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Custom Panhead by Prism Motorcycle Co.


Posted on August 20, 2014 by Scott in Bobber. 23 comments

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Story by Bill Bryant – from Issue Fifteen of Iron & Air

Wisdom and timeless style generally evolve after decades of mistakes and missteps. The brothers Hindes of the Prism Motorcycle Company in North Carolina are overachievers in every sense of the word, and the depth of their work belies their age. In their mid-twenties, the duo have officially been in business for only two years, having already completed an impressive number of custom motorcycles and handmade parts.

Jake and Zach have skill-sets and accomplishments that many older men would be proud to have amassed. In addition to machine and sheet metal work, they’ve also spent time fabricating race cars while Jake’s mechanical engineering degree helps round them out.

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“I do feel we have both advantages and disadvantages due to our age and shop location. I feel we are looked down upon often when people find out we’re in our mid 20’s. I guess people don’t think you can be good at something at a young age,” Jake said without hesitation. “This just motivates us more to be better at our craft. What people may not be aware of is how much experience we have in working with metal and fabricating. We have been around some of the best fabricators in the world due to our location here in the Charlotte, NC, area. You have to think about all of the race shops that are around us. So for us, we grew up fabricating.

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“The unique thing about our shop and how we build bikes is the fact that we actually build a majority of the parts that go on our builds,” he continues. “Frames, front ends, tanks, oil bags, fenders, exhaust, etc. We make them all by hand in house at Prism. We didn’t know that was not the norm for a motorcycle shop.”

The bike featured here is their latest ground-up creation, built on the recent #BikerLive TV show on Discovery Channel. On the show, the Prism crew edged out two other shops in a social media-based viewer voting process. The TV angle isn’t really important to their story, but might be a sign that maybe, just maybe, the general public is moving away from God awful, OCC-style abominations and starting to appreciate classy, traditional-styled customs. With the artificial deadline created by the producers of about two months, the brothers had little time for procrastination or bad decisions and got down to the business of building a motorcycle from scratch.

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The frame was handcrafted in the Prism shop and mimics the stock geometry of a vintage Harley Davidson straight leg. Jake’s mechanical engineering degree and SolidWorks experience was put to use during design of the springer front end, and various models were tested and cycled through their paces virtually before the actual fork was built. The brothers built a long list of parts for the machine, including: frame, springer, tank, exhaust, bars, oil tank, air cleaner, and seat.

“We wanted to make a timeless, traditionally-styled chopper, and build as much of it by ourselves as possible. The springer may only have a couple inches of travel, but it works great and helps the bike have that old-fashioned feel when you ride it,” Jake explained. “The bike and rider are much more connected than something with plush suspension. That communicative feeling a bike like this delivers is like a time machine, giving a contemporary rider an experience shared with generations long gone.”

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This seemingly timeless old motorcycle does feature some modern conveniences, including an electric start, a 5-speed transmission, and a 103” S&S panhead engine. No clapped-out, low-compression 74-inch motor here; this is a modern wolf in sheep’s clothing. The electric foot makes starting it easier. These were requests made by the bike’s owner Tim Clark, who commissioned Prism to build it long before the TV guys came around. Jake and Zach are cool with it and believe if the electric starter makes it more enjoyable for its owner, why not?

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Another local artisan who pitched in was the Hindes brothers’ buddy Porkchop, who did the flawless paint that is flashy enough to be interesting but low-key and classy at the same time. As always, nothing is done alone, and the Prism guys thank their friends who helped out along the way: Andy Williamson from Refuel Motor Culture, Peter Matofy, Randy Rollins, Derek Fearheiley, and Josh Jennings. Charlotte, North Carolina, might not be on the chopper world’s radar yet, but it’s on its way. Having solid, young builders with a passion for doing things themselves and doing it right is a good start, and we look forward to watching Prism lead the way.

Iron & Air have offered Pipeburn readers $10 off a subscription. Just punch in the code ‘PIPEBURN’ here.

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[Images by Neale Bayly, Patrick Bayly & Brett Houle]








  • Junior Burrell

    Love what these guys are doing and how they do it. They had me at “Handcrafted”!!! Not everyone is building as many parts themselves nowadays and I wish that would change. Beautiful machine !!!!!

  • MayDayMoto

    Gorgeous. So elegant. This is a cruiser style bike I would be proud to be seen on. So much finesse. I really like how there are none of the usual overly macho, burly tough guy styling cues here.

