The definition of the word “Recreate” : to give new life or freshness to or create again. For Christopher De Francesco, a custom bike builder from Vicious Cycles, located in Toronto, Ontario, it was more of the mindset to create again – “to form anew in his imagination and bring something new to life.” Such was the case with this custom chopper transformation born from its previous incarnation as a 2007 Harley-Davidson Fatboy. The Fatboy was factory stock when Christopher got his hands on it. It was the perfect donor bike when he decided he wanted to build a custom chopper for himself.
I had a chance to chat with Christopher about what it means to be a young custom builder coming into the industry and how he got started on this path of creating functional, machine art. And, of course, showcasing his badass, Fatboy chopper named El Diablo.
Tell me about your shop and how you came about building custom bikes ?
I’ve been building custom motorcycles out of my parent’s garage since I bought my first motorcycle as a teenager. The bike was a 1989 Harley-Davidson Sportster that I had bought from a co-worker for $1200. The day after I brought it home I started ripping it apart and that’s where my passion for customizing motorcycles began. I was never one to leave anything the way it was, so I always tinkered, altered, changed, or created something that I envisioned in my head… everything somehow had to be uniquely mine and different. Many of my friends got into riding, loved it, and started to buy motorcycles. They always asked me to customize them, and I did it gladly because I was passionate about the work. As the word spread and I took on more projects, it was clear that my parent’s garage wasn’t big enough to handle all the projects I had taken on, and that’s when I opened Vicious Cycles just a little under two ago. Much of my work centers around customization, fabrication, engine rebuilds, and performance modifications; Honestly, whatever is needed to build cool bikes. That’s what is important to me. That’s what puts a smile on my face and the satisfaction that comes from people admiring and appreciating the work I do.
What were the inspiration behind the build and the look of this chopper ?
The inspiration for this build was Indian Larry. He was always a huge inspiration to me, as he is to many chopper lovers. So, I wanted to recreate my own Indian Larry-style chopper but incorporate some different elements of my own while keeping true to the style and attraction of an Indian Larry build. The idea was to have a wicked-looking bike with the modern technology and reliability from Harley-Davidson to make it a practical and reliable chopper you can ride and enjoy, complete with a Softail suspension and fuel injection. As a builder and having my shop, the bikes’ reliability coming out of my shop is always top of mind and is never at the expense of “looks .”But of course, the looks are still important because that is the emotional attachment one would have to a bike. So I’m thrilled with how this bike turned out. My favorite part of this build is that it really fools people. At first glance, it looks like a Panhead chopper. Still, on a closer look, people realize it’s actually a Twin Cam Softail Harley fully customized and modified to mimic an old-school Indian Larry chopper – Never fails. Every single time.
Why did you name this bike El Diablo ?
I came up with the name for the bike once the paint job was completed by a local artist, Skinny from Skins Custom Paint in Hamilton, Ontario. The only direction I gave him, guided by inspirations from Indian Larry bikes, was the retro flame style graphics; I wanted lots of flake, wanted it to sparkle in the sun, and maybe skew towards the black and red color scheme. I couldn’t have been happier with what he did and the result ! The combination of Candy Brandy Red, silver flake, silver accent, and rainbow flake in the paint changes the bike’s color in the sun, depending on which angle you look at it from, or how different it looks when it’s an overcast day. The fiery red paint job gave me the feeling like it came straight out of hell, and to me, it seems like something the devil would ride. So yeah, I named it El Diablo.
I love incorporating and including different elements and pieces from other builders from anywhere in the world. But I especially like it when I can collaborate with local shops and other talented builders. It helps to showcase my talent and talent from so many people who love and appreciate the same thing I do, custom motorcycles. To make this an Indian Larry-style chopper, I had the seat pan built by Indian Larry’s partner Paul Cox, and he engraved the bottom side of it for me, which makes this bike even more special to me. These little touches make a bike what it is for an owner on an emotional level, whether it’s for my clients or me. Then I had a good friend of mine and a very talented builder/leather-worker, Julio Mena of Mena Custom Cycles, create the incredible custom-tooled “El Diablo” seat for me. In my opinion, it is truly a work of art and the centerpiece of the build. It always blows people away.
Were there any challenging areas that you had to problem-solve for this build ?
Ya, I would say the most challenging part was the electrical aspect of the build. Because the platform for this build was a newer Harley-Davidson Fat Boy with fuel injection and the security system, removing the electrical that wasn’t necessary and keeping the electrical that was needed (which was a lot), was a challenge. I had to ensure everything appropriately worked for all the functions I wanted to keep, tuck away, and hide the wiring, so the build was as clean-looking as possible. The build still utilizes the factory security system, which requires the key fob to start the bike. The factory computer still allows you to scan for codes, diagnose and even electronically tune the motorcycle, just like any newer Harley.
What are your favorite types of bikes to build ? Do you have a specialty ?
Honestly, I love choppers and bobbers, and they will forever be my favorite, although I just about build any type of Harleys. It all depends on the client’s wants and desires, right ? You know times change, fads come and go in the moto scene like so many other areas of life. Nowadays, people have access to all types of builds and styles worldwide, so I keep pretty up to date with what’s happening through social media. I’m especially inspired by the Japanese and Thailand motorcycle scene and the custom bikes they are building over there. It’s so cool. I admire and incorporate some of the trends and styles from there into some of my builds. At times, I’ve worked with some of the builders overseas in their fabrication for my builds. That helps capture the styles they’re building and riding over there and bring those elements here to Canada.
Is there a particular part or aspect that you’re most proud of from the build ?
This chopper changed my life. El Diablo was truly the first big custom project for me. A complete frame-up build from a little garage at my parent’s house, and that is something I’m super proud about. I feel this build has allowed me to showcase my talents and vision, which many people in the moto community have appreciated. It has now grown into me owning a shop and turning a hobby I love into something I can do every single day. I met many great people because of this build that I now call friends and keep in touch with often, making me appreciate and love what I do more and more every day.
Just as we were talking and photographing the bike on the street, a bystander walked by, stopped, and admired El Diablo. The man said to Christopher, “What a gorgeous Panhead.” Christopher thanked the man and turned to look at me with a devilish grin and a little sparkle in his eyes as if to say – Every single time.