Arriving at The Race Of Gentlemen; Wildwood NJ... June 2017.

We made it... this wasn't the beginning of the story and certainly not the end!

We arrive in NJ…

We check in and go through the bike inspection… the TROG folks love the bike,  ask us to get the bike on display with the other bikes.

With only kicking the bike over and really running it for the first time the night before we roll it out of the van to an audience of on lookers, we’re on display to…

Cinematographer: Ian Beaudoux

Harley-Davidson graphic art history and our 1937 Flathead tanks…

Art is the foundation of almost everything in my life. The meaning behind our paint scheme was very important to me.  

History - 
We choose the art-deco "eagle” design that was painted on all gas tanks in 1933. This design marked the beginning of graphic designs on Harley-Davidson motorcycles (with the exception of previously special order-only paint schemes). This styling decision was made in part to stimulate the low sales numbers caused by the Great Depression.

Going back to the beginning of graphic designs on Harley-Davidson to celebrate a love and romance with the old world.

I loved the 1933 tank design at first sight and I was stoked when I learned from Jeff Coffman how Harley-Davidson supplied graphics for factory ordered bikes in 1937.  In the 30’s a customer was able to order their Harley-Davidson from the factory with any back dated graphic from the last 5 years….

Every part of re-building the 1937 Harley-Davidson has been an experience of a lifetime.

"We are not a simple translation of the past, we're creating from what in the past has influenced us….” - Josh Sirlin

Special note: This paint scheme and every crackpot idea I have is only that until I marry that idea with an amazing person that can help me bring it to life.  This paint scheme and so much more has been brought to life by Ryan Arnold; Ryan is amazing human, a friend, a savant, and so much more.  Thank you Ryan for being you.

Black Bear Brand is a Union of Makers in dedicated support of one another. We include artists, builders, musicians, riders, and creators of all kinds. The resurrection of Black Bear Brand is possible today because it is a curation of people who personify the genuine nature of what the brand was built on in the early 1900’s. Every project is a collaboration that we are intimately engaged in; working together to elevate quality with a pragmatic design approach and youthful curiosity. With each product and project the story grows.

The seats for our 1937 Flathead

When it came to the seat for the 1937 Flathead project I had something special in mind; I wanted to tie in Horween and a craftswoman I'd been wanting to work with.  
I found two seat pans to cover; an original Bates pan for the race and an original Harley Davidson solo seat just for fun.  I reached out to Horween to get some special leather and they scored us some old stock calfskin they still had from 1940.
I connected with "Ginger McCabe from New Church Moto in Oregon who’s artful touch combined with priceless 70 year old leather made the prefect seat for our bike.  It's just too cool.  

Fun twist; doing two seat couldn’t have been ended up better for the new part of the journey!   After TROG I’ll be riding the bike across the county on the Harley Davidson solo seat!

Our Union Of Makers approach… where materials, people and their stories drive the end product

Designing with Williamson Dickies to produce the 1st Black Bear Brand pants, shirts, jackets “work” collection.

The foundation for our journey to resurrect and develop the new Black Bear Brand is our approach to manufacturing as a Union of Makers: designing, curating, uniting with the best, and making things together. 

We're excited to introduce our 1st Black Bear Brand pants, shirts, jackets “work” collection.

We designed an exclusively Made In The USA collection with Williamson Dickies and their 1922 department. Through this curation comes an elevation of design and quality that is built from the unification of our two styles, passions, resources, love and romance of the old world of making things. 

Behind the design… an exclusive tailored pant with the style based from the 1920’s work pant; exclusive tailored designed shirts; work wear material; metal buttons; Made in TX.

Black Bear Brand x Dickies 1922 Collaboration (Lincoln Green) - (Stone Grey) - (Navy)

Pant... tailored cut design combined with the traditional 65/35 Poly-Cotton tough material.

    Black Bear Brand Inner Tag & Waist Band
    Black Welt On Back Pockets with Dickies Guaranteed Tag
    Black Inner Pockets
    Metal Dickies Front Botton
    Made in TX

Long Sleeve Shirt.... tailored cut design combined with traditional 65/35 Poly-Cotton tough material.  

    Black Side Gussets
    Black Inner Button Placket with Dickies Guaranteed Tag
    Black Neck Band
    Two Button Chest Pockets
    Made in Texas

Short Sleeve Shirt... tailored cut design combined with traditional 65/35 Poly-Cotton tough material. 

