Big Brown Bike: Chris Pleva’s Terracotta Tourer
Every bike has a back story about how it came into an owner’s possession. Many are purchased after years of wishing and hoping and saving while others are just bought on a split-second whim. It’s somewhat unusual when the owner is not the one who instigates a purchase, often it’s some form of peer pressure that leads to two-wheel ownership. But with Chris Pleva’s feature bike, it his lovely wife Donna who is responsible for Chris’ eventual custom Ultra Classic. “After having to sell a bike to pay silly legal expenses, one day my wife came up to me and said, ‘I found a bike on craigslist. It has only 500 miles on it.’ Seems a guy and his wife had bought a couple of bikes and they never rode them,” said Chris. “I said, ‘Let’s go look at it’ and when she saw the decked-out Ultra Classic, she immediately said, ‘I’d really like to have that backseat’ and I knew right then we had found the bike.
The short part of this story is that Chris and Donna both loved the bike and rode the pants off it for a while, but like all things Harley, you can’t leave stock alone. Two big things that were an important aspect of this build before the build began was that Chris was adamant about not losing or ruining anything that made a bagger useful and comfortable and he hates to clean and polish his bike preferring not to waste riding time for cleaning time. “I like low maintenance. I’m not a big shiny kind of guy and that’s why I did away with the chrome. I like to ride, but I don’t necessarily like to clean it a lot so that’s the reason I chose the colors, the powder coating, and the blacking out. I can wipe down that whole bike with a rag and never put a cleaner on it and it looks pristine.”
For such a low mileage bike, Chris took this build where you’d never have expected it to go. Instead of immediately bolting on stuff until his change quota was filled, he stripped it down to the bare frame and had it powder coated black to make it a perfect base to start. “I thought about raking the bike out, but I didn’t want to lose and comfort or have handling problems. If it just sat in my garage like a lot of customs, that’d be a different story, but I gotta take my rides,” said Chris.
The Twin Cam 96 stayed stock other than a couple of ancillary pieces like a set of Vance & Hines True Dual Fishtails and a Spike air cleaner for a little bit of sight and sound. “More power will just give me problems, I just like to go out and putt and cruise and have a good time. Any more than stock is just trouble and tickets for me,” said Chris laughing.
Frame done. Engine done. Now for the fun cosmetic part. “I researched everything and I mean everything before I started making any changes,” said Chris. “I chose a 21″ Hogpro Black Magic wheel for the front, I like the machined look of it and it’s really, really sharp looking.” A fat 120/70 Avon Venom kept the same road feel as the stocker. Out back, he stayed with the stock H-D wheel for a few good reasons. “I looked at some other stuff and it looked sharp but I wanted it to any control, steering, or comfort, I wanted it to ride the way it originally rode,” he said. “Hey, I put the money in the front wheel [laughs], but I couldn’t see doing it in the back where you can’t even see it.” With the theme of useful custom in mind, Chris left the all the stock H-D brakes right where they were born.
His research lead him to Bad Dad when it came time for tin work and after all his purchases there, I would suspect he’s on Bad Dad’s Christmas card list. From fender to fender to stretched tank to saddllebag extensions, Chris let it rip and he’s glad he did. “I like their stuff better than anybody else’s. I talked with them I don’t know how many times as far as ‘let’s do this or let’s do that, how do I do this or that.’ They were great to work with, like talking to a buddy,” said Chris. “Other companies tell you ‘We have this or we have that’ and that’s the extent of what you get. Hell, Bad Dad held our hands through this and I can’t thank them enough.”
When it came to paint, Chris turned to Matt Lejeune of Outlaw Customs for the custom mix of silver and brown gold with airbrushed tribal graphics. “It’s a matte finish, everybody does gloss, I was trying to give it an Old School type of look. Remember I don’t want to polish,” said Chris laughing. “It’s not a show bike, well, it is a show bike, but I ride this bike and I wanted it to be very functional and I ended up with exactly the bike I wanted.”
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