The Story behind Emmi Cupp’s Triumph Tiger Cub.
Story & Images: Harleigh Cupp
They say good genes are underrated. The story you are about to read will prove that theory wrong. As we live and talk about this culture that we stake our claim in, lets never forget that it’s all about passing the torch. That alone will keep this culture alive and well. As you enjoy this feature, bask in the joy that there is not only hope in our youth, but our future. -RC
The Biggest Fans!
“Though she is little, she is fierce.” One of Shakespeare’s most famous lines has been
reprinted on t-shirts, coffee mugs, and tacky bracelets thousands of times, but the one place
that those words truly belong is hand lettered on the back of Emmi Cupp’s motorcycle helmet.
Emmi (AKA “Shop Girl”) is a rockstar, and I am her biggest fan. This story is one that I love to
tell, over and over again. It’s the story of how my sixteen year old little sister found her passion
for building bikes and brought “Aunt Tiny” to life.
Another important character in this story is our dad, Jeremy Cupp. Give him a ten second internet search and dozens of articles would surface, highlighting several incredible builds and countless awards. He’s the owner and operator of LC Fabrications and has been designing, machining, and selling motorcycle parts in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia since 2008. Needless to say, motorcycles have always been a part of our lives, but Emmi is the one who became the most interested in the trade. As a fifth grader, she started hanging out with Dad
in the evenings after school, soaking up every tool and technique she possibly could. Then, middle school happened, and Shop Girl was absent more than anyone would like to admit. It seemed that her fascination for the industry was nothing more than a passing phase. One thing
that stands out about Emmi, though, is that she likes to prove everyone wrong, and that’s just what she did when she stepped back into the shop and became Dad’s right hand gal once again.
My Side of the story..
A few months before December of 2019 the conversation came up that she wished Triumph made a small motorcycle for small people. She couldn’t wait to learn how to ride, but all of Dad’s big bikes were just that; way too big. Dad kept this tidbit in his back pocket, and the week before Christmas, he came across a beat up, 1958 Triumph Tiger Cub that had been buried under mounds of other motorcycle junk for years. It was perfect. A tiny bike for a tiny girl actually existed. He loaded it on the back of the truck and on Christmas morning, Emmi came downstairs to find that little bike under the tree. With a twinkle in her eye that I’ve never seen before, she hopped on and the wheels (in her head) had already started turning. Dad figured that the two of them would just spend a few evenings getting it to run so she could tear up the
cornfield behind the house, but Emmi had bigger plans. She went to Dad with a couple sketches and then (after much convincing on her part) the real work began.
Nuts & Bolts
This is the part of the story that I struggle to write, simply because I get lost when they start spitting technical terms and engine specs (it’s pretty obvious I’m just the photographer), but I can say with confidence that it seemed like Emmi was mastering a new skill every few days. Right off the bat, Dad taught her how to TIG weld. He welded the frame after removing the swingarm, but pretty soon she was stacking up dimes and did the rest of the welding from there on out. They tracked down as many original Triumph parts they could find, dug a 1980 Yamaha MX100 front end out of the shed, and together, Shop Girl and LC Fab crafted all the rest. The most challenging part of the entire build was turning a flat piece of sheet metal into a gas tank. I could always tell when it had been a hard day, because it would get real quiet at the dinner table. Nevertheless, the two of them would get right back into it the next evening. By the end of February, her motorcycle had all the necessary custom pieces including the footpeg, gas cap, oil tank, and exhaust. Aunt Tiny was ready to be torn apart and Emmi could move onto the fun part, painting. I might note here that the color actually came from a bicycle frame that Dad had made me the Christmas prior. In May, she encountered another obstacle and spent many “painful” hours putting the stock Triumph 200cc T20 Tiger Cub engine back together. By July, she was adding the finishing touches to a now beautiful machine, and in September she was cruising with her Aunt Tiny down a long gravel road.
In the midst of a global pandemic, Emmi found an opportunity to dedicate her time and talents to something worthwhile. In the midst of keeping a small business alive, Dad found an opportunity to raise the next generation of hardworking craftsmen. Aunt Tiny simply served as the spark that ignited a new kind of passion for the trade in each of them. Luckily, this is not one of those stories where the fruits of labor are few. Shop Girl’s Tiger Cub has already made an influence on the American motorcycle scene. She’s been featured in an article by Pipeburn Motorcycles, graced the pages of the Thunder Press May 2020 issue, and landed on the cover of AMA Magazine earlier this year. She boasts third place in the #Coronavirusbikebuildoff (an online people’s choice competition hosted by Roland Sands Design that Emmi ironically enough joined by accident), was invited to show at Fuel Cleveland this past November (of course we
went), and even made a debut at the Easy Living Moto Show in Richmond, Virginia.
So, what’s next? Emmi’s already tried to cast Aunt Tiny out as “Old News” and is working on another project as we speak. Before I could even edit the pictures from our first official photoshoot, Emmi and our brother (Drake: AKA the mechanic in the family) were building Dad a chopper while he was machining parts in the other room. As soon as that was finished, she restored (more like made a hundred times cooler) a junker banana seat bicycle that a friend
gave her, and now Dad and Emmi have put their heads together to complete the first bike to roll out of LC Fab for a while, The Indian. Every once in a while, the shop would look like a scene from a reality TV show; words would be said and a tool would go flying, but it’s the hard parts that make for better machines and better people in the end. The name for the bike comes from a relative on Mom’s side of the family. Even though we never had the honor of meeting her,
we’ve heard countless stories about a petite woman with enough spunk and spirit to fill twenty men. Emmi picked the name early on in the build, and I must say it’s a perfect fit. -HC