Building Custom Harley Davidson’s, Part One

It isn’t all too often that you get to follow what it takes to build a custom bike. There is literally piles of blood, sweat and tears wrapped up into every machine from the second it goes on the lift, until it gets reassembled, tested, run and tuned. We decided that, even though there is an intense deadline for Daytona, we should do our best to show you what goes into these builds. There is a lot of things you wouldn’t think about when putting one of these together, and we are going to show you.

In an earlier post introducing a light version of the plan for these two bikes specifically, we outlined a few of the products we will be using, and why we will be using them. There will be a lot more tech with each of those vendors from an engineering standpoint (for the number crunchers out there) and practical tech from the install side of it all.

Most often as a customer you will ask your builder or mechanic “Why?”. (If you don’t, you should. We ask ourselves why something is better than its competition multiple times daily and inform ourselves to better serve our customers, and grow our business.) For Example, We will be answering some age old questions about building. If you are increasing your displacement, is it more cost effective to bore your existing cylinders, add new pistons, etc. or use a pre-matched kit like the ones we are using from Revolution Performance? In some cases you have to consider that you will be thinning the cylinders by machining your own cylinders, using metal that has been beaten for however many miles you have had 0n your ride, adding cost to the job by adding in extra labor and machine time. If a motor is going to last the cylinders must be matched to the pistons. Are you going to have these cylinders coated after they are machined? The Revolution kits come pre-matched, machined and coated for a better seal and longer life. (See photo below, image © Revolution Performance.) When we get to the motor there will be an additional post full of technical tidbits from Revolution, and practical install tech from Kevin himself. In using Revolution’s cylinder head work, you will see more cylinder head tech as well.

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Part One: Plan, Disassemble, Catalog

I cannot stress enough how important the planning is when building a custom motorcycle. you need to ask yourself what you want to achieve, and you have to think about it critically. How do we want the throttle to respond all the way through the powerband? How do we want the bike to handle? What parts best fit the desired outcome? If we are on a budget, where will our money be best spent? What do we want it to look like? What style of bike are we building? What is the color theme? How do we plan for and organize that color theme? How do the various Manufacturers want us to handle break in? There is so much more…

Disassemble and Catalog the parts together. This is a simultaneous step. as parts come off of the bike, they must be organized by where they are on the bike, and by what color they are to be powder coated, if they are to be powder coated, and itemized for storage if they are not. The parts that are not used in the rebuild go into a box to be sold later, after the build is complete. You want to wait until the bike is done so you don’t end up going “Oh shit! I sold that part that I needed.” as you are putting the bike back together and tuning everything, or at least trying to.

Kevin rides hard as hell… if you think you ride hard, multiply it by two, add three and you have an idea of how Kevin rides. Since he is not only the mastermind behind the design, but also the one who will ride this beast daily, it was pretty easy for the plan to come together. There were a few Key elements that absolutely had to be in this build, and other things that could be flexible. The existing Ape hangers had to come down a touch to make them street legal, the 19′ apes were set aside in favor of a classically styled 16″. The rear tire had to be a 200mm, and the front had to be a wide 21″. The chassis had to be stretched a little bit so the stock FXR swing arm is going to be removed in favor of an FL unit (shown below) and the front end raked 4 degrees.

Photographic documentation of Kevin’s build started a little late. Sometimes he gets focused and doesnt think about taking pictures. This is never a bad thing for our customers, I would rather my tech forget to take pictures because he is so focused on my bike. Here the bars, top end of the motor, rear wheel and tank have been removed, parts cataloged and set aside to go to Sumax.

James rides pretty hard himself, but he tends to spend a touch more time in urban settings where 3rd gear is king of the road. His plan was just a little different. James had a desire to maintain the factory wheelbase and outer rolling diameter; the FXR chassis as it comes from Harley is the best handling bike they have ever produced. When you are dealing with super tight passes in between cars and quick twisty side roads, why mess with perfection…

This girls was a little bit of a basket case when we picked her up. One forward and one mid control, no muffler, rear frame rail chopped, carb way out of tune but none of that matters when you are going all the way to the frame and coming back up into a totally new machine. shown above with the rear fender, sissy bar and pillon removed.

Shown here with the tank and fenders removed. This is the point at which you inspect everything that may or may not be in need of replacement, and review your color choices. It is very important to keep parts and bolts together in marked bags. Note the chopped (albeit hacked) rear struts and rusty frame. This bike (affectionately named “Velvet”) is very happy to being torn down and given a new life.

Stay tuned for more, coming soon. Subscribe by e-mail so you don’t have to keep checking back in. Have a good day and stay safe.

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