Saturday, June 11, 2016

Tattoo Shop Profile- Marked 4 Life Tattoos York PA

One night while talking with a buddy the subject of tattoos came up.  Sam told me that he lived with Rick and Cecily who owned Marked 4 Life Tattoos in York PA.  I was interested since my guy is currently away on vacation courtesy of the State.

It wasn’t long after that my son Frank turned 16.  Keeping with the tradition of being a mixed child, half redneck and half white trash, the first thing he wanted to do was to get his tattoo.  A few days later we were at Marked for Life talking to Rick.

The shop is super clean and organized all the way around.  Right away I was impressed by how professional and friendly they all were.  Rick chatted with Frank and they planned the tattoo and the appointment was made.  Frank loves his tattoo, a Trinity symbol, just like one of Dad’s on his calf.  Fast forward 6 months and I start The Cheap Biker, and bikers love tattoos so here we go.
The other day I met up with Rick's lovely bride Cecily, and artists Laura and Christi also chimed in.  We sat outside at a picnic bench on a nice day and here is what I learned.
This is what happens when your friends are assholes, in this case Sam,
and you ask them to take a picture and don't check it.  Well played my friend.

Most tattoo artists I have met just started drawing at a young age and decided to make money off of that love.  Rick was a little different.  He was a graffiti artist while growing up in Philly.  His love of art motivated him to do something with his talent, so instead of going to art school (or jail for painting on shit) he got into tattooing and has never looked back.  He describes his work as neo traditional.
Cecily on the other hand is a freak for cartoons and enjoys doing those the best.  She was just drawing when she and Rick got together and she says Rick “forced her to tattoo” with a huge smile on her face.

M4L has been around for over a decade.  First on Queen St and now at 2375 Eastern Blvd York PA.  With that kind of longevity, I asked them what their advice would be for someone wanting to become a tattoo artist.  Here was their response.

Front desk, where Sam lives
Da shop

They said not to spend too much time tattooing in your basement, because one day no matter how awesome you are people will always say you tattooed in your basement.  If you are going to make your living out of tattooing, you need to be all in and apprentice under someone who knows what they are doing.  During that time, you will probably eat your fair share of shit, but as with any apprenticeship this is well worth the price. Life is too short to be able to learn everything on your own, so learning from someone who is established and knows what the hell they are doing is the way to go.  It is not all about the art.  If you are going to run a successful shop, you need to be anal about proper bio hazard techniques.  One dirty tattoo could potentially kill a shop.  From my son’s experience, I can tell you that they certainly do their due diligence when it comes to asking questions to alleviate any problems down the road.  Before they tattoo you, you will be handed an IPAD with a long list of questions and waivers that explains the process in great detail.

When asked what the number one issue is with customers, they both said it was that people who don’t tattoo under estimate the cost of good ink.  But because the person wants the tattoo, and they want to be the ones doing it, they say they are almost always able to work something out.

I asked them what the biggest drag is about being a tattoo artist, especially a well-known one.  They both said people wanting to constantly talk shop.  Cecily said “you will be in a bar having a few drinks and someone wants to tell you this deep meaning behind their tattoo, when you just want to chill”.
Their advice to anyone getting their first or 30th tattoo?  Bring a bunch of ideas, preferably on your phone from Pinterest, Google images, or whatever.  This tells them what you are looking for and streamlines the experience.  They don’t charge for conspiring with you on your tattoo so take advantage so they know exactly what you want before the needle hits skin.

It was amazing to me how much I learned about the tattoo business in a short time.   As someone who is pretty heavily tattooed, I have a new appreciation for what it takes not only to be a good tattoo artist but to make a successful business out of it when so many others fail.

You can tell that everyone in the shop loves what they are doing and it shows.  If you live in the area or will be visiting York say for the Harley Open House in September and feel the need for some new ink, you definitely need to check out Marked 4 Life Tattoos.  About 10 minutes from the HD Factory on Eden Rd in York.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Product Review- Daytona Helmets Slim Line Skull Cap DOT

For several years I had been wearing my GMAX65 helmet.  I liked the pull down visor, but what I did not like was that the thin helmet liner would flop around every time I took it on and off.  We are all in search of the elusive helmet that offers protection, but does not give you the dreaded Mushroom Head.

The problem is that anything capable of protecting your skull at all is going to have to have a little bulk to it.  It is a balance of good looks and protection.  Well at 6'2 300 lbs, with a BFH (Big Fat Head), I am incapable of good looks, but I did want a helmet that did as little as possible to enhance the spectacle that I am.

As the TCB name implies, I am cheap, an obsessive researcher, and review reader, not wanting to waste my money.  Selecting the Daytona Helmets Slim Line Skull Cap DOT was no different.  When I decided to pull the trigger, I did it on Amazon.  See, I like Amazon a lot.  I know what I want, they usually have it, and I don't have to talk to anyone face to face to get what I want.  The BBT (Big Brown Truck) shows up and I get my stuff.