    Black Side Gussets
    Black Inner Button Placket with Dickies Guaranteed Tag
    Black Neck Band
    Single Button Chest Pocket
    Made in Texas

Chore Jacket... traditional chore/shop jacket design; 65/35 Poly-Cotton tough material.  
    Black Neck Band
    Metal Dickies Bottons
    Made in TX

REBUILDING AN AMERICAN CLASSIC

Gumption – The Mind’s Gasoline

Building a bike for TROG was real when the title of the 1937 Flathead was in my hand and I legally owned a bunch of parts that could be a bike.  It was in that moment that this build became more than just a crazy idea. I had never done anything like this, but whether I was ready or not, I was about to build a bike from the bones I had acquired. This bike had to be built from the ground up, and I didn’t even have all the pieces I needed.

It was time to review all that had to happen. Within the next 65 days, I had to build a 1937 Flathead with all original parts. That meant acquiring the remaining parts from Jeff Coffman, rebuilding the engine, rebuilding the transmission, applying to The Race Of Gentlemen, and concluding the project by riding the bike across the country from Pennsylvania to Seattle.  It was a lot to fit into our short time-frame, but my dreams and reality, as usual, were tossed into a blender to produce my own delusional reality.

Seattle to Pennsylvania

I helped Ryan disassemble the bike while I was in PA and we made a list of everything that was needed. A gas tank, oil tank, tins, seat, and a slew of engine and transmission parts. The goal was to use purely 1937 Harley Davidson parts for everything we possibly could. In order to get approved for the Race of Gentlemen, this bike had to be authentic.

Back to Washington & Oregon

I shot the list of what we needed to Jeff Coffman before I flew back to Seattle.  After being home for a few days I ripped down to Oregon to see what I could wheel and deal for the rare parts we needed.

The day with Jeff at his shop was like going back to school.  After about 8 hours of the “history and shop class,” I had a lot of the parts we needed: a 1937 gas tank, 1937 oil tank, 1937 front and rear tins, and a handlebar that was broken into pieces. Each piece had a life of wear to them, and each piece was completely authentic.  I drove away from Jeff’s with a gold mine of 1937 Harley Davidson parts. The next day, everything was shipped off to PA.

I had something special in mind for the seat and p-pad. I found two seat pans to cover; an original Bates pan for the race, and an original Harley Davidson solo seat just for fun.  I reached out to Horween to get some special leather and they scored us some old stock calfskin they still had from 1940. After that, I connected with “Ginger McCabe from New Church Moto in Oregon. Her artful touch, combined with priceless 70 year old leather, made for the perfect bike seat. I put the seats in my bag, and was off to Pennsylvania for the second time.

Back to Pennsylvania

Now that we had everything, it was time to start designing and building. For the frame, forks, and tank, we made some small structural repairs, and simply cleared each part to preserve the metals natural character. We wanted to celebrate the fact that these pieces were authentic. The only parts we chopped and customized were our 1937 fenders. We popped off the supports, cut 2 inches out of the center, and trimmed the sides at the bead roll. The age of each metal part, and even the bronze braising on the frame, was preserved in its natural state after 80 years.

From there we moved on to the important stuff; our engine and transmission.  Ryan has plenty of experience rebuilding hot rod engines, but this would be his first Harley engine and transmission. Relying on him to do this seemed crazy at first glance, but his natural talent and understanding of engines made for a successful build. Having Ryan re-build the bike gave me the opportunity to help out where I could, document the process, and make it a more personal engagement. We rebuilt the engine as well as the transmission, working day and night to meet our deadline. In the end we managed to meet the requirements given by the Race of Gentlemen. Our application was in and I couldn’t be more excited with how the bike was coming along.

Looking back at every part of this, I laugh at my initial willingness to dive right into this project. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but nevertheless, we had accomplished our goal.  What Ryan did for the brand, as well as this story, is on another level.  I found and sourced the parts that were necessary, but it was his expertise that made it all possible. He championed a complete engine rebuild, and although most of it was over my head, together we made it happen. The process was documented, and I was able to help in the final assembly of the bike. Personally placing the newly built engine into the frame, I knew we had made something truly amazing.  This build ended up being one hell of an experience for all of us.

 

Blind Determination

Building a bike for the Race of Gentlemen... 

I left Jeff’s place determined to build a bike for The Race Of Gentlemen (TROG).  Finding a way to build this bike was now like a bug that I couldn’t shake.

As I was learning more and more about classic Harley Davidsons, it became more crystal clear that I really didn’t know shit. The realization was blaring how fortunate I was to be on this journey with the help of my friends.

My goal was to start out with a foundation. I needed to find an engine or frame to build everything else from.  If I was going to go after this, it would have to be done right, and with the goal of getting the bike into the Race of Gentlemen.  Step one was getting my head around the bike requirements put forth by TROG.

