There is no shortage of kick-ass custom motorcycles in this world. Every city has builders who are at the top of their games. Phoenix, Ariz., is no different. There are guys in the Valley of the Sun who have had their custom creations featured on top-rated TV shows, but as we all know, the bike doesn’t make the man. This leads us to Trask Performance.
Nick Trask builds some of the sexiest motorcycles we’ve ever seen. The years of painstaking design that goes into each model is worth a story of its own, but that’s not what we are here to talk about. It’s Nick’s story that intrigues us. He is an immigrant who has had a dream to be a pioneer in the motorcycle industry, and his relentless drive to achieve machine-driven perfection is why he has landed in our magazine. Immigrants with the mindset that freedom breeds innovation built this country, and Nick is no different. Stepping onto American soil with a toolbox in one hand and a fistful of desire in the other, he has led an all-out assault on the custom bike world.
Skillset: Hey Nick, thanks for sitting down with us today. You were born and raised in New Zealand, right?
Nick: Yes, sir — the Bay of Islands.
Skillset: Tell us about life in New Zealand and why you decided to come to America?
Nick: I was in my late teens and going through my automotive apprenticeship in New Zealand to become an automotive engineer by trade. After all my schooling, I was working a lot, building custom cars. One day I was reading an Easy Rider magazine and I saw an ad for a motorcycle school. I decided to fill it out and sent it in. Eventually, a recruiter called me and said, “Hey, you want to come to this school?” It was like four o’clock in the morning because of the time difference. I was still half-groggy and was like, “Fuck, yeah!” He told me the next round of courses began in four months.
So, I sold what little I had and came to America. I went to the school and once I graduated, I jumped on my Harley and rode to Sturgis. It was a great time, but after that adventure, I came back, put my Harley and toolbox in a crate and returned home to New Zealand. I only lasted a few months before I was like, “Fuck, there’s nothing going on here.” So, I packed up again and moved back to the States.”
Skillset: So, I take it you were always a gearhead growing up?
Nick: Yeah, always. Growing up my dad had Harleys and racecars and stuff, so it was something I was passionate about. I liked anything with a motor in it. When I came back to America at the end of ’99, I started my own performance shop. I was in this little carpentry shop, about 1,000 square feet, and every time I’d run a bike all the sawdust would come down like it was snowing. I was in a small office complex, so I had to run the bikes after five o’clock so it wouldn’t disrupt the other businesses! I’d work on the bikes during the day and then tune them till late at night.
Skillset: What was your first build?
Nick: Actually, I still have one of my first bikes. It was an old Heritage that I brought over from New Zealand. I love that bike and even put a big turbo charger and a big motor in it. That was back in ’97. It’s funny, that bike has been around the world with me three times.
Skillset: You’re known for your legendary Assault bike designs … well, you’re known for a lot of things, but that’s what we’re focusing on.
Nick: Yeah, our styling is based around our Assault Series bikes. They’re more of an industrial, military theme.
Skillset: How did you come up with the idea?
Nick: I liked the “Mad Max” style, the raw industrial look. All my bikes have been that way and I didn’t really care if anyone else liked them. I am going to do what I’m passionate about, no matter what. I have a great team of guys, and we’re able to build all the parts in-house to complement the bikes.
Skillset: What makes riding an Assault bike different from other custom bikes?
Nick: Our Assault bikes sit up correctly. The wheels are nice and light. We turn them from a block of aluminum weighing six hundred pounds down to twenty-seven pounds, so they are really light. A lot of the other big-wheeled bikes are super heavy. There’s no fairing, stereo or other crap on our bikes.
Skillset: Do all your bikes feature the signature Trask Turbo?
Skillset: How much horsepower does it make?
Nick: Our turbo kits have different stages, but they range from a 120 to 300 horsepower.
Skillset: Oh, damn.
Nick: Yeah, they wake you up. We appeal to guys who have multiple toys. They got the McLaren in the garage or the Lambo or Ferrari — whatever. They want a bike that’s better than everyone else’s. Can’t blame them there, right?
Skillset: Trust me, I want one in my garage too. Run us through some features of the Assault bike.
