Josh's BSA Thunderbolt Bobber
By Gareth Charlton - 09 Jul 15
Two wheels good, four wheels bad has never been a Bike Shed banner. Yes it is the two wheelers that fill our heads for every waking hour and populate our dreams at night, but we can appreciate the pleasure to be found with a wheel in every corner on the odd occasion. So when Josh from The Forge sent us pictures of his glorious BSA Bobber accompanied with a link to his website, we were destined to lose an hour or two. You see Josh spends most of his spanner time creating that finest of the over rubbered breed, the Hot Rod. Page after page of exquisite roadsters and restorations attest to the beauty of the automobile and to the skills that the team wield down there in Loveland, Colorado. It is enough temptation to soften the most ardent of two-wheel-only die hards, but thankfully Josh has chosen to redress the balance by turning his abilities to the customising of machines that are easier to fall off. Josh has built motorcycles before, focusing mainly on Japanese machinery, but the Beezer is the first motorcycle to rumble out from beneath the banner of The Forge with full support and workshop access. "I grew up riding BMX and dirt bikes and it evolved into the street side of things where I could incorporate my love for high end fabercation. Over the years as I grew in my abilities, I've been thinking of doing this build. I just had to have it all come together...and I think it did! - I love vintage bikes and parts that are rare and difficult to find. The idea of using a BSA for the build was perfect and it fit the vision I had in my head. I think that the BSA motors are beautiful, totally vintage looking and since they are not produced anymore it is truly vintage and was what I needed to build my bike around! What I didn't realize is how hard it was going to be to find a 650 Thunderbolt not a Lighting!" Josh persevered with his search and eventually the internet yielded a suitable donor, at 3:00am as he pondered his vision it popped up for sale in Denver, Colorado. "I was so pumped that I couldn't sleep and when the shop opened I was on the phone to get the bike secured! I went down grabbed the bike and the ThunderBolt Bobber was a reality!" With the BSA back in the workshop Josh eagerly set to work. "The first step was to get my vision of a lengthened and super low frame to give it a mean look with a lot of attitude. The frame is lengthened 6 inches with a 3.5 drop. To complete the look I did straight tubing on the top and swayed bottom tubes to give it a more fluid look. Everything is TIG welded and finished-out with custom gussets. The next was to make it a roller with stock 18 inch wheel in the rear and a 21 inch up front with Avon Speed masters for rubber. To keep my vintage look what better than a 4 inch under-springer to keep it low with the stock rake and like a true bobber no front brake!!" Now that he had a wicked looking roller it was time to begin the custom sheet metal work, starting with the tank. It is formed of four different pieces of 18 gauge steel, the two sides, the centre section and a tunnel. Josh started out with shaping hammers to rough in the sides and then used a planishing hammer to get the shape. "After that I used shrinking dies to get the metal on the side to turn in. After a ton of hours of metal shaping I used an English wheel to achieve the final shape and smooth it out. I wanted the tank to be very unique so I used a bead roller to put the steps in both sides. I shaped the center piece then once again used the bead roller to but a bead down the center. Now it was time to TIG weld the three pieces together and metal finish it out. I did that by spraying guide coat on the tank and doing a pick and file, which is going over the tank again and again with the files then picking up any inperfections until the tank is smooth or metal finished." With the tunnel welded in the tank was technically complete but Josh was no where near finished. A brass cap and finishing pieces were carefully crafted before Josh came up with the idea of adding in gas sights but he wanted it to be different, so he ran them down both of the leading edges of the tank. It is a stunning receptacle - much in keeping with the rest of the machine. The steel and brass seat came into being via some similarly time consuming and meticulous craftsmanship, it features a brass hold down chain and two valve springs from an old motor. The rear mudguard is the original front item that was re-shaped and given a central bead before being mounted on custom brackets. The oil tank is again formed of 18 gauge steel with rolled beads and double pressed sides to give a deep circular look. The only "off the shelf" items for this build were raw materials, the bars were hand made using a hydraulic bender before being brazed together with custom gussets and a copper inlay on the top. Josh then fabricated a battery box and added custom lighting holes with brass chain to match the seat hold down. The rear and front lights from Ebay were completed with brass light covers to match the rest of the brass work. A really neat touch that references The Forge's other work is the velocity stack from a vintage race car that Josh mounted to the carb. "Now it was time for the custom exhaust. I started by taking the original pipes up front, turning them down and peaking the cross flow tube. Then taking them under the bike making two flared holes on the pan of the frame and bringing them up from under the frame out the side and then back out the bike! I've never seen this before and thought that it was perfect for the build. Fabricating the bends on the pipes was pretty tricky. Once I did that, I TIG'd them up and finished them out!" With all of the fabrication complete the frame received a coat of single stage gloss black, simply to showcase the stunning metal work. Building Thunderbolt was a labour of love for Josh and he is rightly delighted with the stunning results - a motorcycle that standing alone in a garage full of glorious vintage cars, reminds us why we would still plump for the two wheeled option. Don't forget to check out www.bornintheforge.com and to follow Josh on Instagram. Thanks go to Bob Whitney from Aspen Photo & Design for the beautiful photographs.