1. Hey Ricky! Thanks for taking time to shoot the bull with us. Care to tell the readers a little about who you are?
Hey thanks for hitting me up!
Seems to be the question of late.. Been having fun w/ that hashtag.
By trade, I’m an Audio Engineer and sometimes double as a Production Manager for concert tours, events, and nightlife. I’ve spent the last 15 years of my life touring all over the world, many times over. I grew up just outside Washington, DC; lived in Brooklyn, NY for 10 years; and now settled down in Las Vegas.
I’ve been customizing and building bikes since about 1999.
Working in entertainment, my schedule is flipped. You see- I rarely get to attend many motorcycle events, as I work weekends or when most people are on vacation. In the rare occasion I get off work and enter bike shows (and sometimes win those bike shows) people are always like “Who the Fuck is this guy!?!” … And that’s the story of my life haha
I was always taught never say no to work. Take it whenever you can get it.
2. Is bike building and parts your source of income or just a passion?
It has always been a passion. I work a lot at my ‘day job’ here in Vegas. Fri-Sun I’m pulling 3 shifts back to back each day between the nightclub and MGM. 10am-4am. (That’s 48 hours on the clock in 3 days!) The other 2 days is just 10hr shifts and recently I get Tues/ Wed off. I’m new to this day off thing, but it’s been really cool, as the wife and I just had 2 little ones and it gives me time to enjoy my family.
I was always taught never say no to work. Take it whenever you can get it, because in the entertainment business it comes and goes… I’ve been very fortunate to sustain through the dry periods by always picking up extra gigs when I can. I don’t have cable or never really got into the whole TV watching thing. My mind is always racing on different thoughts and ideas, and I never had the patience to deal with that stuff.
I like to head into the shop and wind down that way. Through the years, I’ve come up with different parts or ideas that I think would be beneficial to other people. That’s why I started my online store: rickybongos.com. I just actually renewed it the other day. I can’t believe my website is almost 16 years old! (Maybe I should throw a party). It’s actually afforded me another outlet, besides selling the bikes I build, to bring in some money to invest back into my passion.
Haha. like the time I punched the lead singer of All American Rejects in the face for disrespecting a female fan…
3. What or who got you into custom motorcycles?
My buddy Dave Hartshorn (soundguy Dave) back in Virginia. Every year we would head down to Daytona and Myrtle beaches for the bike weeks. It was about 3 times before I couldn’t take it anymore and got my first bike. $100 xs750 triple. It was far from running and all in pieces. But, I was determined and after about 6 months of hiding the project from my parents in my sound gear trailer, I got it to run! Painted some flames on it and rode that fucker all the way to Daytona! Smoking oil and parts flying off and all haha!
Some dude offered me cash for the bike on the spot and I was hooked. Took that money, bought some tools and another project and that’s kinda how it’s been ever since. The bikes have always provided for themselves. Re-kindling the money right back into itself.
4. You crank out some amazing bikes to be working out of your home garage. Do you outsource much work or find ways to do it yourself?
I always push to do it myself. I’m VERY adamant about this practice. Even if you don’t have the tooling, find a spot that will let you use theirs. That’s the best way to learn. Today with youtube and befriending old timers, you can learn to do just about anything yourself. Yeah, it takes longer and not as pro in the beginning, but you get more out of it nonetheless.
5. Do you have one bike you built that was your favorite or wish you could have hung onto?
I really miss that first xs750. I almost tear up thinking about that piece of shit bike. It was my first taste of real freedom. We all know that feeling, that’s why we all still ride bikes.
Don’t ask these small businesses to hook you up. Do them the solid and pay full price if it’s a product made in the USA.
6. What kind of services or parts do you offer right now?
I have my integrated headlights. Turn signals built right into the housing. I’m actually tweaking the design and going to be offering full LED next month! I was getting complaints about hiding the big ballast needed to run the HiD. That’s the cool part of what we do.. Rework and change, constantly move forward.
I have riser adapters that will allow you to bolt HD risers directly into Paughco and DNA springers.
Cool accessories with the skull bolt logo like the tail light lenses made by my buddy Mason over at PsychoResin.
My next venture is coming out w/ a full set tank and fenders I designed to bolt on and customize your sportster. Kinda looks like a smaller Dyna. 100% made in the USA and everything I have saved up has been invested into this project. Hopefully coming in the next few months.
7. As a small business yourself how do you feel about supporting grassroots and mom and pop shops?
It’s the only way. That’s what our country was brought up on. Also- Don’t ask these small businesses to hook you up. Do them the solid and pay full price if it’s a product made in the USA. We have to compete with China and are doing everything we can to keep prices low while still offering a quality product.
8. With a day job like yours you must have some memorable stories, we consider the Cantina an internet dive bar so to speak. Do you have any one story that stands out you could share?
Haha like the time I punched the lead singer of All American Rejects in the face for disrespecting a female fan… Or the time in Nigeria when I asked where I’m plugging up my stage ground, and the dude literally digs a hole in the dirt w/ his hands!! …I prefer divulging these types of stories over many beers in person. Hit me up whenever in Vegas! 😉
9. I know you have an upcoming feature in The Horse magazine, any tips for our readers on accomplishing something like that?
I never in a million years thought my bikes would make it in magazines. I’ve literally been bugging them for so many years.. Haha constantly sending pics of my work. They either dig it or not. Doesn’t make your bike any better than anyone else’s.. It is pretty fucking cool to see it on shelves at the supermarket though!
10.Hopefully reading this will shed some light on who the fuck Ricky Bongos actually is. We very much appreciate you finding time to fill in some blanks for us. Any parting words or shout outs?
Here are a few more of the bikes that Mr Bongos has built over the years. -Viva