Nick: Okay. Starting at the front of our Assault bike is a thirty-inch-tall billet aluminum wheel that we fully machine in-house. It has a thirty-inch perimeter rotor brake (also made in house). We cut the brake rotor, blanch it and grind it. We design everything in CAD and then we run it through our machines and build it. Then, you have the front fork on the bike. That’s a full inverted fork.
There’s the nacelle in the front, which is the headlight fairing; that’s custom sheet metal fabricated. The gas tank is stretched and also built in-house. The handlebars are our production moto bars. We custom make those, as well. The engine package that’s in the standard Assault is our 106-cubic-inch motor. It will put out 160 to 210 horse, or a customer can get the Big Boy setup that has 131 or 143 cubic inches. That will take the bike from 205 horsepower on pump gas to 280 on good fuel.
Skillset: Damn, that’s intense man. I didn’t know they were making that much horsepower!
Nick: On our bikes, we install the full Assault Turbo Kit. The plenum and all related turbo parts are made here. The engine’s a 131 on the Assault bike, and it’s all spec’d out with our pistons and camshafts. Our back end has our saddlebags, side covers and the fender. Our Speed Glide fiberglass is set up on the back, and it is eight-inch stretch with the side cuts on it for leaning the bike over. We custom modify the rear swingarm on it so the wheel can tuck up high enough to get it to lay on the frame. We also install electric lockouts on them so they can’t drop down when you’re riding down the road.
Skillset: So, how many of these parts are fabricated in-house?
Nick: At least 70 percent of the bike.
Skillset: Hell yeah, that’s amazing. All right, I have to ask a question that I’m sure a lot of people are wondering. What’s an Assault bike go for, roughly?
Nick: Eighty to a hundred.
Skillset: Eighty to one-hundred thousand dollars? Damn, that’s an investment!
Nick: Eighty for a standard bike and a hundred for a high-output one. And if they wanna get even crazier than that, then $125,000 isn’t unheard of.
Skillset: It really doesn’t seem that bad for everything you’re getting — one crazy freaking build that’s yours, 100 percent. How many Assault Bikes do you build a year?
Nick: For this style of Assault bike, we probably do four or five a year.
Skillset: That works! You already dominate the bike turbo world, but that’s not enough, right? What other custom, made-to-order parts do you guys create?
Nick: We focus hard on our Trask Performance brand, which we distribute through Drag Specialties. They’re the largest motorcycle distribution company in the world. Every reputable motorcycle company has a Drag Specialties catalog. If they don’t have one, they probably shouldn’t be in business.
Skillset: Drag Specialties is a must-have resource, then?
Nick: It’s like the Bible, and all our parts are scattered throughout the book. We’re exclusive through them too, so they get behind our brand and they push us. Anything I dream up, I could put in their catalog.
Skillset: Okay, the creative process is what I’m always curious about, so walk me through it, Nick. I mean, does it start with a late-night napkin drawing that you then take to your design guys?
Nick: I’ll start with an idea or one of the guys might bring something up. I’ll think of how we can make it different than everyone else, or why we even need to come up with this particular part. Is there a market for it? Is it fixing a problem, or is it just something to pretty up the bike? I don’t really like making parts to pretty shit up, so we try to make functional parts that improve the bike. I’ll start sketching some stuff — although I can’t draw for shit — but I’m not scared to lay down an idea of what I want.
Next, I’ll start working with my engineer. He’ll put it into CAD and then we will go back and forth a dozen times. We’ll go through it all and figure out how to get the design straight. Sometimes it can take up to six months to a year, and then we might shelve it for three or four months because we get brain block. Finally, something else will inspire us down the road and we’ll say, “You know, this idea might actually work.”
Skillset: How many concepts do you have shelved right now?
Nick: We have a bunch. When the time is right, we go back and revisit them.
Skillset: All right — last question. What’s next? What can we expect?
Nick: Nothing is in our way, and we are definitely not slowing down. We just keep coming up with more innovative products, and we keep building our Trask Performance brand! It’s the American dream, right?
As we made our final rounds though Nick Trask’s facility, I thought about that last statement. I looked at the millions of dollars in machinery, the dozens of hard-working Americans he has employed and I thought to myself: This is the American dream. This man has grabbed the handlebars of opportunity and buried the throttle.