimly sleeked-out versions of their original self. The lower legs along with the triple trees have been machined, sanded and perfectly polished to a finish that’s more soft satin than shiny chrome. Simple and clean. Same goes for the brakeless front wheel which is just a lovely traditional spoked wheel that looks calmly comfortable with itself and doesn’t need fat, twisted, or a million spokes to look good. There’s beauty in purity and not every part has to call out for attention like a bunch of school kids yelling “Pick me! Pick me!” when there’s a prize to be had.
Out back, Jeff’s photog’s eye saw the beauty in something that I never really considered beautiful, a stock Harley-Davidson mag wheel that we’ve all seen a zillion times over the years until it became virtually invisible to the naked eye. Repurposing it to this bobber gave it a whole new lease and look on life to me. Here, singly, it looks right compared to the fore and aft use on a Harley stocker. It’s pretty tough looking in a quiet way, like seeing it for the first time in a whole new light.
When it came time to do over the Evo engine, Jeff took a simple step back in time with natural cases and black paint on the barrels and heads to set off the mechanical beauty of the shiny bits like the rocker covers, pushrod tubes and engine covers. This provides a nice background for the velocity stack carb and convoluted exhaust to stand out smartly, but not too much. I also dig the wet primary that keeps the simplicity of this bike in check where a big open belt would just be a bit busy to the eye. Plus it does make it a little more rideable and allowed Jeff to fab up really nice mid-controls that fit this build better than anything else could in my opinion. Just like the drag-style Z-bars he made that not only look speedily purposeful, but are about as low as you can go and still have a Z-bar.
Keeping it on the down low with more of a drag bike/Bonneville style comes courtesy of the modified Sporty tank that sits as low as possible while maintaining a speed-in- motion look. Jeff’s choice of a straight-out-of-Steampunkville vertical oil tank adds an interesting mechanical visual while the center-ribbed rear fender with a casual flip at the back lets the eye rest after the flowing trip from front to back. Even the seat that’s almost not there has a nice bit of thought put into it as it’s not just bolted onto the frame, but has an elaborate, yet hidden linkage to a seat shock that’s mounted to follow the frame lines and not jarringly stand out. Very clean, very nice and very comfortable goings on here.
Even the paint work shows a lot of thought even though it’s a relatively mild take on a retro ‘70s paint scheme. A base green that could be right out of the ‘70s has subtle period graphics that enhance instead of overwhelm the whole build. Get up close and there’s a bit of interesting funk that’s sure to please the eye, but this is definitely no bad acid trip in pigments like you might expect. Tasteful and timely and a looker today and twenty years from now. You can’t ask too much more than that.
This Sporty chop is even an unusual build for Jeff as he usually keeps it clean and simple like this one, but with a bit more intricate detailing requiring a lot more time and a lot more expense to the customer. Check out this past Barnett’s Magazine Online feature article of Jeff’s ’64 Panhead (among the many we’ve showcased previously) and you’ll see what I mean. Compared to something like that this is more high-end Seiko than Rolex, but that doesn’t mean it’s just an okay motorcycle or watch. Everything has its purpose and place in life and this Sporty bobber is absolutely special for what it is. It’s not a Rolex, but it sure is a damn fine looking and running Seiko.
For more info on SpeedKing USA, click on http://www.speedkingphoto.com/# or visit Jeff Cochran’s Facebook page.