The dream has always been to have a fully equipped fabrication shop. A stockpile of materials and machines that can make and create anything, a paint booth, square foot-age for storage, and a mastery of the skills required to operate this set up. As this dream permeates in my brain, the harsh, if not bleak
reality, brings me back down to earth. Like most people, I’m not wealthy, plus I live in a townhouse that offers limited space. Fortunately, I have a driveway that allows both cars to be parked outside, creating at least some space inside my single car garage for the enabling of my addiction: Choppers.
Even though the idea of a massive fully equipped shop seems like the ideal situation, not having that option creates the need to really focus on what is important and streamline what you hold onto and what needs to move on. At any given time, my garage is so full of spare parts, spare bikes and just general cool stuff I collect, so you can barely walk around. With a premium on space, it makes it easier to not hold onto things that really aren’t part of my main focus, which generally is panhead stuff. I’ve had a few shovelheads, Triumphs and even stored friend’s bikes when they run out of space in their small shops. In the end, it all moves on and I try to only keep stuff I actually think I will use.
Having a pile of parts is great, but if you don’t have any tools then all you have is a storage locker. I have a lot of tools, more so than maybe the average garage builder or bike enthusiast. A large portion of what I have was inherited from my grandfather and my great grandfather, and because of its sentimental value, those tools will always take precedence over other things. In addition to tools, a place to work is paramount—a good-size workbench and some kind of lift to put your bike on. I think the most important and often overlooked element of building a bike in your garage is having friends who are a lot better at building bikes than you.
Cold winters are a buzzkill, so I have a sketchy heater and some old stage lights from my days of playing in bands rigged up that generate a bit of heat. In a lot of ways my garage is my living room when I’m into a project. I even make space for a recliner where I sit and ponder about what the hell I’m doing—usually with a margarita in hand. I think the important thing is having space that you want to spend time in. If it’s just a boring empty room, it’s not going be very inspiring and it’s not going to be a place that a lot of time will be spent in. I think there is a perception that to build a bike with a high level of quality, it needs to be done in a professional shop setting. But I will say I’ve seen some amazing bikes come out of small, sketchy, dark garages fueled by many late nights and even more beers. It’s liberating when you realize with motivation, continual learning and some skill, not to mention a friend or two, you can really turn out some rad creations, even in a townhouse garage.
Words by Lee Sipes, Photos by Lyndsey Westfall