Yellowjackets bike gives the competition a ‘Lethal Injection:’ Custom-built motorcycle takes the cake at Donnie Smith Bike Show

The first ever custom-built Yellowjackets motorcycle made its debut this weekend at the Donnie Smith Bike Show in St. Paul - and outperformed the professionals.

PHS students w/custom-build bike
Students from Perham High School’s advanced welding class stand with the Yellowjackets motorcycle that they custom built along with Lil’ Evil Inkorpor8ted. The bike won first place in the Open Class Radical Custom competition at the Donnie Smith Bike Show this past weekend in St. Paul, Minn.

The first ever custom-built Yellowjackets motorcycle made its debut this weekend at the Donnie Smith Bike Show in St. Paul – and outperformed the professionals.

The bike won first place in the Open Class Radical Custom competition, beating out bikes made by the best pro builders throughout the region, in one of the toughest categories.

Sporting a sleek black-and-yellow design and the words “Lethal Injection” across the sides, the bike, built by Perham High School advanced welding students and the guys from Lil’ Evil Inkorpor8ted, is an impressive feat of engineering.

A Softail-Bagger modeled after Harley-Davidson’s somewhat sinister-looking “Road King,” the bike has an estimated street value of $65,000-$75,000.

The 16 students in the welding class, along with Kurt Peterson and Greg Larson of Lil’ Evil, spent more than 400 hours working on the bike, both during and after school hours.


It was a learning process for everyone in the class, said senior Jason Haugen, and many times things had to be taken apart and then put back together.

“We ran into snags with almost every part,” he said.

It was also “nerve-wracking at times,” according to senior Ryan Satter, “especially at the end” as there was a mad scramble to get the bike done in time for the show. “But, I always had faith in Kurt and Greg… They taught us a lot of tricks of the trade. They donated a lot of their time (to this project).”

In the end, the hard work paid off in more ways than one.

In the obvious way, the bike looks and runs great, and just took home first place at the biggest bike show in the upper Midwest.

In a less obvious, but more important way, according to Peterson, it got students involved with a project they can be proud of, giving them a chance to learn from and interact with professional bike builders while giving something back to the community of Perham.

At a gathering at Lil’ Evil last week, as final touches were being put on the bike before it was loaded onto a trailer and brought to the show, Peterson told the students they should “be proud” of what they’ve learned and accomplished.

He speculated that the bike would do well at the Donnie Smith Show, and the students agreed.


“I think it has a good chance” of winning,” said Haugen. “It looks sweet.”

It should be “the baddest bagger there,” said Satter.

And as it turns out, it was.

The bike turned out so well, in fact, that the guys at Lil’ Evil thought it would be unfair to other schools to enter it into the high school competition, as originally planned, and instead entered the pro class.

Winning that was “no small feat,” said Larson. There were more than 200 bikes at the show, and “Radical Custom is probably the hardest category” to place in.

At the show, eight welding students talked to judges and spectators, answering questions about the bike and the build process. Larson said the students did very well during this part of the competition, impressing the judges with their knowledge and level of involvement in the build.

Each student took home an individual achievement award for his or her participation.

“It was really fun,” Larson said of the show. “Things went really well.”


The show was held this past Saturday and Sunday at the River Centre in St. Paul.

But this competition wasn’t the ‘main event’ for the Yellowjackets bike. Larson said it was primarily built “to show off Perham Pride” at bike shows across the country as a part of a tour with S&S Cycle Incorporated. Starting in June, the bike will make appearances at various high-profile motorcycle events, including Sturgis.

Marie Nitke, Perham Focus

A writer, editor and mom of four (two kids, two dogs), Marie's been in the newspaper business for over 20 years. She started at the Detroit Lakes Tribune in 2017 after working just down the road at the Perham Focus for several years. Before that, she was at the Herald-Review in Grand Rapids, Minn.
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