June Softly

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Firefighter ~ Philanthropist ~ Bike Builder

Robby Smith
I am a career firefighter with a passion for building bikes.  I started building bikes a few years ago and anymore, it seems like it’s all I want to do. Up front I have to say that I do not build motorcycles alone.  I will never take full credit for my builds.  I have a lot of help, mainly, from my good friends Josh McBride, Todd Speckman, and Christian Logue.  Together, they have and continue to teach me an immeasurable amount of…

In addition to my friends, I have learned from a combination of self teaching, a lot of trial and error, and a “how to” book by Billy Lane of Choppers Inc.  To be honest, I’m still learning as I go. 

I like my bikes to be “bare bones” with rigid frames, I don’t like tires bigger than 250mm.  I build my own springer front ends with my friend Josh.  They are very clean and built right.  As far as paint, I believe in the “less is more” concept. 

Paint by Sprengel's Innovative Kustoms
 Jason Sprengel of Sprengel's Innovative Kustoms is my painter.  He is a friend of mine, is very talented, and has painted for Jesse James.  My friend, Adam Croft, is my “leather guy” and one of my best friends.  He has done several seats for Choppers Inc.  Heather New of New Line Engraving is my engraver.  She is very talented and above anything else, she’s a really cool/nice lady.

New-Line Engraving
I don’t deny that my bikes are heavily influenced by Billy Lane of Choppers Inc and I will always own that.  To me, he is the best bike builder in the world; an artist that changed the game and I love his stuff.  He is on another level.  His style is what I like. His style is what his “how to” book teaches.  I have put many Choppers Inc. parts on my bikes including a gas tank (I customized it), tag lights, builders kit, angel wings, oil tank, etc.  As I stated earlier, I am still learning as I go and I hope to develop my own style and move from his influences.  Understand that before I started building bikes, I didn’t know ANYTHING.  I was raised by a single mother and grew up around Longaberger baskets, and Pampered Chef parties.  I had to start somewhere and because this is all new for me, I had to learn how to do something, before I can change it and/or get ideas of my own.   

King of Sleeze built by Billy Lane at Choppers Inc.
I don’t want to be the world’s next famous bike builder.  I just want to keep building cool bikes, continue to develop my own style, and continue to fund more tool purchases.  This world is bigger than JUST me so I want to do positive things with my bike builds…which is what lead me to building a bike for charity. 

In September of 2009, I helped develop/organize an art show at my local art gallery in Illinois.  The theme of the show was “Street Art: Another Dimension” and included artwork from tattoo artists, graffiti artists, pin stripers, car painters, air brushers, leather workers, and skateboard artists from throughout the nation.  The show also showcased two motorcycles that my friends and I built.  I truly believed in that show and I helped give the gallery their biggest opening reception to date, estimated at over 800 people.  It was cool and it left me hungry to find more positive things that I can do with motorcycles.

Hard Knocks Chopper

Built By: Robby Smith, Josh McBride, Todd Speckman, Custom Frame designed by Robby Smith, 100″ Motor, 6 Speed Transmission, 3″ Up, 2″ Forward, 40 Degree Rake, Customized Sporster Gas Tank, Hand Tooled Seat by Adam Croft, Engraving by Heather New, Mooneyes Oil Tank, Handmade Foot Controls, Foot Pegs, Top Motor Mount, Sissy Bar, Handlebars, Shift Linkage, Exhaust built from ” bending mistakes”

Eventually, I answered that hunger by deciding to build a motorcycle for the Catch-A-Dream Foundation, which gives children 18 years and younger with life-threatening illnesses the chance of a lifetime to experience an outdoor adventure.  The project has been an awesome experience to date, and is slowly, but surely coming together.  I have an amazing list of sponsors/donors to for the project and the bike is going to be beautiful.  Soon, I will be building the frame and working on private fund raising events to purchase the “big ticket” items such as the motor, transmission, wheels, and primary, for which I have had difficulty finding sponsors for.  Regardless, this project will happen, the bike will be built.  I don’t know how to fail. 

"Always with us!, Brad Kirby, #35 Forever!"
(left; Robby, right; Lumpy)
Another example that I will make as short as possible…I lost my cousin Brad in 1999.  We graduated from the same college, yet he raced late model race cars and that’s what he wanted to do with his life.  In February of 1999, he was on his way to his friend, Christian “Lumpy” Logue’s place in Indiana to pick up a chassis for the upcoming season’s car and struck a tree with his vehicle and passed away.  10 years later (there’s more to the story) I heard my aunt talking about reconnecting with Lumpy.  I was never personally friends with Lumpy, but I remembered my cousin telling my family that Lumpy was the best welder he had ever known and it hit me… there wasn’t anybody else that I wanted to weld on my bike and teach me how to TIG weld than Mr. Lumpy Logue.  I called him the next day, told him about what I had been doing with my motorcycles and we set a date to meet up.  On my 32nd birthday, my aunt and I trailered my bike to Indiana and Lumpy and I spent the weekend working on my bike.  We laughed.   We cried.  I learned.  The experience was good/healthy for both of us.  The whole time we worked, my cousin’s sheet metal from his race car, #35, hung on the wall above us.  It was cool.  

I told him that I would never be able to replace his friendship with my cousin Brad, but I could help fill the void and I told him that he was stuck with me now.  He replied with a hug and a “same here” and we have remained friends ever since.  Again, if I never decided to try and build bikes, none of this would have ever happened for either of us.  Lumpy and I attended the Beatersville Car Show on Memorial Day weekend-2010 and 2011.  I didn't enter anything this year, but last year I won the best American Motorcycle division with my "Hard Knocks" motorcycle.  

Building motorcycles has been such a positive addition to my life.  I think I’ve delved into many negative temptations in life, but none of them were as near as satisfying as building bikes.  It hasn’t all been rosy.  I’ve met some dirt bags along the way, but I’ve also met some amazing people whom I have developed new friendships with and I have improved and gained a better appreciation for already existing friendships.  I’ve been able to do so many things that I, otherwise, would never have been able to experience.    

10-28-11 update
 In the past few days I have been working with Trevor Lahey (mostly me watching Trevor work) of Lahey Machine on building the frame for the Catch-A-Dream charity bike.  I wanted to share with you what we have come up with so far.  Please keep in mind that the wheels don’t match, but they are for “mock up” only.  I hope you like it!  As always, I appreciate your patience and I thank you for your dedication to this project.  

I’m going to leave you with a cheesy statement that would be perfect for a bathroom wall somewhere…

“If Cinderella is proof that shoes can change your life, then I’m proof that motorcycles can too.” 
                                                                                                                      -R. Smith


Anonymous said...

I'm so proud to say "hey, I'm friends with that guy". You are a super,giving young man What the world needs is more...Robbie Smith's !! Your bikes are beauties.

Anonymous said...

In all the years I have known Robbie he has been nothing short of amazing and the same holds true to the work he puts into his builds.