Jim Caruk's bike: 1996 Harley-Davidson Heritage motorcycle
Profession: Contractor and TV host
- Runs his own construction business, The Caruk Group (1984)
- Hosted seven seasons of HGTV’s Real Renos (2002-2009)
- Created his own national industry trade magazine, Renovation Contractor (2011)
- Founded and launched two of Canada’s first Build it Yourself (BiY) Learning Centres in Toronto
- Builder Boss, on HGTV, Thursdays at 10 pm ET/PT
- Fundraising for the foundation he created, Renos for Heroes (2009), which provides specialized building skills and materials to improve mobility for wounded Canadian soldiers in their homes.
He’s a master contractor who turned his love of construction into a reality show on HGTV.
Best known for his long-running series Real Renos, Jim Caruk has more than three decades of experience in custom home-building and renovation projects. His brand-new HGTV series, Builder Boss, follows the trials and tribulations behind every one of Jim’s builds. And when it’s quitting time on the job site and on the show, Caruk lets loose and hits the open road, driving his 1996 Harley-Davidson Heritage motorcycle, named after his mom, Edna.
Why did you buy a Harley?
There’s no other bike. I think every kid wants a Harley. Back in my time, a Harley was a cool bike. It’s kind of a bad-boy thing. Ever since I was a kid and got into motorcycles, I said, ‘One day I’m going to own a bike, a Harley.’
Are you a bad boy?
People have said to me, you’ve got that bad-boy image. I go, really? No. I don’t think so. A bad boy image is your bike is all blacked out – mine is white and silver. Women say that’s very pretty. I have a pretty bike, so I’m told. Not a cool bike – it’s a pretty bike
I love detail. I like things that look crisp and shiny. With my bike, its white, silver and chrome. It’s a pretty bike. I’m not saying I’m a pretty boy. Part of me likes detail. Even on the street when I’m stopped at a stoplight, the window goes down and someone says, ‘Wow, that’s a really pretty bike.’ That’s really flattering to me.
What restorations have you done to it?
About 12 years ago, I tore it all apart and changed the complete look of it. It has been completely torn apart, full-on restoration to my specs. I like the more nostalgic, old-style bike.
I had the motor taken off, everything completely stripped down and I painted the frame and the blower end of the motor silver. The cylinders, or jugs as we call them, were painted white to match the rest of the paint on the bike. Big white-wall tires on it. It’s kind of a ’50s look.
Did you do the renos yourself?
No. I don’t have patience for that. When I was a kid I used to fix my bikes. I’d sit in the driveway and rip them all apart, but now with what I do everyday, I just want to get on and ride it.
Mechanically, how is it different from a Japanese or German bike?
Japanese bikes are fast. You see a lot of younger kids riding those things. The crotch-rockets are super fast and they’re cheap to buy so that’s why I see a lot of younger kids getting into that.
The Harley is like a cruising bike – I guess it’s for us older guys, laid back who just want to cruise. To hell with the speed thing. We just want to cruise down the highway with the wind in your hair, if you have any hair.
Why did you name it Edna?
It’s named after my mom. Everybody laughs about that.
You got to give it a name – something you respect and love and that’s usually your mom. It’s never let me down and my mom has never let me down. Its hokey and goofy. I shouldn’t be saying it, but it’s my sentimental side.
Do you talk to your bike?
You’re damn right. I talk to my bike, especially when I’m on long trips. I talk to that thing all day long – ‘Just don’t fail me now, baby! I don’t want to be stuck out here.’
Has she ever failed you?
A couple of times, but nothing I couldn’t fix on the side of the road. It has been good to me.
To me, riding a bike is the biggest stress reliever. When we shot Real Renos, they said, ‘How do you end your day?’ I said, ‘I get on my bike and relax’ – that’s why we ended the show that way.
That’s my stress reliever. It gives you a completely clear mind. There’s a saying, if I have to explain it, you’ll never understand it. It’s true. Once you get on a bike on the open road, your mind is clear because you’re focusing on what’s around you and what’s ahead of you. So you forget everything and you get a clear mind. It’s the greatest thing. I’m so relaxed when I’m riding.
What was your first bike?
My first bike was a Triumph. I was saving up to buy a Harley. I wanted a Sportster when I was a kid, but work, kids, and my wife – everything gets in the way and you don’t get that Harley. In 1996, I decided it was time and I bought my first Harley. I also had a Suzuki motocross, a dirt racing bike. Pretty much killed myself on that thing and learned how to ride the hard way. The Triumph was the road bike. Then got married and had kids. Then you go through your 40s, you get bored and you think you need your bike back.
Would you ever sell your Harley?
No. I can’t. I have too much money, time, and heartache into it. I would never sell it.
It’s your first one – it’s like your first kid. What are you going to do? You’re not going to get rid of it. When you build a bike, it’s part of you – it’s part of your personality.
This will stay with me until the day I die. I’m looking to get another one – more of a cruiser for long distance. This is a cool bike, but it’s not the greatest for long distance even though it has been all over the place. When you ride this thing all day you definitely know you have ridden it – it’s letting you know you’ve been on that thing for eight hours.
This interview has been edited and condensed.