Sorry, was in Stratford-on-Avon recently and some of it must've rubbed off ... though not much, obviously.

Where is American-V 42?

Sitting in my out-tray, while the one of the biggest news stories of our own history takes shape.

Simply put, we've gone about as far as we can as a bi-monthly publication and we're looking very seriously into the viability of going monthly, because of impending and imminent changes to the distribution channel, and I needed to get my head round that without requiring the services of men with long sleeved jackets.

You're all bright people and there's merit in explaining the thought process in exactly the same way as we approach a motorcycle, so if you're sitting comfortably?

Why now? 
Because WH Smiths – the country's leading newsagents – are changing a few ground rules and we need to make sure we can accommodate them. It will cost us money to stay in WH Smiths, in the form of a promotion across a number of issues, and we need to make sure we can cover that with increased sales.

We've had high level discussions with our distributors and we know that we can – we've actually increased our year-on-year sales through WH Smiths, which is very encouraging – and have put things in place to increase availability across the independent sector too, but the thing that keeps coming up is frequency.

The cynical among us – and I have been that cynic in the past – might construe that we are trying to squeeze more money out of our existing and loyal readers but the reality is actually simpler: too many potential readers have no idea that the magazine exists, or just don't see it on the shelves of their newsagents. They are the people whose attention we need to grab: we don't so much want to sell more magazines as much as sell magazines to more people.

Why monthly?

To be more visible on the newsagents shelves. So that on the first Thursday of the month, every month, you will be sure of a new issue of American-V being on the shelf: no wondering whether one is due this month or the next. And equally importantly, so that on the previous day there will have been the old issue keeping its place warm – unless they've all been sold – as opposed to bi-monthlies which are typically removed from the shelves after six weeks.

We've looked at eight and ten issues a year, but frankly that just gets messy because it's almost impossible to let people know when to expect it to hit the shelves, and confusion is the last thing we need – quite apart from the havoc it'd wreak on subscriptions.

It will make events coverage more timely, and it will reduce the percentage of events coverage in any single issue because while we will cover more events: more events in total, but fewer pages per issue.

It will give us twice as many editorial pages per year, because we're not looking at reducing the number of pages in each issue. We will lose the perfect binding – the spine – in favour of staples for a couple of reasons, notably centre spreads and cover-mount opportunities.

We will also be able to consider putting American-V into supermarkets, because it's almost impossible – rather than just bloody expensive – to put a bi-monthly on their shelves.

How will we manage it?

Not alone. I considered cloning myself, but one of me is more than enough to inflict on the world. There will need to be other people involved to cope with the increased workload, and with different disciplines. We're talking to freelancers and to potential partners with complimentary skill-sets.

There will be no question of compromising editorial depth, photography or print quality. The advantage we've got compared to when we started is that we can show potential investors/partners what American-V actually is, rather than a vague business plan of what we hope it might become. And don't worry about what we'll fill it with because there's so much out there queueing to get in that we've got assured quality feature material for the foreseeable future: it will be great to finally get the space to commit it to paper.

It means we'll have more space for tech, for classics, for roadtests and for customs; we'll have space for dealer features, could even bring back classified ads – which work a lot better on monthlies – iof there's demand.

Is there a choice?

Yes, we could stay bi-monthly, but we'd still need to think about investment, and the return would be slower, so the deal would be less attractive.

We could come out of the newstrade completely – get into direct distribution again – but that would be a lot more risky, and I'm not sure we've got enough momentum to be able to make that work: again, the magazines that have worked using that model have been monthlies, because you really need to have built up that momentum to carry your through the transitional phase.

Exciting times, and your comments are very welcome.

Okay, I know the magazine is called American-V but I’m going to indulge myself for a moment and talk about some of the bikes in the World Championship of Custom Bike Building that are not built around Milwaukee’s best known export.

After last year’s winning bike which used Honda internals in a one-off crank case, Dave Cook has gone more conventional for 2010 and built one of his long and low bikes around an 850cc Norton twin.

Another builder to go down the Norton twin route is Austrian shop Blech & Druber, whose bike is the polar opposite in design terms. While the look may be traditional chopper, long forks and a high neck, the materials are more up-to-date with liberal use of stainless steel and aluminium.

The British flag is also being flown by Seattle’s Speed Shop Design’s Beezerker, which, as the name suggests, has BSA 650 unit construction motor. The deceptively simple looking bike is one that needs to be studied in-depth before the true level of craftsmanship and detailing can be appreciated.

