BigBikes Interactive Customizer of the Month: JOE CREE of CALIFORNIA CUSTOMS
By David Yerzy

jc9991.GIF (31315 bytes)

     It seems appropriate that one of the true motorcycle artist and fabricators, that should ply his trade, has found his niche on the El Camino Real.  Truly "one of a kind masterpieces" befitting a King, roll out of Joe Cree's shop, in Mountain View, California.  Joe works with every one of his clients, even over the Internet, to get exactly, every nuance, every preference, exactly.  Creating a machine that California Customs calls "0% Common, 100% Custom!

     Long time Bay area resident Joe Cree, has developed a thriving market for his unique one of a kind classics.  At the same time Joe, and his hard working crew, take care of the rest of the motorcycle community, with service to the V-twin jc9992.GIF (41628 bytes)

market, as well as warranty work for other manufacturers.   That, plus the custom work, definitely keeps Joe on hand, "full time"!  "We've gotten a lot of orders this year, plus the fact that we picked up three dealers, selling in other locations, such as northern Minnesota, Connecticut, California, and Nevada, has really helped out."  He says he is not that interested in expanding, just yet.  "We'll probably stay one of the smallest volume manufacturers, like Oscar Coca of Pure Steel, true producers of custom motorcycles.  "Even though we offer a standard model, I think ninety-nine percent of what we do is one off of that, individual, I don't think we've sold a standard bike since we started!"  "We nit-pick all the way down to what grips you want; colors of the seats, everything.  "So even though we're a manufacture, I think we fall more into the Custom Builder category."  Having his Manufactures License, California Customs is fully certified by E.P.A, D.O.T. and C.A.R.B. compliant.  "We feel pretty confident we can provide a nice bike, in pretty much any style, and still give it a good warranty.  "We use good quality parts, and try to use only the best, better gear combinations, whatever it takes.  At the same time were checking new products, to keep only the best on our cycles." 

     When asked about sales in the local Bay Area, Joe said that most of his sales have been outside the state.  "In fact we just sold a chopper to a guy in Portland, Oregon, strictly over the Internet.  Never met the guy.   He described what he wanted, we nailed down a "build list" of parts he wanted on the bike, even down to the custom paint job, by exchanging graphics over the e-mail."  The customer never met Joe, only through his web site <>, and gave him exactly what he desired, a chopper, he could cruise on the highway.  So they gave him a 107-in. motor, with a six-speed transmission, thirty-eight degrees of rake, four inches of down tube stretch, an inch of backbone stretch.  Still "a chopper", but it had a nice suspension, and could cruise in sixth gear on the highway, and not even break a sweat!

jc9993.GIF (47167 bytes)"Here in the Silicon Valley, you have a lot of competition , even if your not looking for a manufactured bike, you have people like Ness, and Simm's, there's a lot of great builders in this area."

"I've always thought that if you weren't in California designing bikes, you weren't anywhere! Arizona is also a really good place, but it always seemed that the Bay Area, was always ahead of southern California, in coming out with new stuff, different looks, to me the "choppers" really started here, back in the sixties."

     Lately, they only offered Softails, but then customer preference switched to rubber-mounts, then Mike Corbin and Joe came up with the idea to build a convertible-touring bike. (Check out that Nomad Convertible R/S)  Everything so far this year, has been a Softail.  Joe thinks the market is eventually going to go more comfort, longer distance riding.  "Personally, from a consumer's standpoint, I know if I spent thirty-plus thousand dollars on a motorcycle, I'd want to hop on it, and be able to ride it anywhere I could, not just to Laughlin, and barely survive the ride."  "I see more and more people going that way, but just when I think that, guys like "Big Mike" can come out with a chopper, that does really well!

Joe's not worried about the competition; in fact he says that most companies find their niche at different levels, with different riders finding exactly what they need.  "It's a tough business.  I've been in other businesses, but this is probably the most competitive, definitely the most ego-driven business around.  You design a bike, your kind of like a painter, everybody criticizes it, and that's really a personal thing to him, so when guys build bikes, it's the same way."  "Even if it's not a bike for you, you built it, and the guy may be out there riding it, the guys that put it together still consider it one of theirs. 

     Basically, Joe, with the expert assistance of Jim Winchell, is in there, elbow-to-elbow, cranking out an impressive line of motorcycles.  No assembly line here!  About four a month is what production is at, maintaining the high standards Joe puts into his machines.  "We always did figure we would be a smaller manufacture", Joe admits.   Even though listed under the E.P.A. as a small manufacture, which limits production to three hundred unit a year, Joe says, "That would be almost thirty bikes a month, and I can't imagine how some of these guys do twice that many a month, it's really a chore.  Obviously there's a way to ramp-it-up, but we always want keep that high quality, high custom thing, and it's hard to do that if your putting out over a thousand a year".  "We enjoy it more, doing each bike a little bit different."

     What's in the future, for California Customs? The new "Dominator" should be out in a matter of days.  Sort of a "chopperesque" look, not unruly to handle, kind of like a regular Softail Custom, with the wide tire, and the big motor, and all the custom stuff that comes on a custom bike.  "It'll have that ten inch, twelve inch ape-hanger look, twenty-one inch wheel."  "I've always loved high handlebars, I rode for years, and years collecting  "handlebar tickets", in every city in California, I think!"  "We don't want to put on super-high handlebars on a bike, and then normal people can't ride. We want to make it so the average guy can jump on it, and ride it, so we put twelve inch bars, the short riser look, with billet triple trees, sort of the chopper look, with some up-sweep pipes on it."  The "Dominator", will base price at $25,000.

jc9994.GIF (63535 bytes)

It looks as though the Nomad Convertible R/S could be a strong contender, in the bags on cruiser, models, besides it's sweeping, aerodynamic lines, from its seven inch nacelle, past its classic styled chin spoiler, featuring a Daytec Episode frame, thirty-degree rake.  Joe is really satisfied with the smoothness coming out of the fame, and especially the gas mileage generated by the sleek speedster. He estimates forty, to forty-three miles per gallon.  Pretty good for a ninety-six inch S&S motor.  Fairing and saddlebags are both detachable, in less than five minutes!

     Far as the upcoming schedule, it looks as though Joe won't catch Sturgis this year, he'll be hard at work on his customer bikes, but it looks as though you can catch him, and his new trailer in Reno, for Street Vibration in September. 

                                                                   Technical Stuff

Standard equipment on every motorcycle,

bulletS & S 96 cubic inch motor
bulletPM Wheels & Brakes
bulletS & S Carb and Cam
bulletU.M.I. Forward Controls
bulletDelkron Trans with JIMS gears
bulletCorbin Seat
bulletDaytec Frame
bulletM.C. Ignition
bulletKT Sofspension
bulletChrome Handlebar Controls
bulletBelt Primary and Final Drive
bulletPowder coated Frame
bullet180 Wide Rear Tire

Additional options and customization available on request

Located at: 2656 W. El Camino Real
                    Mountain View, CA 94040
                    (650) 941-5212

bigbikeslogo.gif (21105 bytes) 

Hit Counter