I was looking for engines, frames, and asking everyone I knew for help.  I’m super fortunate to have a variety of friends across the country that all have similar interests and that know a lot more than I do about bikes.  I quickly became aware that what I was looking for wasn’t easy to find and was probably going to be expensive… the story of my life.  I’ve never been drawn to the common, easy, or cheap.  It’s ironic that what I’m drawn to and interested in line up with the brand we’re developing and integrates seamlessly as just another story of our journey.

From California, Kamloops BC, Seattle, to Chicago, and Pennsylvania, the search was full on… I lost one bike I had a line on and was getting bent… but then, as usual, we found what we were searching for.

In the weeks prior, I was introduced to Ryan Arnold, a talented painter and all around craftsman from PA.

He’s a killer painter and much more. He’s an engine builder, fabricator, machinist, inventor,and a watch maker. In short, he’s a true savant.

Ryan and I got on right away; we instantly wanted to do something and with him being a metal flake painter, we started planning paint schemes for a few tanks and helmets.  A plan was set for me to fly out to PA two weeks later.

Ryan was now part of the team helping search for the parts necessary for the TROG build! 

During one of our calls I started talking about a 1936 Flathead I lost and a light bulb must have lit for Ryan. He actually had a 1937 Flathead “pre-restoration” in his shop; he said it didn’t cross his mind to mention it before because I had asked him about help finding a knucklehead engine. 

The questions and requests for pictures` of each part had begun. We went over every part I could think of, and I was sending every picture to Jeff Coffman and Thom Jones, two people I trust to confirm whether or not this stuff was legit.  Between Jeff and Thom it was determined that the foundational pieces are the real deal; it was settled; we had the bones of our bike… I jumped.

This was now the beginning of us really going after making a bike for TROG, the Black Bear Brand bike to be done our way by the Union of Makers.

We now had a bike, it was in PA, and I was headed there…

 

“determination; doers do; make it happen if you want it… just start running; jump off the cliff and build your wings as your falling“

“determination; doers do; make it happen if you want it… just start running; jump off the cliff and build your wings as your falling“

MORE THAN A MACHINE

An American Classic.

My 1948 Panhead chopper launched me into the world of motorcycles–especially anything related to antique Harley Davidson. This bike is true to what a chopper is known for, made up of a 1948 Panhead motor matched to a ’51 transmission and a ‘53 frame.

This bike was the beginning of a new journey opening up something genuine; new experiences and the forging of new relationships. I spent hours searching for vintage parts, so while I was following up on an ad for a 1948 tank emblem, thats when I met Jeff Coffman. Jeff and I connected, and traded emails regarding parts and pictures of bikes. This quickly led to us jumping on a call.

During the call, Jeff invited me down to his shop outside of Portland to see his parts first hand. I knew there was a story there; I wanted to learn more about Jeff, and see all the Harley Davidson bikes and parts he has.  There was also an underlying hope that this might be the place I find a bike that fast tracks the brand into The Race of Gentlemen.

With an open plan and a chance to see, photograph, and explore the story of someone very interesting, the chance atanother Black Bear Brand story had presented itself. 

Needing talented individuals to come along and record our journey, I decided to invite one of the brands main photographers: Chad Lyons. Chad has been an integral part of the brands stories over these past 2 years and as I presented him with the opportunity, he quickly agreed to come along for the ride. I also invited Ian Beaudoux, a killer cinematographer who I had recently connected with about a handful of ideas, stories, and similar interests. The group was off and ready to Dundee, Oregon.

Jeff’s American Classics is a shop with an overwhelming amount of Harley Davidson history. At every turn you see more authentic bikes, parts, and pieces than you can wrap your head around.   

Jeff is all old school, and all biker; no bullshit.  He has a wealth of knowledge about Harley Davidson’s beyond what I’ve ever experienced and I was ready to see just how far his knowledge would take us.

As we walked through room after room, we talked about the parts, designs, and fabrication methods that help define the model and year each goes to. Jeffs passion for authentic builds was something I shared as well.

The day was spent walking though the shop with Jeff answering my questions and learning more about his history. It was simply wild.

Jeff’s life was motorcycles. It quickly became clear just how connected to the culture he was. It was a part of him and it was something I wanted to be a part of.

The day was certainly fun. We learned and saw a lot. We shared a day talking about Harley Davidson, Black Bear Brand, passions, history, and the meaning of life as we each saw it.

The day didn't conclude on anything specific but it was through this I decided I was going to find a way to build a Harley Davidson from the ground up. The bike we would enter into TROG had to be 100% real deal with NO re-pop shit; and Jeff was going to be a big part of it.

