"Earning your bones." I had heard that statement a long time ago. I'm pretty sure that it's a New Yorker expression. It's another way of saying "paying your dues." It's a cool saying if you think about it - it makes a lot of sense. Without bones in your body, you ain't much. You sure as hell can't stand up, and standup people are a rarity nowadays. I've been in this trade full-time for at least a dozen years. I've met all sorts of people, and dealt with all sorts too. Those of you reading who have owned a shop or have been around awhile know what I'm talking about. This business has boomed so much in the last few years that it's crazy. There's all sorts of shit out there. There's a lot of great stuff too, but with all that comes crap. It's part of the deal. The bandwagon has turned into the bandbarge - and it's full. All aboard! There's money to be made in the biker world! But hey, making money is the American way.
Get this, I was at the Rat's Hole Show some time back, and this guy was talking about how his new part which he's now making wasn't patented by the original maker so he patented it and now is making money off of it. This is why guns were made. That pisses me off. There seems to be a shortage of ethics out there. But as we all know, most of these types disappear after a while. Then there are the guys who happen to have some dough (most of the time its daddy's) and open up shops. Then they have other places do their shit for them, and in the end they take all the credit. They usually don't last long; people figure them out. The drag about all of this is that these clowns are basically taking hard-earned money away from the serious builders. This is not an easy business, you really gotta love it.
There are a few who do really well, but there are more out there who are doing this for the love of it. Be it hot rods, muscle cars, or motorcycles, it's all basically the same. Lots of hours for little cash. There are a lot of talented builders out there that are not getting their fair share of the pie because of fly-by-night milkers, and I'm sure it's hurting them. As I see it, the industry is feeding itself and starting to choke on it. Almost every "chopper shop" is peddling its new product. And who's buying it? The other "chopper shop" that is doing the same thing and the guy at home who's building a chopper to sell because he thinks everyone on TV is making a fortune doing it. But hey, that's OK, we all want to get ahead in life. Someone came up to me at a recent show and said, "We're not at your level, we're not making fortunes like you!"
I thought to myself, "What the hell are you talking about? Where did you get that dumb assumption? Oh, that's right, I was on television, so I must be making millions."
This was one of the new guys I'm talking about. Money from elsewhere and opened a shop because it was his dream (since he saw it on TV). Before it was on TV, nobody except the hardcore builders wanted to do it. Now that bike building is on TV, it's everyone's dream!
Every week I get at least a couple of guys from one of those trade schools that want to work in the chopper world. It's sad because they all think that there are tons of jobs out there and that they'll make lots of money. The schools pumping them out are the ones making the money. They don't tell them that the market is saturated. Lets get this straight, I don't want to be a dream-crusher; I'm just calling it like I see it. Bike building is the soup du jour. People are taking advantage of it. Some for the wrong reasons. One of them is money. When money gets involved, everyone wants a piece of it. That's when the passion isn't there. And it shows. That's why I say that earning your bones is important. Time will weed out those that are doing this for the hell of it. And those that are doing this for the love of it will go on doing it once this fad is gone.
I don't think that the chopper scene will die out soon, but it will calm down. And with this will go the "builders" that shouldn't have opened shops in the first place along with their phony attitudes and cheeseball get-ups. You can't buy your way into everything - you gotta earn your bones.