Over the past three and half years I have had the pleasure of getting to know Reece Zylstra at different shows and a handful of runs. Super witty and all around fun dude to be around with a real talent and eye for making a great bike. I'm such a huge fan of everything he builds and I never can get enough of them. They just flow so well and look the best when flying down the road - which him and I have done plenty of times. As I recall, in the photo above, we were doing about 90mph or more! HA! His bikes though are truly works of art that push the envelope and pave way for a lot of new styles. Anytime you see Reece on one of his bikes you can tell that they are a perfect match of him and his personality. I'm super stoked he's making his way down from Michigan to showoff one of his bikes at this year's Fuel Cleveland on May 28th. I sat down with him the other day and asked him a handful of questions about his life, building, and the People's Champ competition he is currently in, enjoy!
Reece Zylstra, where do you call home?
R: Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Tell us a little about your history, your life, and how you got into motorcycles.
R: I grew up riding dirtbikes on 10 acres about 15 miles north of GR. My dad bought my brother and I PW50's the day we learned to ride a bicycle.....around 4-5. That was pretty much my life until I discovered skateboarding and punk rock which pretty much took over my life. I still rode pretty frequently but always wanted more and more independence which meant being gone from home as much as possible haha. Started playing in local punk bands when I was around 13. Always the young blood. When I was 16 I decided the daily grind wasn't for me and hit the road via freight trains on and off for the next 5 years. In hindsight all I was doing was wasting a lot of time haha. No regrets though......I think it shaped who I am today. When you have nothing you got nothing to lose mentality. Once I started "settling down" I decided if I was gonna be grounded I had to have some sort of hobby that gave me similar freedom to traveling so I saved, begged, sold records, and borrowed money to buy a salvage title sportster that had some light lay down damage. It's all been downhill from there. Shit took over my life and I'm hooked now. It was always "skateboarding and punk rock" and now it's "choppers and punk rock". Which is great because I'm getting fat and old and I was never very fucking good at skateboarding anyway.
I see you are in the Show Class People’s Choice running this year. Is this your first time entering, and what’s that experience been like so far? What do you have in store?
R: First time entering. The experience has slowly gotten more stressful. At first I didn't think I'd make it very far.......there's a lot of people far more talented than I am in the contest, and I really didn't think anyone would give a shit about an evo chopper. Now that I've made it this far I feel like I gotta keep pushing it further. I was building the bike anyway, but the contest is a nice push to go further and have a deadline. What I have in store has mostly been seen in the mockup photos.....less is always more for me but I'm doing a lot of shit I've never done. Real wild brakes all the way around, dual magneto's, mag wheels etc. trying to do lots of cool 80's performance shit. I feel like there's a lot going on mechanically so a lot of the finish shit will be somewhat simple. Single color for the frame and tins. Lots of polish and chrome. Some subtle accents. Should be a fun bike to ride, and hopefully one of those bikes people notice more once they're up close.
What bike are you working on right now and what are you planning on bringing to Fuel Cleveland?
R: Currently only working on the People's Champ evo. If it works out, I'd like to bring my shovel as well as the evo to the show. As long as it's done.
Is building bikes a full-time gig for you, if not, is it something you are aiming or or just something you love?
R: Bikes are just a hobby. I drive a semi truck to pay the bills. I'm not sure if I'd want to do it for a living. I think I'd be afraid that I wouldn't love it anymore. In an ideal world is like to drive truck part-time and do bike shit on the side but I'm not sure how realistic that is.
You always seem to be in front of trends when it comes to your bikes, what inspires your style and how do you stay a head of others?
R: Haha. I always feel like I'm late to the party. There's tons of stuff that inspires me. Music shit is huge.....I always try and have one or two things from bands I love on the bike ( i.e.; my joy division seat and the English dogs artwork on my shovel tank). I love all the primitive "technology" that came out late 70's early 80's. Early disc brakes, more prevalent magneto's, white letters, etc, etc. The "Team Tough Guy" IG that I post to with my friends has a lot of great examples. I don't really feel like anyone is staying ahead of anything in 2016. Most shit's been done, but I think it can always be done a little different or better. Back then the average guy didn't have a tig welder or a lathe at home.......this day in age with Craigslist and the fall of America's industrial class, you can pick over the carcass pretty cheap.
|Photo By: Luke Mouradian|
R: Probably fab work and/or doing any high performance motor or trans work.......not that I'm very good at either. Every bike becomes more fun as my skills improve though. I love a challenge, but it feels good to come into something with some confidence. Making a bracket, tig welding it, and having it look decent is pretty satisfying for me.
