Business Reviews

Dyno Mike's Dynamic Chassis

Written by  March 31, 2006

Unless you have been living under a rock or are new to the Kansas City area, you have heard the name “Dyno” Mike Wilson. Mike has been and continues to be the premier Harley-Davidson performance wrench in the city. Whether it is at KCIR on a weeknight testing or competing at an A.H.D.R.A. event on a drag bike he built from scratch, Mike puts his money where his mouth is; his time slips prove it. Building the first street-legal Harley-Davidson in history to make an 8-second quarter mile pass at an A.H.D.R.A. event with no wheelie bar is the kind of feather in your cap that no amount of BS can touch.

After eight years heading up the Performance Center at Gail’s Harley-Davidson, Mike has his own business up and running strong. Providing every service from maintenance to customization to performance engine builds, Dyno Mike’s Dynamic Chassis has got you covered. Are you in the market for something to take to the bike shows or need that new stock unit customized? With several custom painters at his call, Mike can provide everything you need. Need some engine work? How about a one-year warranty on that work? Mike is your man. Got the need for a new drag bike to set your hair on fire? Mike can fix you up there as well. Mike’s Dynamic Chassis business is going to build street-legal drag bikes with all the potential to run in the 8s if the owner has the skills to get it there. From bare frames to turnkey bikes, Mike can take care of your go-fast needs.

Mike’s shop is equipped with every piece of equipment you can imagine, and the floor is clean enough to eat off of. Whatever your Harley-Davidson needs, from a bagger to an 8-second street monster, Dyno Mike’s Dynamic Chassis is your one-stop shop that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face that won’t wipe off.

We had the opportunity to visit with Mike at his new shop in Belton, Missouri to find out more about him and his new business.

Loney: How long have you been working on motorcycles?

Mike: I’ve been working on motorcycles since I can remember. I started working on my bicycles when I was a kid, but it quickly grew into tinkering with dirt bikes, dune buggies, and cars. But the true love in my life has always been motorcycles. I’ve only been working on Harleys about 10 years, but I’ve worked on motorcycles all my life. I probably picked up my first wrench when I was 8 or 9 years old. People often asked how long I’ve been doing this and where I learned to run a lathe and a mill. I learned a valuable lesson from a good friend of mine, Stan Redford, who never had the money to pay anybody to fix his cars, bikes, or trucks. So we were always over there on Friday nights lying in his mom’s gravel driveway doing something to his cars. I probably got more mechanical experience working with Stan just because he couldn’t afford to hire stuff done. We might not get it right the first time, but, by God, we’d work on it until it was right. If you had something break and didn’t have the tool to fix it, instead of paying someone to do it for you, go buy the tool and do some reading and asking questions, and then do it yourself. Hence this garage and everything in it.

My dad was a good woodworker. He built houses. It’s not that I can’t work with wood, but I just hate doing it. I don’t like the smell of it. But I think I could go lie down in a pile of metal chips and just go to sleep.

Loney: Please tell us a little more about what Dyno Mike's Dynamic Chassis has to offer.

Mike: Basically what we are going to concentrate on is V-Twin service, performance, and customization. One thing that I’ve always done pretty well is customizing your Harley-Davidson to give the average guy a look like a custom bike, like with the 180 tires, paint, motor work, lowered, or whatever you want to do to it. A lot of people can look at their motorcycle, and they can look at a catalog, and they see all of this cool chrome stuff to bolt on a motorcycle, but when they get done with it, they just have another motorcycle with all of that stuff bolted on. They don’t understand that you can do bigger tires, lower the bike, get the performance so it will run they way you want a bike to run, and things like that. One of the things ever since we started at the Performance Center at Gail’s and I’m going to carry through to my business is the one-day turnaround. A lot of people don’t want to do motor work until it gets cold outside because they think their bike’s going to be down three or four weeks, because in most shops, that’s what it entails. They get the bike in and take it apart, they send everything out to be machined, three or four weeks later it comes back, and they put it together, and you may have the horsepower they said you would have or maybe not. I don’t have my dyno yet, but I’m going to get one, because I want to be able to do what I have always done – back it up with before and after dyno runs, then keep the bike running perfectly the whole time you own it. I will dyno every make of motorcycle. I always have. Most of the Harley shops won’t do anything but Harleys. When I was at Gail’s I had thousands of runs on metric bikes. To me, where the bread and butter of my business is going to be is Harley-Davidson servicing; I ride every make and model of motorcycle known. I have a KTM dirt bike, Suzuki drag bikes, Harley street bikes, and custom bikes I’ve built myself. I’ve got my own line of motorcycles that I’m building for my Dynamic Chassis business. They are basically street-legal drag bikes for the A.H.D.R.A.

