Covingtons Customs Panhead

April 1, 2016 at 9:43 pm  •  Posted in The Bikes by

Dean Cerny was born in 1960 in Southern California.

His love of motorcycles started at a young age in the late 60’s. Dirt bikes, street bikes, custom bikes, Dean loved them all. The first bike Dean ever rode was a 90 cc Honda Cub on a dirt trail. That was enough to put the bug in him. The first set of two wheels he bought at age 14, with paper route money, was a 1974 Suzuki TM75. He had fun riding this bike and modified it with a Bassani pipe! Soon he was able to get a 1976 Suzuki RM 125A with his parents help. Around that time, Dean started racing motocross locally. He raced from the age of 16 until 18. Being raised in the Catholic Church, he attended Catholic school. Although he attended church, Dean didn’t have a personal relationship with God. He knew God was there, but didn’t understand the relationship aspect. He went to Saturday night Mass with mom and dad so he could race on Sunday.

He often just asked God to keep him safe while racing. In 1978, when he was 18, Dean had a very bad fall during the warm-up laps prior to a race. During those laps, he took a large jump, the bike went sideways and upon landing launched him in the air. He landed on his left shoulder and head. “It hurt a lot, but I didn’t know the extent of my injuries,” Dean recalled. Paramedics rushed to him and helped him from the track. His dad asked him if he wanted to go home, but Dean refused. He didn’t want to leave the track because he had paid the entrance fee to the races. Being self-funded and having paid all the expenses of racing, he wanted to get the most out of it. Dean raced that day and finished in sixth place. Later on, he found out he had whiplash and two misplaced vertebrae in his back. After several years of chiropractor’s visits, his back was better. He thought it might not be God’s plan for him to be a motocross racer. In 1978, he stopped racing motorcycles and pursued his love for music, having started playing bass guitar in 1977. In September of 1979, Dean met his wife Sandra and they started dating only a month later in October.

Before too long, Dean realized how much he missed “riding” and started to look for a street bike. However, he was still living at home with his parents and they would not allow him to ride a street bike, so he had to wait until he was out of the house. He and Sandra married in May of ‘82 and then he purchased his first street bike, a 1981 Suzuki GN400. His wife was supportive of it and rode on the bike with him. “It was a single cylinder bike…like half a Harley,” Dean commented with a smile.

Dean still had the Batwing Harley he first saw a guy riding in the early 70’s deep in his heart. Since then, he always wanted one but it always seemed just out of reach, too expensive compared to the imports he could afford at the time. Dean’s second street bike was a 1983 Suzuki GS550E. His wife again rode with him and Dean put 11,000 miles on it before he sold it three years later. The motorcycle riding couple had been talking about starting a family and after hitting the pavement on the Suzuki, Dean decided to sell it and replaced it with another car. Dean hit a dry spell of about nine years not having a motorcycle.

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Around 1983 weird things were going on in Dean’s life. He was still pursuing music, playing heavy metal, and started experiencing demonic manifestations outside of playing. The second drummer Dean had played with years earlier in a band was Robert Sweet, later co-founder of STRYPER. While playing with Robert in their group named FIRESTORM, they were looking for a lead singer. They were having auditions and Robert suggested his younger brother Michael. At the time, Michael was only 16 years old. Having a great audition Michael joined the band and they eventually changed the band’s name from FIRESTORM to ROXX. They played top 40 rock tunes. As a Christian, Robert was sensitive to lyrics. Dean recalled, “He would not play Van Halen’s ‘Running with the Devil’ because of the lyrics.” Later, after Dean left the group, Robert and Michael changed the name to ROXX REGIME, and then STRYPER.

While STRYPER were writing and playing Christian music, Dean was on a different path. Playing Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and other groups of that sort. Around that time he began to feel a presence, like someone was there, but no one was. Dean’s wife mentioned that sometimes she felt like someone was standing on her side of the bed at night.

At the time, Dean had a job working at a graphics company located in a very old building near Los Angeles. One of his coworkers told him he thought there was a ghost running around in it, but Dean didn’t believe in ghosts. At times he would be in the camera room “shooting artwork” and he could swear someone was standing behind him, but no one was there. One night he was working late and ended up there alone. He was getting ready to leave, it was dark out and being the last one, Dean had to shut the building down. The room Dean worked in was across the building from the exit, so he would have to go through, shutting the lights down, to close up. The upper floor where Dean worked was a storage area. All of a sudden, Dean heard loud footsteps coming from the floor above him towards where he was, from the other side of the building. It stopped directly on top of him. Loud steps, like a pair of boots on a wooden floor. Dean was spooked, got out as fast as he could, locked the door and went home. He told his wife what he had been experiencing at work and they talked about what she was experiencing in their apartment. Something was going on.

