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Frank Gray

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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Mark Fiedler’s new custom-built chopper has been classified as “reconstructed” by the BMV.

Cycle title changed; owner left wanting more

Mark Fiedler’s motorcycle headache has just gotten a little smaller.

Last week we wrote about Fiedler, a motorcycle rider who had decided he was getting older and it was time to have a more comfortable, head-turning ride.

Over the course of a year and a half and about $20,000, Fiedler produced his own custom-built motorcycle.

The frame was from a licensed frame builder in Florida. The engine and transmission were from somewhere else. Parts of the body were fabricated by Fiedler himself.

In the end, he had a candy tangerine-colored ride with a fat rear wheel and chrome all over the place.

The problem was that when he tried to get a title for the motorcycle, the BMV gave him a title for a rebuilt bike.

Plenty of vehicles get rebuilt titles, including hot rods where people have modified old cars and given them powerful new engines and so on.

That’s expected.

But the rebuilt title Fiedler got for his bike meant that he had simply modified an old bike. In fact, the BMV listed the mileage on the bike’s odometer as not actual.

Some might say “so what,” but Fiedler says he might try to sell the bike someday, but the title makes it sound as if it’s just an old bike he rebuilt, not one he built new.

After repeated calls to the BMV in Indianapolis and visits to the local license branch, the bureaucracy wouldn’t budge.

Well, shortly after we ran the story on Fiedler’s predicament, he got a call from a woman with the BMV in Indianapolis.

The people he had been dealing with had made a mistake and he would be given a new title for his motorcycle, one that lists the bike as reconstructed, and the mileage on the odometer would be listed as actual.

The BMV fixed the problem within hours.

The reconstructed title is not exactly what Fiedler was hoping for. He’d like a title that says something like “custom built,” but the “reconstructed” designation is the only other sort of title the state offers, and it is an improvement.

One does wonder how many other people who have built their own motorcycles from scratch, from all new parts, have run into the same headache.

I called some custom motorcycle builders in Indiana – there are a few, though many seem to have fallen by the wayside – and asked whether they had experienced some of the same headaches Fiedler had.

I got a surprising answer.

One custom builder, who didn’t want to be identified, said it’s possible to go to three different license branches and talk to six people and get six different answers when it comes to titling custom motorcycles. That’s because the whole concept of motorcycles is loaded with what that builder called gray areas.

I also learned that some custom motorcycle builders have been involved in talks with BMV officials about this exact issue. The suggestion floating around now is that the state institute a new type of title, designated special construction, which would fit perfectly with bikes like the one Fiedler built.

When any such change is made isn’t clear, but motorcycle builders are hopeful.

That would be good news for other people building their own custom bikes. Fiedler says he knows four people who have built their own bikes in the last year or plan to build one in the next year.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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