Local bikers featured in upcoming motor show

Published 8:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bruce Joanis, left, poses with the Harley Davidson Road King bike he is entering into this weekend’s Cavalcade of Wheels. Bob Hartline will show off his custom-made bobber during the event.

Bruce Joanis, left, poses with the Harley Davidson Road King bike he is entering into this weekend’s Cavalcade of Wheels. Bob Hartline will show off his custom-made bobber during the event.

Despite the fact the two men have been into motorcycles since they were teenagers, both Bruce Joanis and Bob Hartline only had the opportunity to dive head first into their hobby around three years ago.

“Getting married, having kids and having to pay for a house kind of takes time away from playing with the toys,” Joanis said.

Joanis, of Niles, and Hartline, of Dowagiac, have spent the last several years customizing motorcycles alongside other members of the Niles-based biker charity, the Niles Burn Run. Their rejuvenated passion for motorcycles will be paying off in a big way this weekend, as they have been selected to participate in this weekend’s Cavalcade of Wheels, held Saturday and Sunday in South Bend.

“If the weather’s nice enough, we hope to just ride down for the show on Friday,” Joanis said.

Joanis will be showing off his Harley Davidson Road King, which sports custom paint and chrome work. Hartline, meanwhile, will showcase his custom-built bobber motorcycle, which is built off the frame of a 1981 Yahama Midnight Special.

Hartline first read that the Burn Run was looking for members to feature during this weekend’s motor show on Facebook a few weeks ago, he said. Both him and Joanis sent photos of their bikes to the organizers to see if they would be interested in having them come down. They received an email a few days later inviting them to participate.

“It’s our first time in the Cavalcade,” Hartline said. “We always went to the show when we were younger to see the cars and bikes they had on display. It was always the first big thing to do in the spring.”

Both men have participated in the Burn Run charity event, which is held in Niles in July, for nearly a decade. A few years ago, a small group of regular riders decided to begin making their own bikes, chopping parts from other vehicles to craft an entirely new motorcycle.

“We wanted take motorcycles that weren’t normally cool to ride and make them into something that IS cool to ride,” Hartline said.

Hartline has spent the past three years working on his bobber, after finding the discarded Yahama bike tucked away inside of a local barn.

“It was covered with pigeon manure,” Hartline said. “I was too embarrassed to bring it home, so I had to take it to a car wash to get it cleaned up first.”

Since then, he has completely reworked the bike, stretching out the frame, replacing the fender and handlebars with fabricated parts and giving it a custom red and black coat of paint.

Joanis has also built his own bike, based off the frame of a 1986 Yahama Radian. He added vintage chopper parts to the body and added a hand-crafted leather seat.

Between the two of them, they have created three custom motorcycles in total, on top of the bikes they helped others craft as well. The entire group built their bikes in the same garage, sharing parts and expertise when needed.

“No one bike is alike,” Joanis said. “They have some similarities, but they all have their own individual personalities to them.”

On the occasions when they’ve shown off their personal creations at other events, visitors showed interest in the unique characteristics of the motorcycles.

“People stop to take a look at custom bikes,” Hartline said. “You don’t see these types of bikes everyday.”

Despite the showcase level quality the bikes already demonstrated, Harline and Joanis said that they still intend to keep modifying them whenever they get the chance.

“They’re never really finished. We’re always going to keep customizing them,” Hartline said.