Dean left that job for a better offer and went to work for another graphics company, thinking he left the ghost behind at the old job. That wasn’t the case. The manifestations would start again. A guy by the name of Jeff, who worked with him, was a Christian who listened to Pastor Chuck Smith (founder of the Calvary Chapel churches). Jeff worked at the light table directly next to Dean and he knew Dean was Catholic. He often asked Dean what he believed about church teachings, creating a challenge for Dean to look into and answer the questions. Over the period of a year, talking about each other’s faith with Jeff, Dean wrestled with his. Having to explain how he thought his beliefs were based in scripture. Working with Jeff, he could not be wishy-washy about his faith and Jeff challenged him to “not ride the fence” with his beliefs. Dean began to realize what Jeff believed was based on Scripture vs. what Dean believed which was based on scripture, church tradition and oral tradition. His wife had surrendered to Jesus earlier in life and Dean was realizing that he had not. Manifestations in the camera room were more frequent and one day, while working on color separations, Dean felt someone behind him. He turned around and the curtains in the dark room closed. He looked through them and no one was there. Dean talked to Jeff about what was going on, but the situation didn’t faze Jeff at all. As they discussed the goings on, Jeff said that Dean should ask the “ghost” what it thought about Jesus Christ. At that moment a door in the back of the room they were in, opened by itself. Dean, Jeff and a co-worker were there. Jeff asked the other two if anyone had gone through that door earlier, but no one had. The door was closed and there was no explanation for the door opening by itself. That day, Jeff recommended a book to Dean called “The Satan Seller” published in 1978 by Mike Warnke a former Satanist and High Priest who became a Christian. The book is still available on Amazon today. The book explained things that were happening to Dean. Mike Warnke emphasized that there IS power in the name of Jesus. Reading the book, Dean realized it wasn’t a ghost, but it was something demonic…something darker. Dean found himself at a crossroads with what to do with music and realized through the book, he hadn’t committed his life to Christ. One night, Dean again felt the presence in his sleep. Waking up, he remembered what he read and asked Jesus for help. He prayed for God’s Holy Spirit to come. God delivered and the entity left. That doesn’t mean it all stopped in Dean’s life that day as he still had some bad dreams. Dean and Sandra were praying, pleading the blood of Jesus over their apartment and over their life. He realized the music he was playing was not honoring to God and he needed to make a change. After that year and half of working through what he believed, Dean decided to play music that would be pleasing to God.

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Their first son was born in 1988 and the family’s priorities took over. Dean realized motorcycles had to be on hold a little while longer. In 1990, having moved into graphic sales, he was laid off from his job. It was a really hard time for Dean and his family. In the middle of a big recession, he was unable to find a full time job for two and a half years, only working part time. They used up all their savings after his unemployment ran out. After a couple of years of deep financial problems and three months with absolutely no income, they did not have a penny to their name. Dean and his wife had been attending a Nazarene church and they used to collect food and drop it off for a food pantry at a local Methodist church, for those in need. They never thought in their wildest dreams that they would have to stand in line for help at that food pantry. Dean at times felt angry with God, but continued attending church and their Bible studies. They were doing all the right things in their life, but it seemed like a dark cloud was hanging over them.

In 1991, with one child and another on the way, Sandra answered an ad for an apartment manager. They were offered the job and it provided a place to live. If they had not gotten that position, they probably would have been living in their van. Dean only made $12,000 that year and had a $4,500 IRS tax bill, due mostly from the 401K’s they had cashed out. They seemed to get hit from every angle. As a believer, a husband and a father, he had to decide if he would stay in Southern California or move his family to a place like Nashville to pursue his music dreams.

His wife wasn’t excited about the prospect of leaving family and friends. Dean realized he had to focus elsewhere. God had other plans in store and it wasn’t him traveling the world playing in a band.

His wife Sandra had posted on their refrigerator the well-known verse Jeremiah 29:11,

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.’”

As a faithful and encouraging wife, she kept reminding him of that verse regularly. In May of 1992, their daughter was born. With Dean still unemployed, no insurance, mounting doctor bills, and a big IRS bill, there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. One fall day, Dean was walking outside of their apartment complex and he saw leaves on the ground. He picked one up and remembered how much joy he would get from looking at a leaf when he was a child. “I’m so unhappy,” he thought to himself, “I can’t even enjoy the simple things in life like a leaf.” Right there, Dean asked God for His help. All he wanted was to be happy again. That was the “turning point” for Dean in his life. God helped him understand that his circumstances were temporary. Dean was reminded of the story of Job. His Nazarene pastor had some advice for him. What the pastor had told Dean stayed with him, “Everybody will walk through a valley; what you sow in the valley, you’ll reap when you reach the mountain top. What you sow will be your harvest, you need to sow peace, joy, and love”. That advice has stuck with Dean since and those words changed his perspective. Philippians 4:11-12:

“for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need”.

