Elbow grease and imagination yield award-winning motorcycles
By Tim Anderl
In 1978, the Misfits, a band widely recognized for their unyielding approach to punk rock recorded “We Are 138.” For unconventional motorcycle designer and fabricator, Cole Rogers, “138” became the moniker and mantra for a 2-year-old custom cycle fabrication business that has been widely recognized for its own unyielding approach.
As a 6-year-old growing up in Beavercreek, a neighbor introduced Rogers to dirt bikes. The introduction brought motorcycles into view for Rogers and launched a full-blown love affair at that early age.
“I also loved watching large groups of bikes drive down Dayton-Xenia Road on their way to Gilberts Party Barn,” Rogers said. “Then, when I was about 16, my brother brought home a British bike called a BSA. From then on I was hooked on street bikes.”
While keeping his hands dirty with home-based garage projects, Rogers became a certified welder and studied tool making, honing his fabrication skills while working at Toney Tool. Eventually, Rogers took a job at Creative Cycle Works and then at Led Sled Customs.
“Pat (Patterson) at Led Sled and I really fed off each other, and that’s when I realized that I had the potential to become a really great bike builder,” Rogers said.
Rogers branched off on his own in 2009, officially launching 138 Cycle Fabrication out of his home. He has since built 10 custom bikes. Rogers said each bike has been a two- to four-month-long build.
In recent months, Rogers moved the home-based 138 Cycle Fabrication to a shop in Lebanon where he and employee Benny Johnson build custom motorcycles for customers that find him by word of mouth and from exposure he’s received from newsstand motorcycle magazines like Easyriders. And, true to the shop’s moniker, the work that is coming out of the shop is anything but conventional.
“There is no such thing as a typical bike build at my shop. Every bike is one-of-a-kind,” Rogers said. “I will break what I do down, starting with an idea of what I want the bike to look like although this almost always changes throughout the build. I figure out what geometry the frame needs to be and whether it is going to be a straight, single-down tube or a goose neck. Then I decide if it will have a dropseat.”
Next, Rogers builds the bike’s frame, and when the frame is done he mounts the motor. “When I mount the motor in the frame and tend to spend time looking at it for awhile. That lets the bike tell me what it wants to be,” he said.
When the rear wheel is attached, Rogers makes a decision about what he will do to the bike’s front end. “By the time the front wheel is on, I have decided what fender, oil tank and gas tank I’d like to see on the bike and I begin building them,” Rogers added. “When they are done, I mount them to the bike and start on the seat.
“After the seat is done, I move on to the handlebars and exhaust pipes. The final step before it is painted is to lay out where all the electrical components will be,” Rogers said. “I take the bike apart, and send the parts off for painting and plating. When the parts come back, I assemble the bike and take it for a test ride.”
To date, Rogers’ favorite and most challenging project has been “The Smart Bomb,” which he built for Brian Brenner of Truth and Triumph and Smartbomb Tattoos. The bike started out as a 1974 Norton 850 Commando, which was a type of motorcycle Rogers had never laid hands on before.
Rogers’ expertise, hours in the shop and his attention to detail have paid off. To date, he has won several awards at the Easyriders Grand National bike show in Columbus. In 2009, he took 2nd place in the “Street Custom” category, and won “Best of Show” at the 1st Dayton Cyclefest, which earned him an invitation as the featured builder on the Cyclefest Tour. Rogers returned to Columbus 2010 to collect 1st place in the Easyriders “Street Custom” category and the “Editor’s Choice” award. In 2011, he took the “Hayseed Cycles” and “Best of Show” awards.
Rogers’ most rewarding and difficult project, “The Smart Bomb,” was one that also won him awards. “That bike won 3rd in the ‘Invitational Class’ at Easyriders, which really means it placed 3rd of all entrants from around the country.”
“It has been very rewarding to be recognized on such a high level,” Rogers said. “When I was a kid, I always thought it would be so cool to be in Easyriders!”
Though motorcycle-building might be Rogers’ first and earliest love, it is perhaps just a mistress to where his heart really is these days — with his wife and 2-year-old daughter. “It has been somewhat difficult to manage a family and business, but I always make time for my beautiful wife Angie, and my amazing daughter Darcy,” Rogers said.
138 Cycle Fabrication is located at 6387 N. SR 48 in Lebanon. Visit the website at www.138cyclefabrication.com or visit Cole Rogers at the Cycle Fest motorcycle show and expo in Dayton at the Dayton Expo Center, December 2 and 4.
Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@DaytonCityPaper.com.