2008 Tough Customs Tough Gun | Motorcycle Review

"Life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long," declares Canadian rocker Tom Cochrane in his unapologetic, and timeless, anthem to windblown individualism. That spirit emanates from Windsor, Ontario's Tough Customs, and its current contender, the succinctly christened "Tough Gun". Looking like Detroit muscle car morphed into motorbike, this one-off pro-street custom is equally unapologetic, as is the company's founder, Rick Tomicic.


From his vantage point north of the 49th parallel and 32 years of industry experience under his belt, Tomicic minces no words. "When we say we ‘embrace perfection,' we mean it," he says. "We start with the heart of the motorcycle—in the case of Tough Gun, Harley-Davidson's Screamin' Eagle Twin Cam 103—and rework it to superbike levels of precision." The matter-of-factness in his voice mirrors the weapon-like shape of his latest asphalt eater.

A former race bike builder and tuner for the Japanese majors, Tomicic started in drag bikes in 1979, subsequently lending his talents to teams running in both the Canadian and AMA Superbike series, as well as the revered TransAtlantic Challenge. Constructing battle-ready missiles for legends such as Fred Merkel and Kevin Schwantz on tracks from Monterey to Japan, gave Tomicic a taste of the racer's razor's edge. Eventually looking to fulfill their vision of unlimited performance free from the imposition of race regulations, Rick, his son Kris, and partner Clive Tregaskiss formed Tough Customs Precision Cycles in 2006.

The company's manifesto has been honed by competition, and Tomicic states it with cognizance. "Coming from the world of high tech racing, where performance and reliability are of supreme importance, research and development precede every part and process performed, we bring that same work ethic and meticulous attention to detail into our custom bikes." An initial scan of Tough Gun confirms that statement; further examining the sleek surfaces of this machine, Tomicic draws our attention to the hand crafting that is the signature of the master craftsman's use of the English wheel.

It becomes apparent that rigor rules at Tough Customs. "We progressively increase the rpm and loads on the engine, transmission and drivetrain during our run-in period, carefully; not to allow the engine to reach temperatures detrimental to its longevity," Tomicic explains. "This process has our bikes in the dyno room for two weeks, all the while tuning as we go, to ensure optimum performance and longer engine life. This also serves as a two-week test ride to verify all components are functioning properly. Our customers don't have to go through the normal learning curve on starting with a new engine, caring for it, then relearning the process when the engine seals." (Click image to enlarge)

Tomicic's son Kris also celebrates the family zeal for things swift and mechanical. As a 6-year-old, he was disassembling 2-stroke engines, memorizing parts catalogs at his father's powersports shop, and drawing his motorcycles on CAD systems at 10. His accession to design guru and fabricator at Tough Customs confirms genetic logic. Collaborating with his father, the firm's first-born, "Hardcore", as much Rottweiler as motorcycle, set the tone with its 2100cc Patrick engine and dragstrip-inspired styling. With Tough Gun, the Tomicic clan chose to mitigate aggression just enough to embrace those who might have been intimidated by the predecessor.

That aggregated experience serves Tough Gun and its H-D unit well. "We put it through that same analysis and tuning process to reach the ultimate level of useable power combined with bulletproof reliability and," he smiles, "kick-ass performance." For those who look askance at Tough Gun's 110 hp, Tomicic refutes such prejudice with a simple, "It's not overpowering." Leveraging 115 ft lbs of torque through a 5-speed tranny from the men in Milwaukee, with an extended main shaft and belt final drive, assures the thrill factor. (Click image to enlarge)

The flexed bicep decorating the fuel tank underscores this brute's intentions of street domination with a hint of wry humor. Its 18-inch wheels, with spinner hubs, blend '60s-retro and exotic supercar cues. Copious blackout treatment finds its counterpoint in brushed metal accents at key visual points and in the 2-into-1 exhaust. Wrapped in a frame from Germany's Walz Hardcore, its spoiler jutting like a boxer's jaw, the appropriately gunmetal-finished Tough Gun sports sophisticated suspension with 43mm Ceriani inverted forks—a nod to Rick's superbike roots—and a few other tricks. "The air-ride suspension allows you to change the attitude at a flick of a switch," Tomicic reveals. "You can have it slammed at a 19-inch seat height or play with four inches of travel." Braking is fully elaborated with twin front discs, and a perimeter disc with dual calipers in the rear. Oh, and in case anyone asks, the company's website is emblazened around the lips of the rims. Swagger? Perhaps.

"Sometimes you bend, sometimes you stand," Cochrane insists over a blast furnace of guitars. Rick Tomicic does not bend, for he knows where he stands.




Harley-Davidson 103 cu in Screamin' Eagle Twin Cam B
110 rear wheel hp 115 ft lbs of torque
5-speed Harley-Davidson with extended main shaft
P.M. open primary
Walz Hardcore
Tough Customs
Front: 43mm inverted Ceriani forks Rear: Legend Air Ride w/ 4 in of travel
Front: 18 x 3.25"
Rear: 18 x 10.5"
Metzeler ME880 130/60
Rear: Metzeler ME880 280/35
Dual 6-piston calipers
Rear: Perimeter disc with dual calipers
19.5" (slammed)
Tough Customs


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