Hot Rod Customs from Atom Bomb

Mr. Clay Rathburn has dropped the bomb! It’s an Atom Bomb. And in fact, it is the good news, more so for us bikers. Because now you can have a very classic Triumph bike in a very desirable way that has been very well customized and that looks very good. Too much of ‘very’ here is good for us as Atom Bomb is the name of the customized firm owned by Mr. Clay Rathburn who specializes in classic British Bobbers. And what a looker he has turned out his babies as… all four of them. Yes, it is only 4 motorcycles, but it is the way that he makes it. “Each of our bikes is a labor of love, and receives 100% of our careful attention to detail from design to assembly. Atom Bomb motorcycles are built using as many original or period parts as possible and the majority of our tins are either scratch built or heavily modified original parts. Atom Bomb engines are all rebuilt in house using decades of racing and high performance mechanical experience.” Is it not evident from the pictures here? Not being a very big firm or to say relatively new, their work really needs to be appreciated. It somehow resembles Japanese customization, but that is probably because both of them believe it in keeping it simple. But the difference is that Clay makes the frames too. He continues “We also pride ourselves on building all of our complete frames and hardtail sections in house. This allows us to configure each frame to our specific requirements, rather than using off the shelf parts with off the shelf dimensions. As far as we are aware, we are the only custom British shop to do this. Every painted surface on each motorcycle features a show quality finish applied by Chris Mizak and/or Clay Rathburn.” Their shop is in Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. They would also rebuild your engine if you so desire but whether they work on anything other beyond British bikes has not been stated in the website. They usually do not take more than 1 to 2 projects at a time, and they also do commissioned builds using your motorcycle, or if you need they would provide you one from their extensive inventory of donor bikes.
Their products speak of the high quality they maintain in each of the bikes and each new product seems to be better than the previous work. They have just completed ‘Doctor Who’ and it seems to be their best work and this was something which I thought that they couldn’t better their last product, the ‘Nothing Fancy’, but they did! For them, it seems detailing is the key. Clay mentions “We strive to build our best motorcycle every time we build one. We pride ourselves on going the extra mile, be it reshaping a triple clamp with a file or spending two days polishing an exhaust system. No detail is too small, we feel that for a motorcycle to work as a whole, EVERY part deserves the same attention. We perform ALL of our fab, engine rebuild and paint work in house. In fact, the only thing we don't do on premises is bore cylinders and cover seats. While doing it all ourselves is not the best way to get rich, it IS the best way to ensure that we're building the best bikes we can, every time.”Mr. Clay Rathburn seems to be fascinated by hot rods/ bobber styling as all of his products are in that vein. He has been in the automotive scene for some time now and also had a good stint as a race car fabricator and engine builder. He initially picked up with the 4 wheelers and he designed a 1934 Ford Pickup which was a multiple award winner at the 2007 Detroit Autorama, winning Best Nostalgic Pickup, and the Overhaulin' award. After that, he turned back to his initial love, 2 wheelers and his fascination for bobbers now gives us 4 brilliant looking bikes. He started off with the ‘Black Bike’ based on a black BSA. When he found that his first customized bike was well appreciated, he founded ‘Atom Bomb Motorcycles’ in early 2008. He thanks his wife Erin for all her help and support. Then Chris Mizak, the artist joined him and they haven’t looked back.
The brilliant looking bike in red is the Nothin' Fancy which is a 1970 Triumph TR6R. If you think how can something so simple look so good then let me assure you, it is the attention to detail of the small things, you won’t see anything hanging out or anything as an add on. The donor bike arrived as a basket case engine and when ABM first starts their work, they strip down the bike to the bare minimum and then work it up. The Nothing Fancy is a 2009 project and it participated at the 2009 Detroit Autorama, where the bike received the "Inspiration Award" as well as Best Motorcycle. It is also going to be featured in an upcoming issue of Iron Horse Magazine. The front end of the bike is a mix bag of modified motocross parts. The exhaust is typical scrambler styling and somehow gels well with the overall look. The heat shields are also sourced which were manufactured by aftermarket company MCM in the '60s and '70s. The bars were made in house and carry an NOS Doherty 1/4 turn race throttle. The highlight of the bike seems to be the fuel tank which has been of course modified by in house hammering and all. The tunnel was raised into the tank substantially, dropping the tank low on the backbone, and the rib was added to match the rear fender. Also, the oil tank was hand formed from aluminum. The engine was fully rebuilt with new pistons, cylinder and crank. High compression oversize pistons now reside in the cylinders, and the head has been mildly ported. Other fancy items in ‘Nothing Fancy’ include Joe Hunt magneto spark and a Bates headlight. And to give the total package a look worth salivating, it was Chris Mizak who painted the bike and you must admit he has done a darn good job.
