Larry Ortiz, who built, repaired, painted and sold custom motorcycles from a West Colfax Avenue shop for decades has died of COVID-19 complications. He was 49.
Ortiz, like the custom motorcycles he worked on, built his business from the ground up, said Christopher Gonzales, Ortiz’s friend and the shop’s general manager.
“He had a passion for motorcycles,” Gonzales said. “He did it all, he built bikes from the ground up. He loved them.”
Ortiz’s custom rides were finished with vibrant, colorful paint jobs and intricate design patterns that transformed the motorcycles into rolling art pieces. The long, chopped rides with saddle bags and fenders, custom wheels, high handle bars, stitched seats and lots of chrome, turned heads, demanding attention of admirers whether parked on the street or streaming down the highway.
Ortiz, who was born and raised in west Denver, starting working on motorcycles out of necessity.
“He had his own motorcycle, he couldn’t afford to take it to the shop and get fixed, so he started working on it,” Gonzales said.
His self-taught craftsmanship manifested into the custom shop and resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of custom bikes over the years.
“There’s been a countless number of bikes that have come in and out of this shop,” Glonzales said.
The shop, which typically employees about four workers, often has about 40 motorcycles being worked on. “We are really, really busy,” Gonzales said. “We’re a one-stop shop for everything, everything a motorcycle needs.”
Ortiz, who died at Swedish Medical Center, was a longtime supporter of the Chicano Pride Ride in Denver, a motorcycle gathering, ride and fundraiser supporting the Latin American Educational Foundation.
“He was a huge, dominant figure, not only in the Hispanic community, but in the biker community as well,” Gonzales said. “He raised money for kids, he would give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it.”
Customers, associates, friends and extended family have been streaming in and out of the shop this week, sharing stories and passing along condolences. The shop’s clothing line, T-shirts and other accessories have sold out.
Gonzales, who plans to keep the shop going in honor of Ortiz, said that the rush of attention and affection has been consoling and overwhelming.
“It’s been a beautiful, sad day,” he said.
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