Dean was eventually hired at the Honda/Kawasaki dealership in Whittier, CA selling motorcycles and watercraft. However, when Dean was hired he didn’t have enough money to get his CA vehicle sales license, which was required. That’s how bad things were for him and his family. His boss agreed to front him the $70 and Dean would pay them back from his first paycheck. Dean got his license and paid his boss back. Working for minimum wage was hard until he started closing deals. He worked long hours, but Dean loved motorcycles then as much as he does now. Often taking the trolley to work for a year and a half, he then found a new job with the opportunity to travel. The job was with Saddlemen (saddlemen.com), a motorcycle accessories manufacturer. His desire to get another motorcycle kept growing. Dean was finally able to buy a used 1984 Honda Shadow 700, which became his daily transport to work. He attended a lot of the major motorcycle events representing Saddlemen and met people from all areas of the Motorcycle Industry. Meeting legends like Arlen Ness, Dave Perewitz, Ron Simms, etc., and seeing their masterpieces only made the desire to own a Harley grow. The timing wasn’t right, but the dream was still there. Dean was riding to work early one morning on his Honda Shadow and after exiting the freeway he was waiting at a light. When the light turned green he accelerated and crossing over the riverbed he hit an “object” in front of him, at 50 miles per hour. That object was a horse!

Someone had left an access gate open and the horse ran into the middle of the road. The first thought that came to Dean’s mind was, “I’m going to die.” After hitting the horse he slid and went down hard, with the bike on top of him. When he opened his eyes, he saw the sky and clouds and knew he was still alive. The fuel from the bike was pouring out and leaking on him. People stopped to help him, pulling the bike off his leg. One guy asked if he was OK and started to pray for him. Dean’s spirit was then calmed and relaxed, because someone was praying for him. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where they told him he had no broken bones and no internal injuries, but he would be really sore. He called his boss and let him know why he was late for work and needed a ride home. His boss had seen the accident driving by, but had no idea it was Dean. The motorcycle was totaled. His wife asked him if he was done with riding now. Dean said he didn’t stop riding his bicycle as a kid when he fell hard and that he was going to buy another bike with the insurance money. He bought a used 1983 Honda Silverwing 650 as a replacement.

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By now, God had blessed Dean and his family as they could afford to buy a house. They bought a home in south Corona, California. Dean commuted from there to Paramount, CA (a 104 mile round trip) everyday, rain or shine. In one year, he put 22,000 miles on that bike and God kept him safe, riding the 91 freeway in Southern California, rated one of the worse roads in the country. Living in Southern California, where you can ride all year round, and seeing the Harleys day in and day out, his desire for one just kept growing. In August of 1996, Dean was on his annual trip to the Sturgis Rally for Saddlemen. Harley-Davidson had info on the new 1997 Sportster, with a 3.3-gallon gas tank and an old style Sportster emblem. After returning, Dean was at Los Angeles Harley Davidson looking at a blue one. He had developed a relationship with the dealership while at Saddlemen. He had to inspect the new models coming out since Saddlemen had to make fitment adjustments to accommodate any frame changes.

Dean picked up the blue Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 in October of ’96, during his lunch, and rode it back to work. He found out later that day he was being let go and had his final checks handed to him. His boss was apologetic about the situation. What would he do now? He called his wife and she asked if he got his Harley. He told her he did pick it up, but she sensed something wasn’t right. He told her he just lost his job and he could try and return the bike to the dealer and take a loss, but his wife said to him “bring the bike home and we’ll work it out.” Dean never forgot that bittersweet ride on his first Harley with his final checks in his pocket, but he was thinking what an awesome wife God had blessed him with! He called his pastor at the church they were attending to ask for prayer. The pastor came by their house to see how he was doing. Dean let him know they had a small window left of about six weeks before their savings were exhausted. The pastor let him know he would be praying for a job by week six. Six weeks to the day, he was hired at a new job. God had provided again! Dean told his pastor who just smiled and praised the Lord. Dean was able to keep the bike, paid off the loan, and rode it for 10 years.

