For every successful shop, there once stood someone in their garage or shed surrounded by the tools that fueled their passion. In the winter of 2016, Raleigh Motor was invited to present our story at a local event here in the Triangle called, RTP 180. After our talk we had the pleasure of meeting such a person.
Looking back, it was a really exciting night for us. It was the first time we had been invited to an event to present our story. After the short talk, we met several folks who wanted to get involved in the project. It was a pretty great moment to be honest, and re-affirmed our idea of bringing together builders, designers, and makers to create a something truly unique. It was also one of those moments where you wish you had thought a bit harder about having an answer to the one question we received from every person we spoke with. How can I help?
Unfortunately, our project bike was simply not in a place to have everyone jump in. At this point, we were just getting started. We had a stripped down frame, a torn apart engine, and a loose vision for what we wanted the final bike to be. Converting our 1971 Honda CB350 to a mono-shock was the only clear next step in our minds. Luckily for us, there was someone in the crowd who could help.
Enter, Jacob Ladd from Mad Scientist Industries.
We first noticed Jacob lingering behind a handful of people waiting patiently to talk with us about the project. At 6’7”, he’s a hard person to miss. A few moments later, we shook hands for the first time. He introduced himself as “Big Jake,” which of course we thought was perfect. We talked about his work as a fabricator and Harley enthusiast. And while chopping a small CC Japanese vintage motorcycle wasn’t something he thought would capture his interest, he was new to the area and looking to do more fabrication work. We were happy to oblige.
We’d had actually been told by several people that converting a Honda CB350 to a mono-shock wasn’t a good idea, some even said it was impossible. When I told Big Jake about the pessimistic responses we had received, his only response was, “anything is possible.” We knew right then, this was our guy.
Flash forward several months and the impossible has become a reality. Big Jake did the math, did the work, and turned our Honda CB350 in a sleek mono-shock version of it's former self. We could not be happier with how the conversion turned out and the quality of the work that went into it. It's strong, stable, and we can't wait to move into the next phase of the build.
Just as we shared our story that night in RTP, we thought it only right to share Jake's. We threw a few questions his way after the conversion was complete to dig in on how he got started with metal fabrication, his experiences with chopping up a Honda CB350 for the first time, and the future of Mad Scientist Industries. It went a little something like this..
Tell us about yourself and your business.
Mad Scientist Industries is a side business I run on the nights and weekends out of the garage at my house in Spring Hope, NC, about 30min east of Raleigh. During the day, I work in RTP in the agriculture sector, with my main area of expertise being in fermentation of microbes. Along with being a side business, MSI (Mad Scientist Industries) is a creative outlet for me where I can utilize other skills I’ve picked up through the years. My main area of focus is on metal fabrication and sheet metal shaping relating to classic cars and motorcycles.
When did you get started with metal fabrication?
My first exposure was when I was a kid, my dad would do some occasional welding around the farm repairing miscellaneous equipment as needed. In high school, I worked part time for a concrete company and they needed some repair work done on some of their tools, and I told them I knew how to weld. Looking back, I was definitely in over my head, but my welds never broke, and no one ever died. I was immediately drawn to the work, because it encompasses a large number of technical skills, but is also engaging mentally due to the need for creativity and problem solving skills. Plus you get to play with fire!
How long have you been fabricating?
That job was my first experience with metal fabrication as well, so about 20 years, but I’ve been more serious about it for the past 5 or so.
What is your favorite thing to fabricate?
My first love is actually sheet metal shaping. It’s a really challenging skill to master. However, I like pretty much any project where I can add an artistic flair and can focus on things like flow and shapes that are pleasing to the eye.
What's your favorite part of the process?
I like the problem solving needed to make parts do what they need to mechanically, but also be ascetically pleasing.
What's your favorite type of project?
I’m definitely a hard-core chopper and hot-rod guy, but I’m also toying with the idea of moving into some industrial type furniture where I can combine some of my other skills including woodworking and leather work. I’m also interested in exploring some architectural stuff. The industrial and farm type or reclaimed wood furniture is very popular right now. I’ve got some ideas bouncing around my head on some interesting ways to combine the two styles.
What's next for Mad Scientist Industries?
