Production Customs made for regular guys...

By Alex Hearn, Photography by Courtney Halowell

Sucker Punch Sallys started as a pure custom bike building operation by partners in design Donny Loos and Jeff Cochran, five years ago in Ohio. In 2007 the small firm entered a new phase in its short life - building production custom bikes out of a new home in Scottsdale Arizona.

Now if you're in the market for a true custom bike you might well wonder why production custom bikes exist; the answer is simple. Sold through a select series of dealers nationwide, Sucker Punch can focus on the building aspect, while their dealers can look after the customers' needs - things like financing, insuring, licensing, all those things that can get tricky with true one-offs (funny, they never mention the details on those TV shows...). But details do matter, and the firm's success - selling 400 bikes in '07, with a view to producing 500 in '08 - is testament enough, especially in a market that's seen its bubble deflate somewhat in recent times.

SPS' bread and butter build is the 55 Bobber, a stripped-down bare bones knuckle dusting tool, based around a 1340 Harley Evo motor and rigid frame. It's perhaps the simplest bike in the firm's six-model line-up, but that might make it the best. While a long day in the (sprung) saddle would leave you reaching for the Anusol and the name of a good chiropracter, short hops up to an hour or two are very do-able. The lack of rear suspension does make slower, choppier corners a little interesting but the chunky tires and well-damped front forks do a much better job than you'd expect at taking the hits. And let's face it the thing looks so darn good, in a way that an H-D or metric cruiser just can't get near. At a smidge under twenty large, the 55 Bobber ain't cheap or practical - but is plenty cool.

Which leads us gently to the real news from the Sucker Punch crew - moving away from their hard-as-nails tradition of only building hardtails, for '08 they've got a bike with rear shocks in the range, the Swinger. While this caused some muttering from the assembled brethren at its unveiling, Sucker Punch aren't stupid - they need to build bikes people want. And what the people have been asking for is a bike that's true to the SPS no-nonsense ideal, but with a bit of mile-munching ability and comfort.

Which is pretty much what you get. The Swinger feels much less polished than a Harley, but has an elemental, raw edge that you'd expect from bike builders with SPS' DNA. The 1445cc Revtech engine punches out the horsepower hard and builds rpm fast, its 2-1 exhaust pipe letting the motor, er, ah, breathe quite nicely. Throttle response is precise and if you're lazy, there's plenty of torque to waft along on. The handling is adequate; while the rear shocks do a solid job of soaking up the bumps and the ride's smooth there's a touch of vagueness in the chassis and as the bike rides so low (adding to its style, admittedly) ground clearance, Clarence, is limited. But rolling on smooth, sinuous asphalt the Swinger feels just fine; so sit back on those ape-hangers, watch the world slip by and of course watch the world watching you. Wherever it goes, the Swinger seems to get attention - it's that kind of bike.

At $25,000 list, relative to other motorcycles from major manufacturers, the Swinger seems and is, expensive. But regarded in isolation, as a hand-built (your way) bike that's fully road legal, with a warranty and dealer back-up, it might just be reasonable. If you've gotta have it, then you've gotta have it...

BASE PRICE: $24,995
POWERTRAIN: Air-cooled, fuel-injected Revtech Evolution-type ohv 45 V-Twin
DRY WEIGHT: 495 lbs.

By Alex Hearn
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