In the year 2000, while in a Harley dealership, Dean saw a flier for Blacksheep Harley-Davidsons for Christ. “A motorcycle ministry,” he thought quizzically. He discussed the idea with his wife. He didn’t think he could join the ministry at this time. After all, his schedule was unpredictable and packed: his work, the kids, playing worship at church, the youth group and bible studies frequently meeting at their house. The motorcycle ministry idea was set-aside for the time being. God had blessed them with their house only 3.5 years after almost being homeless. Dean and Sandra have a policy to use their home for God’s purpose and after 8 years they felt they had outgrown their home. So his wife made him a deal he couldn’t refuse: bigger house = bigger motorcycle. God opened the doors for both. After two years in their new and bigger house, his wife asked Dean: “Remember the deal? It might be a good time to look for a bigger bike.” Wow” he thought! He then went to the Temecula Harley-Davidson dealer. He picked out a brand new 2006 Electra Glide Classic, a two-tone beauty. However, Dean was hesitant to spend the money and one of his friends, also an ol’ biker buddy, made it real simple for him when he told him, “If your wife told you to go get it, GO GET IT! There are no U-turns in life; it’s a one lap race.” Dean went back to the dealer, bought the bike, and rode home with his daughter on the back. The batwing fairing he dreamed of having since the 70’s was now parked in his garage right next to the Sporty he still had.

After bringing the bike home and showing it to Sandra, she reminded him, “God blessed you with the new Harley you always wanted; you need to use it for His purpose.” With his wife’s wise advice and blessing, Dean joined Blacksheep Harley-Davidson for Christ. It was the lifestyle Dean needed to reach out to, the ones in the motorcycle community that didn’t have a relationship with God. He has been involved with Blacksheep ever since and served as the president of the Lake Elsinore, CA chapter in 2014. Through Blacksheep, he found out about a car and bike show that was taking place in his area, benefiting the opening of the Lake Elsinore Dream Center for the homeless. He wanted to go show his support and see the cars. What is interesting about this is that I was at the same bike show. I saw a Covington’s Custom built Bobber Panhead, now known as “Lil’ Red” (our front cover feature bike). I admired the craftsmanship of the unique Panhead and inquired about it with the owner, hoping I could feature the bobber in the magazine. The owner was not very interested in anything more than selling the bike; that was his sole reason for being at the bike show. I confess I was a little disappointed, as it appeared I would not get to do the feature I had been set on from the moment I saw Lil’ Red.

Dean was also at that show. He was there to see the cars and he certainly wasn’t there to buy a bike. But, as often happens in a life of faith, God had other plans – both for Dean and for the magazine feature. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Dean fell in love with Lil’ Red that day. The custom Bobber stood out like a bright light and was surrounded by people talking about it. After carefully looking at it, Dean knew that if he could build a bike, it would be just like Lil’ Red. He briefly spoke with the owner. Dean took photos of it, along with the photos of a nice 1932 Ford Coupe that was also for sale. Talk about being torn between two loves…

The next day, Dean woke up thinking about the Custom Bobber. He never thought he could own a bike from a custom builder like Covington’s Customs, especially with his background of
knowing and having met most of the premier Custom Builders. Blessed by God with an
unbelievable wife, she reminded him of the rough year they had with Dean’s dad passing away. She graciously told Dean, “If this will bring you joy, I want you to have that bike. You don’t know how long you have left riding motorcycles.” Dean contacted the owner, went to see it, sat on it asking questions and went back home to tell his wife about it. Two weeks later, Lil’ Red was parked in Dean’s garage.

His wife wanted to go with Dean to take photos of him when buying Lil’ Red, but she did more than that. Take a look in our Digital Edition on our website and watch the video of when Dean purchased this beauty and took her home. Riding home that day, Dean kept thinking about his dad, his wife and what a blessed man he is.

Dean’s Life Description: Person who is blessed beyond what he deserves.
Dean’s Life Lesson comes from his dad: “Be committed to your marriage, and serve in the church. This is a legacy to pass on to your children.”
Dean’s favorite quote from Dr. Dobson: The only thing we as Christian believers can take with us to heaven is the knowledge that our family and friends have salvation through Jesus Christ.”

And, how, you ask, did Lil’ Red end up on the cover of the magazine after the previous owner declined my offer to feature the bike? Three months after the bike show, I was sitting at our booth at the Eagle Run in Loma Linda, CA and a man came up to me and introduced himself. He told me he had a motorcycle he thought I needed to see. As you can imagine, I get that often. He pulled out his cell phone and started showing me pictures of none other than the Covington’s Custom Bobber I was chasing three months earlier at the car and motorcycle show! I was reminded of a valuable principle that day. Sometimes when we try to make things happen on our own, we get in the way of God’s will and God’s timing. When we let go and surrender, relying on and trusting in Him, He gives us the desires of our heart, mine being featuring this beautiful bike and sharing Dean’s story with you.

And, Dean? Still to this day, Dean walks out to his garage, looks at Lil’ Red and can’t believe that Covington’s Custom Bobber Panhead is parked next to Ol’ Blue, his Electra Glide Classic.

Dean Cerny & Peter Kaye

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