Following the sizing chart from the Daytona website showed me that I was right about the limit for the XL.  My intuition said to get the XXL, but my GMAX65 was a little too loose and I hated it.  So, in two days I had my new helmet.  Right out of the box the sleek design excited me (it's the little things, right?).  Then I tried it on.  No go.  BFH strikes again.  No big deal.  I figured I would just exchange it for a XXL.  But for some reason Amazon does not carry the XXL, even though Daytona makes it.  So, I just googled a bit until I found it for a comparable place somewhere else that offered three day shipping.  I have to admit that I forget the name of the place, but I had it in a few days.

So, here is the heart of the review.  The MSRP on the helmet is $61.95.  I paid between $46-$48 both places.  Having been spoiled as an Amazon Prime Member for the last few years, I am addicted to free shipping and 2 day delivery. Because of this, I am apt to do more business with a company that offers free shipping, or that their lower price on something plus their shipping equals the other guys.

Several of the Amazon Reviews I read complained about there not being anything to retain the slack in the chin strap once it was on.  This caused it to slap them in the face.  I found this to be true when I picked the helmet up from my Post Office, I was on the bike and decided to try it out right away.  Yep, they were right.  It is painful, especially at around 30 degrees.  This is an oversight by Daytona that is a pretty big issue since a helmet has to do three things:  be comfortable, look good, and protect your head.  If it fails to be comfortable, the other two don't matter.  But even when the first one arrived, I had a quick fix in mind.

I took one of Momma's and the girl's hair elastics and cut it open.  Then I burnt the ends and tied it in a square knot and melted the knot a little so it would not come undone.  Fixed.  Maybe I should patent that or Daytona will pay me for the idea.

Comfy Couch
Comfort- here is the best way to describe the difference in comfort between the GMAX and the Daytona Skull Cap.  One was like sitting on one of those cheap ass stackable outdoor chairs that I always seem to break.  The other was like sitting on a nice, fat, comfy couch.

Hair elastic
Adjustment- for some reason some people order something that is adjustable and complain that it did not fit right out of the box.  The Amazon reviews had some of this in it too.  There are major adjustments and there are micro adjustments.  If it is something you wear once in a while or something you don't really need to move around in, a major adjustment might do. For something like a helmet, you need to make micro adjustments until it is as close to perfect as possible for you.  Changing the size of the helmet was a major adjustment.  Adjusting the straps on a helmet is a micro adjustment.  Don't bitch unless there is no
more room for adjustment.  That is the case with this helmet.  I was lucky.  It took me two micro adjustments until it was perfect and has not been fiddled with again.  I had the typical two d-ring style adjustment.  A cool feature though is a little tab on the outermost d-ring that you pull on to loosen your helmet or take it off instead of trying to get your fingers in there.  You can even do this with gloves on.

Appearance- I like the looks of it better than the GMAX65.  It does seem a bit smaller to me.  Take a look at the pictures and decide for yourself.  Try to ignore my stunning face.

Notes- I am crazy about protecting my eyes and hands.  Without the shield of the Gmax, I wanted something over my RX glasses that I always wear.  After looking around at goggles with shitty reviews going for lots of money, I settled on the Big Ben Over the Glasses Goggle for $20 and love them.  They make me look like a WWII dispatch rider...don't they?  I will be doing a review of them very soon as well.

Final thoughts- I love this helmet so much that I will be getting the same style for my wife and oldest daughter.  Since I try to ride year round without a windshield, I think I am going to limit this to a three season helmet.  But because of how happy I am with the quality and comfort of this model by Daytona, I think I might look at their modular helmets too.

79 Triumph Spitfire 1500

Wednesday nights are traditionally shop nights at Mad Monk Machines.  When you get there, you never know what the hell you will be working on.  But it is nice to get away, have a few beers, and complain about all the same shit week after week, and have everyone agree with you.

This week it was getting a 79 Triumph Spitfire 1500 ready for a local rod night. We got her running and the Mad Monk himself, being a tad smaller than yours truly, test drove it.  Went pretty well for a barn find.  Here are some pics.

Kenny, making us feel awkward as usual by presenting himself like a cat

I am a 2XL, this is how the 4XL fit....Grape Ape style

Hey, is that a carb off a Harley

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Tattoos...c'mon you knew it was a matter of time

This section is for fellow ink addicts.  Ink and bikes just go hand in hand.  I will start off with one of mine that even though it is simple seems to get a lot of attention.  Sadly, the Brother that did it is away for I miss him.

Here you can see part of my Templar Cross and my DTOM script.

If you want to show off your ink, drop us a line or message us on Facebook with a good pic, the story behind the tat, your name, and the artist, and we will be happy to share it.

FN cool story- Baa Baa Black Sheep

You might have already noticed that my tastes, like most of yours are eclectic, but we all like cool stories.  So this will be the first post in our FN cool story category. 

