Bikes were jammed underneath the pavilion at the Broken Spoke, awaiting their collective fate, while we judges wormed our way between each custom looking for the top picks in the Editors’ Choice Bike Show. Intermittent showers visited this Tuesday of Daytona Bike Week; the skies were occluded by rain clouds and the pavilion, being a bar and concert venue, was not particularly well lit. However, one custom that caught our eye was the red flake and pearl white paint on the bike called Spade, built by Bill Dodge of Bling’s Cycles.
Bill Dodge was born in Compton, California, and at age 9 moved to Long Beach. Having ridden and worked on motorcycles since he was a kid, he became shop foreman for Jesse James of West Coast Choppers. Bill stayed for eight years, eventually moving to Asbury Park, New Jersey, in 2005 where he opened Bling’s Cycles. I met Bill shortly after he moved to New Jersey and visited his shop at the shore. Five years ago, Bill, along with Midnight Mike, A.J., Jamie and I, headed from New Jersey to Sturgis for the rally, and let’s just say much drama and hilarity ensued. But that’s another story for another time.
Five years after Bill opened his Asbury Park business, he moved to Kentucky, deciding he needed a break. He said, “I had a shop in Sandy Hook, but I was very vacation-oriented. I did a lot of fishing, and a lot of motorcycle riding. I rode to the West Coast for the Born Free show last year and everywhere in between.” While in Kentucky, he met his fiancée Denise Black. “She owned the pizza place where I used to go. She’s also a nurse and had a hair salon, as well. Dee got involved in my shop and now she is an integral part of the business.”
He continues, “After Kentucky, my feet got cold.” Literally. Bill got tired of the cold weather and moved to Daytona Beach. His new shop on North Beach Street had been open for all of a week before the start of this year’s Bike Week. And this bike, Spade, was finished only a week before his move. The owner of the bike, a guy named Frank from upstate New York, had seen the Asbury Dirt Bike, which was the first one Bill built in Asbury Park, and he loved it. Bill says, “This one is a takeoff of that bike, but different. All my customs are somewhat similar, but none are exactly the same. When you find a configuration that works, you stick with it. You don’t change it very much. You work off that.”
The bike is the dirt-track-inspired bobber style for which Bill has become quite well known. He built the frame and all sheet metal—gas tank and gas cap, rear fender, battery box and oil tank. The front end is Bling’s with modified Harley lower legs, and the triple trees, risers and handlebars are Bling’s, as well. The motor is an S&S 93″ Shovelhead with an S&S Super E carb and S&S air cleaner. When asked about the transmission, Bill responds, “BAKER 6-speed—always!” S&S supplied the high-output ignition, Tech Cycles the belt drive and starting system, and Cycle Electric the alternator. The exhaust is a Bling’s-modified Rinehart system.
Out in front is a 23″ American-made front wheel wrapped in a 3.00 dual-sport blackwall, and bringing up the rear is a 17″ wheel, also American made, with a 150/70 Bridgestone knobby. The rear brake caliper is made by Hawg Halters Inc., and the front brake? There isn’t one. Not needed for this bike, according to Bill. A Paughco headlight graces the front and the single rear brake/taillight came from a ’34 Ford. Bill made the seat pan and the highly talented Duane Ballard crafted the leather seat. Bob Bordeaux at French Kiss Kustoms did the luscious red flake and pearl white paint job with the gas tank, oil tank and rear fender revealing the distinctive Bling’s badging—a sparkling diamond-cut gem.
Also adorning the fender is the phrase, “A lil dirt don’t hurt.” Bill’s bikes are no trailer queens; they are meant to be ridden, and ridden hard. Bill says, “They can all ride the twisties of Kentucky and then get on the highway at 120 mph.” He even entered the bike in the BAKER Drivetrain Smoke-Down Showdown at the Iron Horse Saloon during Bike Week. These bikes aren’t built to be babied. And, he says, “There’s nothing on my motorcycles that’s not needed. There’s no fluff.”
Each Bling’s Cycles custom bike is specifically tailored to the customer. “Frank had some ideas, but he just let me go. He saw the bike when it was raw steel, sat on it, loved on it a little bit, but hasn’t seen it painted other than looking at a few photos. And there are some cool touches on this bike. He’s a construction guy; does it for a living, so I integrated a wood design into the seat for him.” The bike was scheduled to be delivered to Frank two weeks after Bike Week.
Friday night, Bill and Dee were planning to host a little get-together, so just before dark I rode to his new shop, just a half-mile north of Riverfront Park. There I got the grand tour of the spacious, well-equipped facility where folks were checking out some of the builds in progress. Inside the showroom Bill’s numerous magazine features and awards were on display. As one of the top builders in the world, he was one of 50 invited to construct a custom in commemoration of S&S Cycles’ 50th anniversary in 2008.
Bill says it can take between six weeks and three months for most custom builds. He has started building semi-production models, with the first in the series named the Club Edition (as in the card suit). These bikes have a lighter-weight frame and sell for $20,000. Coming soon is the Spade Edition, based off the custom featured here. The Spade is a little heavier with a little more horsepower, and will sell for $28,000. All parts are American made except the tires and the Harley/Showa lower legs. The springer version of the Spade will be completely American made. The Heart Edition will probably be a Sportster, and the Diamond Edition will be the high end of the series. However, none of the Bling’s bikes sell for more than $30,000.
Bill says, “Although we consider this a semi-production bike, every one is handmade by me. I get help in the shop, but not for building motorcycles. You can blame your happiness or your sadness on me.”
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