Writer's Ramblings

An Interview with Doug Keim

Written by  January 31, 2007

Doug Keim is more than just one of the elite custom motorcycle builders in our country; I am also proud to call him my friend. Doug is soft spoken, but he speaks well. Unlike some builders, he doesn’t blow his own horn. While some builders’ fame rests more on their television exposure and non-motorcycle product lines, Doug’s fame rests squarely on his ability to build cutting edge bikes that are also rideable. That’s right—I said rideable. You and I both know many of the customs we see at shows would be as much fun to ride as Hillary Clinton is to look at.

Doug has built bikes for Bel Ray Lubricants, Arlen Ness catalogs, Adjure Electronics and many more. It was no accident Weld Racing Wheels chose Doug to build their first Master Builder’s bike. J&P Cycles Catalog carries his signature parts line. FATBAGGER chose Doug as their exclusive New Jersey dealer. With many awards, magazine articles and covers here and abroad, Doug is still first and foremost about the bikes he designs.

His friends call him the Viking in regard to his ancestry, but I believe the nickname is also an appropriate indicator of his ferocious passion toward his chosen profession. Doug’s passion is a sharp contrast to his normal soft-spoken, easygoing demeanor. If Doug holds strong opinions on a subject, you will never have a doubt as to his position on it. It comes as no surprise the Metric Revolution chose Doug as one of their master builders. Not only were they assured of a dynamite creation, but his presence also adds legitimacy to the show. Many call themselves “master” builders; few are. My friend Doug Keim is one for sure.

CC: Doug, we know you have built many V-Twin-based customs. Is this your first Metric?
Doug: Yep…this is my first 'Frame Up’ handcrafted Metric custom bike build.

CC: Was the Metric Custom you built for the Metric Revolution TV Show comparable in cost to build to your V-Twin-based customs?
Doug: NO WAY… this bike was much more difficult to build. Remember, this bike is both fuel injected AND water cooled. As a result, there was a ton of added labor time needed and a ton of additional parts…. AND there are no store bought parts available for it… we had to make just about everything! Just try to make a very complicated bike look simple, I think we did it, but it wasn’t easy.

CC: How many hours would you estimate the build took?
Doug: I didn’t count, but if I were to take a guess, there were a lot of people working on this project and as such, I would think it was somewhere around 1500 to 1600 hours.

CC: Any hint as to the dollars invested in your bike?
Doug: I don’t think I really want to know… but it was a lot!

CC: After checking out some of your competitors’ bikes, it is obvious to me some are not rideable; was your bike rideable?
Doug: YES… The very first thing I did once this bike was done was grab my girlfriend Liz; I told her to get on her bike and we went for a 35 to 40 mile ride. The bike was fantastic and went down the road without a single issue. This bike is VERY rideable, and it is a blast to be on! When we were in Las Vegas for the final taping of the show, and I rode it from the hotel on one side of town to Fremont Street on the other side of town just about every day… and I rode it back to the hotel too! Since returning from LV, I have ridden the bike even more. It now has at least 500 miles on it and I have not had a single problem to date!

CC: Did the long hours on the Metric Revolution Tour take their toll on you?
Doug: The tour was not so bad, touring is touring, you somehow get used to it… the long hours were spent on the bike… this bike was one of the most difficult bikes I’ve ever had to build. With my business continuing to grow at a crazy pace, the problems I was having with my personal life at that time, the late schedule we were placed on with the build, all the appearances I have kindly been asked to do and trying to have some sort of a normal life… I would say stressful doesn’t quite say it all. But what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger… and I’m still here. So I guess it all worked out.

CC: What were the fans’ reactions to your bike?
Doug: 'WOW’ seems to be the most common response. This bike is not for everyone, some people may not get it, but those that do, they really GET IT. It is a bike that serves as a 'what could have been.’ Had there been 'antique metric motorcycles’ and had there been 'metric board track racers,’ this sort of bike 'could have possibly been.’ Even if you don’t understand the styling, once you realize that the 'silver’ colored areas on the tanks is raw aluminum with only clear coat shot over it, and you realize that the metal work on the bike is perfect, the rear sub frame assembly is all handcrafted and CNC’ed billet aluminum, you get the idea… the metal craft on this bike is amazing. I think just about everybody can appreciate high quality hand crafting. Check out Chopper Build Magazine for a really neat feature on the bike... AND check out the upcoming feature in V-Twin Magazine on it too!

CC: Did you make any new friends from among your competitors?
Doug: You bet… I knew some of the guys on the show beforehand. But once we all met one another, I think we all became friends. Personally, I think of ALL of the people involved with this show as being a friend. I still talk to Mike 'can you give me directions’ DuSold; Jaxon, Brad and Tommy on a fairly regular basis. And I talk to Sam just about every day. He and I are working on several partnership deals.

CC: What can we expect to see when the Metric Revolution series airs?
Doug: Just some OUTSTANDING bikes… NOT just outstanding metric bikes…. outstanding bikes! The bikes you will see on this show are amazing! And since the producers have announced that ESPN2 will be airing the show… the excitement has been amazing. I am constantly being asked questions about the show; people seem to be really thrilled to hear more about it. In mid January I was in NYC at the IMS Show at the Javit’s and I met Frantz Cayo from ESPN. He too is thrilled with the show and seemed to be genuinely excited about it.

CC: What was your opinion of the rookie builders’ creations?
Doug: What can I say… amazing! Dana’s bike was outlaw cool and rough on the edges. Ray’s bike was really neat and way different, he did a really nice job on it… and I thought him a few things when we were together! Carl’s bike was simply awesome. The thought processes that went into that bike were unbelievable! And my buddy Tommy’s bike was way trick… his metal work was out there and the finish work on the bike was fantastic!

CC: Can we expect any more metric customs from Creative Cycles?
Doug: If my clients want 'em… we’ll build 'em!

CC: Do you believe the Metric Revolution show will bring more metric bike to push the envelope in customizing their personal bikes?
Doug: I would think that would be a natural progression. So YES!

CC: Doug, thank you for the interview. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Doug: Yes. As you know, no handmade motorcycle comes from the hands of just one person, and without corporate assistance and the help of a ton of people, none of us would be able to do this. This being said; I really have to THANK the following group of people that helped to make this bike possible: Drew Houseworth, Matt Sagan, Milan Uhlir, Jeff Johnson, Bill Dodge, my fantastic staff, Liz O’Brien of In-Control Media, Russ & Jackie Bailey of Full Bore Designs, Shannon & Lisa Rodman of RMD Billet, Mike & Tim Hanlon of Mean Street Products, Kerry & Bonet of Delmarva Bike Week, The Rescinitis of Xtreme Machine Kawasaki, Ray Michaels of Ace-It Polish Products, Avon Tyres, Bob Schroeter of Dragon Studios, Powertye tie downs, Levinson/Axelrod and Boston’s Gourmet Pizza restaurants.

By Loney and
Stephanie Wilcoxson