The JBA Way: James Bonner’s Motorcycle Madness
The last few years have been challenging for James Bonner and JBA Custom Cycles, to say the least. In 2019, his store caught fire. It could have been worse; the fire actually ruptured a water main which helped put it out. But he had to operate elsewhere for eight months. Fortunately, thanks to the generosity of his clients and fellow business owners, he was able to get back on his feet. But then the day of its grand opening ended up being the same as the start of the COVID lockdowns.
“In the end, we prevailed,” he says now.
The pandemic ended up boosting business as people had a bit more time and money on their hands – and getting the bike out turned out to be a perfect COVID-free excursion. His 12 years in business have had their ups and downs, but overall, given that he basically started from scratch, it’s mostly been ups.
The Fort Myers native had been into all things motorized as a kid: dirt bikes, cool cars and the like. He actually got his first motorcycle – a sports bike – because of, say, his enthusiasm for fast cars. In fact, he had so many tickets that car insurance was too expensive, he said, half-jokingly. So he bought a motorcycle from his neighbor, and that sparked a passion.
JBA Custom Cycles started in Cape Coral and then moved to its current location in Fort Myers. He built his reputation primarily through word of mouth. Bonner’s bread and butter is a fix job, but his bespoke work is what earned him his reputation. His designs have achieved national recognition; he won the famous Daytona Bike Week trophies. Some of his bikes can take up to a year to make and cost six figures.
He likens the process to creating a custom home. You sit down and get down each component of the bike, write it down, create an illustration, then move on to building. “Our customers trust what we do,” he says. “We never build the same bike twice. We are always looking to surpass what we have done before.