Andy Carter is the founder and owner of Pangea Speed, a motorcycle parts company. He builds amazing choppers out of his shop, “Short Fuse Cycles” and is known around the world for his creative motorcycle fabrications. He has entered custom bike builds into motorcycle shows in multiple countries and continues to be invited back year after year.
Andy grew up in Bountiful, Utah. Later, his family started an industrial design firm in the Bay Area of California where he learned how to fabricate through the family business. He became a hot rod mechanic, but eventually found his passion in motorcycles where his unique custom bikes have become globally recognized for their craftsmanship and creative designs. He is one of the elite names among the who’s who of custom builders.
How did you get into Motorcycles?
I went to a racecar mechanic school in Sonoma, California and then moved to Enscondido, California to work at a hot rod shop. California comes with confined spaces. I just didn’t have room to build cars, so I started building motorcycles. The first bike I built was a 1974 Yamaha RD350. I grew up riding dirt bikes, but that was my first street bike. My dad turned me on to motorcycles. He built an RD350 before I did, so I got a lot of the parts from him.
Motorcycles give me a mechanical outlet to channel my artistic creativity. I don’t necessarily consider building motorcycles an art, but it uses some of the same parts of the brain. I like to draw and paint and I like how I can carry some of the same skills into designing bikes. When you build motorcycles you can take creative liberties that become a reflection of your personality and creative process. With art you are often confined to a canvas, or a piece of Masonite or paper, etc. Motorcycles are a challenge because you have to combine creativity with functionality. No matter how it looks at the end it has to be able to ride down the street. You are also bound by mechanics. When rebuilding a bike you start with a motor that has already been designed.
Walk me through the history of Pangea Speed.
Pangea is the idea that all the continents were once conglomerated into one body. So Pangea to me is the idea that I have a lot of interests such as choppers, bobbers, café racers, cars, and airplanes; so it represents how all my interests are conglomerated. My original plan for Pangea Speed was to operate a racecar fabrication shop. I ended up fabricating motorcycle parts instead of the speed shop, but the name was cool so it stuck. Plus, I like building things that go fast.
When I was getting started with building choppers, I would look at a bunch of blogs like Four Key Conditioning, Jockey Journal, Church of Choppers, and Chopper Dave’s. I was learning a lot and decided to start my own blog under the name Pangea Speed. I used the blog to document whatever I was working on. I started designing Pangea Speed T-Shirts to sell. As I was fabricating handlebars and parts for my bike, I decided I might as well make more to sell to other people. Over time it all came together to become a brand.
My most popular products are my handlebars. Pangea Speed currently makes five styles of handlebars. The Zephyr’s are a kind of T-bar with a curved crossbar. The Streamliners are rabbit ears that bolt directly into the triple tree. The Pioneers are like the Streamliners but they work with risers. The Airflows are my mini ape hangers. My newest bar is called the Thor, which looks like a dirt tracker bar, but they bolt into the triple tree. I make seats, pedals, sissy bars, grips, mirrors, light mounts, and more. Check out www.pangeaspeed.com/products for our full line of parts, clothing, and accessories.
Tell me about Short Fuse Cycle.
Short Fuse is a retail shop run by Danny Payne, Brook Lund, and myself. I had been talking with Danny and Brook for years about having a retail shop in Salt Lake City. Short Fuse sells clothing, accessories, handlebars, and parts. There is a garage attached where the guys work on bike projects and warehouse space for the Pangea Speed parts line. We now have a retail employee, Sara LasSalle, who is one of the original members of The Litas.
What shows have you been involved in?
A big factor in the popularity of the Pangea Speed brand is my willingness to travel for shows and events. A lot of people feel landlocked to their city, but we all like to tour to every show we can. Born Free 3 was the first year they started inviting builders. I was invited to build a bike for that show and have been invited back every year since. Last year, Harley Davidson donated a motor for my build, and I fabricated the rest from scratch. I called it, “Big Brother.” This year, I’m building a Shovelhead for the Born Free Show.
