The Devil Hates A Cow­ard

THE DEVIL HATES A COW­ARD

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I’ve al­ways been drawn to the clean, taste­ful lines that Den­ver’s Chop­pers pro­duced many years ago. I’m ob­sessed with the more rad­i­cal stuff that Freddy Her­nan­dez cre­ated there, with their su­per-long forks—of­ten­times rigid forks! I couldn’t imag­ine how any­one could ride some­thing like that, much less ride one across coun­try as I in­tended to do.

The in­for­ma­tion I found for rigid forks ei­ther said they rode like crap or they were the best thing ever. In ei­ther case, it seemed as though they were rel­e­gated to short trips. Short trips be damned. The simple beauty of the de­sign had con­sumed my thoughts, and I set out about de­sign­ing some forks.

I started with a se­ries of sketches of the over­all bike after study­ing sev­eral Den­ver and Freddy bikes. In the end I de­cided to build a frame with a bit of “up­stretch” and as lit­tle “out” as pos­si­ble, adding a healthy dose of rake to the whole getup. I took on the daunt­ing task of get­ting all of the ge­om­e­try cor­rect so that the end prod­uct would be as rider friendly as pos­si­ble, given the cross-coun­try chal­lenge at hand.

A ’73 FX frame was the start­ing point for my new chas­sis. All I was re­ally interested in was the neck cast­ing and en­gine cra­dle, as I planned to build the rest of the frame from scratch to my di­men­sions. I started chop­ping, adding 5 inches to the down­tubes, and pulling the neck back to 45 de­grees just as Den­ver and Freddy had done so long ago. It was at this time the name “The Jart” came to me, as it re­sem­bled a dart (long and skinny) and it was dan­ger­ous as it gets, much like the name­sake “yard dart” game.

The first trip down the road was pretty event­ful, as this was the first foot-clutch bike I had. That, cou­pled with the long forks and gen­eral ner­vous­ness of the first ride, found me swerv­ing try­ing to tame it. I man­aged to get it turned around at the cor­ner and made it back to the shop won­der­ing if I had just built some­thing that I couldn’t ride! I let my nerves calm a few min­utes, re­call­ing the words of my good friend: “The devil hates a cow­ard!” After sev­eral trips around the coun­try block, I was feeling much more at ease and the bike was run­ning great.

The road to Born-free wasn’t easy. When we made our way into Colorado, dis­as­ter struck. Just north of Den­ver I felt a change in the han­dling and knew some­thing wasn’t right, so I sig­naled to the other guys that we needed to hit the next exit and check things over. The bike had gained a few ex­tra de­grees of rake thanks to a crack at neck level. Ob­vi­ously, the bike was un­safe to ride. Sev­eral peo­ple rec­om­mended Dave Barker of Speed Metal Cy­cles in Den­ver, who also had a rigid fork bike.

I even­tu­ally found out that tire bal­ance was the main cul­prit. Luck­ily, once we got to Speed Metal, Dave men­tioned that one of his cus­tomers, Pete, had a long springer that he might sell. As it turns out, the springer was still on a bike, his very first chop­per that he had built in the ’70s. Pete didn’t re­ally want to get rid of it and fi­nally of­fered to let me “just bor­row it un­til I got home.” I re­minded him that home wasn’t for an­other cou­ple weeks, but he didn’t mind. So the swap was made.

We made it to Born-free, and the rest of the way home after that was rel­a­tively prob­lem free. It was one of the most mem­o­rable trips of my life and largely due to the kind­ness of strangers. I have since made it a point to help any­one in need, as a way to pay back the kind­ness shown to me. There are so many good peo­ple left in this world; you just have to get out there and meet them! I have since taken what I learned on the trip, re­built the orig­i­nal forks, and have put an­other 7,000 miles on the bike. HB

WORDS: JOEL HAUENSTEIN PHO­TOS: MIKEY RE­VOLT

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