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Lee Clemens and Richie Smith started Departure Bike Works in 1973. In those days there were no custom shops and you had to get what you could get from a Harley dealer or make what you needed. The name was derived from the promise that the shop would be a “departure from the norm,” and would supply parts, accessories and labor for the emerging custom bike market. They pooled their $2500 cash that they mostly borrowed from relatives. Lee and Richie had success and fun right from the start because they both loved what they were doing. Richie worked the parts and Lee worked on the motorcycles. Lee continued that same mission even after Richie died in 1977. Brenda Clemens came to work in parts in 1975.

We have from the beginning taken great pride in what we do. We strive to become better every day and we treat every bike like we would treat our own. We have been fortunate enough to have had several bikes featured on the cover of Easyriders magazine and about twenty bikes featured in Hot Rod Bikes, Hot Bike, Easyriders, V-Twin, Hottest Custom Harleys, The Horse, etc. We have been recognized in the motorcycle industry as a custom bike builder and admired for our attention to detail.

Performance has also been one of our top priorities. We started racing in the dirt and eventually moved to the asphalt in the 80’s. We campaigned a Pro-Stock dragbike and carried the #2 plate for a couple of years. Because racing was taking more and more money and time away from the business, we had a choice in 1997 to go racing or devote the time and money to our business. The choice had to be the business, but the love of performance and speed is still there. Now we just have to make other people go fast. We’ve had a chassis dyno for tuning since the late 80’s, our own flowbench, a complete machine shop and frame fixtures. We pride ourselves on doing everything in house (except choming).

A history of Departure Bike Works would not be complete without mentioning Travis Clemens. Our son was a major part of Departure from the time he was old enough to come answer the phone. He learned the parts business from Brenda and the motorcycle business from Lee and the guys in the service department. He was known for his quick wit and his willingness to go the extra mile. He died on his motorcycle in April, 2001. He is still greatly missed both personally and in the business. He would want us to go on and make it greater and we will.

We have been fortunate over the years to have good people that we could count on that share to same ideals that we do. We could not have grown and continued without them. We, meaning every one of us that work at Departure, will continue to service our customers with best possible parts, service and technical knowledge available. We hope to be around for the next thirty years!

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