Article submitted by program founder:
Riverview Middle School
Did you know Canada has a “Chopper Class”? Well it does! What is a Chopper Class could be your next question, well, a chopper class is a school based curriculum or program that teaches grade school aged kids about custom motorcycles, the motorcycle industry and shop skills. In the US there are several programs either during the regular school day or after-school but, in Canada, to the best of our knowledge, there is only one. The Bike Klub: After-school Youth Program is located in the eastern province of New Brunswick in the Town of Riverview which is part of the Greater Moncton area.
Originally, the program was run out of a high school in the city of Moncton but with the transfer of the creator and manager to a new school in the neighbouring town of Riverview, Bike Klub has re-located just a few short miles away.
Started in the fall of 2004 by then high school teacher, Marc Mazerolle, the after-school program originally built custom bicycles but always had the goal of building custom motorcycles. After building 4 custom bicycles and a few custom pull wagons, the group got a break into the motorcycle world with a donation of a rigid frame and a challenge to build a custom motorcycle. The next two and half years would be filled with fundraising, sponsor searching and basically “begging, borrowing and bartering” to get the parts needed to build their first custom. The end result was a beautiful bobber style creation done up with 50’s Hot Rods and 50’s pinups in mind, her name was “Betty”.
Betty was a 55 inch rigid framed bike, done up in a bobber style but using modern parts. Her power plant was a a 114 Merch Fatso with 140+ HP and 170+ ft lbs of torque, that was coupled up to an Ultima 3.25” open belt drive and a 6 speed transmission. The oil tank, rear fender and gas tank all came from the minds of the kids and their instructor Mazz. The paint was applied with a 1950’s Buick in mind by Marc Goguen of Goguen Custom Painting and the pinstripping applied by Corie “LowShow” MacKinnon a friend of Mazz. Avon provided the tires in very cool Gangster Wide White Walls while the seat was provided by Corbin. The rest of the bike was a mixture of various parts donated and purchased by the program and somehow assembled to look like a very cool ride.
In the early spring of 2009, the Betty Bobber and some of Bike Klub’s members, travelled to St Paul Minnesota to compete in the world’s only competition for grade school aged kids when it comes to custom motorcycle building, the competition is called the Donnie Smith Chopper Class Challenge and it is sponsored by Master Builder Donnie Smith and held at his custom bike show every year the last weekend of March. This would be a history making year, because for the first time in the competition’s history a team from outside the US would compete. Not only did they compete but they won!! They won the Overall Winner Award and the Technical Merit Award for best built bike. The first time a team from outside the US would win. Betty was also entered in the “adult” portion of the bike show, winning 3rd Best in Class against a number of bikes built by Professional and Master builders. Betty currently is owned by a private collector and with the exception of 20hours of break in done by Mazz, she has never seen the road.
In early summer 2012, Manager Marc “Mazz” Mazerolle was transferred to a new school. The klub was in jeopardy of being closed down for good. With a lot of encouragement, Mazz decided to keep the program running at his new school, even though the age group dropped from high school to middle school ages. “if the passion is there, the skills can be learned and a killer bike can still be built” says Mazz. “We had the most incredible bunch of kids in the past 8 years of Bike Klub, the future of industry has been given some very talented young men and ladies. I now am looking forward to continuing my little part of keeping the industry alive.”
The program’s current builds consist of a 1969 BSA Lightning based bobber/tracker they call “A Voodoo Woman Named Phyllis”, a Harley Davidson based bobber style build called “Stella” and the re-furbishing of a rare 1967 Norton 650 SS D. With the new location came new challenges, the old school had a full compliment of metal shops with metal lathes, milling machines, breaks and benders. The new school had none of these tools so, to build back up their much needed tool stocks, the klub is currently fundraising and looking for sponsors for a mini metal lathe and mini milling machine so the learning and building can continue. “At the beginning of this school year we set our goals to purchase a welder , a set of torches, a mini metal lathe and mini milling machine, the total costs would be approximately $5000.” Says Mazz.
Over the years the klub has had many interesting and celebrity supporters. For two years at the Digby Wharf Rat Rally, the klub enjoyed the hospitality of Russell Mitchell of Exile Cycles, a Biker Build Off participant from the Discovery Channel series. Other Master Builders like Lee Wimmer of Wimmer Custom Cycle out of South Carolina and Trick Factory Customs of British Columbia have travelled at their own expense to come and spend time with the kids and teach them much needed skills. Along with them, the klub has met industry greats like Chica of Chica Custom Cycles, Cole Foster of Salinas Boys, Eddie Trotta of Thunder Cycles has been a supporter along with Matt Hotch of Matt Hotch Designs and of course, Donnie Smith. They have had support from industry folk like Rick Fairless of Strokers Dallas, LowBrow Customs , Biltwell Inc, Avon Tyre, Samson Exhaust, Jeri’s Springers, Rolling Thunder Frames, Freakshow Customs and Kiwi Indian Motorcycles.
“I am truly hoping our past sponsors and industry people see the value in what I am doing. It would be cool to keep the program going as long as possible but, we need help.”
This program is not just a bunch of kids throwing parts together. The kids learn the basics to advanced skills of welding, metal fabrication, design, presentation, assembly and promotion. While doing this, the kids learn about teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, respect and self-worth. This program does not just build motorcycles, it builds workers, creators and it builds minds.
If you would like to help out or have more info, contact Bike Klub: After-school Youth Program Manager Marc Mazerolle in one of the following ways;
Riverview Middle School
45 Devere Road, Riverveiw
New Brunswick, Canada