Yesterday I was at the shop and started chewing the fat with a fella.  He saw some of the patches on my vest and we began to talk about our military service.  I was in the Army and he was in the Air Force.  I went on to say that my oldest daughter Elizabeth had just enlisted in the Navy as an Air Traffic Controller, and that she would be the fourth generation in a row to serve.  He says, "I gotta show you something."  I got scared, but a little flattered for a minute.  He takes out his phone and shows me a picture of a guy standing in front of a P51 Mustang.  He says, "That's my Grandfather.  He was one of 11 flying Sergeants in the Black Sheep Squadron.  My grandmother was a Navy Nurse.  He got shot down and she was his nurse.  That is how they met."

Now I ask you my friends, is that an FN cool story or what?

If you have an FN cool story you want to share, just e-mail it to me and I will post it as you send it with no editing.  So it is best to do what I do, let Momma take a look.  Unless of course it is about her.

Shop Profile- Freebyrd Custom Motorcycles Brogue PA

Well, we are just starting out here at the TCB and with the exception of Rolling Thunder XXIX there ain't much laying around in the way of travel money.  So, I thought I would get the ball rolling with our Shop Profile by doing my local shop, Freebyrd Custom Motorcycles.  They along with Kenny from Mad Monk Machines are the only ones that work on my beloved.  I am glad I did because even though I spend a lot of time there I learned a lot I didn't know after sitting down with the owner Mike Godwin.

Mike Godwin
TCB-  Mike, thanks for taking the time out and talking with me.  Tell me the history of Freebyrds.

MG-  Glad to do it man.  About 14 years ago I was the regional vice president of Republic Waste and had been there for 27 years.  I was in charge of a 6000 vehicle fleet.  I had managed to work my way up from doing oil changes to VP.  I was living and working in VA and Pam (co-owner and Mike's wife) and Hollie (his daughter) were living up here (PA).

Mike & Pam
Pam called me one night and said her 90 FXST was not running right, so I told her to take it to the HD dealer in Harrisburg.  She did and they said they fixed it.  She went to pick it up and it was getting dark.  She fired it up and there were no lights.  When they put it back together, they had pinched some wiring.  They told her to come get it the next day, so she did.  On the ride home, the carb actually fell off.  She called the dealership and they said that had nothing to do with them and not to bring the bike back.
That experience started the whole thing.

Pam and I decided that I would leave my job and we were going to open up a motorcycle shop.  We wanted to provide personalized service and take care of people, like a family.  Customer service was going to come first.

We have been in the building 11 years but officially opened our doors on March 12, 2006, my Dad's birthday.  We just celebrated our 10 year anniversary.  As a matter of fact, I can tell you how many bikes we have worked on in that time.  (He gets up and leaves the office to walk out front.  Pam was off today since they are not open on Monday's and use the time to concentrate on motor work)  Going by repair orders we have worked on 7,525 bikes, and that is not counting things like tires we don't do a ticket for.
Jeffro is well...special.
For the first few years it was just me and Pam.  Then Hollie, and eventually three mechanics.  The mechanics have come and gone.  You know Dave, he always wanted to own his own repo business.  I encouraged him. Everyone should follow their dreams.  I did.

MG-  How tough the business is, with overhead and all.  I have seen shops come and go around here.  You have to make 12 months worth of money in 8 months (referring to our winter).  We work on all types of bikes.  We have to.

TCB-  What would be your advice to anyone thinking about opening a shop?

MG- You gotta love it.  Yesterday we had the whole family over for a BBQ.  Everyone was having a good time.  I really wanted an ice cold beer, but I always think "what if someone breaks down and needs me to take the trailer to get them" (I have been that person before).  The other night I had just gotten home when the phone rang.  A customer had laid down her bike.  She was OK, and her boyfriend was taking her to the ER, and I went and got the bike.

Main shop
TCB- What advice would you give customers to save them money (besides air pressure, which I have already covered)?

MG- Preventive maintenance man, preventive maintenance.  You have to check your tires, check and change your oil, check the other fluids.

TCB-  What is the #1 thing that the shady tree bike mechanics screw up on his or someone else's bike that ends up costing  money in the long run?

MG-  Wiring, man, wiring.  They twist that shit together and wrap it with electrical tape.  They don't realize that makes it take more voltage for the current to travel.  You have to solder and shrink tube that shit.

TCP- What's with the dealerships?  I know if I went in there with my 92 Fatboy they would look at me like I had a dick growing out of my head.

MG- Yeah, they would.  Unless they have a guy in there that has been there for 30 years, he will have no idea on how to work on it.  You got an Evo, they have been working on twin cams for 10 years.  They hire these kids out of YTI and put them to work on your bike.  They might be a great mechanic in five years, but not now.

TCB-  I know through personal experience that you always go out of your way to support Veterans.  Why is that?

MG- Man, my family has served in the military all the way back  My older Brother was in Vietnam.  Right now I have....(puts his head back to add them up) 2 nieces and 5 nephews currently serving.  Our military goes out there and protects me so I can be here working on your motorcycle.  How awesome is that?

TCB-  Mike, I really appreciate you taking the time.  I am just going to go out in the shop and take some pictures.

MG- My pleasure man.  Now I gotta get my ass back to work. (Mike does as much or more wrenching than his mechanics do).

Me, Mike & Jeffro