I have several contacts for purchasing parts. We are going to use genuine Harley-Davidson parts. We are also setting up accounts with companies like Drag Specialties, Custom Chrome, and Arlen Ness, anybody you would think of when you bought original parts or aftermarket parts. We’ll be able to buy parts and sell them to you at competitive prices. We have fairly low overhead, so our labor rates are going to be very affordable.

I’ll put a one-year warranty on all of the motor work I do here. As far as a guarantee on service, anything that you would normally get anywhere else, I’m going to offer. If I place a chrome inner primary on, then three weeks later it starts leaking, I’m going to take care of you on it. I’ve always done that. The kits that I’ve designed over the last eight years while working for Gail’s Harley-Davidson in the Performance Center, I’m still carrying that knowledge and information here. There are a lot of places that will claim bigger numbers, higher horsepower, but I’m going to guarantee the price, the delivery, and the results, and put a one-year warranty on the work that I do. That’s a pretty good deal.

Loney: The cool thing is having it on paper. Anybody can talk horsepower and torque numbers, but I’ve seen “100 horsepower” bikes get their asses kicked by basically stock Sportsters.

Mike: Well, here’s the deal. I learned a lot when I had the dyno at Gail’s. Dynos can vary from machine to machine, and what normally throws them off is when you install new software. I’ve seen in some cases like my dyno was documented improperly at Dynojet. Whenever they would send me software upgrades, it would always throw my drum mass off. When the drum mass is off on a dyno, what it does is make the dyno read high or low depending on which way it’s off, and it can be off 10 or 15 horsepower. I’ve seen motorcycles that we built that made 105 horsepower go somewhere else and make 130 horsepower. I used to always kid everybody. I would say everybody else’s 120 horsepower wouldn't outrun my 100 horsepower bikes. It won’t happen. When you’d go to the Harley drags, who always won? The bike that we built at Gail’s won, and I’m going to continue to build those motor kits. As times change, and things get bigger and better, and other components become available – different cam shafts, possibly different carburetors that may work better, maybe different cylinder head configurations, and things like that -- I’m sure we’ll see some of the numbers going up. I’ve build 95-inch motors that made 130 horsepower and ran mid-10s in the quarter on street bikes, but they weren’t bikes that I’d recommend the average guy spend his money on. You have to run high-octane fuel and a lot of clutch. They are hard on transmissions. They’re hard on primaries. They’re hard on everything. They are drag bikes.

Loney: So, basically, you’re going to have something for everybody from the hobby rider all the way up to the serious racer?

Mike: We can do everything from frames to complete bikes from the ground up. I have three different painters that I use, Wiz Bang Customs’ Brian Plihal, Visual Imagination, which is Mark Morris down in Harrisonville, and Chris Cofield at CC Custom Graphics. Chris painted my new drag race helmet. The guy’s a really good airbrush artist. I’d like to send him more work, the more I do here. He keeps getting better and better. Really all three of these guys have their special niche. I think they are all equal as far as paint quality, but they all have a different type of painting that they do. Really, Brian’s specialty is the metal work such as wide fenders. Whenever I do 180 tire kits on these bikes, I use him to do the rear fenders and the paint. One thing Brian is exceptionally good at is matching the factory paint. If you had a scratch or something on a stock fender and needed to replace it and match the paint, he’s the king of that. Chris and Mark are the kings of the airbrush. I don’t send a lot of motorcycle work to Mark, because he really specializes in offshore boats, trailers, and motor homes – big-ticket items. A good painter is like a good dentist. Once you find one you like, you tend to stick with him.

