Feature Bike – Unleashed

Story by Glenn Roberts// Photos by Glenn Roberts
November 1 2011

One day, Rob Sowers was at his buddy’s house looking through a chopper magazine when something caught his eye. After closely inspecting the images and reading the words, he earmarked the page and told his friend, “I want you to build me a bike like this.” Luckily for Rob, his friend was the right to guy to ask; Chopper Rod is no stranger to the east-coast custom motorcycle scene.

Rob has only been riding a few short years, and commissioning a full-blown custom show bike is generally something that a person would do after many more motorcycle-years under their belt.

After discussing the finer details of what exactly Rob was looking for, Chopper Rod determined that a long, pro-street frame that was kicking around his Fredericton, New Brunswick, shop would suit the type of bike Rob was interested in. This frame was Rob’s first expenditure, and the rest of the bike would be built around it.

The build started off slow, with Rob dropping off cash to the shop as his bank account permitted. Chopper Rod piped up, “That’s pretty common out here, for people to do that. You hear a lot of doom and gloom in the mainstream media about the recession, but out here it’s almost like we’re recession-proof, because we never really have a boom time to begin with.”

The guys at Chopper Rod’s all pitched in for this build and manufactured some pretty trick bits and pieces. At first glance I thought the bike was a rigid, because the rear tire is mere millimetres away from the fender – obviously there was no room there for the tire to move – and the top of the rear fender looked as though it was part of the frame, as it came right up and over the back of the seat. The 10-gauge rear fender is, in fact, attached to the swingarm and moves with the tire. While the air suspension doesn’t allow very much movement, the fender glides over top of the seat without actually touching it. Nicely done.

Another very trick piece built in-house is the rear caliper mount. Because the bike is right-hand drive, the rear caliper must go on the left side, but Rod thought the traditional right-side caliper mounted on the left just wouldn’t look right. To remedy that, the guys used a left-side front caliper and manufactured a mounting bracket for it to fit the rear. To keep the clean look without an obtrusive brake line, the bracket was drilled in three directions and the unneeded holes were then welded so the fluid would flow inside the bracket from the swingarm to the caliper, keeping the whole area neat and clean.

Rod is quick to proudly point out that “everything we manufacture is done the old-school way with lathes and milling machines, like they would have 50 years ago. We don’t have a CNC machine.” It might take a little longer doing it the old way, but it still gets done right and with much more character.

While the bike was progressing in the shop, Rob began looking for a painter. He had a few of them on a short list, but when he saw what Montreal-based Fitto could do, he forgot about all the rest.

Rob made the trek to Montreal to meet with Fitto and discuss his likes and dislikes. As with his agreement with Chopper Rod, provided he follows Rob’s basic guidelines, Fitto could paint whatever he liked. Fitto is world-renowned for his attention to detail, and the end result is like all of Fitto’s work: outstanding.

Rob is no stranger to fine detail. Being a finish carpenter and cabinetmaker, detail is his life, and everything about this bike suits him to a T. The detail is astounding, and he wouldn’t settle for anything less.

He has entered the bike into three judged shows and has come away with first place in each of them – in a Moncton show, in the Motorcycle Lifestyle Show at the Dutch Mason Blues Festival in Truro, and again for the paint at the Classic Bike and Tattoo Show in Laval.


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