Well I am currently in the process of moving to a new home/shop. The new garage will quadruple my space and give me a little more room to take on bigger projects. I’m working on refining a manufacturing process for a building set of aluminum saddle bags I plan to put into production next year. They are styled after a vintage “Bubble Bag” that were a popular aftermarket additions to Harley-Davidson’s in the 1950’s. They have a great design, and I think will work well with the 70’s style choppers that are popular right now. For guys that ride their choppers daily or on longer trips, it should give them a little dry storage space on their bikes without looking terrible.
I recently purchased a CNC plasma table to use in the fabrication business, but in 2019 my wife and I will be using it as a basis for a new, as yet to be named, home decor business focusing wall art, signs, wine racks, fire pits, and the aforementioned furniture. We are currently working on some original designs that are a little different than a lot of what is currently being offered. I hope to produce some interesting pieces that have some great design elements and a bit of a twist, the kind you might expect from a mad scientist.
ABOUT THE BUILD
What interested you in working with a Honda 1971 CB350?
Well I love motorcycles in all their forms, and the idea of a collaborative project highlighting folks around the Raleigh area seemed like a good one. I’m pretty new to the area, so I thought it would be a good way to get plugged into the community and get my business off the ground.
What was your initial reaction to converting this bike to a mono-shock cafe?
When Mike said he’d been told it couldn’t be done, it got my juices flowing since I like a challenge. After doing a bit of research, there are plenty of examples of people and other companies that have done it. However, most of them appeared to be done poorly and/or without any consideration of functionality.
What were your biggest challenges?
Getting the shock right was the biggest issue. Since the budget didn’t allow for a custom built shock, I needed to find a shock from a stock bike that would work well, and then design the suspension around it. Based on the approximate weight of the bike and rider, as well as the geometry of the suspension, I was able to estimate the spring rate needed for the bike. From there, it was a matter of mocking the bike up to ride height with the new swing arm and rear hoop to find the physical measurements that I had to work with. Once everything was measured up, a couple of hours of searching the internet turned up a potential match, in a shock from a 2003-2004 Yamaha YZF-R6. The stock spring rate was close to what was needed, and it physically fit into the space I had to work with. A used unit that was in good condition was purchased from eBay, and then I had to make it all work.
What did you learn throughout the process?
This was the first café bike I’ve built so really sitting down and learning about the style and seeing what companies and products are out there was cool. I’m far too large to ever ride one of those bikes, so I’ve never had much occasion to really explore the bikes being built and the companies that build them.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely. I’m excited for you to get it on the road and get some feedback on how it rides, and learn what I can improve to make the next one even better.
For well over twenty years, folks have been making their way to the fields of central Ohio for this country's largest vintage motorcycle swap meet, the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days. This year however, would be our first and we had absolutely no idea what to expect. We knew there would be some cool bikes here and there and tons of parts to go through, but the event turned out to be so much more than a few rusty piles for sale. After four days of swapping parts, stories, and a bike or two, we can say for sure,..we will do our damnedest to never miss another vintage days ever again.
When we drove onto the scene at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the rain was coming down pretty hard and it was difficult to fight the feeling that this weekend was going to be a bust due to the weather. Within minutes of sitting in the long line of traffic waiting to enter the course though, this feeling of disappointment quickly changed to excitement as the sounds of dirt and trail bikes filled the air. People were yelling with excitement at friends they hadn't seen since last year and more than a few folks hopped out to give a fellow rider a quick push start down the muddy road. It was kinda in that moment that we realized no amount of rain was going to stop this crowd from having a great weekend of racing, riding, and swapping.
We sat in line like children waiting for their parents to wake up on christmas morning. We couldn't wait to get out of the truck, unload our bikes, and start taking it all in. As we made our way through the gates and towards camp, we passed hundreds of bikes and thousands of bike parts, neatly organized in many cases amongst the canopies and campers. Despite the rain, people where everywhere riding, swapping, and doing their best to get ready for the weekend ahead.
Over the next couple days, the rain cleared, the vendors unloaded all their gear, and the races began. Bike vendors and attendees were everywhere and we'd be lying if we said it wasn't a bit overwhelming. Needless to say, we had hard time sticking close to our booth with so much to see and do.
