For someone who doesn’t like stock Vincents, Jeff Decker builds a mighty fine Black Lightning. He’s a sculptor as well as a bike builder, and his eye for a line is evident with this beautiful salt racer. As these exclusive Horst Roesler shots reveal, Decker has managed to make the Vincent look fast even when it’s standing still on the Bonneville salt flats.
Decker has received some flak over this bike from Vincent purists. But his Black Lightning is not one of the 30-odd bona fide factory bikes. He assembled it using period-correct salvaged parts supplied by luminaries such as Marty Dickerson and Mel Helde, Jr., who was Rollie Free’s mechanic. And Decker has nothing to hide: “this bike really is a cobbled-together Frankenstein that I’m not ashamed of.”
At first glance, the Vincent DNA is obvious in this machine. Mostly in that huge engine. But park it next to a ‘real’ Lightning, and the differences become obvious. The rider sits a full foot lower on the Schwinn Sting-Ray seat than on the stock machine. The tank is several inches narrower: indeed, only the footpegs and bars extend beyond the width of the engine. The headlight is from a 1970s Honda ATC, and complements the oversized speedo better than the bulky original lamp.
Cycle World profiled this machine in an excellent article a couple of months ago, and after a barrage of criticism, printed an excellent riposte from Paul d’Orleans. As for me—I’d take Decker’s Black Lightning over the original any day. Would you?