Courtesy Anna O' Brien
He was a hustler known worldwide, and owned one of the oldest Harley-Davidson motorcycle shops, Pacific Coast Cycles, in Signal Hill for over 35 years.
Despite numerous health issues, including two different cancers, a heart attack and congestive heart failure, he fought until the very end.
Ultimately, it was a stroke that Mike O’ Brien, a figure in the motorcycle world, couldn’t fight off. He died on Tuesday, Jan. 21 at the age of 67.
Mike is survived by his daughter Anna O’ Brien, 31, and a son, Mike O’ Brien Jr., 38.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, March 1 at 11am at Forest Lawn in Cypress. A celebration of life will follow at Pacific Coast Cycles, the motorcycle shop he owned, located at 2430 Lewis Ave. in Signal Hill. Attendees are encouraged to bring their bikes and custom cars to participate in a last ride in honor of Mike from where the service is to be held to Pacific Coast Cycles.
Mike was born on Sept. 24, 1952 in The Bronx, New York. He moved to Long Beach during his childhood.
His love for motorcycles began after he came across a bike shop when he was on his way home from a local store.
Sparking his interest, he went in and talked to the shop owner, telling him that he wanted to learn what he was doing. The shop owner took O’ Brien under his wing.
From there, he continued receiving his “million dollar education,” as he would say, according to his daughter Anna–– getting advice from the right people.
“You couldn’t pay for it, but you had to pay attention and want to do it,” Anna said.
O’ Brien started doing custom painting for motorcycles in a garage in the late 1970s. He later opened up M&J Custom Cycles on Pacific Coast Highway in the late 80s, which eventually turned into Pacific Coast Cycles (PCC). PCC moved to its current location in Signal Hill in 1995.
“He worked on bikes, built bikes, sold bikes and would export bikes everywhere,” Anna said.
Mike’s bikes eventually hit the pavement in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Germany, as he imported and exported bikes internationally.
“He was just a hustler, anything he could make money on he would,” his daughter said, “from custom builds to repairs, to clothes, accessories and parts.”
If Mike didn’t have the resources for a project, he would know exactly who to connect people with as he worked with practically everybody in the motorcycle community, according to Anna.
“He would point you in the right direction of what you need to know, where to go, where to get the part and to get what you need done,” said Anna. “He was always the plug.”
An old school guy, he wasn’t big into the online world except his shop’s website, pacificcoastcycleslb.com and his Instagram, @pacificcoastcycleslb, which he updated on a regular basis on his iPad.
The lack of online presence wasn’t necessarily a crutch for his business as Mike was well-known throughout the city.
Although he was active and didn’t smoke or drink alcohol, in the midst of his later years, Mike began facing a lot of health issues.
“It was just like one thing after another,” his daughter recalled.
Despite his ailments, his love of motorcycles kept him pushing through. Even as Mike was going through chemotherapy, he would still find the strength to keep working on his good days, according to his daughter.
“It was a blessing and a curse–– what he did,” Anna said in reference to a quote Mike said in a 2015 interview with Chopperprophets.
“I never realized my entire life would be consumed by Harley-Davidson,” Mike said during that interview.
Anna later realized, “It was what kept him going, and what kept him strong through everything, but it was also so much stress to always have the shop on his mind.”
Aside from his motorcycle life, O’ Brien always made time for his family.
“He was all about his family,” said Anna. “I got to thankfully spend a lot of time with him.”
Sundays were Mike and Anna’s father-daughter days with their dog Buddy.
They looked out for each other, cooked, ate dinner every night together, and he enjoyed his family time.
Since it was just them two, Anna was always there for him and made sure that he was well off outside of the shop. Her dad would constantly refer to her as his “rock”.
Although she grew up in and around the shop her entire life, Mike didn’t pressure Anna to be involved with the motorcycle business, but she would help him with the online side.
“I don’t really think he ever wanted me to be involved, just because of how stressful it is, and you know, all the stuff that he had to do,” Anna said.
She admitted that she wished he would’ve taught her more about the business.
“Now, it’s like I’m lost a little bit,” she said.
Her older brother Eric O’ Brien was the one who was mainly involved in the motorcycle business but he died at the age of 27 in a car accident in 2012.
His death took a major toll on their father.
“He would always say if Eric was here, he’d be running the shop, he always wanted to pass that down to him, but you know, unfortunately it couldn’t happen,” Anna said.
Although the shop is temporarily closed, Anna hopes to keep her father’s legacy going in the foreseeable future.
“I want to be able to keep the name going, because it was such a staple in the community,” Anna told the Signal Tribune.
Pacific Coast Cycles carries only Harley-Davidsons’ bikes, all types of Harleys, as they were Mike’s favorite.
Pacific Coast Cycles is still accepting customers by appointment only. Decisions for the future of the shop are still pending.
“It’s kind of up in the air because I don’t know if it’s going to be the same without him there,” Anna said.
In the time of her father’s death, the community hasn’t left Anna alone. She’s received an outpour of support from many of her father’s friends, family and those in the motorcycle industry.
“Everyone I’ve talked to reaches out and says ‘if you ever need anything’, and I mean as simple as ‘moving something that you can’t move,’ or ‘finding out what something’s worth.’ I have a lot of people that have been reaching out to help,” Anna said.
Longtime shop mechanic Tony Sambrano, who’s worked with Mike since 2013, has also been helping her navigate her father’s legacy.
“He’s a really good mechanic and does a lot of stuff,” Anna said. “If I didn’t have him right now, I wouldn’t know what I would do.”
Aside from Sambrano, Pacific Coast Cycles never had a large workforce. Mike’s former lifelong mechanic Bruce, who died years ago, and a few rotating employees helped him run the shop, as he was very particular.
“He ran almost everything by himself, every part of it,” Anna said.
“He always said when it happened, he didn’t want his death to be sad, he wants people to remember the good,” Anna said. “I’d just love to keep his memory alive, it doesn’t make me sad to hear stories, I love hearing everyone’s stories. When you think of him, think of the good times and keep pushing.”
Visit Pacific Coast Cycles’ official website here and keep up with their latest updates on their official Instagram here.