Friday Feb 15 2008
Beauty on wheels
By: Andrew DiLuccia, Journal Motoring Editor
Local bike builder wins top award for crimson-and-chrome creation
GRASS VALLEY ” Mike Maggio just wants his bike back, but his motorcycle has an agenda of its own. That's what happens when you have Carl Brouhard design and build a custom motorcycle, it becomes America's Most Beautiful Motorcycle and promptly sets out on its own publicity tour. It's the first such award for the bike-building Grass Valley resident, who ironically, wasn't much of a motorcycle guy at one time. I never even had an interest in motorcycles, he said. That was until he hooked up with the legendary bike customizer and builder Arlen Ness, and began sketching out designs of bikes Ness would bring to life. Since then it's been a 16-year odyssey of building and customizing motorcycles for customers like Maggio, and NBA stars such as former Sacramento Kings Vlade Divac and Scot Pollard. But Brouhard's been a man whose name hasn't been seen in the bright lights much ” that is until a recent string of his own bikes began turning heads. Most recently is the above-mentioned America's Most Beautiful Motorcycle, which just earned that moniker at the 59th Grand National Roadster Show in Pomona, Calif., Jan. 25-27. The eye-popping red bike, commissioned by San Dimas resident Maggio, is valued at $175,000 and features a 214-cubic-inch, four-cylinder twin-turbo engine that produces 375 horsepower called the V-Quad. This engine was developed and patented by Newcastle resident Greg Nelson of Nelson Engineering, whose V-Quad engine has been used by the bike-building family the Teutuls, of the TV show American Chopper on TLC. One of Nelson's engines was used on the Intel bike, which was made by the Teutuls for the Intel Corporation in honor of their then-new Quad Cone chip. It's been just a wonderful partnership, working with Carl, Nelson said. It's boosted his reputation, and mine. Last weekend, Sacramento Autorama audiences got a chance to see Brouhard's latest creation, and it picked up honors there, too. Awards such as first place for Radical Custom Bike and the Sweepstakes award for motorcycles have been added to the bike's trophy case. Next up for the award-winning bike is the invite-only Fresno Autorama, and a photo shoot with Cycle World magazine, which is another feather in Brouhard's hat. Cycle magazine usually doesn't do customized bikes (for photo shoots), Brouhard said. But they saw it at Pomona and wanted to get a shot of it. Brouhard, a long-time foothills resident, moved his shop from Auburn to his home a few years ago. It's been there that creations like the FOURgiven bike have been born and cemented Brouhard as a stand-alone bike builder. In his 2,300-square-foot shop Brouhard and his team, which includes his wife of 23 years, Lynda, and even their 5-year-old son, Matthew, create the bikes from scratch, doing everything from designing to fabricating metal for the motorcycles and painting them. Brouhard's shop walls are adorned with plaques of all the bikes he's helped build and design over the past 16 years ” there isn't much blank wall space. I'm proud of all the people that work with me, Brouhard said of his crew, which includes 15-year veteran Bud Price and newcomer Gomer Masumbuko. And he's thankful to have customers like Maggio, who, including America's Most Beautiful Motorcycle, owns four of Brouhard's bikes and is having him build him a fifth so that they can become the first to win America's Most Beautiful Bike in back-to-back years. Brouhard's motorcycles range in price from $50,000 all the way up to $200,000. I'm blessed to have customers like Mike, because without him, we wouldn't be able to do this, Brouhard said. It seems the foundation drilling company owner from San Dimas doesn't mind the price tags, because to him, these bikes are more than just machinery. Some people are into paintings and sculpture, I'm not. I'm into something you can touch and polish and sit on and ride, Maggio said. To me, these are a Mona Lisa, a Van Gogh, these are just beautiful works of art. How he comes up with all this stuff, I don't know. Brouhard's bike-building skills have spanned the nation and the globe as his bikes grace the pages of international specialty magazines throughout Europe. But his knack for customizing motorcycles has also found its way into the world of the NBA. (NBA player) Luc Longley got a hold of Arlen Ness looking to get a custom bike, and he mentioned me to him, said Brouhard, who was standing next Atlanta Hawks center Lorenzen Wright's second bike. I got to be good friends with Luc and he was telling other guys in the NBA, then it went from there. It's always kept us busy. But it's not all beauty with Brouhard's bikes, he also builds them to go fast, like another he built for Maggio that they're hoping will break the Bonneville Salt Flats land-speed record this year. Brouhard has expanded into merchandising, recently returning from a trade show in Cincinnati where he promoted his new exhaust system distributed by Drag Specialties. He hopes to expand the line, making accessories that everyday riders can put on their bikes. As the countless hours and months of work for each individual bike earn Brouhard more and more recognition, he still gets a kick out showing those in the bike-building world that world-class bikes can come out of a small hamlet like Grass Valley in Northern California. There's just a real satisfaction to go down to Southern California with those Southern California boys and stick it to those guys, Brouhard said. But for Maggio, all he knows is he has an empty spot in his garage for his latest bike. Oh yeah, he said. I can't wait to get this one back. The Journal's Andrew DiLuccia can be reached at email@example.com or post a comment at auburnjournal.com.