Showing posts with label Harley-Davidson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Harley-Davidson. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

XLCR Reborn - Jamesville Shovelhead Cafe Racer

Back in 1977 Harley Davidson unveiled their American cafe racer, the XLCR Sportster. On paper and in the flesh the bike was certainly appealing. It was draped in black, had a unique siamese exhaust system, was powered by a torquey 997cc v-twin and wore bodywork unlike any other Harley. Unfortunately the press slammed the bikes performance and poor sales resulted in it becoming a rather famous flop for the Milwaukee manufacturer. Despite all of these factors the XLCR has become an iconic model in HD history and today they fetch high prices at auction. Not having ever ventured in to cafe racer territory before James Roper-Caldbeck of 'Jamesville Motorcycles' in Copenhagen used the XLCR as his inspiration, but paid careful attention to not repeat Harleys mistakes.

"Last year I received a rather sheepish email asking if there was any way I would ever build a café racer" recalls James. James' portfolio is almost entirely made up of Harley Davidson builds with Chopper and Bobber styling being his usual forte. For an outsider it might seem that he is set in his ways, but when the opportunity presented itself, he was more than willing to take it on.

"It can sometimes become a little monotonous always building bobbers and choppers so I gladly said yes. I have always loved the XLCR 1000 and that bike became my inspiration, right down to how we photographed it."

Rather than heading down the same route as the XLCR and using a Sportster as the starting point James opted to use a 1974 Harley Davidson FX Shovelhead. "I found a fairly stock FX that had an S&S 80 cubic inch motor and a 5 speed transmission, which is very nice."

With a powerful donor selected James started penning down some ideas. "To be honest I had no idea what I was doing when it came to building a Café Racer, but I knew I wanted it black with a fairing and for it to look F#CKING mean!"

The build began with the bikes new bodywork. Influenced by the design of Super GP bikes James fabricated an entirely new seat pan and tail from scratch, integrating a Triumph tail light at the rear and mounting it as high as possible on the frame. Surprisingly his front fairing was an aftermarket unit sourced on Ebay. James purchased the unit unsure if it was going to fit his headlight, but much to his surprise it was the perfect fit. For the fuel tank he decided the stock unit looked right for the build and so he stuck with it. "Everyone always asks what it's from and are shocked when I tell them!" jokes James.

To get the bike sitting right James designed a Progressive shock and spring package that lowers the front end and raises the rear, creating a more aggressive riding position. Taking cues from his favourite Ducati exhaust set up he handbuilt a 2-into-1 system that runs high before exiting beside the tail. Two well placed heat shields sufficiently protect the rider from burns (tried and tested by the man himself) and the hotdog muffler lets everyone know to make plenty of room as the Shovelhead approaches.

With loads of power on tap and a great suspension set up James knew he'd need to upgrade the bikes woeful stock brakes for it to be worthy of its cafe racer status. Using a configuration similar to the XLCR that inspired the build he mounted a set of twin drilled discs up front and a drilled disc with custom mounted, daisy chained twin calipers at the rear. Due to the Harley's dimensions it still runs mid controls, but they are custom made units that keep the rider's feet up high for improved cornering clearance.

Taking a measly 5 weeks to complete James finished the bike using a paint scheme inspired by 80s and 90s GP Super Bikes. Touches of XLCR can also be seen on the engine where black has been liberally applied to those distinct Shovel shaped heads, the lower barrels, oil bag and various covers. Then to liven up the monotone theme touches of red were added to the seat and front fairing.

Knowing full well that Harley's aren't often the first choice for cafe racer conversions,  James has done his best to create a bike with the right look and performance to be worthy of the title. "I'm not sure how the Café racer guys will like this" says James. "But I can tell you it's awesome to RIDE!" 

Photography by Mark Dexter of THE LAB Copenhagen

First published by returnofthecaferacers

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Ardent Featherbed - Harley Sportster Cafe Racer

As any artist will tell you, composition is everything. Over his 30 year career as an artist Curtis Miller has fashioned custom furniture, worked as an animator and had his paintings and photographs sold in galleries. Now at 59 years young he's begun applying his skills to custom motorcycle building and as you would expect they are bona fide works of art, but in terms of composition, it's how his bikes are put together that really makes them special...

