Custom Builder Spotlight: Chris Callen of Cycle Source
April 27, 2022
By: Dave Nichols
Where do we begin with a person who has firmly established himself as a true renaissance man? Chris Callen may be known to many of you as the founder and editor of Cycle Source magazine for over 20 years and the host of Shop Talk on Facebook. But Chris is also a talented musician and bike builder. His glorious “Something Wicked” Shovelhead chopper is currently showcased in the April issue of Classic Easyriders magazine.
His chopper is true to not only the old school look and designs from the 1970s but was built to reflect what builders and riders were really all about back in the day. It has been a true labor of love for Chris, who truly eats, sleeps, and breathes motorcycles. He grew up surrounded by the Western Pennsylvania off-road motorcycle racing scene and started riding at an early age. He got his MC license at 16 and has been riding on the street ever since. Driven by his abiding passion for all things with two wheels and a motor, he stared Cycle Source in 1997 out of his small aftermarket parts shop in Pittsburg.
As Chris tells us, “It all started at the end of a wrench.” Building his own custom creations for fun was the foundation for why he started the biker magazine in the first place. He, along with Mark Persichetti in Pittsburg, and Roadside Marty in Florida, make up a rag-tag bunch of fabricators who put out killer work in their spare time after their day jobs. Chris says, “It’s more the spirit of a shop rather than a real entity.” But for these band of brothers, it offers life-saving solace and sanity contained within brick walls. They call it Flat Broke Chops & Rods.
Callen’s Shovelhead chopper is a tribute to all the years of chaos and conundrums that surround life in the motorcycle magazine world. “This build was a whirlwind that started with a frame jig build ‘live’ on stage in Laconia a few years back, then a hard-tailed four-speed frame at the same show modified by Faith Forgotten Choppers,” Chris tells us.
The team squeezed in a minute here and there to continue the build over the next six months, and they spent a lot of time thinking about exactly what constituted making a chopper that was true to old school. For Chris, he wanted to build a bike like they did back in the early days of chopperdom, when they didn’t have modern features and there was very little in the way of an aftermarket from which to buy off-the-shelf chopper parts. If you wanted a rigid chopper, you had to build the frame from scratch.
Starting with a donor 1977 four-speed, 80 cubic inch FX for $1,500, the team scrounged around for swap meet parts that would be cut, shaped, polished, and repurposed. “To me, this was the only way to show the depths that a person will go to in order to exhibit their passion to build a righteous chopper when they only had pennies to spare and even less time to make it happen.”
Be sure to meet this motorized renaissance man and check out his custom creations during the High Seas Rally cruise. Chris and his wife Heather will be onboard with the rest of the crew for the best biker bash to ever set sail.