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Red Wing High School graduate Riley McClelland poses with the motorcycle he built with classmate Ryan Espie. They spent the past school year building the bike in their metal working class. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)

Pair builds bike from ground up

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Recent Red Wing High School graduate Riley McClelland poses with the motorcycle he built with classmate Ryan Espie. The pair spent the past school year building the bike as part of their advanced metal working class. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)

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Recent Red Wing High School graduate Riley McClelland poses with the motorcycle he built with classmate Ryan Espie. The pair spent the past school year building the bike as part of their advanced metal working class. (Republican Eagle photo by Sarah Gorvin)

Riley McClelland and Ryan Espie have been taking metal welding and fabrication classes at Red Wing High School for most of their high school careers. So when the seniors enrolled in the school's most advanced metal-working class at the beginning of the school year, instructor Doug Barlow gave them a challenge.

"He wanted us to do a big project," McClelland said.

Both McClelland and Espie have their motorcycle licenses and ride often. It didn't take them long to decide on their big project: building a motorcycle. Still, McClelland admitted he was a little nervous in the beginning.

"I didn't know how it was going to turn out. I know what a lot of the parts are, but I've never built it before," he said. "This is a completely different experience."

Because this is the first motorcycle that has been built in a Red Wing High School class, the pair first had to create a metal fabrication table to hold the bike as they were working on it. That step took about six weeks, Barlow said.

Then, just before Christmas, they began work on the actual bike. To serve as a starting point, Barlow bought them an old, inexpensive bike.

"It ran," McClelland said.

"Not very well," added Barlow.

McClelland and Espie -- with the help of Barlow -- began by tearing the old bike apart.

"We striped it down completely," McClelland said.

The next step was planning out what the new bike would look like. After considering many different styles, the pair decided on a bobber -- a streamlined style with no front fender and a short rear fender.

"As minimalistic as possible," Barlow said of the style.

McClelland and Espie spent the entire spring semester welding, fabricating and building the bike. A lot of the project went smoothly, but there were still some challenges.

One came as the pair was putting the bike together toward the end of the school year. The battery box had been built and fitted onto the bike before the wiring was done. Unfortunately, they hadn't taken into account the space the wires would take up.

"We had to cut the box, repaint it," Barlow said.

Another challenge, Barlow said, was fitting work into the high school's block schedule. The pair only had an hour and 20 minutes to work every other school day.

Still, by the time the pair graduated in June, most of the bike was completed, and McClelland and Espie were able to display their work at the high school during the last few days of classes.

"That was fun, too," McClelland said of the positive feedback he got from fellow students.

There are still a couple things on the bike -- like the wiring -- that need finishing touches. But McClelland, who bought the bike from the school, will finish those at home.

"We didn't think it was going to be a perfect bike," he said. "But it turned out well."

"I think it turned out great," Barlow added.

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Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.
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