For at least 54 of Mark Moran’s 60 years, he’s had a thing about motorcycles.
“The freedom. Just the freedom that two wheels provide,” said Moran, of Lewiston, explaining his passion.
“I’m just a motorcycle junkie. I just love them, and they’ve always been, like, a source of freedom and decompression for me.”
Over his lifetime, Moran estimates he’s owned … well, he’s not sure how many bikes. “I lost track at over 50. I’m down to two.”
Don’t even ask about the money he’s spent. Fortunately, he has a loving and understanding wife, Eva.
“It’s amazing,” Moran said. “My lovely and beautiful wife really supports me in my motorcycle adventures. And I just love her to death for it.”
Although there’s always a thrill to owning a new bike, sometimes starting from scratch and the challenge of crafting an operable bike from a piece of junk can be the next big bang.
This year, Moran, along with his teammates, sons Jeramie and Nick Moran, and friend Lonnie Erickson, entered the fifth annual Blue Collar Build Off, a competition near Kingman, Ariz., that challenges bike builders to create a machine in 30 days using no more than $1,500.
Reached by phone in Las Vegas, Rob Borden, organizer of the event, said the idea came about after watching similar bike-building contests featuring famous people on the Discovery Channel. Borden said he pitched the idea of having a show with just “regular guys” to one of the hosts of the Discovery Channel show.
“I used to enjoy watching (those shows),” he said, “but I felt like there was something missing. The problem is, most people just can’t relate to those build-offs. The average guy doesn’t have high-dollar equipment and machinery. Your average guy works 9 to 5 with a couple hours on the weekend to tinker on his bike.”
Borden said the TV guy liked his idea, but, as of yet, nothing has come of it. Instead, he decided to develop his own bike build-off contest.
On the event’s website Borden explains:
“Anybody can save up a wad of cash and go buy a hot bike. Then pull up to Starbucks and park next to two other ones just like it.”
The Blue Collar Build Off dares bikers to assemble a team of no more than four people and create their own bike from a donor bike or a heap of metal parts.
“A lot of people will say it can’t be done for $1,500,” Borden said. “Again, creative talks, bull---- walks. This challenge is not for them. … They are the ones that are probably parked at Starbucks.
“This is for down and dirty, nitty-gritty grease monkey bad asses. I guarantee you, the bikes in this competition will turn a whole lot more heads, too.”
The contest began at midnight March 19, and bikes had to be completed by April 18.
Borden said about 18 people originally registered for the contest, but only about seven made it to the event. That’s slightly fewer contestants than usual, he said, but there are always people who, for various reasons, are unable to fulfill the contest requirements and drop out.
Moran and his teammates started working in his garage “at midnight, March 19. … We each kind of designated ourselves a job, and we focused on what we had proposed to do individually. But a lot of it, the entire bike, was just done together,” he said. “I could not have built this bike without them. We only had 30 days, and without them it wouldn’t have happened.”
Moran started with a donated 1986 Honda 250 Rebel.
“A friend of mine had the motorcycle, and it had not run for over 15 years,” he said. “So he told me I could have it and just come and get it off his property.”
The design for the rebuilt bike Moran had in mind came from a vintage bike he’d admired for years.
“I was fascinated by a motorcycle built in 1923 called a Temple – Anzani. What really caught my eye about it, it had a small motor, and it was completely made out of copper,” he said. “It set land speed records for 1923 — it reached a breakneck speed of 106 miles per hour. That was really fast.”
The choice of copper is a mystery.
“I don’t really know why they did that in 1923 — possibly copper was more accessible than steel was. But it really caught my eye, and it was a rigid frame motorcycle,” meaning it had no suspension or shock absorbers.
Moran and his team tried to replicate the Temple – Anzani as best they could. Some of the characteristics included a solo seat, a low-slung handlebar and being lightweight.
“I peeled off every bit of excess weight that I could on this motorcycle,” he said. “It’s very light. The taller wheels and tires were a lot of what they used in the early 1900s.”
Moran said it took some doing to locate some of the material, “but I tracked down a lot of the parts, and I was really happy with the way that it turned out.”
Altogether, he spent about $1,100 on the new machine. The most expensive part, he said, was the rigid frame, which cost $319.
The bike builders from around the country who entered the competition weren’t monitored about the details, but Moran said he thinks most people were on the up-and-up.
“It was kind of an honesty deal,” he said. “This competition is nationwide. We had people from California to New Jersey and in between. So there was really no way to totally monitor it, but I think everybody was basically pretty honest.”
The next stop was to gather at Borden’s Wild West Rendezvous at the Saddle Sore Ranch in Golden Valley, Ariz., where the participants joined in a 100-mile Builders Ride. It wasn’t a race, Moran said, more just a way of getting out and testing the machines they’d built.
This was where Moran realized the effect on his body of a rigid-frame bike.
“It was a shakedown ride to make sure what you built could actually run. At the end of the 100 miles I really felt I had been through the grinder,” he said. “The race route is on old Route 66, which is littered with potholes and rough areas. It was really tough.”
At the end of that “shakedown ride” the builders gathered back at the ranch for the awards ceremony.
Moran and his team won first place in the Garage Built category and Best of Show. They also got the Bikers Choice Award from Conaway Custom Builders in Illinois, an individual award in honor of the Conaways’ father, Tony.
No money came with the prizes, but Moran said he will be featured in an upcoming issue of Cycle Source magazine.
He said he has built a few bikes in the past but never entered them in a competition. He has won awards on other bikes he’s owned, such as a custom-built chopper from a company called American IronHorse.
This year he hopes to have something entered in Hot August Nights show and shine in Lewiston.
And while he can dream about becoming a professional bike builder, he said that’s probably not going to happen. For the time being, Moran plans to keep his day job at CCI in Lewiston.
But he takes pride in knowing he tried something new and got some credit for it.
“It’s the satisfaction that came from realizing that you could do this,” he said. “And if you’re as passionate as I am about motorcycles, then it is what you should do.”
Hedberg may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 983-2326.
“The freedom. Just the freedom that two wheels provide.”
Mark Moran, of Lewiston, explaining his passion for motorcycles.