Going Hog wild with Harley Davidsons

In the world of Harley Davidson customization, black is the new chrome.

Influenced by TV shows like Sons of Anarchy, about an outlaw motorcycle gang with a sense of style, discerning Hog riders are getting the chromed engine blocks on their bikes blacked out just like the Dyna Super Glide Sports ridden on the cable series.

That’s money in the bank for Rob Thiessen and his partner Keith Yip, who opened their own customization shop, Lucky 51, in a north Burnaby warehouse two years ago.

For Thiessen, the chance to tinker and “sup” up the big bikes is the ultimate expression of his love for the American classic. He’s owned 10 of them through the years since he graduated from the dirt bike he favoured as a kid.

“I love the way it’s made, the way it sounds,” says Thiessen. “A lot of other bikes have lots of plastic parts but the Harley is still American steel.”

That steel rolled him through a 20-year music career, playing bass and singing vocals for the metal/punk band Noise Therapy that toured with hard core acts like Motley Crue and Marilyn Manson.

When the novelty of the rock-and-roll road wore off, Thiessen jumped into Harleys with both boots as a performance expert and design consultant at renowned Vancouver dealer Trev Deeley for seven years before striking out on his own.

While the bikes still revel in their outlaw image, they’ve become increasingly popular with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers looking to stay in touch with their wild side as they wrestle with mortgage payments and getting the kids to soccer practice on Saturday mornings.

“It takes your mind off everything,” says Thiessen of the Harley experience. “You don’t think of anything else but being on the road.”

In their cramped but immaculate workshop, Thiessen and Yip have up to a dozen bikes in various states of disassembly as they’re fitted with everything from custom painted fenders, cowlings and saddlebags to unique lighting arrays and stereo systems to special wheels and exhaust assemblies.

“You can individualize a motorcycle more than a car,” says Thiessen. “There’s really no end to what you can do with a Harley.”

And no limit on what it can cost. A customization can run anywhere from $500 to $50,000 and can take a few hours to more than 50 to complete.

Some of the bikes in the shop are spec jobs. Thiessen flexes his creative muscles while Yip works his technical prowess to cobble creations they’ll present at show and shines to show what they can do and hopefully sell. Two such bikes are currently up on the work stands getting the final touches affixed to them in time for the Vancouver Bike Show, which runs Jan. 17-20 at the Abbotsford TRADEX.

“We get to do exactly what we want,” says Thiessen. “It gives us a chance to try new things.”

For more information about Lucky 51, go to For more information about the Vancouver Motorcycle Show, including hours and tickets, go to


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