    • AppleJuiceFlood

      But rainbow colors, spikes, skulls and flames are so manly-rambo-tough! ;D

  • revdub

    Massively beautiful bike, in every detail, created by seriously talented craftsmen. What’s not to love?

  • I beg your pardon, guys, but I’ll tell you what not to like. Related not only to this particular bike, but one thing happening from time to time on custom bike scene. Beautifully built machine being proportional and awesome on photos, looks just awkward when you see it in action. We all know that size matters, and when a man rides an animal, we can say is it a horse or a pony. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – I enjoy watching this bike on it’s own, but I sincerely don’t – with a rider.

    • TJ Martin

      Personally I’m just not seeing what you are obviously . What I mean to say is … this is not one of my top ten bikes of the year by a long shot . But then again I’m not seeing anything wrong with it … rider on board or not … either . Hmmn .

      • Really? Fun stuff. I see the rider in a position of an adult, who occupied a baby chair and this contrast doesn’t seem harmonic to me. Like smart roadster – nothing wrong with it until you try to squash in getting your butt stuck between the seat and the handlebar. I’m ok with the variety of tastes and standards, and really enjoy first… 6 pictures in this post. If you enjoy all 7 your might be a happier man, which is a good stuff, to my belief. Peace.

        • Apoloniusz Musialek

          I have the same feeling. To me the handlebar is just to narrow. Other than that- lovely bike, and beautifully done. Just my 3 cents.

        • paco

          I’ve seen a lot of bike builders discuss the symmetry and geometry of a build so that it ‘looks right’, is visually balanced etc. However do many incorporate the rider element into this process? I mean, that’s the tricky bit; bike needs to look good on it’s own, look good with a rider on it and then also ride well!

          With that said, this is a very elegant build that may just look better in my garage than with me on it.

        • TJ Martin

          Maybe its because I’ve seen more Customs , Bobbers & Zen bikes etc actually being ridden ? Hard to say but from my 50 + years perspective this bike looks pretty darn normal to me .

        • Bowds

          Agreed. Remove the bike and the rider looks a camper taking a dump in the woods for the first time. Cool details but I would prefer a cruiser to have more of a recliner couch feel over a mini clown bike.

    • MayDayMoto

      huh?

    • David Egan

      I think Igor raises a very good point. The bike looks weird with the guy on it and I have the same reaction to a lot of the “with rider” shots on PB. Sans rider though it looks great and I love the craftsmanship.

  • Ryan

    Hah, I grew up within a mile of that field. Pretty awesome to see that on PB today! Nice work Prism!

  • Spyker May

    One cannot comment on a bike like this without being either hopelessly corny or a supreme d1ckhead – trust me, each and every comment here, falls in either one of the TWO categories.

    At the risk of sticking out like a sore thumb, or is that a bruised honeymoon d***, I will opt for being infatuatedly corny:

    The Panhead was invented with the destiny of this build…

    Ouch.., ye I know its bad, but heck she is just such a thing of simplistic beauty – I am smitten.

    • TJ Martin

      Really ? Hmmmn . I’m having a hard time seeing my comment about this bike as either ‘ Hopelessly Corny ‘ [ my praise is minimal ] .. or ‘ supreme d-head [ seeing how my criticism is all but non-existent ]

      Fact is I read my comment as being fairly well balanced .. appreciating the good about the bike [ stating there’s nothing wrong with it ] while not loving it

      So … errr … perhaps a bit of over generalization on your part ?

      Errr …. Yup !

  • AWLongmeyer

    Makes an old man dream of younger days…

    Thanks Jake & Zach. Excellent build!

  • This has all the Zen chopper thing going for it…simple in design but complex in execution, lavish in attention to detail but minimal in components. The curve of the rear cylinder exhaust is exquisite and organic as it flows around the transmission, Nothing extra but nothing left out.

    • TJ Martin

      Glad you said it this time [ Zen reference ] rather than me …. 😉

      and ……Well said all the way around

      By the way … I wouldn’t stuff your comment into Spyker May’s ” Hopelessly Corny / Supreme d-head ” box either !

    • Davidabl2

      Zen feel, perhaps. But not the same Zen feel as a Samurai chop.
      I have no idea which would be more meditative to ride, unfortunately.

  • SportsterMike

    Lovely looking Panhead – and yes, rider looks awkward on it, I think its the mid mount pegs doing it.. forwards would stretch the legs out and look more comfy.. well as comfy as you can be on a rigid frame. Love that rear light (and no wires on view)

  • Patat01

    Flawless.

  • Davidabl2

    It’s all been done before…but rarely,if ever, with so much pure elegance.