Men's Lifestyle

A Rebel With a Cause: The Man Behind Renegade Wheels

For such a successful hard working guy, who would have known that walking into the industrial Mecca for motorcycle wheels I would have found a man at the heart of it that looks at his workers like family and is the epitome of American made. In Chuck Frederick’s shop there are no feelings of tension or unwanted desire for being at work. Instead, two men briefly stopped what they were working on to welcome us and direct us to Chuck. There is no stuffy waiting room, no receptionist asking us if we would like water and advising us that he will be right with us. Instead, we are lead directly into Chuck’s office even before he himself has arrived. As Chuck enters, he apologizes for the wait and grins like a child on Christmas who has seen their gifts from Santa for the first time. Chuck has just returned from Sturgis and is clearly riding high off the experience.

Though, not his first trip there who could blame him for his undeniable excitement as he just unveiled his wheels on Paul, Jr.’s first bike for Paul Jr. Designs. Even before delving into our interview he proudly showcased the pictures from the event all the while complementing his genius photographer, Paul McKelvey. This is just the beginning of the clear admiration and dedication that he has for his co-workers. I say co-workers because when Chuck talks about his staff it is clearly as equals and not as support. He is very vocal in that these people are not just replaceable employees. No, these people are family, which is a truly refreshing contrast to today’s employer’s interchangeable attitude toward employees. He had me at hello.

Chuck, you seem like a man that goes after what he wants and has a clear vision of what that should be. What brought you to Renegade Wheels?

The beginning of Renegade started because I missed bikes. When I got married and had kids my wife said that she didn’t want me on a bike. Once my daughter turned six, I decided it was time. As I knew my wife did not want me on a bike I decided that it would be perseverance and not rashness that would make that happen. I started by putting a picture of a Harley Fat Boy on our refrigerator knowing that one day I would have one. For a couple weeks, day after day, my wife would throw away the picture, and I would put it back up on the fridge. Then, one day I came home and it was still there. It just so happened that recently thereafter my neighbor asked me to go down to the Harley dealer with him. I knew it was time. I told my wife I would be late and came home with more than just a new picture to put on the fridge. I got my Fat Boy. That was beginning of Renegade – where the first thought of it came about.

What about finally getting the Fat Boy prompted you to get in the custom wheel business? What started this journey toward custom wheels?

Chuck Frederick relaxing on his bike

Once I had my bike it was apparent that it needed to stand out and be different from my friends and other riders. This was further evidenced in that one of my good friends had the exact same bike as mine and it was difficult to tell them apart. We had to make a conscious effort to acknowledge whose was whose. He was in the car wheel business for 35 years and had contacts in the motorcycle business and the wheel industry in general. I wanted to differentiate my bike and what better way to do that than custom wheels.

We went to various wheel companies, both local and large and we could not find wheels that we could get in less than 6 weeks. Who wanted to wait six weeks? Certainly not me, even if I had that type of patience. We decided to do it ourselves. We found a blank supplier; a forging company and a friend had a machine shop. It was there that we cut our first set of wheels. People liked what they saw on our bikes. We continued to get asked to make wheels for their bikes and so we took it to the next level and brought our wheels to a motorcycle swap meet for a weekend event. We showed up with a banner, logo, rack and three wheels and that’s how we got started.

In an industry that already has “big dogs” selling your specialized product, what differentiates you from them? What did you want to do differently?

Number one, we are American made. Not many companies can say that any longer and it is important to us. Secondly, when you call and order one of our wheels, hundreds are in stock. There is no waiting six weeks. We are ready to ship, and you will have it on your bike that week. Who doesn’t want that?

Why “Renegade Wheels?” What prompted you to come up with that name?

Renegade Spearfish Wheel – Made in the USA

Renegade developed because we wanted to do things differently and not move in the same direction as other wheel companies. The motorcycle lifestyle is a kind of a renegade lifestyle. You’re taking the road less traveled. We want to set the bar, not meet it. The word Renegade exemplifies that.

What differentiates Renegade Wheels from your competitors? Our wheels are forged, which makes them better and stronger. There are cast wheels out there but they are subject to snapping, and you can visually see the grain in them. When somebody looks at our designs they see clean visual perfection. Disappointment or even mediocrity is impossible.

You have a specialized niche with the process of your wheels, but who has the creative mind behind the designs?

We collaborate on what the designs are, but ultimately I have the final say. It may start out as something relatively simple – a more stock design, but as adjustments are made such as additional spokes, contouring, specific detailing, it’s the evolution of the wheels’ end design that set us apart. I can guarantee you that you could walk into my store, drop off your bike and regardless of what wheel I put on there you would be nothing less than completely satisfied. I have that much confidence in each and every design that we offer as a company.

How often do you unveil new wheels?

We unveil new wheels once a year in February at a trade show in Cincinnati.

Circling back around, it’s hard to deny the excitement that is exuding out of you after your trip to Sturgis to showcase your wheels on Paul Jr.’s bike. How did that collaboration come to light?

Paul Jr. stands by Spider Bike with custom web wheels designed by Renegade

It was a surprise. The collaboration wasn’t something that was pre-planned. Paul Jr. had intended on making his own wheels however he was in a real time crunch and knew he likely would miss his deadline without Renegade’s assistance, so he had Vinnie give us a call. It turned out the timing was great for us and we could get right on them.

Was the custom design specific to just that bike? 

Yes. Most of Paul Jr.’s bikes are theme or corporate and get very unique one-off wheels.

How was the design process different with Paul Jr.?

In most cases, Paul, Jr. will sketch up something. We will then create a solid model in 3D Cad software for approval. The new software is excellent at rendering exactly what we are making. This way our customers can visualize exactly what they are going to get. After approval we get cutting on state-of-art CNC milling machines.

With all the exciting activities currently happening with Renegade Wheels, what can we look out for in the future?

Presently, we fit Harleys only. We’re going to go into metric cruisers and the race bike sector. We are also in the process of expanding our products beyond wheels to other bike related projects. I don’t want to say too much now, so you will just have to wait and see.

One last question Chuck… what is your MaleStandard?

Chuck Frederick at Sturgis 2010

Every man needs an identity, a defining persona that uniquely sets him apart. For some it is the family unit created by marriage and having kids. For others it is the work in which they do. I am a “pleaser.” I truly enjoy the reaction given to each and every bike, which graces our wheels. I enjoy the many friendships I gain, while completing someone’s identity, as many have turned to their Harley as a way to complete themselves. Renegade is a way of life, a lifestyle, and unique by definition.

After having witnessed Chuck’s passion and enthusiasm for his company, workers and product, I for one, can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.