Writer's Ramblings

Behind the Scenes with Randy Simpson of Milwaukee Iron

Written by  June 30, 2006

Randy Simpson knows how to party. From the time he rolled into Bartle Hall for this year’s Easyriders V-Twin Show until the time to head out after the last attendee left, Randy had a good time. You would never know this is the guy that heads up Milwaukee Iron. Randy is as guy-next-door as you can get. Not only did we get to spend a big part of Friday during set-up with Randy, we also had the pleasure of hanging out with him at Kim and Cheryl Suter’s Thank-You party. Between Randy and Ron Finch I have never laughed so hard in my life. Everybody at the party seemed to have their favorite Randy Simpson story; unfortunately, this is a family magazine so I won’t share them with you so as to protect the innocent.

CC: How was 2005 for Milwaukee Iron?
Randy Well, 2005 had a heck of a lot of changes in it for us. It really did. Gary died on me September 27. He had been with me for 22 years. One of the guys I had going out to set stuff up for me, we had a big falling out and he is gone, and then in December, Lee and I got into it and he’s gone. I had so many changes in three months’ time it was like a whirlwind for Milwaukee Iron, but everything works out for the best and I’m back out here right now having fun, and up in the shop working every day that I’m not at a show working.

CC: Is it the teamwork philosophy that is behind your success and the success of Milwaukee Iron?
Randy Well, it’s always a good team that I’ve got together, no matter who it is, and one of my biggest supporters is my wife. She stands behind me on what I do, and she keeps the shop going when I’m not there.

CC: What are you working on in your shop right now? Do you have any bikes currently under build?
Randy What I’m fixin’ to do is a '39 Knucklehead. It’s been awhile since I’ve done one and that’s something I’ve wanted to do. I was after this one for 15 years, and I finally got it, so I’m just going to do me a little old school bobber.

CC: Have you seen any trends in the Easyriders show this year with the bikes that are any different than what you have seen in the past?
Randy Definitely, and it was a welcome change. Before, people were going out there so far. It’s incredible what they’re doing, but now it’s a lot of the 50s type stuff coming back in, and I’m glad to see it. It’s a welcome change.

CC: What are your thoughts on the new EPA regulations regarding bikes with emission, etc.?
Randy With all that stuff going on, we’re going to see a lot more bikes coming out.

CC: Do you have any thoughts on the Motor Company’s decision to pull their Screamin’ Eagle line?
Randy I’m really not up on that.

CC: Do you have any thoughts on the new noise regulations that are popping up everywhere with all the cities and municipalities getting onto everybody with their pipes?
Randy Well, that’s something that we’ve had to deal with for a long time and now it’s coming back around again, so we’re going to have to deal with it again. Some of the bikes we build won’t pass.

CC: Do you think the custom bike craze is slowing down any from what it’s been over the past five years?
Randy Yes, it did slow down, but I think a lot of it was to do with the EPA regulations, people trying to figure out what was going to really happen. The last three months of ’05 for us really kind of sucked as far as business goes, not to mention all the personal stuff that went on at Milwaukee Iron, but I think that was a lot of it. Ever since the end of December and first of January, the phone has been ringing off the hook again, so it looks like maybe it’s let up a little bit and we still have some longevity.

CC: There is a series coming on this fall on TV called Metric Revolution. It’s going to be along the lines of the Discovery Channel Biker Build-Off but all the builders are starting out with metric-based frames, Doug Keim for one, Mike Dusold I believe, and some of the other guys. Do you think with that show coming out, with people seeing customized metrics, it’s going to hurt the V-Twin industry any?
Randy I think that any time you think that it wouldn’t, you need to wake up because the same thing happened back in the 60s and 70s when the Japanese market came into the States. It definitely hurt, but at the same time it makes you build better too. To me, if people want to go out and spend that kind of money on a metric bike, let them do it. I’ll sell fenders to them or something. Let 'em do it because that part of it is good for the industry and the bikes will never hold the value like the Harleys will, so if you want to invest your money in the metric stuff, you can do it and it’s good for business, but I don’t know how long that craze will actually last. Hell, it could outlast us all, I don’t know. Anytime you get motorcycles on TV, I think it’s a good thing.

CC: Do you have any Biker Build-Offs in your future or anything else on the Discovery Channel?
Randy No, we don’t have anything. They didn’t contact me about a Biker Build-Off. We did the one pilot show, Southern Chopper, and we did the series Southern Steel, but they didn’t sign us back up. I haven’t heard anything out of them whatsoever. I do have one guy that I’m dealing with and we’re kicking a new show around, and we’ll see what happens with it.

Interview and photos by Loney and
Stephanie Wilcoxson