"As an artist, I love beautiful things. I also love making things. When I get passionate about something, it's only a matter of time before I want to start making them. I've built classical and electric guitars, a wooden kayak and many radio controlled gliders. Now I make motorcycles.

My history with motorcycles is actually quite short. I only started riding four years ago, at the advanced age of 55. I started on a Harley Sportster and moved up to a Softail Slim so I could travel longer distances with my partner. Within a year I had started customizing my bikes. The following year I started my first full custom build and since then I've been building full time. I had absolutely no mechanical background when I started out. I knew how to use tools of course, but hadn't even performed an oil change on a motorcycle before."

"I started teaching myself how to work metal and weld, how to use an English wheel and a mallet and shot bag. Before long, I got to the point where I needed help and advice. I found an excellent motorcycle program at a local Community College. The first course I did taught me the mechanics of motorcycles. I then took welding, machining and metal shaping classes and I'm now a certified mechanic and I'm still taking advanced classes in engine building, Dyno operations and tuning.

My first build was a classic chopper with a raked springer front end and a hard tail. You have to remember that I came from the Harley-Davidson world. It was awful to ride. Harsh on the backside and almost unmanageable at the front end. When I finished and rode the thing, I decided right away that the next motorcycle I built would be something with real, working suspension that handled well. I loved the clean, compact, elegant lines of Cafe Racer styled bikes so that's where I started. I decided to build a modified featherbed style frame and built everything around a 2009 Sportster engine I bought from Ebay."

"I built the bike entirely by myself and it took me a full six months to complete. I used no outside services other than getting the logos 3D printed. When I bent and welded the frame on my jig I carefully checked the rake and trail to make sure the handling would be correct. I made the engine mounts and I fabricated all of the aluminium bodywork by hand then welded, sanded and polished them. I built the electrical box from aluminium sheet and even welded up the swingarm from flat stock. I painted the frame and electrical box (under the seat) and even masked off the graphics. I also wired the bike, starting with a Sportster wiring harness, cutting it to pieces and reassembling it. I made the gas and oil caps, the timing cover, the rearsets, everything. Although I suppose I need to also mention my neighbour Jeff, who sometimes came over and held something while I tack welded it!"

"Even the caps for the brake reservoirs were hand made, as were the bar end fittings and the cap for the steering neck. I've since replaced the plastic reservoirs with commercially made ones that were cleaner and more compact. I even made the license plate holder, though the one in these pictures has been replaced with a more compact, simpler and stronger one.

Commercially purchased parts included the engine, a complete CBR1000rr front end and rear shocks, the wheels, the brake rotors and tires. The headlight is from Dime City Cycles and I used LED lighting for the turn signals and the tail light."

"I'm most proud of the way the overall build hangs together. I think it works as well as it does because of its proportions. The way the electrical box fits under the seat, the size and shape of the gas and oil tanks, the rough and ready looking swingarm and exhaust pipes. Best of all it rides and handles great.

Due to the incredible reaction I got from people when I rolled this bike out of my workshop I decided to start building bikes commercially. To help fund Ardent Motorcycles next build my featherbed Sportster is for sale."

If owning a work of art that actually rides interests, you can reach Curtis by clicking the link below...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Zonnevlek Harley-Davidson Street 750

During my visit to Japan with Harley-Davidson late last year, we were introduced to 5 Japanese builders whose workshops had been invited to each customise one of the new H-D Street 750's. The project was coined the "Street Build Off" and the 5 workshops involved included Cherry's Company, Asterisk, Duas Caras Cycles, Luck Motorcycles and Custom Works Zon. Only a few short months later the builders unveiled their creations at the Mooneyes Hotrod and Custom Show in Yokohama, where a panel of judges awarded one workshop as the outright winner. Taking home the prize was Custom Works Zon with their heavily customised 'Zonnevlek' Street 750 racer.

