Interviewing Ron Finch has to be on my top-five list of lucky breaks since starting to work for Cycle Connections. The man is a living legend. While Ron may be known as a bike builder to most, he is an artist at heart. Through the years his builds have not shown any outside influence. Ron’s criteria for a bike is to be different, artistic and above all rideable. He does not build to suit the media or the masses, yet his creations are still as vital today as they were when they were built. I admire a man who makes no excuses for his work and refuses to compromise to meet what is trendy. In my opinion, the custom bike world needs more builders like Ron Finch. To talk to him is to understand the passion behind motorcycling, not the dollars to be made from them. Many of the so- called “top” builders today point to Finch as an inspiration and an innovator. The reverence in which he is held is totally and completely deserved.
CC: How was 2005 for Finch’s Custom Style Cycles, Ron?
Ron: 2005 was a good year. Different things happened to me. One thing which doesn’t pertain to motorcycles, but I’ve been doing these metal sculptures that were in three different art galleries and that stuff is something I have been trying to get into for four years. It is a different culture than bikes. The people still party, but it’s a whole different field. So, as it was, I was like the grand marshall of this one little town, Wyandotte, on St. Patrick’s Day. I had a green silk vest on and everything and had my giant motorcycle down there with fire coming out of the exhaust pipes and the gallery had a keg and green beer, which you know was all right. It was the first St. Patrick’s that I ever made it to being that my birthday is March 16, the day before, so every other year up until this year I have always been partying on my birthday and then never made it to St. Patrick’s Day, so it was a first for ’05. As far as the bike thing, I have been going to lots of shows. My record was six weekends in a row. The shows are good. I like the people. I like looking at other people’s bikes, although I feel everybody’s got a little different idea… you look at somebody else’s stuff and you get fresh ideas sometimes. Sometimes no big deal, but usually somebody has something that is a little bit different. The show that we are at right now in Kansas City is an invitational, and there are a lot of bikes that came from all over the country because they are winners of that show, wherever that show may have been.
CC: Are you surprised that your designs have stood the test of time as well as they have?
Ron: Well, it has been up and down. It is kind of a situation where a lot of people don’t really care for my stuff that much. They say it is too radical or too wild or whatever, but the thing of it is, all my bikes are practical because of the fact that they run down the road, which is more than I can say for some of the stuff that is out there today (not mentioning any names). My stuff has always run. That is one claim that I have. As far as the test of time, there are a lot of people who have been following me for years. If you were to stand alongside me in my booth, I would almost bet money that somebody in the next 15 minutes will come up and say I have been following you since the 70s and I really enjoy your stuff. It’s good to hear. I’m not on an ego trip. I don’t give a shit basically.
CC: What are you working on in your shop right now? Have you got any new wicked designs?
Ron: Yeah, I have been working on a new bike for myself. It’s call Finnicky and it has fins on the down tubes. It has fins on the gooseneck. It has fins on the axle covers. Fins on the engine. Extended the Shovelhead an inch and a quarter on the spark plug side then the fins go all the way up where normally they would stop at a spark plug they just continue up so the spark plugs are like the cavity which makes the heads look really massive, and then the frame has an offset to it so that it is like an optical illusion where the fins actually look bigger than they are because the frame is not in the center, but yet it is lined up perfectly.
CC: Where do you draw the inspiration for your rolling works of art?
Ron: I think about stuff… It’s a thought process, and usually I get a concept of what I want to do on the bike and then I keep modifying on that idea, but I still stay on that wavelength.
CC: Out of the new batch of builders who are out there now, do any of them impress you at all?
Ron: There are a few that do.
CC: Anybody in particular?
Ron: Not really, just an array.
CC: Do you think the custom bike craze is slowing down any?
Ron: I don’t think it is slowing down other than it is at a point of saturation. I don’t know what John Green thinks, I’ve never talked to him about it, but I do know that I go to a show just about every weekend and they are everywhere. There was one on the East Coast. They weren’t bike people at all; they were just money people. They said, “OK, we’re going to have a bike show.” And they don’t know shit about it, but they’re going to have a bike show…. OK… so they get their little piece of the pie. And then this benefit over here… they’re going to raise money for this…, which could be a very good cause, but then you gotta go there….., and there are so many things you can do which makes it kind of rough for people like John who have been doing it for a long time and then these other guys come in and they kind of step on your toes to a degree. I don’t think the custom bike craze is going out, just that there is a saturation point, and all these new shops, I don’t know how they can survive. I have managed to survive for 40-some years, but to start fresh right now when you’ve got Joe over here and Sam over here and Pete over here…. I mean all in the same town. Come on. They don’t necessarily know what they’re doing, just because you own a bike shop doesn’t mean you’re a bike builder.
CC: Are there any build-offs in your future? Anything else we’re going to see on TV?
Ron: Not to my knowledge. I am going to be on the 16th on V-Twin TV. As far as the Build-Off, they didn’t choose me, which I understand they have motocross bikes on there, Jap junk, they call the metrics (I’m a little prejudiced). I don’t care if I’m on it or not, but when they bring this whole other element in, I really don’t care.
Interview & photos by Loney and Stephanie Wilcoxson