Bandit is an Industry Icon – A Man behind the Custom Bike Industry

Bandit with Chris Richardson

Bandit with Chris Richardson

Keith “Bandit” Ball is the Godfather of the Custom Bike industry and acts like a human switch as calls start early in the morning and often runs late into the night as he puts people together and keeps his thumb on the pulse of the custom motorcycle industry.

Recently Bandit put a $100,000 restoration build deal together for Billy Lane.

Back in the day Hugh King, producer of Biker Build off series, called and wanted a fresh face for a new show called Monster Garage. Bandit gave the nod to Jesse James and he made TV history.

The new Retro Indian

The new Retro Indian

A couple of weeks ago Bandit called about a new young builder, Andrew Ursich. He felt Andrew had the talent to be a major builder in the industry. He asked me to make room for him in the Sacramento edition of the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show.

I did and Andrew Ursich took the win with his custom Sportster called Brass Monkey. A week later he rolled into Long Beach with even stiffer competition and rolled out with his second check for $1,000 in as many weeks. This was the first bike he has ever built, and his second, a single-loop Knucklehead is even more amazing. He has the touch.

Ursich literally found a Sportster in a series of cardboard boxes on the backstreets of Long Beach in a shady industrial area of Long Beach, California. After a brief negotiation, it was all his.

The Brass Monkey @ a Photo Shoot

The Brass Monkey @ a Photo Shoot

The skills he applied to his 1st build came from the techniques he learned at Wyotech. While there he attended a seminar in metal shaping by Gene Winfield (famous custom car builder) and attended a dinner after the class. The next day Gene offered him a job as a shop intern. For two years he drove 100 miles out of the city, and spent the week sequestered in the Mojave Desert learning fabrication and metal shaping.

“Gene was a laid back boss,” Andrew said. “He told us what he wanted and let us go after the project.” Gene’s shop is located in the center of an old wrecking yard, surrounded with desert relics.

He fabricated hand-made components for Brass Monkey including the headlight bracket, fender struts, the inspection cover and the shift and brake linkages. Then his attention turned to making and modifying the sheet metal. He made the battery box, the ignition counsel, point cover, and modified the pipes from straight drags to upswept puppies. More details on the bike and photo shoot can be seen at the J&P Cycles Website.

MOD Harley Winner

MOD Harley Winner

Bandit can’t do anything normal-like, and he’s gotta screw with everything. Each one of his eight bikes are customized, his desk is a Panhead chopper with an oval glass laid on top and his refrigerator is custom-painted. But many of the crazed maniacs in this industry suffer similar afflictions, such as Bill Dodge, Dave Perewitz, you name ‘em. They drank the same tainted Kool-aid as kids.

The reason Bandit knows everyone is because of his cyclopedia knowledge of people, places and things. He started as the first associate editor of Easyriders Magazine, in 1971, and has documented metal-flake changes since the free love movement of the ‘70s.

For the last 20 years he has been at the epicenter of the custom bike market with which is housed at a multipurpose space across from the Port of Angeles. Bikernet offices started life as a hotel in 1923 called the Catalina Hotel. He runs his empire out of his loft office that looks down on his man cave that holds four Bonneville race bikes, two of which hold world records, and an eclectic selection of cruisers and choppers. He was on the Easyriders team, which held the World Land Speed Record for motorcycles for 16 years, at 321 mph. He was instrumental in bringing the Bob George streamliner project to the ER team.

You never know who you will find at the Bikernet compound. Over the weekend Bob Kay, the Designer of 5-Ball Leathers, as well as Scout, the guy that drove the Dark Custom marketing for Harley-Davidson were both in attendance.

We caught up with Ball during the Long Beach edition of the Progressive Insurance International Motorcycle Show where he hosted an industry event for the builders in the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show, held a photo shoot for Ridewright Wheels and 5-Ball Leathers as well as placing two of his custom bikes into the event. During the photoshoot Pat Jansen of Sin-Central and Dumptruck cut a podcast.

The boys, Dumptruck & Pat Jansen, start a Podcast at Bikernet HQ

The boys, Dumptruck & Pat Jansen, start a Podcast at Bikernet HQ

Bandit also had two bikes in the show. His Bonneville Peashooter was highlighted in the Progressive Insurance booth and his custom Indian was in the 21 Helmet feature.

His current 2-wheel muse is his 2014 Indian Chief. Of course it’s custom. Rich Worley owner of an Indian Dealership, American Biker, in Charleston, SC. collaborated on the bike to make it look vintage and to fit it to Bandit’s frame.

Over this last year the Indian has been stripped down and molded to Bandit’s taste. It is hard to do a new paint job that has a patina look, but this Indian has one of the best I’ve seen. And the hand painted centerfold on the tank looks delicious.

The handlebars were fabricated to look like the bars on the 1946 Indian in Bandit’s office. He also wanted the rear of the bike to have more of a traditional look so the bottom edge of the rear fender was reshaped to give it that classic Chief flow.

The performance package includes a S&S air cleaner and a reworked exhaust system by American Biker. The big flat-black torpedo exhausts were fitted with fishtail tips and went through a special powder-coating etching process that delivers a silver stripe and the 5-Ball Racing logo on the side of the big pipes.

The Retro Paint Job

The Retro Paint Job

Bandit reached out to Paul Aiken of Aeromach MFG for a kickstand extension, shift peg extension and an Indian head medallion for his air cleaner. He also fabricated a magnetic oil drain plug and detail-oriented fastener kit.

The bike

The current 2-wheel muse: 2014 Indian Chief

He is currently working on two Bonneville racers, a 1940 flathead vintage and perhaps the first streamlined trike with a 135-inch JIMS engine and transmission. He finishing his second Chance book and has a couple of new projects in line for 2016.

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