Revelation Choppers is turbo-charging the custom motorcycle craze, and the company’s two sculptors are pounding out their metal masterpieces from a garage in Clendenin.
Jason Barnhouse and Rob Parsons, both of Clendenin, are what happens when bikers become businessmen. Between the two of them, they have eight tattoos. Parsons answers to the name “Bear” more than his actual first name. And the guys aren’t afraid to throw around words like “radically designed” and “old school craftsmanship.”
But Barnhouse is just as comfortable in a conference room as he is in a garage. He knows how to market his product and manage a business. Parsons is the artist. He has an eye for color and a passion for detail. Combined, the two men are the brains and brawn behind Revelation Choppers.
“We’re total partners in this, from a bike’s design to the very last bolt,” Barnhouse said.
America’s love affair with bikers has been growing since the Orange County Choppers hit primetime in 2002 with the custom build show “American Choppers” on the Discovery Channel.
Motorcycle sales are expected to hit an all-time high this year.
And Barnhouse and Parsons are geared up to take the high octane industry by storm.
Revelation Choppers specializes in custom-crafted theme bikes and currently is constructing a one of a kind motorcycle for Marshall University. The bike is in the design phase, but likely will feature autographs by former Marshall athletes who now play in the NFL. Football Coach Bob Pruett is even welding a piece or two of the metal. The motorcycle will be raffled off next year to raise money for the school’s Quarterback Club and give a little extra exposure to a business that is gaining national acclaim.
In the Beginning
Barnhouse, 33, built his first bike in 1996. After waiting more than a year for a custom-ordered Harley-Davidson, he decided he could build his own. Barnhouse found the parts he wanted and pieced together his first custom-built bike. He called on his good friend Bear Parsons for a fresh coat of paint. The two decided bike building might just be for them, but the timing was all wrong.
Parsons, 42, is a boilermaker by trade. Barnhouse is a parts and service sales representative for Walker Machinery. The guys waited seven years before finding the right time to resurrect their bike- building dreams. Revelation Choppers was officially incorporated in November 2003.
Their approach to bike building is a little different than what it used to be. Today, Barnhouse and Parsons build it all.
“From every aspect, it’s all handcrafted – from beating the raw, sheet metal out and putting the gas tank together,” Barnhouse said. “Right down to the paint scheme on the rear fender, it’s all us.”
To start the business, the men decided to build two different bikes. The first one would be a pro-street motorcycle. The second would be a chopper.
“The chopper has a more rigid frame, which just means it has no suspension. They’re traditionally higher in the front and have those long front ends,” Barnhouse said. “The pro-street bike is the more traditional bike with a curvier, more sleeker and sexier look.”
Time is at Hand
In just 49 days, the partners crafted their first chopper. Oddly enough, heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar Inc. was their muse.
“My dad has turned wrenches for Cat for years. My brother has been with Cat for 16 years, and I’ve been selling the machinery for quite a few years,” Barnhouse said. “Caterpillar has been feeding me since I was a kid, so I figured it was perfect for our first corporate-themed bike.”
When the men take the bike on tour, they also bring toy versions of Caterpillar equipment to illustrate their inspiration. Barnhouse can point out a bulldozer blade on the toy version and then show where a replica of the blade appears on the bike.
The bike has generated so much interest that officials at Caterpillar Inc. have considered buying it, and Barnhouse said it’s for sale.
Revelation Choppers’ second bike is called the Metal Messiah. The bike features handmade metal weaponry and is adorned with genuine rubies and black onyx. Both bikes are generating a buzz in the industry. Last month, Revelation Choppers won second place at the All-Star Chopper Show in Maryland, beating out some of the best in the business, including Orange County Choppers.
“It was great for us because of the respect we got from other builders,” Parsons said. “It’s nice when your friends and family tell you what a great job you’ve done, but when other builders acknowledge all your time and effort, it’s just an amazing feeling.”
Barnhouse said the show’s top builder even marveled at the detail on their bikes.
“We were so proud, we walked around like bullfrogs on steroids,” Barnhouse said.
Do Unto Them
A few weeks ago, the two men got another confidence booster when they were called on for a little help. An Orange County Choppers bike was on tour in West Virginia. When the crew tried to fire it up for a crowd at AirGas in Charleston, the $1.2 million bike wouldn’t start. Parsons just happened to be there.
“I called Jason and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this. They want us to fix their bike,’ ” Parsons said.
The guys from Revelation Choppers obliged, but their repairs came at a price – they got to film themselves fixing the bike.
Motorcycle enthusiasts all across the country are hearing about Revelation Choppers. Next month, the Confederation of Clubs, a peacekeeping group for all the nation’s biker clubs, will descend on Charleston for the first time ever. Revelation Choppers will be the feature builders.
It’s been a whirlwind year for the two men from Clendenin. When they’re not touring with their bikes or laboring at their day jobs, the men behind Revelation Choppers are planning the company’s future. A clothing line is in the works. And they plan to start selling their bike parts at Biker’s Haven in Kanawha County But their main focus will continue to be hammering out one-of-a-kind masterpieces.
“The elite bikes are high-end works and will probably sell for somewhere between $65,000 and $100,000,” Barnhouse said. “When we build these bikes for a specific person, we’ll measure their arms and legs. If a person has a bad left shoulder, we’ll compensate for that in the build to make sure it fits like a tailor-made suit. These bikes are strictly one of a kind.”
Information about the company is available online at www.rcidelaware.com.
Copyright State Journal Corporation Oct 22, 2004