RENO – Von Metal V Twin Racing Development is owned and operated by Justin Von Metal. His business is located on Geiger Grade and he like many, around motorcycles, has a long history of racing and engineering.
“I started out in motorcycle racing, racing dirt bikes when I was 8-year-old,” he said.
After growing up in Southern California where motorcycle racing was part of life when he attended UTI mechanical college then went to Texas to earn a mechanical engineering degree. The knowledge, combined with his motocross and truck racing allowed him to work on his own things and open some doors.
“So coming back from college I called up Pro Circuit, it was on a Wednesday and Mitch Patten said, ‘hey can you be here at 1 o’clock?’ So I went to there, interviewed and at 1:30 clocked in.
At that time Pro Circuit was located in Corona, California. After working for them Von Metal decided on a change of direction.
“Got out of that and decided I’m going back to riding Harleys. Then it was working on Harleys and working for everybody else,” he said. “I found out my niche was racing and was I was really good at was riding and developing the style of motocross racing into riding Harleys.”
One thing he would do with a Harley Davidson is to either put Pro Taper or Renthal handle bars on them. This modifying the bikes led him to his current business; building Performance Baggers.
Well for those that don’t know, and this reporter was one of them, these are modified bikes based on one of the four touring models that Harley Davidson produces.
“So what we do is to take them and shave off about 400 pounds via titanium bolts, aluminum parts and basically putting them on a real diet, real quick,” he said.
The bike begins its life between 900 to 1100 pounds depending on the model. The goal for Von Metal is to shave the weight down to around 600 pounds.
“Currently my Bagger weights around 640 to 645 pounds,” he said.
After the diet there is work to be done on the suspension and installing after market brakes.
“The types of brakes I run is off a Ducatti, I run with radial calipers so I get premium braking and we run oversized wheels on them. We run a 21 on the front and an 18 on the rear so we have the ground clearance so you can go around a turn without scrapping or high siding,” he said.
Further suspension modifications include inverted forks in the front, triple clamps, piggyback race shocks in the back, aluminum swing arms and converting it from a belt to a chain drive. The clutch basket is worked on and ceramic bearings are used in both the motor and transmission.
Then there is the motor and those modifications can run from ten to twenty five thousand dollars.
“And we’re going from a bike that starts at production from 68 to 72 horses and getting it up to 170 to 200 horses,” he said.
He also added that once all this work is done the bike still is street legal and can easily be used on the street.
These bikes are also used for racing.
“The hard part is to find an area you can actually try and stop traffic so you don’t have that extra risk of coming around a corner and having a head on collision,” he said. “It’s like the hill climb outside of Virginia City when the truck route is shut off during competition.”
Once an area if found they either use a bandana or light drop to signal the start and from two to four people go at a time.
“You know everybody races a quarter mile at a time but we live our life 5 to 21 miles at a time. It’s not about how fast you are, it’s about how fast and how long,” he said. “Because there is a lot more skill that’s involved from racing from zero to six, eight to 21 miles. You’re pushing hard, you’re pushing from 90 to 150 miles an hour and that puts a toll on your body. You get tired really quick because you have to hand on that thousand pound motorcycle but you’re racing for 15 minutes and its solid.”
While racing is part of the scene, the other is the lifestyle enjoyed by most riders. And that is due for a shot in the arm as a few weeks ago Von Metal was featured in a trailer for a production company that works for the Discovery Channel.
Discovery is bringing back American Chopper in February and depending on the response Von Metal and his Baggers might also have a show of their own.
“The whole purpose of the show is that it just isn’t about racing, it’s a bout daily life of guys and friends that ride motorcycles every day and the lives they live,” he said. “And how we produce these motorcycles, what it goes though and all the engineering that comes to it. And at the same time going out and having a good time.”
He also feels that Street Vibrations helps out the industry, diversifies the customer base and allows the business to grow. He expained there are two groups, the hardcore riders and the motorcycle enthusiasts.
Asked about the feeling someone gets when riding a motorcycle he said, “It’s the factors of freedom and when you jump on that bike and you’re on the road, dirt or wherever there are senses of that road that just come to you that I can’t explain. I can’t tell you because you need to experience it for yourself and it’s different for every person. It’s a spot where you just forget about all the worries of the world.”
This past year has been a milestone for him and his business.
“I’ve been doing this off and on for 22 years an believe it or not it was just a couple of months before Street Vibes that I went full time,” he said. “It was more like a part time thing, still working a regular blue collar job like everybody else. But it was starting to get to the point where I was getting 10 calls a day and I’d have to turn bikes away.”
For him it was a make or break deal if he was to continue so he made that leap of faith. He added that all the stars lined up and the location on Geiger Grade he wanted and scouted became available.
He also is optimistic if a show comes back to TV and has a good response.
“I see that exact thing happening once either our show hits the air or American Chopper comes back out in February. You’re going to see numbers grow because people want to be a part of it,” he said.
Looking at the industry as a whole he feels the diversity of motorcycles and the amount of work a person can do to them is a good thing. But, in his opinion he’s not exactly in agreement with the way Harley Davidson is going.
“I think it’s the factors that the corporate side is trying to control the customer. Telling you can’t put aftermarket parts on it, you can’t do this, you can’t hop your motor, you can’t put wheels on it because it will void your warrantee,” he said. “And that isn’t what it is about. Harley Davidson didn’t design motorcycles to control customers. They built motorcycles for the customer to be free and I think they’re losing sight of that.”
Since his shop works on both older and new Harleys they’ve been doing their homework. In fact they just spent an entire month studying the new Milwaukee 8 motor that just came out with four valves a cylinder.
He also has bought not only the service manual but the diagnostic service manual as well. The diagnostic one is about twice a thick as the service one.
“It’s just insane. I was like ‘wow,’ if that doesn’t tell you you’re on the wrong path when you design a diagnostic manual that is bigger than your service manual you might be doing something wrong here,” he said.
His objections to having everything relying on computers is, “as they say, simple is always fast.”
Looking into the future, especially since the New Year is less than two weeks away, Von Metal is pretty optimistic and has plans for 2018.
“I see our company diversifying and getting bigger and bigger due to the fact I specialize in building Performance Baggers. That’s what I do and what we do every single day and it doesn’t stop,” he said. “This is basically four months of me being in this location and we’re doing so well we’re thinking about opening up a second location.
“I would consider myself a motorcycle enthusiast that loves what he does and plans on looking to the future of just keep building these bikes and making them better and better,” he said.
For further information on his company the website is www.vonmetalvtwin.com and they are also on Face Book.
REPORTER’S NOTE: DUE TO THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY THE USUAL MONDAY ARTICLE WILL ACTUALLY BE POSTED ON TUESDAY.
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