The Black Bike was the first official Atom Bomb bike or was it? Actually work started on it before ABM was formed. Clay purchased the 1958 BSA A10 over the net and it was dead. The frame was nowhere near how it has left the factory and the engine literally had salt water. So, in a way, this is a complete new bike. Clay mentions in his website that he had spent over 900 hours building what you see here now. The frame is customized, the engine has been assembled, it has hand built tins and his attention to detail got him fame through this beautiful product. The Black Bike was the cover bike for issue #8 of Greasy Kulture Magazine, and was featured in issue #83 of The Horse. It was purchased by a Ryan B who seems to be very satisfied with the product.
There was nothing to start with the bike except the engine and the transmission cases. Part of the fuel tank was damaged and so it had to be built upon whatever existed. The forks are refurbished and the front was again a mixture of modified motorcross parts largely from Honda motorcycles. The bars and the exhaust are hand fabricated from stainless steel. The original frame was totally damaged so Clay fabricated the frame too. The tank was reshaped and made narrow for the overall hot rod look.
The engine was reworked, with the head being ported. So in came bigger valves, spitfire cam and compression ratio went north to nearly 12.0:1 and so you know this sonofagun is going to pull real hard on the roads. Although Clay hasn’t mentioned it in his website, this is possibly the Golden Flash which was renowned for its power and refinement. To further help the performance figures, Amal carburetor is affixed to fabricated aluminum extension. There is a modern touch too, a modern belt drive from Bob Newby Racing gets the power to the transmission. And to give the extra glow, the bike was painted by Chris Mizak.
Their latest creation ‘Doctor Who’ gets its skeleton from a 1962 Triumph 6T pre unit. A gentleman from Connecticut, Rob, approached them after he got impressed with the Black Bike. Initially the client wanted a running mockup and so ABM rebuild the engine and transmission system kit and painted the frame so that Rob do not have to disengage the engine when he styles up the bike. But later, the client wanted the bike in the typical Atom Bomb styling and told Clay to do the entire bike. It seems ABM ports each bike’s head and fits them with oversize pistons for added performance and this bike was given the same treatment. The oil tank is a hand fabricated aluminum piece and the tank was also fabricated from aluminum and it uses a stock basket filter on the feed. The rocker feed is built into the tank on this bike. The exhaust is stainless steel and the heat shields are made of aluminum. Both of these items were fabricated in house. The stand is from a BSA A10 which has been shortened. A hand hammered aluminum blister is affixed to the primary cover with solid rivets. The blister covers a high output alternator. The final drive is through a Bob Newby belt drive. The forks are from a flat track racer bike and the battle scars are still there which consists of vintage Betor forks, triple clamps and handlebar mounts, with Atom Bomb bars. The seat is mounted on a polished leaf spring. The carbs are Amal 930, newly polished. Other thing includes a Bates 12V unit as the headlight. And then the finish by Mizak. Awesome again! ABM used a single stage paint under clear for extra depth and there is a tiny brown stripe around the accent panel designed by Mizak. I am sure Rob must be a very happy man with his decision because whatever he must have visualized (I am sure), Clay and Mizak has outdone his expectations. But now Rob has put Doctor Who on sale and that is because he is interested in a Triton. I am sure we can guess who would work on the Triton. So this is your chance, as of now, this bike is for sale and if you want to buy it, all you need to do is contact Clay or Mizak here or in the contact given below.
The 40 Miles to Vegas is another of the bike based on a Triumph TR6R, albeit this is a 1968 model. This is not yet complete and is in process for a customer in California. The style is Frisco style, you know, small narrow tank, extended tall forks, high handlebars but then again Clay says it’s not very Frisco, probably the owner wanted it in Frisco styling. As of now, Chris Mizak has not done his magic here and currently it has been disassembled for paint and engine rebuild. Can’t wait to see it in full done up version!
I don’t know if ABM has only 2 geniuses. They probably have some other guys to help them out. It’s not uncommon for small firms to have just a few guys and possibly in ABM, it may be just the 2 of them. You see even the motorcycles they have worked upon is 4 in the last 2 years. What I am trying to say is that these guys take a hell lot of hard work to make a bike from almost scratch and probably because of that, each bike is a standout, each has its own personality, each very distinguished and you can smell the passion these guys have! Every bike that comes out of Atom Bomb Motorcycles is a ‘labour of love’.
You can contact Clay at, call him at 540.580.2231 or may visit the shop with prior appointment at 5039 Bradshaw Rd.Salem VA 24153. Or else, you can make repeated visits to the Atom Bomb website; just expect to get bombed by the beauties!


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