Indian Motorcycle—the legendary brand that draws its lineage all the way back to the late 1800s—has recently come out with its most customizable bike ever. In order to celebrate the reimagined Indian Chief, the company reunited legendary builders Paul Cox and Keino Sasaki to custom build a bike for renowned tattoo artist Nikko Hurtado. We enlisted our resident bike expert Natalie Cuomo to moderate a conversation between the three heavy hitters. Over the course of an hour they discussed the 2022 Indian Chief, the similarities between tattooing and bike building, and much more.
Natalie Cuomo: Paul and Keino, you’re building this bike for Nikko. Can you give us a little background about how you came to work on this project?
Paul Cox: It was brought to both of us separately if we would be interested in working with Indian again, and then if we were interested in working with each other again, which both sounded like great ideas. We’ve been buddies for many years and it sounded like a lot of fun. This new 2022 Chief platform has been awesome to work with. The bike itself is such a departure from what they’ve been doing in recent years with the way it’s engineered and the way it’s built. We’re having a good time with it. We split up the project so that he [Keino] has his things he’s working on and I have my stuff that I’m working on, then we’ll just come together and make the whole thing come together.
Cuomo: How are you guys shaping this and how are you personalizing it specifically for Nikko?
Cox: Keino is going ahead and working on the gas tank and he’s building that up from scratch, as well as the exhaust system, which already looks awesome. I’m doing the front end from scratch, and we’re pairing down the whole wiring and infrastructure, the whole thing. We’re basically stripping it all down to a bare-bones sort of hot rod.
Cuomo: Nikko, what is your part in the process of this build?
Nikko Hurtado: I’m really excited about the bike. I super respect what you guys do. I grew up around fabrication and stuff like that, my father owns a fabrication shop in the San Fernando Valley and he’s done all kinds of stuff for aerospace. I grew up around metal… just the smell of it and the welds and stuff like that. I respect bike builders so much. My dad used to build bikes just for his friends and I have a bike that was built by hand, and I’m really excited to see what these guys pull off and put together, because, I mean, metal is in my blood. I have pictures of me when I was five years old pretending to weld. It’s so cool. To see these guys who have made their life around fabrication and customization, that’s their art form. It’s cool to be part of that.
Cox: Not for nothing, but your work is amazing.
Hurtado: Thank you so much, man.
Cuomo: I want to talk about the parallel in designing a tattoo and building a bike. You know, how you’re helping someone else express themselves, whether it’s through a tattoo or the bike they’re riding.
Hurtado: It’s kind of crazy seeing these guys on Zoom right now as I know how much heart and soul goes into anything you create, especially when it’s handmade. I could only imagine how they feel building something for Indian, the whole process. I always try to come in super respectful because [as a tattoo artist] I understand how you put your heart out into these pieces. No matter what it is you’re doing you try to do your best, because it’s part of your soul. When I see this bike in person for the first time, I’m sure it’s going to be overwhelming because it’s looking at somebody’s masterpiece.
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