I pull up for this photoshoot and Nelson says, “Damn, this bike is Indian Larry–inspired.” I kind of shrugged in my mind, like oooh shit, he found me out…so what do I say?
Let’s go back to 1999—I had some buddies that were always talking bikes but never doing anything about it. I was never attracted to bikes because of the fact I’d never really seen anything that I’d want to drop 10 Gs on. I was in my early 20s at the time, so money wasn’t falling out of my pockets.
Then one day there was a bent up magazine on my friend’s floor. In that magazine was a chrome framed bike, with a gas tank painted in red and white with scallops and flames, shovel motor with STD panheads, magneto, round oil tank, and “haha” swazi transmission plug. It was something I’d never seen before, I was trippin’. For months, it was imbedded in my mind. I never connected Indian Larry to that bike; I just wanted it.
All I wanted was that bike under me, that’s all I thought about. No one I had known could tell me whose bike it was in the picture. So one day I went to visit a unnamed chopper shop and while standing in the parking lot, some long-haired Hawaiian dude named Nelson was telling me, “Bruddah, we can make a pretty cool bike for 15k.” I was like shit, I’m going to have to do this on my own! My job was good but not that good. I had just came out of a five year stint living in a van, so money was always a shaky thing to me but I started collecting parts.
I ended up moving into a house with some friends which had a garage with a lock on it. We cut the lock and opened the door and it was like a scene in Pulp Fiction; I was opening the brief case with the yellow glowing light shining in my face. It was a lone table with a brand-new Hobart welder sitting on it. For the next couple months I just welded anything I could get a hold of. And it was around this time I had all the pieces I needed. Ooh, then my grandfather dies and leaves behind a whole toolshed with a lathe and all kinds of good stuff for me. It felt like I built something so unimaginable but through all life’s crap, I did it.
That first bike I built led me to a whole business building leather seats, a whole lot of them. The solo seat world went from flat and sliding onto your rear fender, to a bent pan that kept you on your ride. “Don’t be slippin’ when you’re out trippin’.” I remember taking a friend’s English saddle from her horse-training career and thinking, “I just want to cut the seat section out and put it on my bike.”
Full momentum from what has inspired me in the past, I’m just trying to do what I love and trying to get the money to follow at redtailleather.com. Every penny I’ve ever made goes right back into my shop. I’m not thinking about being rich because I’m happy right now, and I know I will always be happy. So money is bound to follow.
Without ever knowing Indian Larry, it’s his magical way of carrying himself for the world to see, his ideas on life, his ideas on bikes, on how to treat people, on how to really be a man that has the baddest shit in town and be so modest about it all; being cool when everything is falling apart, and even still being cool to the biggest douche bag in the crowd that would stab you in the back at any givin moment. I swear to you I got a whole life right now from a man that I’ve never met. Everything in my life is pretty much owed to him.
This is the bike that came out of me. I feel like it was the pieces I picked up, the stuff I cut up, bent, and melted together. I cursed and bled all over it, screamed and smiled at it. This bright, shiny bike is all Indian Larry. As corny as this story is, Indian Larry is my hero. It’s crazy how little steps towards something so small you’re building turns into something so big. You might not even see it until someone else points it out. This chopper life we all choose is art and the picture you paint might not matter to you at the moment, but it does matter to the eyes you don’t even know are watching. STC