 This was the start of something more than a friendship. To me Jeff was like a teacher. A mentor, guiding me, and passing on a piece of his knowledge and experience.

photos by: Chad Lyons

 

THE RACE OF GENTLEMEN

(THE RACE OF GENTLEMEN “TROG”)

What I love about American History

At Black Bear Brand, our purpose is fueled by making and doing. Drawing from the past, we explore and attack our goals. The desire and determination to compete in The Race of Gentlemen fits like a glove as part of Black Bear Brand and our approach as a Union of Makers.

 

“Comradery makes it possible to race a bike. A team makes it possible. The race celebrates working together and we need that more than ever in America today”

“Comradery makes it possible to race a bike. A team makes it possible. The race celebrates working together and we need that more than ever in America today

The Race of Gentlemen is a celebration of our American history in the best way. I am drawn to TROG by everything it invokes: my love for America, Harley Davidson, speed, machines, racing, building, charging, team work, reflecting on history, and doing things that have a meaning. I decided I had to participate in this event. I didn’t know how I would do it, I didn’t have the right bike, I didn’t have anything I needed. I’ve been in this situation before when I wanted something, I felt that I needed to do it, and that was all it took. My determination took over at that point, and sometimes determination is all that is needed.

Makers and their stories.

Each story is a start of a relationship with a person, a craft, a new rabbit hole that opens up to limitless possibilities.  

Ryan Arnold; a killer painter and so much more…
    an engine builder
    a machinist
    a fabricator
    a watch technician/maker
    an inventor…

Black Bear Brand is about having a relationship with life, having a relationship with what you do… and participating in life.  The part of our stories I love is the ability to participate and be more than a spectator.
    its the places you go.
    its the things you see.
    its the people you meet.
    its a journey.
    its an adventure.
    its the timeless, ageless appeal of freedom.

What's now in play with Ryan is beyond what I imagined when we started talking.  More coming soon.

An American classic… story.

A Harley Davidson motorcycle is much more than a machine…
    its the places you go.
    its the things you see.
    its the people you meet.
    its a journey.
    its an adventure.
    its the timeless, ageless appeal of freedom.

While searching the internet for an original 1948 Panhead tank emblem… I stumbled upon a craigslist advertisement for general Panhead and Knucklehead parts and shot off an email with a few questions.  I received a quick response, followed by a few phone calls and here we go…

Now my interest had a lot more to it.  
I want to learn more about Jeff, his story, his life long devotion to Harley Davidson motorcycles, the amazing history of all the Harley Davidson bikes and parts he has and works with every day… and the idea of a Knucklehead build I want to do. 

I’m proud to introduce a new friend and motorcycle mentor… Jeff Coffman!

So much more to come… this is just the beginning.
Next; cinematographer Ian Beaudux brings the story to life.

Photos by: Chad Lyons

Our architecture history - Sedro-Woolley, Wash.

Once the largest facility for mentally ill people in Washington State, Northern State Mental Hospital was a town unto itself.

The Olmstead Brothers, whose father was famous for having designed New York City’s Central Park, designed the landscape at Northern State. Renowned architects Saunders and Lawton designed the hospital’s buildings. They worked in close collaboration with Northern State’s farm superintendent to create a self-sustaining and therapeutic colony for the mentally ill.

The hospital site included patient and staff housing, a water reservoir, sewage system, lumber mill, quarry, steam plant, greenhouse, canning facilities, gymnasium, library, laundry, dining room, bakery, dairy, and 700-acre farm for growing vegetables and raising livestock.

Nearly 2,000 patients lived at this psychiatric clinic. Some died naturally but some were murdered through strenuous physical labor, electroshock therapy, sterilization and even lobotomies. There have been a variety of ghost sightings here, including a man being pushed in a wheelchair by a nurse!

Northern State Mental Hospital closed its doors in 1976 after the State Legislature cut off funding.  - photos by: Chad Lyons

The Perfect Stitch

Defining The "Black Bear Stitch"

As we explored what we needed in our knit collection we started on the search for the right people to work with.  
In Centralia WA, a small town about an hour south of Seattle, there’s a knitting mill that’s been producing knitwear, jackets, and textiles since 1939.  This mill is nearly unchanged and still producing high quality, hand crafted knitwear the same way today.  This is where our journey with Centralia Knitting Mills begins.

Starting with specific design goals we became very involved in entire process as the design needs intertwines with the manufacturing process.

Being engaged in the process and keeping the close connection of the purpose and design with the manufacturing process is essential.

A new stitch was born through this process, everything evolved as we worked together to meet each detail.  This new stitch has been proudly named the “Black Bear Stitch” by Centralia Knitting Mills.  

This process has started off something special.  Our stitch is evolving...