One bike that started people scratching their heads at the European Championship of Custom Bike Building, and which continues to do so at the World Championship, is the Hungarian built Simson. The art deco influenced bike takes its name from the four-stroke, single cylinder motor that no one outside of Germany ever seems to have heard of.

I’ll finish up by trying to get things slightly back on track with the JRL Cycles’ Lucky 7. If you think of several V-twins joined together in a circle you can get an idea of what a Rotec aero engine looks like and that’s what powers this bike. The seven-cylinder bike may look unrideable but it is and I’ve seen. Even more bizarre is the version on the Procharger display, outside the show hall, which has had a supercharger bolted to the engine.

At the 2010 World Championship of Custom Bike Building the awards have already started being handed out. While the big winner doesn’t get announced until the last day of the show, the industry sponsors at the event have been busy with the goodie bag.

In order for the World Championship to happen every year it requires sponsors and each year those companies that put their collective hands into their pockets also have an opportunity to choose their pick of the bikes entered in the show, a kind of thank you from the event organisers. Officially known as the ‘Partner Pick of Excellence Awards’, they are, if you like, a bonus set of bragging rights.

While I’m not going to list the whole sixteen builders and the bikes they took the honours with, I will fly the flag for the home team by telling you that Shaw Harley-Davidson’s True Strike II was selected by Harley-Davidson as its Partner Pick bike.

The big question is now that Shaw Harley-Davidson has taken one prize can the boys from Eastbourne do the double and lift the trophy in the Modified Harley-Davidson class?

The World Championship of Custom Bike Building (WCBB) is just that, unlike baseball’s World Series where there only ever seems to be US teams competing, the WCBB does what it says on the tin. A large part of the reason for this global participation is the affiliation of custom shows around the world. Shows whose prize funds include bike freight to Sturgis to compete in the WCBB.

Just clarify the point about international competition, from where I’m sat I can see bikes from Russia, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Spain, England and many other countries.

What is most interesting about this mix of nationalities is the diversity of styling it delivers. Without wanting to sound disrespectful to the host nation, it is easy to spot the US-built bikes, simply because many of them are following existing trends and not setting new ones.

The choice of engine is one area where the European entrants are willing to have some fun, but as this is American-V I’ll not go into depth about the various non V-twin choices, but I will point out that the only two bikes to use V-Rod Revolution engines are both from Europe; Odyssey Motorcycles X-Rod and Krugger’s Venom. The latter really pushes the boundary of custom design with a ride height that can be raised or lowered without altering the suspension travel. Then just to be really clever he’s added two sets of foot controls; forwards for when the bike’s up and rearsets for when it’s down and racing on the salt flats.

A V-twin engine is normally a pretty simple affair, right? Well that’s what I thought until I saw Thunderstruck, built by Mark Daily, on display at the World Championship.

The starting point for his build was an Indian Power Plus motor. Okay so nothing out of the ordinary about that unless you count the bank of Keihin sports bike carbs on the wrong side of the motor. Now as you all know, Indians have the carb on the left side but not this one. Looking closer I realised that the inlet doesn’t run to the inside of the V between the cylinders either. Oh no. On this bike the inlet runs to where you expect to find the exhaust and obviously the exhaust is where you’d normally find the manifold for the carb.

My first thought was that the heads had been reversed, as other people have done on H-D motors in the past. I was wrong, the heads are the right way round but the engine has been configured to use the exhaust ports as inlets and the inlet ports as exhausts.

There’s some very clever people out there.

You can call me Mr Lucky. Well how else would you describe someone who gets paid to fly out to the States to go to the 70th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally?

Well that’s me. I’m in the fortunate position of being here to cover the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building, kind of goes with the territory of being the editor of AMD magazine I guess.

As I’m sitting here writing this the bikes are starting to roll in ready for the show, there’s expected to be around 80 by the time it opens. And it’s safe to say that no matter what your preferred style of custom build is, it’s represented; bobbers, Swedish style choppers, salt flats racers, the list goes on and on …

The highlights so far include a reversed bike with the steering at the rear and a fat tyre at the front driven by an arrangement of chains and shafts, the crazy Italian slick-tyred bike that won the European Championship and an understated but very fat Exile inspired offering from Glasgow.
Back to work for me now …