To be crowned champion of the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show is no easy task. The show travels to eight cities around the United States and features hundreds of the most creatively crafted motorcycles around. The list of competitors is an all-star list of bike builders mixed with up-and-comers hungry to make a name for themselves. When the show rolls into Chicago for the finale, the bar is raised even more because now you have to beat the best of the best and the stakes are high, with $10,000 going to the winner of the Freestyle class and $2,000 up for grabs in both the Custom Classic and Custom Street classes. And while many are worthy, in the end like the Highlander, there can be only one “King of Custom Builders.”

This year that title goes to Jordan Dickinson of Union Speed & Speed for his incredible 1947 Knucklehead. It was a hard-fought Freestyle battle between Dickinson and Ryan Gore of Paper Street Customs whose 1978 Harley Shovelhead is one of the finest Shovels around. Both bikes featured over-the-top attention to detail and hand-craftsmanship. Ultimately, it was hard to beat a bike that once finished in the top ten at the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building. While preparing for that contest, Dickinson charted the progression of his 1947 Knucklehead on Facebook and shared it publicly. There's no better way to wrap your head around the pain-staking processes it takes to build a world class custom than from the mind of the builder themselves so here are some of the excerpts from those posts.

“I originally started building this bike for Born Free 7 to display in a bare metal state and showed it like that for a couple years until the timing was right to finish it completely. At any rate, we started by making a one-off frame that was inspired somewhat by the Joe Petrali Knucklehead land speed bike. We made all of the “forgings” to look similar to what would be found in that era of motorcycle manufacturing and put our spin on a new one-off design.

“The only component on the bike that was a factory component (outside of the engine and transmission) was this VL fork that we narrowed. @oohhello got involved with the build and drew up a set of fork components for the rear legs just like originals except about 1” narrower than stock. Then I had my good buddy @pearsoncustoms machine the pieces out. After he was all done I welded the components together and textured them up to look like factory forgings and welded the rear fork legs back together. The front fork legs were narrowed and then textured back out as well.

“Most people at first glance will probably think that it is factory fender we used. Which was sort of the point. The fender is completely handmade from regular cold rolled steel sheet. But if you know old Harley tin, you will see a mash-up of styling from JD-era side skirts (hence the bead) and a simplistic Knucklehead-style edge flange. I kept the fender more of a bob job because I still wanted it to fit like it should for a custom bike, short and tight. The fender struts I wanted to look like a pressed or formed piece of flat stock, imagine a hyper stylized version that likely wouldn’t have made it past the design room back in the day due to production cost. (That’s how I like to think of them anyway) They too were hammered out of flat sheet steel. I also included a picture of the fender mounts because they won’t really be seen and I think they look cool because they tie into the oil tank top panel design.”

It is this meticulous attention to detail and the homage Dickinson pays to Harley history that earned him the $10,000 payday as winner in the Freestyle class.

“What a wild weekend! @oohhello and I decided to bring the blue Knuckle out to Chicago for the national championships and ended up taking First Place in the Freestyle class. Still can’t believe it, and I’m truly grateful to everyone involved. Thank you @jpcycles @motorcycleshows @progressivemc @bobkzcustomkult for putting on a great show and continuing to provide a platform for custom builders to showcase and compete,” posted Dickinson to Instagram.

2019-2020 J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show Custom Street Champion Chuck Conrick DA Performance 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Glide 

Congratulations also go out to 2020 Custom Street champion Chuck Conrick of DA Performance for his performance bagger. The 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Glide features a stainless steel frame and a built 124” engine that’s putting out 147 horsepower and 144 lb-ft. of torque. The front end is from a Suzuki Hayabusa while the backside is anchored by Dirty Air ride suspension. The bad-to-the-bone Street Glide features high-performance components all the way around, from carbon fiber BST wheels to Beringer brakes. Conrick’s build looks like a prime candidate for MotoAmerica’s bagger road race that will be going down this summer at Laguna Seca.

2019-2020 J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show Custom Classic Champion Evan Favaro Speakeasy Motors 1991 BMW R100RT 

The final big winner in Chicago was Evan Favaro of Speakeasy Motors who took home the $2,000 first prize in the Custom Classic class with his 1991 BMW R100RT café racer. Favaro stripped down BMW’s sport tourer to basically a frame, engine and tank. He fabbed up a custom tail section with stainless steel exhaust routed through it. He upgraded the speedo to a small digital display and went with a keyless ignition that’s operated through a phone app. Removal of all the stock bodywork puts BMW’s Monolever rear on display while Firestones front and back complete the conversion to a clean, uncluttered café racer. In Chicago, Favaro added the title of Custom Classic champion to his victory at the New York Ultimate Builder round.

Freestyle Runner-Up Ryan Gore Paper Street Customs 1978 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead

We’d like to thank everybody who came out to the shows this year. We're honored that the custom building community continues to showcase their incredible work at the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Shows and are proud to support everyone in their endeavors.