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The evolution of a motorcycle; PHS shop class makes progress on its first custom built bike

Student Jason Hangen works on the back fender of the bike during class on Monday. Connie Candermay/FOCUS1 / 2
Shop class students Calvin Sailer and Dylan Papenfuss worked together on the bike last Monday; behind is Thomas Manning. Connie Candermay/FOCUS2 / 2

Nine weeks into second trimester, Perham High School's shop class has come a long way on its first ever custom built motorcycle.

The group of 17 students in Carl Aakre's class have worked day after day alongside Kurt Peterson and Greg Larson, owners of the Lil' Evil Inkorpor8ted motorcycle shop in Perham.

As senior Ryan Satter said, it's "amazing to see something come together, when we started with nothing."

This project brings a whole new level to shop class, Satter said: "It's shop class with a point."

Perham High School is one of just five schools in the nation to participate in a high school motorcycle build in collaboration with S & S Cycle Incorporated's 55th Anniversary.

On completion, the Ground Up American V20 Custom motorcycle will go on tour with S & S Cycle to some of the biggest motorcycle events in the country, including Sturgis. Next fall, when the tour is done, the bike will be given back to the school to be sold.

Each day of class, the students are split into smaller groups and given specific tasks. Last Monday, for example, one group built a bracket mount for the fuel tank, another group worked on assembling the handlebars and another worked on the back fender.

Senior Jason Hangen said, "I didn't realize how much stuff goes into a bike."

Building a bike is more complicated than simply assembling pieces together. Satter gave this example: "There is a lot of math, like geometry, involved in the front end."

All in all, Hangen said, "It's a great experience."

The kids are using what they have learned from Peterson and Larson and applying those concepts into their high mileage car--a separate project the school will focus on this spring.

Petersen said the "most important thing for Greg and I is for the kids to feel like they built the bike, not watch us built it."

Peterson and Larson try to keep the kids busy with a new task every day, so they see the evolution process of the bike.

Peterson said building the bike is a 300-hour job - a chunk of time not available in a single trimester.

Because of that, the goal of the trimester is not to complete the bike, but instead to complete the mockup - meaning the pieces will be cut and assembled into a fully functional bike, but no finished work will be completed.

After the mockup is complete, the parts of the bike that need paint will be removed and sent away for painting.

After the trimester ends, the kids will complete the final steps of building the bike over at Lil' Evil's shop on evenings and weekends.

Before the S & S Cycle event in June, the school will compete in the Donnie Smith Bike Show in Saint Paul in March.

There have been a lot of renowned national custom bike designers helping PHS, by either donating parts or volunteering time. For example, Arlen Ness and his son Cory, who have some of their own bike designs in California museums, donated controls to the school.

Two of the main companies that donated parts were Rampage Wheels and S & S Cycle. Representatives came to Perham last week to see the progress of the bike.

Jeffrey Trent of Rampage Wheels said they were "amazed at the talent of the people involved."

Local businesses have also sponsored the bike build program, helping to keep the school's cost under its $10,000 budget.

After the bike is sold, the school will be able to keep any profit.