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How my Sporty came to be

Harley Davidson XL1200 Custom Motorcycle

Almost two years ago I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, thought I had a few months to live, had an operation that took out a bunch of stuff, and, as it turned out, am cancer free. Needless to say, I decided to do some of the things I hadn’t yet done. One of the things I wanted to do was spend more time with my older brother. He lives in Pennsylvania, owns the garage I worked on this bike in, and has been riding big Harleys for years.

I came up with a plan that would get us together more and also allow me to do something else I really wanted to do : build a bike that I wanted. Something I could ride with my brother and, with him being a Harley guy, he wouldn’t be embarrassed by (such as my Honda nc700x, which was never actually said, but most definitely implied). My take on modern Harley Davidson motorcycles has been that they are generally for old people who value comfort and name cache over actual value.

So, not being a fan of expensive bloated cruisers (not that there is anything wrong with them) - the idea was to put together a Harley for the city that would also do well on a couple of hours cruise and not cost a crapload of money. There were two reasons to keep it as cheap as possible. One, I’m married, so the less I spent the happier my wife would be and two, I’m married, and if I screwed it up, which I consistently believed to be a very real possibility, it wouldn’t seem as bad and, while she still wouldn’t be happy, I wouldn’t have to sleep on the couch either.

Harley Davidson XL1200 Sportster Motorcycle

The bike started as a stock 2000 XL1200 Sportster. This particular bike nailed my criteria. It’s the cheapest modern era 1,200cc HD made and came with spoked wheels, a smaller diameter front wheel than the more expensive Sportsters and at no extra cost black. It was purchased from the original owner with 5,000 miles in the spring of 16 (several months before I could actually ride again) and finished, or more accurately, licensed, in the spring of 17.

The motor is stock, but the carb has had some work done (that I didn’t do, everything else I did). Everything that wasn’t absolutely necessary was stripped off and the biggest changes were, in no particular order: re-lacing the stock rear hub with new spokes and an 18”rim (stock 16”), installing new wheel bearings, new tires, cut the rear frame off, mounted new seat and fabricated under-seat mount for electronics and wiring along with an inner fender and under-seat liner/cover, replaced all of the stock lighting, replaced stock shocks, replaced exhaust (ceramic coated in Maryland) and added torque cones, replaced air cleaner assembly and breather bolts, fabricated the license plate mount for max clearance(the original set-up made contact with the rear tire a couple of times, which totally sucked the whole assembly under the seat), and several other odds and ends such as RSD foot pegs, horn, mirror etc., in an effort to lighten and de-chrome.

Now, I’m sure I missed something, and I still don’t ride with my brother much, although I do see and talk to him a lot more, but I’d have to say this was one of the most fulfilling projects I have worked on, and my first bike project (I’ve been riding since 12 but muscle cars were my thing). It’s not finished as I still have a handful of parts along with a gas tank I want to change out. And it has to be decided if the tank needs to be either painted, wrapped, or sanded and cleared. Always something to do.

Of course, Dunn Lewis re-opened after I had done most of the work on this bike, so now that I know how challenging, fun, and rewarding working on a bike is, I’ll most likely be on the look-out for an inexpensive older mid-size Japanese bike to work on in DC.

Harley Davidson XL1200 Custom Motorcycle

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