Writer's Ramblings

Cycle Connections and a Team of Volunteers Presents Extreme Makeover Bike to Wounded War Veteran Daniel Gilyeat

Written by  July 21, 2008

Although Saturday July 12 was rainy and bleak, nothing could put a damper on the excitement that was taking place inside East Market Studios in Kansas City, Missouri where Cycle Connections' sales manager Dave Miller and volunteers from several local motorcycle businesses presented Staff Sergeant Daniel Gilyeat with a custom motorcycle modified to accommodate his prosthetic leg that has prevented him from riding since being injured in Iraq.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the name Daniel Gilyeat, think back to last February when Ty Pennington and his crew from ABC's Extreme Home Makeover 'moved that bus' to reveal a new home they had built for Daniel and his four children.
So how did the Cycle Connections' Extreme Bike Makeover project (as some are now calling it) get its start? The concept began about four months ago when a friend of Daniel's stopped by our booth at Kansas City's 48th Annual Carquest Auto Parts World of Wheels, and started talking bikes with Dave. The topic soon turned to Daniel Gilyeat and how cool it would be to get this war veteran back on two wheels. A plan was concocted to 'steal' Daniel's 1982 Harley-Davidson XL1000 Sportster from his neighbor's garage, modify it to accommodate his prosthetic leg, and then present it to him in a surprise unveiling once it was completed.
With a plan of attack that rivals the latest Mission Impossible movie, Dave showed up on a Thursday night in the pouring rain, picked up Daniel’s bike, and rolled it into Dave's garage. After drying off and stepping back to get a better look at the bike, which was in, we'll kindly say, 'very rough condition,' Dave's exact words were, 'What have I got myself into?'
Although Daniel's bike was in poor condition, it didn't deter Dave from making things happen. The next day, Dave began the task of organizing several of our advertisers, and before long, the 'Extreme Team' had their individual missions. The team consisted of Bear's Hiway Classics, CC Custom Graphics, Alexander's Powder Coating, Industrial Powder Coating, Slim's Cycle Seats, Reflections by Paul, East Market Studios, and Hooters of Speedway.
To get things started, Dave and Wally took the bike to Bear's Hiway Classics in Avondale, Missouri. After taking a closer look at the bike, Barry (Bear), Travis, and Jon decided that rather than simply get the bike running and convert the foot shift and hand clutch to a jockey-style setup, they would completely customize and re-fabricate the bike to make it a work of art and something they would be proud to be involved with.
As soon as Bear's crew finished disassembling the bike, the tank, fenders, and a few other components were handed off to Chris Cofield of CC Custom Graphics. Chris applied an eye-popping cobalt blue custom paint job complete with his signature ghost skulls. While Chris was busy painting the tins, the engine, frame, wheels and other key items were delivered to Andrew and his crew at Alexander's Powder Coating and Industrial Powder Coating for some custom powder coating work. The seat and battery box were given to Jimmy at Slim's Cycle Seats so he could make a custom seat for the bike and fabricate a custom leather box cover for the battery.
Once everyone on the Extreme Team had finished their piece of the puzzle, all components were returned to Bear's Hiway Classics for final re-assembly. As this was being done, Paul 'Luc Chokota of Reflections by Paul was busy contacting the media and arranging for everyone to be at the studio for the reveal. Hooters of Speedway provided the food for the event, along with several Hooters girls, while Dave arranged for Amy Jo, our August 2008 cover model to be there for the photo shoot after Daniel was presented with his new bike.
The day of the reveal, East Market Studios was alive with a flurry of activity as 106.5 The WOLF, Fox 4 News, Channel 9 News, Channel 11 News, the Kansas City Star, and others were busy setting up their cameras and audio equipment in anticipation of Daniel's arrival. Daniel's friends came up with a ploy to get Daniel to the studio without him knowing what was going on, and as soon as he walked through the back doors of the studio, he was greeted by his fellow Marines. The cameras started flashing as he was escorted to the stage by Dave Miller, the entire Extreme Team, as well as firefighters, family, and friends.
Dave led Daniel to an area where his bike was hidden under a blanket, and after giving the word to Travis, the blanket was pulled off and you could see the tears begin to form in Daniel eyes as he was presented with his newly customized motorcycle. Daniel climbed aboard his bike to a flurry of applause and whistles, and after the noise died down and he finished thanking everyone, he jokingly commented, 'And of course, today it's raining!'
As the crowd began clearing out of the studio, photographers Paul Chokota and Christy Lonergan began shooting photos for our August 2008 cover page along with group photos of Daniel and various groups of family, friends, and individuals who had helped make this day possible.
Congratulations Daniel, and we look forward to seeing you and your new bike on the road!
Story by Mike Schweder
Photos by Paul Chokota and Christy Lonergan