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RAT ROD SPORTSTER
is one of our own rides. A ratty, flat black, old school looking
Harley-Davidson Sportster. Itís got a ground-hugging stance with old
school rat rod touches. And itís an absolute blast to ride. Hereís how
it got this way...
We started with a bone-stock (except for
scalloped paint job) 1986 883 Sportster with a 4 speed trans and stock
suspension. The previous owner had bored it out to a 1200 and added the
forward controls. It looked and rode like your basic run-of-the-mill
Sporty with its tall 13Ē shocks, narrow flat handlebar and crouched
riding position, while sitting on top of the thick, pillowed seat.
Stock (basically) Sporty
Stock suspension and rear fender
Stock pillow seat... comfy
started the build by pulling off all the tins and removing the
handlebars, controls, mirrors, levers, grips, and headlight. We were
going for a ratty, rough, badass look, so we scotchbrited every last
piece of chrome on the bike and also the aluminum on the motor. We
pulled the exhaust and gave it the scotchbrite treatment also.
then wrapped the pipes with black cloth header wrap. The best method,
in our experience, for wrapping the pipes is to take the roll of wrap
and soak it overnight in water. This loosens it up and allows you to
stretch it tighter around the pipe. Once the wrap dries, it adheres to
itself better and you donít have to worry about it unraveling. We
started at the end that bolts to the motor and carefully stretched and
wrapped each turn around the pipe. You can change the look of wrapped
pipes by either using diagonal turns around the pipes or a more straight
up and down wrap. We chose the diagonal look. You can also vary it by
changing the width of each overlapping wrap. We chose to use the full
width of the 2Ē wrap, overlapping each layer about an inch. We finished
by installing black metal tie wraps at the ends which are great for
cinching down the end of your wrap and look great. Stainless steel ones
look great also. We liked the look of leaving a portion of the
scotchbrited chrome pipes visible. For something different, we took the
original chrome heatshields and scotchbrited them, then drilled holes in
them to give them a unique look, and bolted them on over the wrapped
Drilled heat sheilds
prepared, when you start up your bike for the first time, it will smoke
like crazy. You will think your bike is on fire, but itís just the pipe
wrap burning in, and it burns off after a short time. Pipe wrap is
available in various colors and widths. It looks very cool and comes
with the added benefit of keeping some heat off your leg.
No shiny stuff here. The scotchbrited chrome and aluminum
give it a really cool look.
our attention to the tins, we sanded them all down to bare metal,
repaired any imperfections, and prepped them for paint. For the rear
fender, we cut off the bottom, just above where the stock taillight
mounts. This gave us the chopped look we were going for, but also left
it long enough to allow the curved rear fender struts to flow with the
fender. Also, since we were going to reuse the stock two-up seat, we
wanted the fender to flow with that as well. We filled the holes from
the original license plate mount by welding some sheet steel underneath
and then filling the hole with weld on the top side.
and re-sanded all the tins and got ready to spray. We wanted to go for a
flat black paint job to give it the rattle-can primer look, but the
problem with most rattle-can paints or flat black automotive paint is
that it has no clear coat and can be seriously damaged by fuel. Also an
issue is the fact that it is basically impossible to clean a rattle-can
paint job without creating shiny or streaked spots. So, we decided to
use an automotive grade product from Kirker called Hot Rod Black. This
is a premium grade urethane automotive paint that takes the usual
two-stage paint process of a basecoat/clearcoat paint job and combines
it into a single stage product with the clear coat already mixed in.
That allows it to go on flat and stay flat, even when you clean it.
a pretty simple process of setting up the spray gun for a nice even
ďwetĒ finish and spraying on a couple of coats, allowing only about 30
minutes set up time in between coats. It sets up and dries to the touch
overnight. When dry, itís impervious to fuel spills and looks great.
