Daniel Fogell has come a long way since he started building bikes with friends in a shared garage.
He has gone even further with this custom Harley when you take into account their garage was actually an old bomb shelter that the gang purchased, in part, because the temperature was never supposed to sink below 54 F, though, of course, it still did. Then there’s the first motorcycle Daniel got in 2006, a 1969 Triumph Trophy with “an ugly duck tail fender that had to go”—and did. It was, like the other bikes Daniel built back then, “pretty crude” (his words).
Suffice to say, Daniel didn’t get very far with the Triumph, though he was able to get some sort of trophy out of it. “The sissybar I made for it was actually the first part I ever made for a motorcycle,” he remembers. “I still have it.”
He got much farther with a 1972 FLH that had a hardtailed frame and a 4”-plus front end, which accumulated 15 more inches over the course of numerous winters. “The Swedish winters are usually longer than the summer, so we have plenty of time to build and limited time to ride,” he explains. Oh, yah. Daniel lives in Sweden. Minor detail.
Sure, all of this may seem outlandish and impossible, especially considering Daniel’s current circumstances. But it’s true. It doesn’t help that the bomb-shelter-turned-garage was filled with, what Daniel calls, “a really old, and pretty crappy” Swedish-made lathe, among other subpar tools. And, don’t forget, his workspace couldn’t even sustain heat the way it was designed (and promised) to.
But there are some aspects about those days that Daniel looks back fondly on. “Back then, I was able to ask for opinions on stuff, like ‘Is this height good for the sissybar?’ or ‘Should I go with this 4-1/2″ headlight or this 5-3/4″?” he remembers. There was also the physical help. “Someone was always there to hold the headlight in front of the bike, so I could take a step back and have a look,” Daniel says. “But, of course, the hanging out part of sharing a garage is also something I miss sometimes.”
Now, instead of a bomb shelter, Daniel has a sign that displays his last name preceding the word “Customs.” And this sign hangs outside the place he builds bikes for a living. At least, we have good reason to believe there’s a sign of his business outside his business. It’s also reasonable to assume that the temperature never drops below 54 F there, unless Daniel gets nostalgic for the good ol’ days.
It’s within these heated walls where Daniel built this Sportster 1200—but before Fogell Customs actually became a full-time endeavor. “I was a merchant sailor back then, working on an accommodation rig in the Gulf of Mexico,” he recounts. Daniel would spend four weeks on the rig followed by four weeks in the shop. “In 2018, I decided to quit my job and give the shop a go,” he says. “It’s still up and down, of course. The Scandinavian market for custom-built frames and builds is nothing compared to the US.”
Undoubtedly, it was due to the overwhelming success that came as a result of finishing this bike in 2017 that gave Daniel the courage to take the plunge into entrepreneurship the following year. But when he first purchased the bike in late 2016, all Daniel knew was that he wanted to build a Swedish-style chopper. “It was going to have a long fork and not too much stretch in the frame,” he recalls. “I wanted to keep everything as clean as possible.”
But before he could tear the bike apart on his jig, Daniel first needed to open a program on his computer. “I used an Excel sheet to calculate the desired fork length, which in turn decided the rake and stretch in the frame and the rake in the triple trees,” he says. “I changed all the values until I found the sweet spot where the trail was good and the stretch in the frame wasn’t absurd.”
Now he could get to cutting and tearing everything apart. “Not a whole lot of the stock frame is left, except about half of the backbone and the downtubes,” he says. “Everything else has been manhandled in some way.” Some of the manhandling involved cutting away the reinforcement plates around the steering neck, and of course, changing the rake from stock to about 48 degrees. Then there were the many one-offs he made. As Daniel says, “I wanted to build as much as I could by myself.” In this case, “as much” includes the fender. “It has a proper wired edge with a 5/32″ welding rod all along the edge,” he relates.
Luckily, Daniel didn’t run into any problems until final assembly (if you don’t count that, in Sweden, you have to show rollers to the authorities for approval before painting and then, again, for road testing before it can get registered). “I underestimated the amount of wires that needed to be routed through the backbone, and the pieces of tubing I used as wire ducts were too small,” he admits. “It took a full day to get all the wires unharmed through the frame, so lesson learned. But if that was the worst thing during the build, I guess I got off easy.”
A lot has happened since the bike was finished. One, it was sold. Two, Daniel is now building bikes full-time. And with no long interims spent on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, Daniel has been able to get a lot done in this time, including a Twin Cam 103 that’s “fast as $#!+!”, a ‘70s chopper-style Shovelhead, and a 1984 FLHP Mexican police bike.
“Those days building bikes in the bomb shelter really set the base for everything I do now,” says Daniel. “To have that knowledge base available was worth everything.”
Undoubtedly, Daniel also believes it’s worth having a workspace that can sustain a constant temperature above 60 F, right? RC