Doing custom builds is not really the biggest part of my business. My biggest thing is going to be the engine work and the customization of Harley-Davidsons. I’ve done 30 or 40 of the 180 wide kits on Harleys. There are all kinds of kits that you can buy in magazines or on the Internet, but I’ve fixed a lot of those bolt-on kits after they have fallen apart. I don’t believe the back end of a motorcycle where somebody is going to sit should be bolted onto the motorcycle with four bolts. I think it should be welded on part of the frame. When we do wide tire kits on the Harleys, I actually cut the struts, move them out, weld them back on, and it doesn’t affect the structural integrity of the motorcycle. You can actually go with an after-market strut, but I don’t like to do those kits, because they are normally bolt-on. I’m not really crazy about the one-piece back fender and strut design either, because that’s a bolt-on deal. Harleys vibrate. I’d hate to have my girlfriend on the back of a Harley going 80 miles per hour and have the whole back end fall off.

Loney: Yeah, I used to take 2-inch long ½-inch stainless steel bolts with a nut on them and throw them in the saddlebags of the old Fat Boy to see how many would work themselves off by the time I got to town.

Mike: The last thing you want to do if you buy a $20,000 motorcycle is chop it all up and make it worth $5,000. Some of those kits you see in the magazines do just that. You cut the struts off and throw them away and bolt on some garbage that doesn’t fit or is leaning to one side or is bent or whatever. I’ve never seen a set of bolt-on struts that didn’t require extensive work to make them fit the bike anyway. So we came up with a way to move the struts out and weld them back on, and you can use your stock chrome strut. We can do the fenders several ways. I like the Russ Wernimont fenders, because they seem to be the highest quality metal. They make a Fat Boy fender that had almost the direct profile of the stock fender. I like the stuff that looks original when it’s done, but is just fatter.
Good craftsmanship means people don’t know or care how you did it. They just know it really looks nice.

Loney: We’d like to hear about your chassis.

Mike: Several years ago, I built the first 8-second street-legal Harley-Davidson in history. It was a '03 Dyna Super Glide that I built when I was at Gail’s Harley-Davidson. We took that bike for its debut at Bristol, Tennessee, and ran 8.90s at 148 miles per hour. It was the first street-legal Harley-Davidson with no wheelie bar to go in the 8s at A.H.D.R.A. We got so many oohs, aahs, and wows over the bike that I decided to build my own version of that bike that was actually more mechanically correct as far as design. The way to do that on a bike is, first of all, to have a lot of horsepower and, second of all, be able to get the power to the ground. There’s an old saying, “Fast is easy, quick is hard.” That’s what I’ve got on my business cards, because it’s that first 60 to 100 feet that count in a drag race. If you don’t have a chassis that can harness that horsepower and keep the front tire on the ground, you’re not going to go fast. A 9-second Harley is very rare. There are only handfuls in the United States. Eight-second Harleys are even rarer. There were probably only about five of them in the world, and I just built 25. They are A.H.D.R.A. legal. They are a Kosman chassis that I designed. Kosman Fabrication builds many of the professional Pro Stock motorcycles like those for the N.H.R.A. This year there will be a lot of six second runs in the N.H.R.A., I think.