With the rain cleared out, everything was now out and on display. Bikes and parts were being sold left and right, and more than a few times you'd see an old barn find being towed down the fields on it's way to a new home.
Amidst the beaters and rusty parts though, were some of the nicest bikes we've seen in some time. BSAs, Nortons, Indians, Harleys, Yamahas, and just about every Honda imaginable was at this show,..and down each row you'd find a few that were absolutely immaculate.
With each new bike, came a new story and more than a few helpful tips on how to make these old bikes look beautiful and run just as well. The knowledge we gained in just a few days talking to everyone at this show was worth the price of admission alone.
To sum it up. We had a blast, despite the rain and clouds, we met good people, heard some amazing stories, and got our heads right for what to expect next year.
This will no doubt be an annual event for Raleigh Motor.
April 12th. The day Raleigh Motor officially launched our story at the annual European and Euro-inspired motorcycle show, Raleigh Eurobike. Located in downtown Raleigh at Seaboard Station, this show brought out some of the best bikes and custom builds this area has to offer. But even though we were surrounded by hundreds of amazing bikes, food trucks, activities, and a handful of awesome vendors, we'd have to say our favorite part of the event was meeting everyone and talking about their love for these bikes and this rising community of artists and designers we have here. We even had the pleasure of meeting several fine folks from surrounding areas as far out as Charlotte and Virginia.
In short, this event kicked ass. While we don't know the official count, there must have been at least 300 bikes on display. From vintage Moto-Guzzi's and Nortons to custom built Honda cafe racers, there almost wasn't enough time to take it all in. The event featured several gear and apparel vendors from the area and food rolled in on Raleigh's finest food trucks. Above is a shot of the newest addition to the Raleigh food truck scene, Fire Chef Raleigh. This 1967 Ford F600 was customized last year and is now rolling the streets serving up some delicious gourmet dogs. This classic fire engine has got to be one of the coolest food trucks in the country.
The competition for top prize was stiff, but once again, for the third year running, Johann Keyser of Moto Motivo took home Best in Show with his Honda CX500. As we've noted before, this bike is flawless. It was great to see Johann take home the gold! We're not sure what he's got cooking for next year, but it's bound to be another solid build. We're looking forward to seeing what else comes out of his shop in the year ahead.
A couple other bikes from the event also caught our eye—and we're glad they did because we got a chance to meet the people behind the builds. Above is a shot of Tattoo Moto's 1972 BMW R75/5, which took home the Best German Custom award at the event. As we took a shot of this bike we were greeted by Rudy Banny, the bikes designer / builder and the owner of Tattoo Motorcycles out of Charlotte, NC. Rudy was incredibly friendly and excited to tell us about this build. Here's a solid write up on this bike from the crew at otomotif.org accompanied by a quick interview with Rudy himself. We were honored to meet Rudy and shake his hand. We will definitely be following his story and his work going forward.
This last bike created quite the buzz as it rolled into the show and caught our attention immediately with it's wood grain tank and seat pan. This Honda CB750, built by Spencer Tull out of Fort Mill, SC is as clean as it gets. The hand dipped hyrdo-graphics on this tank and seat pan had just about everyone at the event talking and most were unsure if the bike was made from real wood or simply had an amazing paint job. We had a brief moment to talk with Spencer and congratulate him on the build, but we are hoping to see him back in Raleigh later this year for Bull City Rumble where perhaps we'll snag a more in depth interview with him about this bike. It deserves the attention.
If we took just one thing away from this event, it's that the community of builders, riders, makers, and designers is alive and well here on the east coast,...and poised to produce some amazing work in the year ahead. We couldn't be more excited to be giving it a go and joining you all! We only hope our bike and our stories can hit the bar that has been set so high.
Thanks again to Dave Minella, Stella Pittman, Scott Dail and the folks at Do The Ton Triangle for putting on such a great event! We'll definitely be back for more next spring.
We are proud to sponsor Eurobike this year for their 6th annual European and Euro-inspired show.
This will be Raleigh Motor's official launch event. Stop by our booth to learn about the build and to join the community.
Event is free and open to the public.
April 12th 2015