I’ve been around the bike sport/racing/business for 50 years--most as a custom builder. Folks do customs, and for one reason or another most miss the mark. By that I mean they don’t have the look. There are many ways to define the look but I don’t want to get into the weeds here. If you think back you have seen bikes with the look and you remember them even today. You know what I mean. Pete has created a special bike that very definitely has the look. Here’s is what he had to say about his build.
Peter Morris tells his story
“I had been thinking about a new project for a while and wanted to build a Dirtster so I started looking around the internet for ideas and came across Phil’s website. He seemed about as crazy as me, so I contacted him about building one of his SRX street tracker sportsters. Then I saw he had a new idea brewing around building hooligan racers where I could keep the stock tank. So I decided on being his guinea pig and figuring out how to fit his new tail to a stock sportster tank.
“I started looking around for a donor bike and came up with a rode-hard-and-put-up-wet ’94 XLH1200 in Rock Springs, Wyoming. It looks like someone loved it once, he got the chrome catalog and bolted an additional half ton of chrome on it. Then he must have sold it to someone who just rode it and dumped it in the shed a few times before giving up on it. The barrels were leaking oil and it wouldn’t run due to a gummed up carb. It was just a sad looking bike in need of a new owner. We agreed on a price and I loaded it up in the truck and bought it home. I unbolted all the add-on chrome and silly wheels it had and put all the superfluous stuff on eBay. Surprisingly I got about $800 bucks for it all and now I had something I could work with. Next I stripped the bike completely thinking I’d need to paint the frame, but after a clean up it was in pretty good shape so I didn’t bother”. [Phil: That’s typical. Harley does good powdercoat.]
“Next I tackled the motor. I ripped off the heads and barrels and found out why it was leaking. I guess the previous owner thought it’d be cool to have a black motor so he disassembled the motor and rattle canned the heads and barrels then his budget prevented him from fitting new gaskets so he wacked it back together with the old ones. Leaked oil but hey it looked cool.
"Next out came the soda blast rig and I cleaned all the black off the heads and barrels then checked the heads for valve guides and they were good so re-lapped the valves. Sent the barrels down to Dirty Rat Cycles in Salt Lake City and had him bore and fit oversized pistons. Once I got it all home I reassembled the motor with new gaskets and it looks a whole lot better. Added a couple of new rocker covers as the old ones were peeling chrome and bolted the motor back in. While I had the forks out I changed the seals and oil just because it’s not too difficult or pricey, and given the age it just made sense rather than finding an issue after reassembling it.
"Everything else was subjected to the parts washer and given a thorough cleaning. I kept all the standard stuff like brake calipers, headlight, front end, swingarm and all the electrical. There was some ridiculous chrome hand controls that ended up on eBay and I found some black ones more suited to the look I’m trying to achieve.
"As the style demanded rear sets I took Phil’s advice and bought a set from Chainsikle here in Utah and bolted them on. Also decided to go with a chain drive for the rear wheel so I got a conversion kit from Vulcan Engineering that did the trick nicely. I also decided on a chain tensioner 'cause I think they look cool, so I got an LBV rear chain tensioner. The spring seems a bit weak but we’ll see if it works OK.
"As for wheels I had sold off the ones on the bike so I started looking around for 19” front wheels to go in the front and rear, which I found on eBay. It’s important to get the right ones as Phil has explained. If you get anything past 2001 they have 13 spokes and don’t look right. I found a couple of straight ones which I then cleaned up with my soda blast rig and painted with a nice light gold wheel paint which I got from GrimmSpeed. They turned out great but as with all painting it takes time and patience to get everything cleaned up and masked properly before squirting the paint on. I finished it off with a clear coat and mounted the front-to-rear-wheel conversion from Phil, then the brake rotors and tires were mounted.
"Now tires was a real decision. As I’ll be mostly on the road with the occasional bit of dirt riding I wanted a dual sport tire. You try to find a 19” tire that’ll go on the rear and not break the bank. I settled on Shinko 705 110/80Q-19. They are ok to fit front or rear you just have to put the rear ones on backwards and they only cost $45 each. The rear looks skinny but we’ll see how it performs before making any changes.
"The hooligan tail arrived from Phil and I immediately mounted it to the frame. Then I tried putting the tank on and ran into a small issue. It turns out Harley made random tanks each year so finding which ones fit is a bit of a challenge. I tried several including an aftermarket one and ended up using the 3.3 gallon tank that came with my 1994 XLH1200. It still had an issue in that the rear mounting tabs were about ¾ inch too short which caused the tank to press down on the tail. I lengthened the tabs with my MIG welder and re-drilled the holes about a ¾ inch further away from the tank and it now fit perfectly with about 1/4 inch gap between the tail and tank so it won’t rub the paint off. I’m pretty happy with the way it fits.
“Here is another hint for you, the jiffy stand will be too short. The bike will lean over too far with those 15” shocks and 19 inch wheel on the back. Others have tried all sorts of redneck engineering with welders and such but this is a piece of hardened steel and you really don’t want to compromise its strength with some bad metallurgy decisions. Mother Harley is always thinking of you so get yourself a jiffy stand off a 2009 and up XR1200, P/N 50124-09BHP. There is an aftermarket equivalent that worked great for me it’s several inches longer than the stock stand and it’s made by V-Twin Manufacturing part number 27-0946.
“Phil also provided a front fender, fork brace, handle bars, grips, mirror, indicators, pipes, shocks and front number plate which I incorporated into the design.
"I agonized over paint for the longest time. I really like Harley orange and it just seemed the theme would work with black and orange because the whole bike is (purposely) very light in color. One thing Phil taught me is light looks light while black looks heavy so I pretty much removed as much black as I could and I’m very pleased with the result. I consulted with my painter of choice, Dan Worth in Salt Lake City, and I told him what I was looking for, the Harley Logo I wanted and the colors then gave him some artistic license to create something special. I got him to pinstripe and outline in the same gold as the wheels were painted to tie it all together and I’m really pleased with the result. The bike looks light yet the paint brings together the black and orange I was looking for.
“I think all up my budget was to be about $6k including the original purchase, the remedial work, and the parts. I think I may have gone over a little bit. I didn’t skimp on the paint. My buddy Dan is one of the best painters I’ve known. His work is flawless so you can’t have a cheap paint job and have it look good so it was worth every penny.”