I built a prototype of this motorcycle three years ago, and I’ve been racing it. The bike works well, and it’s fast. The problem with that motorcycle is that it’s very lightweight and very spindly. You probably couldn’t ride it very far on the street without something breaking. It runs 9.60s with 150 horsepower, which is very rare. Usually it takes 180 horsepower to go in the 9s and 200 to go in the 8s. I designed these new bikes with a Buell front end with a perimeter brake. It’s nice if you’re going to go 150 miles per hour in the quarter to actually be able to stop at the end. It’s nice for street riding if you can stop, too. The bikes have 28 degrees of rake. They are adjustable from 67 to 70 inches wheelbase. They are legal in about five different A.H.D.R.A. classes: Hot Street, Street Pro, 124 Challenge Class, and some E.T. bracket stuff. They are very short in the front and long in the back. The motor is moved about as far forward as you can get it. The tire almost hits the front cylinder when the suspension is completely compressed. It’s got a long swingarm and carbon fiber fenders. The bikes weigh just over 500 pounds. That’s fairly light for a drag bike and extremely light for a street-ridden Harley-Davidson. The chassis will accept Evolution or Twin-Cam motors with FL transmissions, so we’ve got the shortest possible combination of motor and transmission to move the weight as far forward as we could. The bikes are very low profile. They look fast, even when they are sitting still. They’ve also got four inches of ground clearance, which is pretty rare. We smashed the backbone right down on top of the motor, and we’ve got the gas tank down over the backbone and actually cradling the cylinders, so the bike is very low-looking which makes it look faster and run faster on the track, getting out of the air. We use a lot of components from Harley-Davidson, so if you already have a stock Dyna, you can take most of the stuff right off that bike, and stick it right in my chassis and go racing. They kind of have an FXR look but are a lot longer in the back.

The average Harley enthusiast wants to do one of three things. They either want to buy a motorcycle because they’ve always wanted one, and the kids are finally out of school and gone, and they get a bike to go out for a Sunday ride, and that’s about all they ever do with it. The other guy wants to use it to commute and go to Sturgis and Daytona and ride all the time, because it’s his number one hobby. With most motorcyclists, that’s what they are going to use it for. That guy doesn’t need killer power, because he’s not going to go racing, but he wants good power, so he can accelerate in third or fourth gear. He wants to be able to pull out into traffic and not get run over by a semi. If he wants good power, we have motor kits for that. It’s a little bit less expensive kit and a little less radical and will live on pump gas. It uses a stock clutch and a stock starter. You boost the power 25 or 30 percent, and that’s all those guys need. Then there’s the guy that all he wants to do is get drunk and race his buddies from bar to bar. He wants 300 horsepower, because all that matters is getting to that intersection first. They don’t have any interest in drag racing, but they want horsepower. When I was at Gail’s, I designed a 100 horsepower kit that became very popular. You could install it in one day, and it wasn’t a radical kit, but it made 100 horsepower. We used to do about 100 of those kits per year, and I’ve done about 5 or 6 out here in the last couple of months. People love them. That’s probably your three main Harley enthusiast types.

Then there are guys like me. I don’t spend a lot of time riding on the road. I don’t enjoy going out on my bike and drinking, so I don’t go to a lot of bike nights, but I’m going to try to hit more of them this year. My thing is, when everybody else is going to bike night on Wednesday, I usually go to the track. It’s all about seeing how fast and how quick I can go at the racetrack. So everybody has different ideas what they want to use their Harleys for, and I want to be able to give you all of those avenues. I want to be able to answer everybody’s dreams, and that’s what Dyno Mike’s is all about.