The Zonnevlek (meaning Sunspot in Dutch) was the brainchild of CW Zon duo Yuichi Yoshizawa and Yoshikazu Ueda. Since 2003 the pair have been building unique v-twin powered choppers and bobbers, gaining international attention in 2007 with their entry into the AMD Championship of bike building.

With the opportunity to customise Harley's newest family member the duo made the brave decision to depart from their usual traditional chopper styled builds. Inspired by the Street 750's already impressive 4.6 second 0-60mph acceleration and mid 13 second 1/4 mile capability they opted to build a motorcycle that would focus on improving straight line speed...with a modest sprinkling of aesthetic eye candy.

Taking a mere 3 months to complete the Zonnevlek is an almost complete redesign of the H-D Street with only part of the original frame and the stock 750cc engine remaining untouched. To make the most of the bikes power dropping weight was paramount, so the build began with a dramatic frame redesign. The standard half duplex frame was rebuilt using a single cradle design with custom made mounts and braces to secure the engine firmly in place. In need of a new home the bikes radiator was relocated to beneath the bike adding weight to its rear end for improved traction and a lower the centre of gravity.

The Zonnevlek's angular tank functions as a cover, concealing electrical components and the complex linkages of the "jockey" shifter. A single lever on the custom made handlebars actuates the front brake and engaging the clutch is left up to what was originally the gear selector pedal. Tucked beneath the seat is a fuel cell containing enough juice for a sneaky, backstreet burn or a few, flat out 1/4 time trials and the original instruments have been replaced by a function focused Autometer tacho.

Up front is a one of a kind set of custom made forks holding a 19 inch wheel wrapped in Avon Speedmaster Rubber. In the rear is a CW Zon signature style single sided swingarm with mono shock suspension and a 15 inch Rocket Racing wheel wearing a classic Hoosier drag slick. To free up a few more horses from the liquid cooled v-twin a custom made exhaust system and intake have also been added and fuelling remapped to suit.

As you study these photos more and more of the Zonnevlek's incredible details become apparent. From the alloy bushes, braces and panels to the brass highlights. It's the stark grey paint and contrasting gold leaf pin striping by Mr.G and the intricate engraving by 4 Dimension Studio that really push the boundaries on this build though. While straight line bikes aren't usually our thing, it's easy to see why this beast won over the Street Build Off judges. It's yet another example of why Japanese builders lead the way with their creativity and craftsmanship in the custom motorcycle scene and I can't get enough of it!

First published by

Friday, October 2, 2015

How One Weekend on a Harley Nightster Converted me Into A Harley Fan

How One Weekend on a Harley Nightster Converted me Into A Harley Fan

You know the old expression, "Don't knock it 'til you try it," right? Harley-Davidsons are often surrounded by haters, mostly comprised of those who've never ridden one. There are Keyboard Warriors attacking H-D based primarily on their spec sheets, high price tags, and low performance. I'll admit it, I used to be one of them. That is, until a Nightster changed my mind.
I fully expected to hate this motorcycle. My brother expected me to hate this motorcycle too. It's too loud and too flashy; it's too "image-driven" and contains antiquated technology. I could come up with a million insults and at the end of the day they'd all boil down to, "It's a Harley-Davidson." But you know what? Believe it or not, it's fun!
2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty
2016 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty

My Riding History

About a year ago, I received my first taste of Project Livewire. Yes, yes, I know, it's not exactly a big thumpin' V-twin, but it was the first time I'd ridden a H-D product. I rode a Sportster Forty-Eight (which is essentially the same bike as the Nightster), but I didn't understand Harley-Davidson then. Riding a Sportster immediately after what I still believe is the future of motorcycling only accentuated the different eras I was experiencing. Because of that contrast, I guess I didn't understand what the "normal" H-Ds brought to the table.
MUST READ:  The Realities of Riding | RideApart
A couple weeks ago I took a 300 mile road trip on my Triumph Bonneville. When I got back, my brother offered to loan me his Nightster. This let me do a direct comparison of two very "image-driven" motorcycles.
Both motorcycles are starting points for self-expression. While I feel like the Triumph is a completely blank slate, the Harley is drenched with decades of "biker" imagery. However, I (surprisingly) had a great time on my brother's Nightster. Granted, I don't fit that Harley Davidson bike mold at all, especially when riding it with my full face helmet and head-to-toe textile gear.

