American Iron Issue 317 ~ Randy Hocker’s custom Panhead loses altitude

Check out  “Sweet and Low Down” issue 317 of American Iron Magazine, now available at local newsstands and online! ..  See their website for more details.

Believe me, Folks, There’s no Question that I’ve been down. Whether it was emotionally, psychologically, physically, or even spiritually, I have scraped the bottom of the barrel. Yes, you heard it here, I have indeed been low. Being low mechanically, however, is a whole other kettle of fish. And that’s where this gorgeous asphalt toboggan you see here has got me beat in just about every way imaginable. Allow me to explain: Sweet & Low Down.

I suppose one of my lower moments occurred sometime in the mid-1990s when a couple of friends of mine decided to ride out to Sturgis, spend a few days, and then continue on to Las Vegas. I was filled with envy, but i was somehow convinced that I had too much work, too much heat from my girlfriend, and too little time to get my act together for what was shaping up to be a 5000 mile trip.

Then came the week of their departure, and all of a sudden, in a panic, I cashed in every favor i had a work, told my girlfriend that this was important to me spiritually and jumped on my bike just as my friends were hitting the road. Unlike my friends, however, i had not changed my oil, cranked down any of the various bolts that need cranking, or most importantly, take a serious look at my rear tire.

The tire wasn’t terrible, but it probably only had about 2500 safe miles on it. By the time we reached Colorado it as a righteous bald eagle. I’ll never forget the words of a fellow road warrior who, upon noticing my condition said, “Man if you’re not careful, you’re gonna roll off one of these roads.”

Luckily that didn’t happen. Why 1 didn’t stop somewhere and change that thing still haunts me to this day. I did, however, have the delightful experience of a good old-fashion 70 mph blowout in the Utah desert. It isn’t as bad as you might imagine. The back end gets a little squirrely, but you’re more or less still in control .However, it is quite amazing how low you suddenly find yourself. I could have easily reached down and touched the pavement if I hadn’t been more focused on the possibility of serious bodily harm.

Now, to the matter at hand. I didn’t choose to get that low (or maybe I did out of sheer foolishness) , but for Randy Hocker, the owner of this sweet 1965 H-D Panhead hammock, it was all part of the plan.

Randy is the owner of a bike shop based in Loveland Colorado, aptly named Phat Rides Custom Cycles. He grew up riding motocross, doing all of his own wrenching, much like the way many a two wheel addict got his start. Once he had graduated to streetbikes, Fat Boys being his preference in the early days, he had what might be called an epiphany.

“I guess I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t like to see my exact same bike pull up next to me at gas station,”  says the custom creator. He suffered through that conundrum for a few years, obviously well before our featured Pan came to fruition, and then decided he’d had enough. It was the year 2000, he was still working a relatively stock ’98 Fat Boy, but out came the wrench and there was no looking back. Hence Phat Rides was born.

Take one look at this Panhead, and it’s aesy to say that his Fat Boy education paid off. The strange paret is that when you speak to Randy he’s humble about his accomplishments. He’s quick to give credit to the compatriots who have helped on any project, and he wants to make it clear that his primary business is servicing, dyno-tuning, and selling other people’s bikes on consignment.

Fair enough, but I’m calling him out.

From my point of view, this bike shows what Phat Rides is capable of. This wasn’t any customer spec job. Nor was it on consignment. This was strictly Randy’s vision, and one of the key factors was that it had to be low.

Randy has seen plenty of drop-seat frames, but they all seemed a little too severe. What he was looking for was a deep drop that still had a flow to it. A friend of his happened to have a ’65 Pan that had been customized, but unfortunately the original frame was broken. Randy jumped at the opportunity just for the engine and tranny.

Many times drop-seat frames have an almost 90-degree curve. Not only do they look bad, but one might fear for the crotch-wrenching that may occur upon a priority braking scenario. Randy’s custom frame, an entirely Phat Rides –built piece, is just a whole lot cooler – simple as that.

Oh, that reminds me, Brakes? Nah, Randy chose to go light on the particular aspect. None in the front, as any self-respecting clean chopper would be obligated to do away with. But in addition, he has a perimeter back brake just to keep things interesting. With a foot-crank magneto ignition, jockey shift and foot clutch, these is plenty of fun to be had. Another striking detail is the double-barrel shotgun short pipes hand-crafted by the man himself. At first glance, I almost thought they were 2 into 1, but when you’re looking at the bike this clean, it’s funny how much you can miss.

Now if you lean back far enough that rear tire will give you an eye-opening taste of rubber rash,  but, technically, you’re not able to do that because the bars are pitched forward enough that you’re nowhere near that snarling caboose. Of course, you could always go with the “Look, Ma, no hands” approach, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

It may sound like I’m having fun at Randy’s expense, but the truth is that it is one of the most badass bikes I’ve been assigned to write about in quite some time. Just look at it. This man doesn’t just service bikes. He doesn’t’ just dyno bikes. He doesn’t just sell on consignment.

He’s a bike builder, and we should all take note.

So let’s bring it full circle. How low is low? When I below out in the Utah desert, I was still about 2’ from the tarmac. This beast is 17” with tires fully inflated. Is it comfortable? No. Randy doesn’t like to ride more than 70 miles in one shot. Does the riding position turn Randy into a slightly regressive knuckle-dragger? Yes

Does the fact that no one pulls up with anything even remotely similar to tis bike at a gas station make it all worth it? Come on, do I even need to answer the question? ~ Sean Bowe