Former police officer living dream |

Former police officer living dream

John Vandelinder

— Some people might say he changed.

That he went to the other side.

Others might assume – from a casual glance at him – that he is some kind of rebel without a cause, concerned only with his Harley Davidson, long hair and ever-growing expanse of tattoo-covered skin.

But not really.

To Jesse McAvoy – former Craig police officer turned Bad Axe Custom Cycles owner – he’s just being himself.

“I was ready to get out of law enforcement,” McAvoy said. “I wanted to go back to what I loved.”

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And what he loved was to ride.

From the moment he straddled his first dirt bike as a 6-year-old in Jacksonville, N.C., Jesse fell in love with motorcycles.

“My dad always worked on Harleys when I was growing up,” he said. “I’ve always loved to ride. There’s something about riding down the road with the wind in your face.

“It’s like freedom,”

In his youth, Jesse spent endless hours riding and working on bikes, so attending motorcycle mechanic school right out of high school was an easy choice.

He earned his mechanic’s license in 1990 and began working at a Kawasaki and Honda shop.

He was doing what he loved and following in his father’s footsteps.

“I got sidetracked from bikes back in ’94,” Jesse said, “and I went into law enforcement.”

What sidetracked him was what sidetracks many men: a woman.

“I got married and had to be more responsible,” Jesse said. “So, I kind of had to put the motorcycle stuff on hold there for a while.”

The hair was short, the few tattoos he already had accumulated were small enough to hide, and he had replaced his Harley with a patrol car and a badge.

He and his wife, Michele, had their first child, Jake, and the life of a police officer wasn’t so bad.

“You’d be surprised at how many cops are into bikes,” Jesse said. “It was something I couldn’t get away from.”

Or something he didn’t want to get away from.

Michele accepted a chiropractor’s position in Craig six years ago, and the McAvoys moved to Colorado.

It’s not that he didn’t enjoy being a Craig police officer.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “The guys are great.”

It just wasn’t his dream.

So three years – and another son – later, he decided once again to follow it.

“I noticed there was a need for a real biker shop (in Northwest Colorado),” Jesse said. “The closest Harley shop is in Vernal (Utah), Grand Junction or Glenwood (Springs). And most dealerships don’t even work on the old Harleys anymore.

“I think most of them are in it for a quick buck.”

Not Jesse. To him, bikers are like a band of brothers.

Jesse isn’t picky about what kind of motorcycle he works on – old, new, foreign or domestic – he is happy to work on them all.

But what he enjoys the most is building bikes from scratch.

“What I really enjoy is building custom bikes,” he said. “I just do the repair work stuff on the sideline.”

Because of shows like “Orange County Choppers” on television, custom-made Harley Davidsons are the latest craze.

Jesse has no complaints about that.

“It really brought the world of choppers into the mainstream,” he said. “People who never rode bikes started watching that show. Choppers have become more popular.”

In the three years he’s owned Bad Axe, Jesse has created three works of art from the ground up – all choppers.

But, with custom work, comes a custom price.

“A basic chopper is about $12,000,” he said. “The more custom you go, of course, the more it’s going to cost. The more time-consuming and hand fabrication that goes into it, or getting into a theme, you’re probably looking at over $50,000.”

Not to mention, nobody who rides a Harley ever leaves the stock pipes on.

It’s almost considered a Harley Davidson sin.

Ever hear a quiet Harley?

“Harley’s have to conform to EPA and emissions and all that stuff,” Jesse said. “When they come out, they are quiet just like any other bike. The first thing to go is always the stock pipes.

From cop to Harley shop, Jesse admits he’s learned a lot.

“It’s taken a while to build a business like this in such a small town,” he said. “Your whole business is pretty much word of mouth, so it’s taken a while to get that established, but I have a great reputation now.

“People bring me stuff, year after year, because I treat them right, and I do good work.”

Enough so that he has bikes brought to him from hundreds of miles away.

That’s not particularly unusual in Jesse’s eyes, though.

“Harley guys are really possessive about their bikes,” he said. “It’s like they’re dropping off their baby at the first day of preschool.” They really have to trust him, Jesse said.

“But, I treat every bike like it’s my own, and everybody that knows me knows that.”

Including Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz.

Jantz has been riding motorcycles for more than 30 years. The owner of a 2000 Harley Davidson Electric Glide Classic, he won’t let anybody other than McAvoy touch it.

“I trust him to work on my bike, and I’m providing to the local businesses,” Jantz said. “Jesse is a friend of mine, and he does an outstanding job.

Although his friends are police officers and at one time he bled blue, gone are the days of chasing bad guys in a police cruiser, slapping handcuffs on criminals and working shifts in the jail.

Back is the long hair, the tattoo-covered skin and the love of Harleys.

Jesse McAvoy is living his childhood dream.

“This is me,” he said, “being me.”