Building a bike - Phil Bloomfield

Four years ago I made the final payment on my 12-plate Iron 883. I loved that bike, but for the last six months I'd been counting down until I could bankroll a new build. 

A lot of talented people I know helped me to bring the Mystic Queen to life and I covered the paint side of the job. However, even with all the goodwill in the world, you’re still entering the realm of big bills for bike parts, donor IDs and motors. Alongside those easily overlooked bits that you forget about while sat in the bath, trying to calculate how much this is going to hurt. 

Should I just save myself seven months and keep what I have? It would be a hell of a lot easier! My bath was cold and it was time to visit my friend Clive, the owner of So-Low Choppers, who ended up being my teacher. I knew he'd have some answers for me and point me in the right direction!

About Clive (he's seen as hip to some)

Clive runs So-Low Choppers with his son, Jay. I met them at one of their bike shows, when I had my first chopper. It was a 72 T100, I'd bought as a working bike, swapped some simple parts over and painted. Clive welcomed me into the shop's BBQ group where I met some great characters, who became friends. We even ended up riding across Europe together to visit various chopper shows. 

Clive was building bikes before I'd even sprouted my first pubic hair. He's the man to visit for any chopper related advice. He knew what I'd built in my head before I turned up at the shop to tell him. Clive took me out back to two storage containers, they were like bike morgues, housing bikes and parts that had spent too long in there. My frame was inside along with an oil tank and the bare bones of a well overworked 84-4 speed Evo engine. The cherry on the top was a traditionally shaped, high tunnel Sportster tank. This was the perfect start, it was the bike in my head, or it would be.


The engine

Was fucked... LOL. It was scary. Clive told me the engine would need to be stripped down and completely rebuilt. At this point I was clueless; I had no idea how anything deep inside the engine worked.

The engine: take two

Those that have been there will warn you, you spend Saturday afternoons covered in grease, with parts everywhere, swearing, smoking and stressing. 

You think to yourself, what the fuck have I done? As you keep finding more worn parts and replacing things just for the hell of it as you’re there. Luckily, Clive and Jay always came to help on Saturdays but at four hours a week, it was taking a lifetime to rebuild the engine. So I decided to book it in on shop hours and Clive got it running.

Paint and tinware

While I spent my Saturdays covered in grease, the frame was at the powder coaters. Jay and I completed the fender lugs, splitter bars and all the other work. I spent my evenings at the custom paint shop where I worked on doing what I do best, the paintwork. 

The Mystic Queen is named after my favourite song, by Samsara Blues Experiment. I'd sit at night in my old American RV outside the workshop, listening to the song and coming up with ideas. I'd been 'advised' to do something special with the paint job, seeing as I worked in a paint shop, but I had wondered about just having it plain black with bare metal. 

My boss donated the paint, luckily, we were a House of Kolor shop so I had a lot to choose from. I made my own flake recipe as the base layer, 2:1:0.5 apricot, micro silver, abalone. I applied that and then it was time for late nights in the RV fueled by chicken dippers, magic juice and 26-minute psychedelic stoner tracks. I’d look at the tank when I awoke and wonder what I’d been thinking. 

The finished paint-job is root-beer kandy and black alongside a handful of self-tinted, sunrise pearl shades, with stencilled and laced panelling. My friend Charlie outlined "Mystic Queen “on the horseshoe tank with lettering enamel. I did agree with some who commented that it might look like it says something else.

The rebuild

With the engine done, oils in, wiring sorted and the panels on, the guys in the shop and I watched Clive turn the key and push the starter button. From that point onwards, we’ve had our ups and downs but she gets me where I need to go. Old Harleys are like women, they give you grief at times and cost you more than you can afford, but you’ll have the best time riding them and sharing life's adventures.


December 04, 2020 — Matthew Law