I never really got the early digger style and that probably had a lot to do with growing up in New England where riding a bike like this would have been a bit tough on twisty, pot-holed roads. Hey, for more years than I’d care to admit, I only owned a motorcycle for transportation year round. I can’t say I didn’t look at magazine photos of them, but I also can’t say I ever saw one outside of an enclosed custom motorcycle show where it was covered in silly show fluff. It wasn’t until my first trip to California as a kid that I saw them being ridden in their natural environment of smooth, straight roads that I got them. Now, whenever I see a motorcycle of this genre in this world of baggers, I feel like the owner/builder is letting us know exactly where he is and doesn’t give the slightest damn what any of us think. But, he probably wouldn’t be unhappy if we gushed over it a bit, so that’s what I’m gonna do because this bike is as neat as a pin.
Bryce whipped up the super-stretched neck Softail digger frame which somehow really looks like a hardtail which I know a Softail-style is supposed to do, but rarely does. In this case, you gotta look twice just to be safe. Hanging off that neck which almost has its own zip code is Bryce’s unique double-spring springer front end that looks as charmingly ‘70s delicate as the frame. Okay, gush time ─ that springer rocks from design to finish. I don’t have the slightest idea if it works or not, but it just is its own work of springer art and I don’t want to hear any whining.
If you did look at Mr. Cofano’s gallery, you might have also noticed what I thought might be one of the single slickest (in a good way) pieces on this whole build. It might not be yours, but I love what Bryce did with the handlebars and mirrors. The thought that went into the mirror/handlebar mounting system is inspirational and beautiful in its no-sweat complicated simplicity. There’s also a seat with actual ass padding that Rocky of Fresno, California, covered in an unexpected, but surprisingly okay, tan color that sticks out, yet blends in to the whole color scheme at the same time.
Might as well just say it right up front here, who doesn’t love a Panhead? Everybody I ever knew that owned a Panhead at some time loved it even if it was a ball-busting pain in the ass mechanically. I’ve heard some owners’ personal horror stories, but I’ve always heard them wistfully say at some point in their story, “I never should have sold it.” Nowadays that would be like selling your dear old grandmother. Bryce’s immaculate 88-inch Panhead was built by the boys at Road Rage Performance also in Fresno and what isn’t shiny as shiny can be is at least surgically clean. Modern aftermarket engine pieces were wisely chosen for style as much as function and it’s no surprise when something looks good, it usually works well too. But, then you come to those mother of all megaphone pipes and the only thing that matters is their Jefferson Airplane Alice in Wonderland zaniness. If you called them wild, it would almost be insulting them. They’re nuts and that‘s what I love about them. Gee, I wonder if they’re loud?
There is a nice mesh of old and new like the very modern, sorta wide, but not silly wide, rear spoked wheel wearing an 18” Metzeler Marathon tire being nicely balanced by a classically skinny ribbed front tire. A little dichotomy going on between widths, diameters, and tread patterns, but it’s a fluid composition. Possibly doesn’t hurt a bit that they’re so far apart so they can be appreciated in their own way. Other little bits like the brass grips and brass knuckles hand shifter are picked up in other brass bits throughout the bike like the brass kicker pedal, pegs, brake pad, master cylinder cover, and well, take a look for yourself. Don’t even ask me about the see-saw clutch setup as I don’t know a thing, but would be glad to hear how it works if you have any inside info. I think I know . . .
One thing that doesn’t let this bike down in any way is the finish. There isn’t a thing I saw that was absolutely gem-like. The sun-dazzling purple paint with gold leaf scallops and red pinstriping by Ogawa Designs in Sanger, California, could win a best of era award if they could only transport that bike back to 1974 and if there was a best of era award when they got there. It’s kooky classy and impeccable and the same time. What’s crazy nuts (at first) is the purple paintjob/brass highlights/red anodizing on various parts combo that should never, ever work, but it does or at the very least it doesn’t offend. That’s one leap of faith Bryce and I’m glad you had the guts and the foresight to do it.
Bryce Cole’s retro mod/New Wave digger just looks like serious silly fun from one end to the other and you can’t ask for more than that in a custom bike. Well maybe you can, but I can’t help but really dig this digger just as it is.