Gardner, Kansas may be the last place you’d expect to find one of Kansas City’s finest custom bike builders, but that’s exactly where you’ll find Ultra Craft Customs. Reece and Heath Good have specialized in building unbelievable custom bikes and their talent in sheet metal fabrication is second to none!
As a matter of fact, Craig Frye’s 2003 Ultra Craft Customs Pro Street Chopper made the cover of this month’s issue. The first time I saw this bike was at the Angel Flight: Ride for Life charity ride I attended last September. I was amazed at the level of detail put into this bike and introduced myself while taking several photos of his bike. I told Craig we’d like to feature his bike in our magazine some time and we’re excited to be able to include it in this issue.
I made my way down to Ultra Craft Customs a couple weeks ago and Reece was kind enough to take the time to answer the following questions:
CC: With all these great bikes all around us, which one is yours?
Reece: I recently gave my brother, Heath, my last bike. It is a custom bike I built as a hardtail chopper, with a Shovelhead motor and a swingarm. Heath has completely rebuilt the bike and had it painted a brilliant orange with some fantastic airbrushing and striping applied. The bike will be displayed at the Easyriders Bike Show at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Missouri.
I’m currently building a new custom chopper for myself and not quite sure how it will look when I’m done. Half of my enjoyment in building a bike comes from the freedom to change and create the design outcome as I see necessary.
CC: How long have you been riding?
Reece: I started out on motocross bikes when I was growing up. I’ve been riding road bikes since 1990, with my first bike being a 1953 Triumph chopper.
CC: Let’s talk about your business, as all riders like to personalize their bikes, whether by adding a few custom parts, all the way through one being built from the ground-up. I would like to share with our readers’ information about your custom bike building business and you, as the owner. How would you describe your business?
Reece: It is a small business, with me being the sole proprietor. I opened my business back in 1998 which was located in a smaller shop. As the business grew, I needed more space and moved to this current location.
CC: Why is your business located at this site?
Reece: I live in this community and it always seemed that we ended up riding in this area. So, when I grew out of my old shop, this one seemed to be a natural location.
CC: What are the advantages of this form of business ownership?
Reece: It allows me the freedom to build unique bikes as the client and I design them. A builder needs the ability to make design changes as the bike is being built, as creativity is what makes each bike special. The builder’s added bonus is seeing the excitement in the new owner as he wheels the bike out for the first ride.
CC: How did you get started in this type of business?
Reece: Actually, my passion for speed, noise and customization began while I was in high school. It started as a hobby, and my first experience was with hot rods, eventually turning to motorcycles.
CC: How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business? Any special training or work in the field?
Reece: My mechanical skills came from a two year automotive school and plenty of hands-on experience. My initial building and sheet metal working skills came from working in a chrome shop for ten years. I was fortunate enough to take several courses from Ron Covell, a well-known California sheet metal designer. He travels throughout the U.S., offering group sessions and videos to reinforce his techniques and tips. My mother, who owns her own business, provides me with great advice on the administrative business side.
CC: Approximately how many bikes do you build in an average year?
Reece: Quality is far more important to us than quantity, so we normally build around six complete bikes each year.
CC: Do you do customize people's bikes too?
Reece: Yes. We do all types of fabrication and build lots of our own parts such as handlebars, pipes, and license plate brackets. We customize approximately 20 bikes per year, and do everything from streaching tanks to fabricating flush-mounted tail lights.
CC: Approximately how long does it take to build a custom bike from the ground-up?
Reece: It depends on the bike, however the average time is normally anywhere between four to six months.
CC: What impacts your business the most and why: social, economic, environmental, technological, legal and political environments?
Reece: The biggest, is the high cost of insurance. The cost to insure a building with all the sheet metal machinery, tools, parts and other required equipment is not cheap. Also, each bike being built in the shop does not carry individual insurance, which requires the shop owner to carry a constant high level of coverage.
CC: Who are your competitors?
Reece: I don’t really see other builders as competitors, as each of us have are own style. There are plenty of builders, and I don’t see any of them searching for work. I’m currently building six bikes, all in different stages, with six more waiting to be started.
CC: How do you market your business? How are people aware of your business?
Reece: I have advertised in some magazines and had a few of my bikes displayed in motorcycle magazines, such as Easyriders and Hot Rod Bikes. I do have a web site, which we are completely revamping to better display what my business does offer. Much of my business is driven by word of mouth, from owners of the bikes I created.
CC: Where do you see your business in the next year?
Reece: Since my business is expanding, I will move this fall to a new location, which will provide me more room to build and additional space to offer parts and accessories. The new location will be at 307 North 7th Street, Kansas City, Kansas; watch for the grand opening!
CC: Do you have any employees? If so, how many?
Reece: I have one employee, my brother Heath. He is a very important part in the success of my business. He is a great builder in his own right. His current bike will be displayed in the Easyriders Bike Show, along with another bike he spent a lot of time on, now owned by Craig Frye.
CC: Can you describe your customers?
Reece: Most of my customers are ones who want a custom bike that is unique in comparison to other bikes. Most are willing to wait for their bikes to be built, knowing that it is a one of a kind, designed with their input. I do some customization for some riders with their current bikes, as they may wish to have a stretched gas tank or custom fenders.
CC: Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
Reece: The biggest draw to my business is the metal working designs we produce in our shop. This does not mean I have the best designs out of the other builders. It is more of the customers likes and dislikes. If the client sees one or two of your bikes and likes your style, they don’t shop around, they come to you.
CC: What are the biggest issues for running this business?
Reece: Drop-in visitors. It‘s not a bad thing, as we like to show off our bikes as much as they like to look them over. However, it does take us away from our work, which extends the delivery of the rides we are completing.
CC: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Reece: A custom bike is not for everyone, some like the standard factory rides, with standard parts and a factory warranty. But for the rider who wants their bike to be one of a kind and have some input into the design, then a custom builder is the only answer. Before you buy, look around and talk with the many owners of custom bikes, then pick your builder. Go over your ideas with the builder and see if the four of you are a good match: builder, customer, time and money.