'Biker Heaven' in Palmetto a place to ride for eternity

rdymond@bradenton.comSeptember 16, 2013 

PALMETTO -- For between $5,000 and $100,000, depending on how creative you want to get, you can now be buried in a special "Bikers Only" section of Skyway Memorial Gardens in Palmetto.

The section, which opened Sunday, is aptly called "Biker Heaven."

The idea of a cemetery having a special section for motorcycle enthusiasts got a positive response from the 60 bikers who came to Palmetto Sunday to see Biker Heaven and take part in an event of the same name, complete with a $500 first prize for the "Most Unique Bike." There was also a second-prize gift certificate and raffles.

"You have to give Skyway credit for thinking outside of the box," said Tony Cianci, editor and publisher of Florida Full Throttle Magazine, which co-sponsored the event. Cianci also helped judge the motorcycles.

The top prize at the first Biker Heaven bike contest went to "Pipe Bomb," made by exotic motorcycle builder Steve Galvin.

Galvin, whose creativity extends to the music and political arenas, builds bikes by hand as a hobby at night and on weekends in his St. Petersburg two-car garage along with partner Will Robertson.

Galvin and Robertson call their business, "Wikked Steel," and can be reached at wikkedsteel.com or 813-244-2528.

Galvin actually makes his living as a voice-over artist, specifically providing the voice in toys you push or squeeze to make talk. He is also running for the St. Petersburg City Council in District 8.

To say Galvin's three entries in Biker Heaven, including "Bat Bike," "Geisha Girl" and "Pipe Bomb," were unique, is like saying the Gaza pyramid was a big building.

"Pipe Bomb" is a red creation with a 152-cubic inch, 160 horsepower engine made by Ilmor Engineering, the same company that makes motors for Viper Motorcycles.

What makes Pipe Bomb stand out is its radical geometric shapes, including chrome tubes that serve as the bike's oil tanks. The entire frame is the fuel tank.

"When I saw the engine from Ilmor, which is known for its marine engines, I thought it was fantastic and I wanted to see it and not a gas tank," Galvin said. "That's why I put the gas lines in the frame."

The bike has a Baker six-speed and can reach a top speed of about 150 mph.

"When you drive it, you get scared, excited and your

mouth goes dry, all at the same time," Robertson said. "We are also building our own version of what Ironman's bike should look like."

Galvin could have gone with a fat rear tire but he had a vision of three wheels in the back operating as one wide tire. Dual chains operate all three wheels.

"It's like having one wide tire cut in three pieces," Galvin said.

Galvin said his wife will let him start assembling another bike only when he sells one. It took him a year to build "Pipe Bomb" and it's for sale for $85,000.

"You could tell it was not a bolt-together and that he built it by hand," said Judge Jason Doty of Twisted Liquid, a Sarasota bike shop.

"It was very custom," said Cianci. The third judge was an official of The Bike Shop of Bradenton.

Keith Crawford's Harley-Davidson Wide Glide, a black bike with red flames, took second place.

The idea for the new cemetery section was thought up by Nancy Palacious, a marketing representative with Florida Full Throttle Magazine, who pitched the idea to Tracey Beale, general manager of Skyway Memorial Gardens.

"We have sections for Jewish, Catholics and Christians and Nancy thought: 'Why not bikers?'" Beale said. "Bikers are very passionate people."

Skyway Memorial, which opened in 1952 and has only developed 25 of its 43 acres, will work with bikers on any custom bike monuments or benches. Bikers can get an angel on a motorcycle monument or have a picture of themselves on their bike etched in black granite or even have their bike buried in a vault with them.

Beale can be reached at 941-722-4543.

Seventeen bikers from the New Port Richey-based Florida Bikers Helping Florida Bikers came down to see the cemetery.

"I would like to see more cemeteries do this because it's a great idea," said Carmine "The Big Ragoo" Colalucci, official biker emcee of the group.

"But then again," added Colalucci. "We bikers don't die. You know, we aren't ever gonna die. We're just gonna keep riding into the sunset."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.

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