Itís got a very small amount of gloss to it, but is mostly flat and it
really adds to the overall look of the bike. We also sanded and painted
the front forks and front wheel to match the rest of the tins. We
decided to run without a front fender because it looks great without it
and was less for us to put back on.
Once we had the tins painted, we started working on the handlebars and controls.
used a set of 4 inch chrome, mild pullback risers and bolted on a set
of 12 inch apehangers. That got us just the right height, width, and
pullback that we were looking for. We had to install longer brake and
clutch cables, so we went with a set of steel braided lines.
running the wiring for the controls through the handlebars and
remounting the stock controls, we decided to relocate the indicator
lights from the crappy-looking stock speedometer nacelle ring and to
shave the speedometer completely. Who needs a speedometer anyway? We
rewired and installed the indicator lights into the headlight visor for a
Headlight visor with relocated indicator lights
then topped off the controls with stock black Harley tapered mirrors
and some trick black, ribbed grips with brass bullet shells in the ends.
Itís the little details like these that can really add to the look of a
installing handlebars with internal wiring, be sure to remember to
stagger the wire splices. Whether you are using connectors or soldering
them together, if you donít stagger the splices, you will end up with a
large ball of splices that may not fit through the holes in the
handlebar. Another tip is to use some wire lube or baby powder on the
wires. This will help them slide through the bars easier. Installing
bars with internal wiring takes some time and patience, but the end
result is a much cleaner look for the front end of your bike.
the bars went on, we pulled and polished the solid disc rear wheel and
installed a new Metzeler 150mm tire and a chrome floating rear rotor.
While we were at it, we replaced all the brake pads. Cutting off the
bottom of the rear fender left us with nowhere to put the taillight and
license plate, so we installed a combination side mount license plate
bracket with integrated Ford Model A taillight onto the rear axle nut.
This taillight is designed to be mounted on a side mount license plate
bracket, so it has a clear lens below the red brake light to light up
the license plate. This helps to keep local law enforcement happy.
remounted the rear wheel, and bolted on the rear fender. We reinstalled
the freshly painted fender strut covers and the scotchbrited sissy bar.
Unfortunately you need a horn on the bike, so we took our boring stock
horn off, grabbed a new one, painted it black, and then installed an H-D
Skull cover (originally destined to be a gas cap cover on a late model
Sportster) on top of it. A little bit of old school and a little bit of
new school on the bike we thought.
get the ground hugging stance we were looking for, we installed a set
of Progressive Suspension 10.5Ē lowered chrome shocks (scotchbrited, of
course). These give you a low down stance, but still offer a smooth
ride, and are also adjustable for preload. The only issue with such a
low stance was that the stock kickstand was now too long and held the
bike too upright when parked. Since there is no such thing as a lowered
kickstand for our year bike (they only used this type of kickstand for a
couple years), we had to do it ourselves by heating it up with a torch
and putting a bend in it. This worked perfectly and lets the bike lean
over like it should, when itís not out being ridden hard.
that the Sporty was looking low and mean, it came time to stripe the
tank. We wanted to go with the old school tape pinstripe flame look, so
we took some copper colored automotive pinstripe tape and went to work
on the outline of our flames.
Old school flames
we had them looking the way we wanted them, we installed a flush mount
gas cap on the peanut tank and mounted everything back on the bike. We
finished up the build by recovering the two-up pillow seat with a new
hand-sewn cover with tank-matching copper flames.
Flamed seat cover
in all, it was a really fun build and we ended up with something
uniquely ratty and cool at the same time. With the apes and the lowered
rear suspension, you get a real laid back and stretched out riding
position. The apes are the perfect shoulder height to keep your fists in
the wind and the handling is really good with such a light, nimble
bike. The flat black paint and lack of shiny chrome keeps cleaning to a
minimum. Less cleaning means more time riding. And we enjoy riding this
Ready to roll
hope you like our latest bike build. As always, we welcome your
feedback, so if you have any questions or comments about this build,
send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay tuned for our next build!