King of the road

To look at him, you wouldn’t guess that Bill Kapper is an easy rider who likes to rev his engine — really loud. He’s not the rough and rugged type. Instead, he looks like a typical entrepreneur, which he is.

Kapper, 56, owns three Massillon companies: King Machine & Tool Inc., a company he purchased in 1979 that custom builds machinery components and tooling; King Components Inc., established in 1984 as a high-volume manufacturer of screws; and King Custom Cycle Ltd., launched in 1999.

As owner of King Custom Cycle, Kapper is set to make tread marks as the nation’s only professional motorcycle manufacturer that builds custom-made V-Twin motorcycles to customer specifications.

“The basic mechanics of the bikes are the same, but we have several variables for the components of each bike,” he says. “Besides the paint scheme, you can specify things like what you want your gas tank and fenders to look like, what seat and handlebar styles, controls, headlights, turn signals, even how wide the tires are.”

King Custom Cycle was born last year when one of Kapper’s largest accounts began doing its own in-house assembly, which freed up space in King’s high-tech, 22,000-square-foot facility. Kapper rallied the key decision makers on his staff of 22 (including his spouse, Judy; son, Tracy; and daughter, Kelly) to brainstorm ways to replace the lost business and utilize the assembly area.

“Somebody proposed that we build something we could market ourselves. Then someone else suggested we build motorcycles. Everybody laughed,” Kapper says. “But the next day, one of the guys said, ‘Hey, that’s not a bad idea — we’ve built more complicated things than that.’”

Once Kapper determined there was a realistic demand for custom-made cycles, he put the wheels in motion. Dubbing his product, “The Evil Twin,” he bills the bikes as “the baddest of the V-Twin motorcycles.” That’s because they boast a V-2, 100-cubic inch, high-performance engine with a three-dimensional sound. And sound is very important, Kapper says.

“All the motorcycle manufacturers are trying to make their cycles smooth. But people who ride them don’t want them smooth. They want the bike to feel mean underneath them,” he says. “When you’re going down the road, you want people to know you’re driving the biggest, baddest bike there is!”

Kapper says one of the major challenges in assembling his cycles has been convincing reputable suppliers that he’s one to be reckoned with.

“Everybody wants to buy parts from these guys at a manufacturer’s price, but you have to prove that you’re a legitimate motorcycle builder,” he says.

Meeting federal requirements has been another obstacle in getting his bikes on the road. Since many of the cycle components must be government approved, transport and logistics involved in equipment testing for D.O.T. documentation are costly and inconvenient.

While Kapper confides he’s “not yet to the bragging point in sales,” he’s constructing a two-story, 2,000-square-foot addition to keep up with what he expects will be great customer demand.

Who’s his typical, king-of-the-road customer?

“People like me who are professional during the week and turn into riders on the weekends,” he laughs. “It’s a good-guy, bad-guy thing. Everybody has an Evil Twin.”

How to reach: King Custom Cycle Ltd. (330) 833-7217.