Personality Counts

If I were to make a pros/cons list, a Harley is the bike I shouldn't buy. But at the same time, it's like my Ducati and a few cars I've owned in the past; its personality shines through in an unexpected way. The Nightster quickly became endearing. I'm not sure if it could ever be my only bike, and my brother's ownership experience seconds that notion, considering how little the Nightster gets ridden while living next to his R1. With that said, each day I had the H-D, I wanted to go for a ride, and I came home happily exhausted. I've certainly owned bikes I can't say that about.
MUST READ:  Why I Bought a Kawasaki Ninja 650 - My Second Bike | RideApart
The suspension isn't top of the line, but it still manages to be gentler on me than a day on the Bonneville. The motor? Well, it shakes everything and everyone around. Surprisingly, not a ton came through the bars. The bike was nowhere near as fatiguing as I expected it to be, and because of that I found myself filling the bike up multiple times throughout the day. (The fuel tank is small, so the range isn't awesome.)
2012 Harley-Davidson Nightster 1200cc
2012 Harley-Davidson Nightster 1200cc
Despite the fact that the bike doesn't meet my image, I had a ball riding it and found one thing that really surprised me. Anyone who's ever ridden behind me on a bike has to give me the flashy-hand signal. Not with the Nightster, however. It had me covered with self-canceling blinkers! I'm looking for how to retrofit that system to every bike I own right now. I spent days looking like I knew where I was going, and I just can't put a price on that!

There's Always Something...

There's one downside though. That clutch was terrible, although I'm not sure if it was because of my small hands or the oversized levers. All I know is that my clutch hand was on fire after a day of riding around town. With such a stiff and long pull, I know that if I owned this bike, I'd be shopping for ways to mitigate that before I even bought an exhaust. Maybe I've just been softened by the other bikes I've ridden, but this clutch is in another world from anything else. All a part of the experience, I guess.
Despite the clutch, I'm surfing used-bike sites looking for a Nightster of my own. They hold their resale value really well and the temptation is real.

First published by

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Make it pop: GS Mashin’s Harley Fat Boy

Custom Harley Fat Boy built by Tom Mosimann of the Swiss workshop GS Mashin.
A world-famous custom builder recently told us: “I never want my Harleys to look like Harleys.” We wonder if Tom Mosimann had the same thought when he built this outlandish Harley Fat Boy. Based in the Swiss capital of Bern, Tom is a sign painter who started building bikes three years ago under the moniker of GS Mashin. This 2000-model Fat Boy is his first Harley—you can’t miss the muscular V-twin, but it’s now clothed in most unusual swooping bodywork and a retina-searing paint job.

Tom drew inspiration from old salt flat racers and drag bikes. He shaped everything himself out of steel—from the prominent headlight shroud, through to the hard-edged tank and the tail section with its integrated rear light. The seat’s been covered in leather, and Tom’s made a neat little belly ‘spoiler.’ The exhaust system is his handiwork too, as is the angular ‘GS’-adorned air filter.

Accompanying the bespoke metalwork is a bevy of choice parts. Hiding behind the headlight shroud are an Auto Meter speedo, LSL bars, Roland Sands Design grips and Beringer controls. The mid-placed foot controls and primary drive are from Performance Machine.
Tom kept the Harley Fat Boy’s rear wheel and shocks, but lowered the forks and upgraded them with Progressive Suspension springs. The front wheel’s a 21-inch unit from another Harley; both wheels are running Dunlop D402 rubber.
Tom wrapped the project up in nine months, finishing it off with a livery that unashamedly flaunts his skills with a paint gun. The greens used are echoed in places like the wheels, air filter cover and spoiler. It might not be the most practical custom, but we love it. And, despite its outlandish appearance, it’s fully road legal in Switzerland—a country that has some of the most stringent noise regulations in the world.