Some of my favorite events I have participated in are the El Diablo Run, Born Free, Bolts Action Camp Party, Sturgis, Hot Bike Power Tour, Brooklyn Invitational, Mooneyes in Japan, and Mama Tried in Milwaukee.
Tell me about the Mooneyes Show in Japan.
It was awesome. I went to watch it about five years ago, but last year they invited me and paid for my trip. Being invited to that show is one of the coolest things that can happen. The bike scene in Japan is gnarly. Culturally, they take pride in their craft and really work to dial in their bikes.
What is your favorite build?
Probably the Golden Dawn. It really pushed the envelope and people really identify with it. I had a lot of fun on it. It was a Shovelhead frame with a turbo charged FXR motor.
You are one of the most well-known builders in Utah. What is your influence on the scene in Salt Lake?
I used to build bikes for customers, which was a pain in the ass. People would bring me a lot of demands on a tight budget. I prefer to build my own bikes so that I can have the freedom to do what I want with them. Salt Lake has such a rad motorcycle community, but I feel like it is a little behind the times on building cool bikes. We just want people to push themselves and build cool shit. There are a lot of kids in LA rebuilding shovelheads or turnings sportsters into choppers. Around here people are satisfied with minor cosmetic modifications like switching out some handlebars. I just want to show people that they can keep going with their bikes and progressing. You can buy a shovelhead for around the same price as a sportster and build it into something rad and take it further so you don’t end up with the same thing everyone else has. I don’t really want an apprentice, but I love to guide people to use their own creativity and share my knowledge to help others to build their own bikes. I can save people a bunch of hassle by sharing my experience and expertise.
What is your process for designing, building, and fabricating bikes?
Whatever is the easiest (laughs). First, I pick a motor. Maybe I get a discount on a V-twin or Harley donates a motor or I see one I like that I want to work on. I pick the basis of the bike. Then, I figure out what style I want it to be. Not necessarily in a category like bobber or café racer or chopper, though this will come into play eventually. But, mostly I get my head way into figuring out the story behind the bike. For instance, with the Big Brother build, I knew I was getting the sportster motor from Harley. I knew there would be some hurdles with it being rubber mounted. I knew I wanted to do a digger style bike, because I’ve wanted to do one for years. Then I apply some rationale. Most of the popular diggers were iron head sportsters. And then the digger style kind of went away in the late 70’s. I got an EVO sportster motor that came out in ’85. I think it’s cheesy when you take a new motor and put it in an old style bike. So I was trying to picture: what would this digger look like in 1985? I started thinking about trends in the 80’s like David Bowie, 80’s butt rocker dudes, Camaros, and stuff from that time period that I can pull cues from. I do a lot of nerdy research. I watched the Labyrinth, Clockwork Orange, and Space Odyssey. Once I get inspired I will draw out the design.
I like using aluminum to shape tanks and fairings because it’s easy to shape and bend. I’m starting a new build with a sportster tank that I want to have a cool geometric shape. Instead of the rounded tank I want to give it a 45 degree angle. One of the things that set my builds apart is that I always have a really cohesive look. I will go through a shit load of hassle to make it all flow together. For instance, on Big Brother, if I didn’t go through and gold plate all the hardware on it, it wouldn’t look nearly as cool in the end. It was a pain in the ass because I had to take the motor and stuff apart to get all the hardware gold plated, but that stuff matters to me. If I would have just taken the motor that I got from Harley and put it in that bike, it would look like a fish out of the water. It needed all of those finishes on it to match. Even though it’s a hassle, paying attention to the detail gets noticed.
What does the future hold for you?
I want the brand to keep growing. I have a few new parts that will be released in 2016. We will supply sportster sissy bars, risers, Thor bars, a brake pedal to match the clutch pedal that I already make, and a kicker pedal. I want to get to the point where I have all our products in stock and on hand at all times. I don’t like to put customers on back order. This year our company will become really professional in those regards.
Tips for builders?
The most important thing is making sure you’re having fun, being true to yourself, and that you’re proud of what you do. If you can’t say that about your stuff then what’s the point?
Thanks to HOT BIKE for the images.
Photos: Mark Weaver