Two wheels and a thundering engine evoke something different for everyone.
Motorcycles are a form of art in their own right, from gritty dirt bikes to fully outfitted cruisers. Clevelanders participate in every aspect of the culture — including the craft behind it in ways both lofty and practical. In this short series, Fresh Water Cleveland visits three locals who bring bikes to life in the most unexpected ways. They each have a unique point of view when it comes to laying rubber on the road and keeping the shiny side up.
When motorcycle aficionados are seeking some strange, Alex Rindskopf delivers.
“There are a lot of shops where you can go to get engine work done, but there are not a lot of places where you can go to get an early gas tank from a 1930s Harley restored,” Rindskopf says of his business Strange Cycle
His passion for his work is almost palpable. With a background in machining, forging, auto mechanics, metalworking and welding, he moved his garage motorcycle business from Illinois to Cleveland when he fell in love with one of the city’s residents.
Now he’s falling in love with the city itself.
“I only visited Cleveland three times before I moved here," says Rindskopf. "It didn’t take much to convince me that it was definitely a cool place — and an up and coming place to be a part of. It was just a bonus that I was able to open a motorcycle shop.”
Rindskopf says the extensive demand allowed him to quit his full time job and open his shop six months after moving here. Strange Cycle became a full-time business in 2015.
“There are a lot of custom bikes here,” he says of Cleveland’s unique two-wheel culture, noting the area is also home to a number of shops that deal in custom work and people building bikes on their own. "Cleveland has definitely got it’s own style and the people who are here really love their bikes," he says, adding that not all cities the size of Cleveland have much to offer by way of a motorcycle scene. Here in the 216, however, motorcycle events and parties are a staple. “There’s a lot that is happening here that I’m not sure is happening anywhere else,” says Rindskopf.
He builds choppers and handmade motorcycle parts, along with offering frame modification, repair, and restoration services. He often forges many of his parts from a single piece, making them stronger and longer lasting than those with welded joints. Rindskopf says the majority of his customers find him online.
“Most of what I do is metalworking,” he says, adding that working on frames makes up a good portion of his business. “I either repair them or modify them however the customer wants them.
Further reading: Motorcycle dreams part one: roaring back to the '70s
Alex Rindskopf owner of Strange Cycle
“Every year we come out with a new bike. I’m pretty involved with a lot of the bigger motorcycle shows — invitational shows — things like that around the country. That’s another great way to get the work out there.”
Long, skinny bikes of the 60s and 70s from builders like Arlen Ness
influence his personal building style. As for his shop, it is half machine shop and half fabrication and welding space.
“Most of the work that I do is for people that are nearby here," he says, adding that customers also come from points well beyond the 216. "A lot of my customers drive pretty far to bring me big projects ... that they’ll leave here for a few months and then they come back and get it.
“People bring me projects they’re working on that they plan to finish themselves. They just need some of the bigger parts fabricated and mounted,” he says. “I don’t just do one thing all the time. It’s something different every time,” he says.
A project currently undway at Strange Cycle
“I have a problem with leaving well enough alone,” adds Rindskopf. “I never say 'that’s good enough.' I always make sure that things look as good as they possibly can and try to make parts that you can’t find anywhere else… I make it my goal to make the highest quality parts that will last forever. Everything that I do has a lifetime warranty on it. If it were to break or have an issue, then I will cover it no matter what it is.”
Rindskopf says he would eventually like to offer more services and hire another machinist/welder. He says he would even consider offering his own parts line someday. Like all of his current work, they will be made in Cleveland.
Until then, whether he's building a custom chopper or restoring a vintage bike — and they arrive in all conditions — Rindskopf says he’s seen it all.
“I never say no to anything. If a customer has something they don’t think is very reasonable, I’ll find a way to make it a reasonable request. I’ll find a way to get it done as efficiently and cheaply as possible too — and safely."