When we took a look at The Disciple by American Metal, we knew we had to talk to builder Josh Allison about it. In addition to countless accolades during his career as a builder, Allison is something of a television celebrity, having appeared in seven episodes of American Chopper: The Series during his stint as lead fabricator and shop manager at Orange Country Choppers. We talked to Allison about how he got his start on two wheels, his company before American Chopper, and his latest venture—American Metal, a division of North American Motor Car—and The Disciple.Ultimate Motorcycling:What are your first memories of motorcycles?
Josh Allison, American Metal: My first memories of motorcycles are watching Supercross on TV as a little boy and being blown away by the guys hitting these huge jumps. The competitive level they were riding at blew my mind and didn’t seem possible! It was crazy watching the starts, the riders banging bars, and hitting huge triples. I knew instantly that I wanted to be a part of that somehow, and I immediately fell in love with motorcycles. My mom and her friends would take me to watch their friend Jeff race dirt bikes, and my adrenaline would just be pumping; you couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.UM: What was the first motorcycle you rode? What was that like?JA: I was coming home from school one day when I saw this little 80cc Yamaha in my neighbor’s backyard. I wanted it so bad. I think it was a ’73—all-metal tank, very old school. I was so excited, my stepdad picked it up for me and got it running. It had a clutch, so the learning curve was a little steep, but it was amazing once I got the hang of it! I would ride that bike all around in the prairie.Then about a year later, I think I was nine years old at the time, I got a 1983 [Kawasaki] KX, and things started progressing from there. After many years of racing and a brief FMX run, I finally got my first street bike. I instantly fell in love with the speed of the bike and riding through the foothills of Colorado. It was this first street bike, a 1980 Honda CB750, that changed everything for me.UM: What was the first motorcycle you customized, and what did you do to it?JA: The first motorcycle I customized was a 1978 [Kawasaki] KZ400—I was fresh out of school at WyoTech. Looking back, that first attempt at customizing a bike was rough, and I can see how inexperienced I was. I built the tail section, modified the gas tank, made the exhaust, and changed the ride height and bars. It was a fun little café racer. This build is definitely when I really began to fall in love with bare metal.UM: How important was your education in your progress as a builder and fabricator? What specific things did you learn that moved you along?JA: My education at WyoTech was key to learning the fundamentals of welding, fabricating, process, paint, and custom paint, as well as business management. My education is what opened up the door to my first real job in the industry.UM: What do you like best about fabricating parts? What challenges do you still have in fabrication?JA: I love that I can create what I want and know that there are no boundaries. You set your own rules. Metal doesn’t want to be shaped. You must force it into submission and learn how to work it. This process can be very challenging. When you run into something you’re struggling with, you must overcome it, which forces you to push yourself mentally, as well as grow in your abilities. This is a process I really enjoy and thrive in.UM: What spurred you to found Cry Baby Cycles? What were the ups and downs of running your own shop?JA: I was at a time in my career that I felt ready to go out on my own. I had worked at some incredible shops in Colorado that prepared me and gave me the confidence to go out on my own. Bringing in consistent builds can be challenging; the ups and downs financially are very tough. I worked around the clock to make it happen.UM:How did you get involved with Orange County Choppers? What was it like working at such a high-profile shop?JA: Paul Sr. reached out to me on Instagram. At first, I didn’t even think it was really him! [laughs] Eventually, we started talking, and before I knew it, he was asking me to fly out and do a guest spot on the show. On that episode, I was supposed to just build a tank and ended up building way more than just the tank. Paul and I hit it off instantly. That led into filming an entire season as the lead fabricator, flying back and forth from New York to Colorado. Then, my family and I moved to New York so I could complete a two-year contract with OCC.Working for Paul and Joan, along with Jason and the rest of the OCC crew, was a wild experience. The pressures of getting builds done on extremely tight deadlines and finding solutions was very stressful. But we also had the time of our lives traveling for unveils and meeting incredible people. The relationship my family and I developed with Paul and Joan was very special.UM: How did you get involved with American Metal and North American Motor Car?JA: I was building the Easy Rider tribute bike at OCC for Chris Bishop. Chris was coming into the shop from time to time, checking on the progress, and we started talking. We hit it off and had a lot in common. My contract with OCC was coming to an end, and OCC was moving their operations to Florida. At one point, Chris told me about what he was doing with North American Motor Car and that he wanted to create a custom shop. He thought we could do something incredible together, and the idea for American Metal was born.UM: Will American Metal be focused more on automobiles or motorcycles?JA: American Metal will be focused on both motorcycles and automobiles. The team and I are very passionate about both.UM: Your press info says you have “a plan to destroy all creative barriers and showcase the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into every high-end automotive product they build.” What is the plan?JA: We plan to accomplish this is by harnessing the talents of everyone on our incredible team. We are about to move into our new world-class facility, and that will give us the space, tools, and talent to accomplish our plan to destroy all creative