TBC Handcrafted Motorcycles’ Smoke Out 16 Winner

Written by  Story By Geronimo Jones Photos By Jack “Wine Tasting One Bottle At A Time” Cofano Friday, 31 July 2015 15:20
Published in Bobbers
   Well there it is, the cat’s out of the bag if you didn’t already know that one of Barnett Magazine Online’s favorite builders, Tim Bradham of TBC Handcrafted Motorcycles in Fayetteville, North Carolina, won the invitational Pro Builder Chop Off at The Horse Backstreet Choppers’ Smoke Out 16. I don’t know who the judges were, but that had to be one tough competition as all the bikes were killers. Apparently Tim’s just had a tiny bit more and I’ve got a feeling the “handcrafted” part of the shop’s name had a little something to do with it.


  Compared to one of my own bikes where you try and find the handcrafted parts, Tim’s bike is an assembled plethora of handcrafted parts. Everything is made so individually beautiful and then welded so beautifully it’s almost too bad that the parts had to be bolted together. Tim’s right-hand man and welder extraordinaire, Josh Cipra, was responsible for the perfect clone welds that look like they were carefully sculpted from modeling clay instead of being the end result of a disturbing, but beautiful event if you were a metal tube or tab or whatever. First class stuff anywhere and I mean anywhere you look.


   By the way, that lovely shiny frame you couldn’t help but notice in Jack Cofano’s photos is not some chromed mild steel tubing, but polished stainless steel. Building it around a Harley-Davidson Ironhead engine that is pretty far from the way it left the dealership back in 1972 only added to the complexity, but I imagine the lads at TBC get all giddy with excitement for something this personally challenging. Getting stainless tubing to do what you want is not for the faint-hearted and they got the stainless to smoothly flow with a feeling of motion from the perfectly-machined head stock to the “How do you adjust the chain?” rear axle plate/mount. This Tim and Josh collaborative effort is a work of art just by itself, but showing up for a build-off with just a frame probably wouldn’t be a good thing.


   More snazzy pizzazz hangs off the front end with a shaved, super-clean set of fork legs held on by a cleaned-up set of trees that could make you lose your retinas if you stared at them in the sun. Between them a spool hub laced to what I think is an aluminum rim that almost looks like chrome steel from the time some poor sucker spent polishing it under the classically-chopperesque Avon Speedmaster MK II ribbed front tire. Finishing off the rolling stock is a fairly-wide-rimmed rear wheel that looks to me like aluminum construction too with a small Wavy disc being squeezed by a Brembo caliper. All nice stuff from a performance and reliability viewpoint as well as damn good looking.


   The heartbeat of this build is something that I’m sure gets Tim’s heart all aflutter as he loves the old Harley stuff to the point I might have to show him a photo of a Twin Cam so he knows what it is. Nothing wrong with that as an old Ironhead done up right is an explosion of V-twin goodness and badness if there ever was one. Even the Ironhead explosions ending up in an exhaust pipe have a frenetic sound and feel of their own. You gotta remember that the Ironhead is its own animal and not to be mistaken for a Shovelhead as they so often are.


   Taking it down to where it resembled a  3-D blueprint more than a disassembled engine, TBC began the laborious process of splitting the rocker boxes. Now that’s not extremely unusual in the big pro builder side of things, but TBC added their own touch to the proceedings that I personally find interesting and entertaining at the same time. Check out the hard oil lines feeding oil to the heads and you’ll see more fun-with-oil-lines than I ever thought possible. Copper tubing and brass fittings combined with a touch of controlled Steampunk-style bring a carnival atmosphere to the oil flow proceedings. Actually, there’s a ton of Steampunk sh*t going on when you take the action of the beautifully built left-exit headers and the big-ass carb sucking air through a rather large velocity stack.


  Speaking of Steampunk, I’ve always thought of Ironheads as the punk of Harley engines anyway. They’re pretty bad ass especially for the time and they’re still a punky bastard today. If you’ve never ridden one and you ever get the chance, do not pass it up. Even if you don’t like it since it’s not too sophisticated compared to its descendents, you’ll have to admit it was a trip to ride. You might not want to own it, but you’d sure like to ride it again.


   One thing I’m not sure of in any way is the amount of daylight showing between the engine and tranny of this unit-construction Ironhead. There’s a bunch of sorta troubling stuff in that last statement as unit-construction V-twins should not have any open air space between the engine and tranny. Looks to me like some fancy cutting and welding was done before what appears to be a separate tranny found a new home. Unfortunately that’s about all I can elucidate on that as it’s above my pay grade and hopefully I’m not wrong on all counts. You tell me.


   All of the tin work was fabbed in-house from the fuel and oil tanks to the rear fender from flat pieces of sheet. The photos I’ve seen of the fender-fitting oil tank’s construction along with all the lovingly welded bungs are astounding. It’s almost too bad the oil tank sits down low and almost out of sight, but it does give plenty of space to run the headers and show off the tranny lurking back form the engine. TBC’s in-house painter, Robbie Lynch, sprayed another of his fantastic paintjobs that’ll catch your eye, but not make you go blind. Maybe blind with envy, but not blind.


   TBC topped it off with handcrafted parts and pieces all over the build from the lovely stainless foot controls to the TBC bars and the Chris Shrum of Shrum Graphics hand-tooled leather seat. Toss in the yellow lens headlight sitting in a Bates-style headlight and you’ve got a simple, but total formula for success. Yup, a perfect storm of a custom motorcycle formula that proved itself by winning the Smoke Out 16 Pro Builder Class last June. Now the toughest challenge TBC will face lies ahead at Smoke Out 17, can they top themselves and win again? I wouldn’t bet against it.


 For more info on what TBC Handcrafted Motorcycles is up to, visit their interesting, informative and highly-entertaining website at http://www.tbcworks.com/bikes/ or check out their Facebook page. Both are extremely well done.

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