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Custom Choppers 

by Clint Burgess

The popularity of a certain cable chopper show has sparked a huge interest in the art of chopping motorcycles and just about anything else. But for the everyday motorcycle enthusiasts and shop owners who have been customizing bikes for years, it's all about their love for motorcycles and the desire to produce amazing creations of chrome and steel that captivate the outsiders.

Right in our own backyard (North Division, that is), one local business is doing the stuff the rest of us are merely watching on cable. Chris Olson, co-owner of Chris Olson Customs, is building and selling custom bikes that satisfy the wild, imaginative side of the motorcycle world. "We're capable of doing anything you see on TV," Olson says. He's not joking. A quick look through photos of his recent creations produce mind-blowing images of sleek lines of chrome and extreme paint jobs.

This shop came about as a result of the ambition of Olson and the backing of his business partner, Dave Mustaine. Yeah, that Dave Mustaine -- the front man of Megadeth. "Dave helps us out in the media," Olson explains. "He's got international appeal and knows a lot of people." Olson used to play in a hard rock band called Citizen Cane. He was plugged in to the Huntington Beach, Calif., scene and partied like a rock star. Remnants of his former lifestyle are exhibited by his full sleeve tattoos but are offset by his big smile. These days, however, Olson is content to do what he loves, chop bikes. "It really is a passion for me," he enthuses. "We're all about having good, clean fun and building motorcycles."

One such motorcycle was a labor of love for Olson. "The Make A Wish Foundation contacted me about building a bike for a charity auction," says Olson. "They have a special place in my heart." A couple of years ago, the group helped Olson's niece, who has a degenerative heart condition. Chris Olson Customs took on the task. Olson got on the phone and contacted some of the biggest names in the custom motorcycle market. The results were miraculous. "We put together a bike with $60,000 worth of parts on it, and I didn't pay a cent for any of it," Olson says. "I didn't have to pay for one tire or cable, all of it was donated for the cause."

All the work was donated, too, as Olson's team did all the mechanical, and artist Mike Learn put the finishing touches on the bike with a Las Vegas theme paint job. The chopper was auctioned off and brought in $38,000 for the Make A Wish Foundation.

While this is just one of many experiences Olson has had during his career as a custom bike specialist, things are constantly happening for him. He is in the process of finalizing a deal with a national retail chain to sell his licensed merchandise. There have also been talks with his partner Mustaine about networks interested in featuring the shop in a series on cable. And Chris Olson Customs is getting national exposure from national motorcycle magazines. This may all be leading up to big things for Olson, but he's grounded.

"We're definitely gonna stay local," Olson explains. "We want to bring business here and get the exposure for Spokane."

Whatever the future holds for Olson, it's clear that he has a deep love for what he does and he wouldn't trade it for anything.

Publication date: 07/22/04

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