barriers, showcasing the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into every high-end automobile and motorcycle we build. Chris has provided us with every resource we need to accomplish this, and we couldn’t be more excited about what we will be able to create!UM:Will you be building customs for specific buyers, or will the customs be constructed and then a buyer found?JA: Our main focus is building customs for specific clients. There will also be some American Metal builds that could be sold to general buyers.UM: What are your favorite inspirations for builds?JA: Architecture, and the art-deco era in general, are the biggest sources of inspiration for me. I am also constantly inspired by other builders. Beyond that, I always try to take in my environment. The littlest things can be really inspirational.UM: What unlikely sources of inspiration do you have?JA: It could be anything, really, from something little in an antique shop, to a painting, or even just a pattern in fabric.UM: What was the inspiration for The Disciple?JA: I’ve always loved the ’50s era of cars and bikes. I saw a picture of a 1950s vintage Schwinn bicycle, and it immediately struck me. The tank was the first thing that inspired me, along with the front-end, and seeing that bike made me want to build my version of it. I immediately had ideas flying through my head and decided that this would be my next build.UM: What challenges did The Disciple provide during the build?JA: The gas tank was very complex, as it’s a split tank design and required a lot of metal shaping. Incorporating the mixed metals adds another element of fabrication that made this entire build very challenging. These challenges carried on throughout the build, and I had to push myself really hard to pull it off. I wanted the bike to look cohesive, with each part going together intentionally so that the entirety of the bike feels extremely custom in the end. This is never an easy task, and The Disciple was an extra-complex project.UM: The Disciple is a mix of modernity—rear disc with dual calipers—and vintage. How do you decide to mix the two?JA: Functionality and rideability are the most important elements for me. It’s a balance of combining modern parts like dual calipers with vintage parts like the engine to achieve overall cohesiveness. I spend so much time deciding if certain modern parts work in particular scenarios and what the reward or advantage is to that part. In the end, my creative style has to work with the functionality. I will never build something that isn’t functional, and I’m happy to say that The Disciple rides as good as it looks.UM: So, what’s it like to ride The Disciple?JA: It’s fucking awesome! It rides like a dream. The comfort of the sitting position, how the bike shifts and feels, it’s truly an enjoyable experience. I put a lot of thought and effort into making sure that everything I create is rideable. Otherwise, what’s the point, right?UM: What features of The Disciple do you think most people would overlook?JA: There are a lot of fine details on The Disciple, such as how the finishes of the castings were achieved, valve stems, how parts are mounted and put together, and smaller parts that were handmade. Some of these aspects tend to be overlooked or blend into the overall design of the bike. The devil is in the details, and I always try to focus on those additional little items that will resonate with people.UM:If you were to get a do-over on The Disciple, what would you change? JA: I would only try to further fine-tune my fabrication skills and metal shaping. I’m always trying to push myself and grow. That being said, The Disciple is my favorite build thus far, and I’m really proud of how it turned out.UM: What business aspects did you learn at Cry Baby Cycles and Orange Country Choppers that will help you at American Metal?JA: Both Cry Baby Cycles and OCC helped me understand the importance of solid leadership and management. Having specific processes and procedures put into place that will enable you to achieve your goals and meet deadlines is fundamental. Finding solutions for issues along the way is also key to overcoming obstacles within the shop. Working and helping lead both shops allowed me to see first-hand how important that is.UM: Where do you see American Metal being in 10 years?JA: Ten years from now, I see American Metal producing some of the finest cars and bikes around and being recognized as one of the top shops and builders in the country. Working with Chris and the team here shows me that there is no limit to what we can accomplish.Still photography by Austin CarfiThe Disciple by American Metal Build SheetENGINE
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Ultimate Motorcycling’s weekly Podcast—Motos and Friends.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
This week’s Podcast is brought to you by Yamaha motorcycles. Discover how the YZF-R7 provides the perfect balance of rider comfort and true supersport performance by checking it out at YamahaMotorsports.com, or see it for yourself at your local dealer.
This week’s episode features Senior Editor Nic de Sena’s impressions of the beautiful new Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST that is loosely based around the original FXRT Sport Glide from the 1980s. Hailing from The Golden State, these cult-status performance machines became known as West Coast style, with sportier suspension, increased horsepower, and niceties including creature comforts such as a tidy fairing and sporty luggage.
In past episodes you might have heard us mention my best friend, Daniel Schoenewald, and in the second segment I chat with him about some of the really special machines in his 170 or so—and growing—motorcycle collection. He’s always said to me that he doesn’t consider himself the owner, merely the curator of the motorcycles for the next generation.
Yet Daniel is not just a collector, but I can attest a really skilled rider. His bikes are not trailer queens, they’re ridden, and they’re ridden pretty hard. Actually, we have had many, many memorable rides on pretty much all of the machines in the collection at one time or another.
From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!