A local motorcycle shop will travel south this week to compete in their first national invitation-only Biker Build-Off Competition.
Florida Full Throttle Magazine’s Motorcycle Expo and Bike Builders Invitational extended an invitation to Iron Station Thunder in early November. The Lincoln County motorcycle shop is among 45 motorcycle builders chosen to compete. The owners of the winning entry will receive a $5,000 cash prize and a customized championship ring.
“It’s basically a ‘build what you want to build’ type of competition,” owner Bryan “Rocket” McClure said.
Although Iron Station Thunder has had a few months to perfect its submission, most of the motorcycle’s construction has taken place over the past week.
“You generally have to order your engine and other parts at least six weeks in advance,” McClure said.
With a significant wait time for parts, the motorcycle crew has had time to perfect the design of their one-of-a-kind creation. Iron Station Thunder’s competition motorcycle is unique in that instead of using paint, the crew decided to implement a rusting technique in which different types of acid are used to stain the metal.
“You can make paint look like anything, but we’re using actual rust,” McClure said.
Other special features of the motorcycle include a seven-speed transmission, an electric kickstand that allows the bike to park itself and a 120-cubic-inch engine with 150 horsepower. According to McClure, the average Harley Davidson motorcycle goes up to 70 horsepower. However, he and his crew members designed their motorcycle to run up to 150 horsepower.
“Hand-making this bike has been challenging,” McClure said. “To get to this degree of perfection is a true task — not everyone can pull this off. Making something is time consuming. But our guys have tremendous talent.”
McClure’s passion for motorcycles and machines started at a young age.
“My older brother and I were racing dirt cars by the time I was five,” McClure said. “We grew up in NASCAR.”
A North Carolina native, McClure grew up in West Charlotte. After completing high school, he took a machinist apprenticeship in Germany. Since then, McClure has served in the military, run his own construction company and worked for NASCAR, taking care of the road crew’s motorcycles.
Iron Station Thunder opened its doors in April 2005 at their location in Iron Station. However, after deciding to pursue building motorcycles full-time, McClure made the decision in 2012 to open another shop in Lincolnton.
“When I got out of racing and decided I wanted to stop traveling and wanted to really push the motorcycle shop full time, that’s when I decided to move over to Lincolnton,” McClure said. “Being that Hog Happenin’ is in Lincolnton was a big persuasion for me to move over there.”
Since the Lincolnton location opened in April 2012, Iron Station Thunder’s business has almost quadrupled in size.
“During our first year open (in Lincolnton), we doubled in business, and in 2013, we doubled in business again,” McClure said.
Today, Iron Station Thunder works on motorcycles up and down the East Coast.
“Just today, I worked on bikes for customers in New Bern, Columbia, S.C., Knoxville, Tenn., and we sold bikes to customers in Connecticut and New York,” McClure said. “So, we don’t just work on the local economy; we work on bringing money in from different places.”
While Iron Station Thunder has built motorcycles for their customers to compete in competitions, this is the first time they will have built a motorcycle to compete for themselves.
“We’ve built a lot of bikes for other people to compete, and they’ve done really well,” McClure said. “So, when we got the invite to be represented ourselves…this bike that we built is truly one of a kind. Nobody’s done this before; it’s a one-off piece. So, we feel like we have some pretty good odds going down there.”
The motorcycle industry’s press has also caught wind of Iron Station Thunder’s rising popularity. The Carolinas’ Full Throttle magazine has featured Iron Station Thunder several times. According to McClure, motorcycle magazines American Bagger and Easy Rider have also expressed interest in doing stories on the Lincoln County business.
“When an East Coast style bike gets West Coast recognition, that’s pretty big,” McClure said. “Most of all the custom quality motorcycles are done on the West Coast. There are only a few builders on the East Coast that really carry much recognition.”
Iron Station Thunder currently has three full time employees. However, with the shop’s increasing rise in popularity, McClure has decided to look into hiring two more people.
“We want to make sure our customers are getting high-quality stuff at low rates,” McClure said. “We want to make sure our customers can keep their bikes running.”
The Florida Full Throttle Magazine’s Motorcycle Expo and Bike Builders Invitational will run from Jan. 24 through the 26th. While the Iron Station Thunder crew is first-timers to this competition, McClure believes their motorcycle could bring back some well-deserved recognition to the county.
“It’s a chance for huge recognition from the industry and serious bragging rights for the winner,” McClure said. “It’s just another way for us to put Lincolnton on the map.”