Billy Lane - The Chopper Kingpin Visits KC
Rumor has it that Dave Mann was the first biker to own a chopper in Kansas City. On Saturday, July 17, a benefit was held in Dave’s honor to raise money to help him with growing medical expenses associated with his illness. The highlight of the David Mann Benefit was Dave’s induction into the National Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame in Anamosa, Iowa.
Russ Niccum has been good friends with Dave for many years; both being from the Kansas City area. Since he and Dave are long time friends, officials at the National Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame asked Russ to help them find someone to present an award to Dave at the David Mann Benefit induction ceremony. Russ immediately got on the phone and contacted none other than East Coast Chopper Kingpin, Billy Lane. How ironic, that when Russ called Billy, he was in the middle of hanging his new Dave Mann print in his shop (no kidding). As a biker’s biker, Billy was more than happy to fly out to KC to honor, '”The Man.” Dave has always been one of Billy’s idols and has been an influence in his designs, which has helped him build Choppers Inc. into what it is today.
On Friday, July 16, while doing a photo shoot at D & G Autobody in Kansas City, shop owner, Greg McDermott, told us his buddy, Russ, was planning on picking Billy up at the airport that afternoon and was looking for a group of riders to ride up and welcome him to Kansas City. We obviously jumped at the chance, so around 5:30 p.m. that afternoon, several riders congregated in the parking lot at Greg’s shop. From there, Mike Schweder, Cycle Connections Editor-in-Chief, led approximately 20 bikers to the airport to meet Billy when he arrived.
When we first met Billy, we noticed his right wrist was bandaged and he told us he had shattered his wrist after “dumping a bagger” in Hawaii, and had just undergone surgery. Because of his respect for Dave Mann, Billy set his own injuries aside and flew to Kansas City to participate in this very special event. What is so cool, is that Billy is such an approachable celebrity. He hung out and partied with us for a couple hours at the Final Approach Pub near the airport, and really enjoyed talking with the folks who had ridden up with us to greet him.
While at the bar, Billy told me a story that was typical of the Chopper Kingpin. Apparently, he was out and about, and some yuppie with a BMW that was parked nearby sat on Billy’s chopper and started messing with the controls. Billy thought it was only fair to return the favor, so he jumped in the asshole’s car and started playing with his controls. The yuppie freaked out and started screaming and cussing out Billy, who calmly continued to f*ck with the guy’s car. Consequently, the jerk called the cops and Billy was arrested. After Billy explained to the cops what was going on, he was immediately released and the charges were dropped. It just goes to show you that if you screw with the Chopper Kingpin's ride, expect to have your ride screwed with as well!
We also found out a little history about Billy. He hails from Melbourne, Florida and holds an Associate of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Florida State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Florida International University. His father got him interested in cars and hot rods early on, so Billy had quite a bit of mechanical knowledge before going to engineering school. Then, in 1989, he bought his first bike while in college. The bike was basically in pieces so he had to learn how to put it together. With the help of some old-timers, he learned a lot; and fast.
After college, Billy got a job with his brother working on bikes, and then went out on his own. He started making custom parts as gifts for his friends when he was 'poor,' and eventually, a demand built up for these six-gun parts outside of his peer group. This led to the 1995 formation of Choppers Inc. in Melbourne, Florida.
Make sure you check out Billy’s web site at www.choppersinc.com. Even if you’re not into choppers or Billy’s unique style and passion, you won’t leave disappointed, because this site is for all bikers and it just plain rocks!
While hanging out at the bar, we also found out a little more about Russ Niccum, who helped make all this possible. Russ has been a member of the local band, Rukus, for over 15 years, singing lead vocals and playing guitar. Russ and his band performs all over the KC area, and you can keep up-to-date on their upcoming performances by visiting their web site at http://www.rukus.fanclub.ms/. Russ was also responsible for booking all the local music talent for the Dave Mann benefit. Thanks again to Russ for inviting us to hang out and be a part of this pre-David Mann benefit party with Billy.
One final note, I’ve heard that Orange County Choppers is going to build a bike for Dave, and from what I understand, one possible theme is the Ghost Rider. Man, I can't wait to see it! Be sure to check future issues of Cycle Connections as we just might get first dibs at seeing it.
Story by Wayne Thompson