A lot of the Harley dealerships don’t want to do the wide tire kits because of the liability, but I feel like if it’s done right the liability is very minimal. When you are messing with the frame, you can’t jack around. It’s got to be cut right, moved to the right spot, and welded on right. This is a fabrication deal, and I don’t really know where you would go to learn it. I’m self-taught, and I have all of the equipment to do it here. Wherever I’ve gone since I was 17 years old right out of high school, I have always surrounded myself with lathes, mills, welders, grinders, plasma cutters—all the equipment it took to do the things that I think need to be done to these motorcycles. Out here I have a MIG welder, TIG welder, lathe, mill, presses, and everything it takes to do this type of work, and I like doing it. Even the 180 tire kits, we can do in one day. The hold-up on the 180 tire kits is getting the back fender painted. When you buy a bolt-on fender, there are no holes for mounting, no holes for taillights and license plat brackets, no holes for the blinkers. You have to drill all of those. On the bobtail bikes like the Night Trains and Softail Customs, I’ve never found a good mail-order fender for those. I use Brian at Whiz Bang for the 180 kits because he cuts the fenders, puts the wider cateye tail light in them, makes the license plate holder that goes underneath, and makes them look really nice. I take care of everything including getting the fender ready and painted and getting the seat modified to fit the new fender radius. I charge a flat fee that’s the same for every bike. You have to pay the painter and buy your parts, but when I’m done, it’s ready to ride out of here. When I take on a project, I like to finish it for the customer.

I joke with my vendors and tell them the only things their parts will bolt onto are my lathe and mill, and they certainly don’t bolt onto any motorcycles. My Dynamic Chassis bikes are designed to give you a chassis that has everything in the right spot, and everything fits. You don’t have to be a welder or a machinist to make that bike go down the road. I sell those bikes all the way from a bare frame to a complete motorcycle—chromed, painted and ready to go, turnkey. They range from $5,500 to $50,000 depending on what you want. If you want an 8-second street bike, I don’t recommend you get on it and ride it to Sturgis, but if you want to take it up there and run it in the drags, it will go in the 8s if you can ride it. Back to my saying, “Fast is easy, quick is hard.”

Along with Amanda Macy’s 2005 Harley-Davidson Pro Mod Drag Bike, which is featured on the cover of this month’s issue, lets take a look at a few of the other bikes built and customized by Dyno Mike Wilson.

This bike started out as a Heritage that had been rear-ended by a semi. Dyno Mike converted it to a Fat Boy. He cut off the struts, straightened them and moved them out, and installed a 180 tire kit with a Russ Wernimont rear fender. The bike features a 103-inch stroker motor making 120 horsepower, Screamin’ Eagle Exhaust with Mike’s modified baffle, chrome front end, and wheels from Carriage Works. Brian Plihal did the paint. At the strip, it has run 11.40s at 120 M.P.H. This bike is Dyno Mike’s daily rider.

The “Bones Bike” is the prototype for the Dynamic Chassis, built for testing and development. It features an FXR style chrome-molly Kosman chassis, Kosman wheels and brakes, CO2 system for the air shifter, 117-inch motor, Super D carburetor, hand-made exhaust system, and paint by Brian Plihal. This bike runs 9.60s at 140 M.P.H. but is not easy to ride. For the new Dynamic Chassis bikes, rake is changed from 33 degrees to 28 degrees. The gas tank is shortened, the motor and seat are moved forward, and the swingarm is longer. This dramatically reduces the tendency to wheelie, so it’s much easier to get out of the hole.

This is a 2005 Springer Softail with a 100 horsepower motor. It replicates a 1946 Knucklehead. It has a bobber theme and race theme going at the same time. It has been converted to chain drive on the rear wheel and belt drive on the primary. There are many custom components such as the oil tank and exhaust pipes. We smoothed the front end and powder coated the front part of the springer fork black to give it a nostalgic look. An unusual feature on this bike is the use of brass. It has brass risers other brass touches such as the seat bolts and oil tank lid. The clips that go in the pushrod tubes are brass-plated, and there is some brass plating on the exhaust system. Wheels and brake rotors are from Chip Foose. Dyno Mike smoothed the swingarm, and dropped the rear brake under the rotor. This bike is owned by Gaylon Soule for whom Mike has built several bikes.

Interview by Loney Wilcoxson

Photos by Michael Blomberg with Main Street Photography (816) 830-6363