What’s on the MP3 player right now and does music play any role in your life?
R: I try to play tapes and records if possible because I'm a pretentious asshole.....but here's some shit new and old that I'm heavy into: Discharge, PMS84, Amebix, Freddie Gibbs, Fragment, Warsaw, the most recent New Order record, One Way System, Shitfucker, Motörhead, Napalm Raid, Unreal Thought, Aspects Of War, GISM, Waylon Jennings, GA'AN, Poison Idea, External Menace, 2Chainz, Anti-Cimex, Plasmatics, Bathory, Aura Noir, Van Halen, DAC, Skitsystem........I could literally go on forever haha. I listen to a lot of music.
Can you share with us a favorite memory or story on the road while on your bike?
R: I'm not sure if I can pick one. I love any time spent on a bike. Apocalypse Run is always fun and eventful. Valhalla trip with my boy Christian ruled. I've done a lot of great solo trips to Minnesota that were super peaceful. I just love riding motorcycles, and if it's on a chopper it's even better.
What’s one place you haven’t been yet and you have to go? Why?
R: I really want to ride Nova Scotia. I've made friends with a few dudes that are from there or currently live there and it just intrigues me. It's not very big, and Halifax is the only major city but the more I hear and see, the more I wanna ride there.
You are the founder of the Apocalypse run, how did that idea come about and what have been your goals for it?
R: I've been riding dirtbikes up there my whole life. My parents own property up there, and I have a lot of relatives that live there as well. It's 40% of Michigan's land mass with only 5% of its population residing there so it's perfect for lawless chopper riding and partying. It's also just super beautiful. It's kind of a time capsule. My goals are just to get more friends there to experience it. It's not a bike show. It's just riding motorcycles and having good times with friends.
What’s one of your best times on Apocalypse run?
R: Probably the last year. Every year gets better I think, but last year there was 60 dudes just being ridiculous. No egos. Just a lot of fun.
R: I'm not sure what to think. I like seeing people on bikes.......but I'm also excited to see the people that will stick around after the smoke clears, ya know? Dudes that just love it. Also excited to buy everyone's parts once they get Dyna's lol.
What is your all time favorite bike you have ever owned and why?
R: My current shovel, hands down. I'm just proud of it. It's a labor of love. It's a pretty simple bike to most people I'm sure, but I have so much time into the frame and motor. It handles and performs well for a chopper, and I'm not sick of looking at it yet.....which is unusual for me.
Dream machine, what is it and any plans on making it or getting it in the near future.
R: I have hundreds haha. Always thinking about the next bike before I'm finished with the current one. I'm honestly pretty content with my current stable tho. I have a pretty clean c10, a shovel I like, and an Evo that I hope will be cool. I'm hoping to just work on some friends bikes and or customer shit after this bikes done.
Are you a wine and cheese, beer and pretzels or whiskey and more whiskey, kind of guy?
R: I'm a black coffee and cigarettes guy.
Anyone you want to give a shout out or thank?
R: Oh man, so many people. No man is an island and I'm living proof of that. My boy Rudy for always helping me on my motors, Dave and Christian for being into the same refined hi performance shit as me. Terry Nichoson for being one of the only people that comes to my shop. My ol lady for putting up with my shit. My Brother Rusty for making me laugh. Jordan Best for being one of my oldest consistent friends. Steven for being a worthless trucker just like myself. Clancy for being my punk chopper Canadian internet boyfriend. Matt Aberle for bitching about even more than I do. Anyone who has come on Apocalypse Run and/or sponsored my little rag tag run. Punk rock for keeping my standard of living low.