“GS Mashin only builds roadworthy bikes,” Tom explains. “Because bikes are for riding.” Absolutely.
GS Mashin Facebook | Instagram
Custom Harley Fat Boy built by Tom Mosimann of the Swiss workshop GS Mashin.
First published by

Friday, May 15, 2015

Harley Street 750: Battle Of The Kings

Harley-Davidson took a punt when it launched its Street models last year—and it’s paid off. The Street 750 and 500 are doing especially well in international markets, where there’s less emphasis on cubic inches.
In Europe, Harley is stoking the fires with its Battle of The Kings competition, pitching dealers against each other in a custom bike build-off. This is one of our favorites—built by Austrians Fabian Weber and Gregor Malleier of H-D Innsbruck.

The Harley Street 750 is what you might call an ‘accessible’ bike—in both financial and riding terms. So the builders have to get maximum bang for the buck, spending no more than €4,000 on parts and keeping the workshop hours down to 50 or less.
Despite those restrictions, Fabian and Gregor have built a very stylish machine indeed. Workshop manager Gregor used to be a racebike mechanic, and can also build his own frames—so he knows how to work quickly.
Custom Harley Street 750 built for the Battle Of The Kings competition.
His protégé Fabian brings enthusiasm as well as automotive skills, and is a convert to the new wave custom scene: “Before we started the project, I was on holiday in Cape Town, South Africa. I came back inspired by the cafe racer scene,” he says. “I was even more pleased when Gregor assigned the main part of the project to me, such as design and selection of parts!” The modifications are well chosen for maximum impact. Fitting a Free Spirits triple tree up front has increased the visual weight of the forks, which lose the stock rubber gaiters. Fabian has also lowered the forks and fitted a 19-inch Dyna front wheel, two inches larger than stock.
Custom Harley Street 750 built for the Battle Of The Kings competition.
The new triples have also allowed the speedo to be hidden better and the fairing repositioned for better lines. Free Spirits clip-ons increase the café racer vibe. The rear wheel has gone up two inches in size too: it’s a 17-inch item from the Softail Cross Bones model. After a little drilling and re-arrangement, the Street 750 pulley was able to fit. The rear fender was widened and shortened to match, and a discreet LED strip fitted for lighting.
Custom Harley Street 750 built for the Battle Of The Kings competition.
There’s a custom saddle on top of the standard seat pan, and the ignition lock and horn have been moved to clean up the overall look. The wiring harness, traditionally a bugbear of lower-cost bikes, has been partially hidden. The mid controls have been drilled and powder coated, and drilled H-D ‘Silencer’ footpegs installed. The exhaust headers are standard, but the look of the system has been transformed by fitting a stubby, screw-mountable muffler—which can be returned easily to stock.
Custom Harley Street 750 built for the Battle Of The Kings competition.
It shows what can be done with a little ingenuity, and not too much cash. And if this is the future of Harley-Davidson customizing, we’re all for it. You can examine the other Harley Street 750 builds in the Battle Of The Kings competition here—we’ve already covered the XRTT Racer from Belgium. The finale of the competition will be next month at the Wheels & Waves Festival in Biarritz, France, where a panel of judges will pick a winner.
I’m betting this one has a very good chance indeed.
Battle Of The Kings | H-D Benelux Facebook | Harley-Davidson Innsbruck | Images by Christoph Villgrattner

First read on
Custom Harley Street 750 built for the Battle Of The Kings competition.

Saturday, February 7, 2015


‘One Punch’ straight to the chin; a  knock out. Zadig Motorcycles delivers a decisive blow to the custom motorcycle world with this Harley Sportster, named after one of my favorite film characters of all time, Mickey, from Guy Ritchie’s turn of the millennium dark comedy, Snatch. Like a bare knuckle boxer, it is tough, gritty, no frills, and I bet it has quite a bit of growl coming out of those pipes that are taped up like a couple of beat-up fists. Details and cohesiveness of design are what bring custom motorcycles to life, and ‘One Punch’ has a lot to notice. Stand out features are the intricate detailed tank and gas cap, as well as the woven seat. More importantly though, is the unique overall design that captures the spirit of a quirky bare-knuckled boxing gypsy. Add in the fact that the bike was built for charity, and you’ve got the winning combination that is our Bike of the Month for December 2014.

first read on