American Motorcycle and Harley-Davidson Reviews

Bill Dodge ‘Blings’ Out an Indian Scout

Bill Dodge 2016 Indian Scout custom

For the 2016 Indian Scout he customized Bill Dodge only kept the Scout’s engine, instruments, frame, gas tank, and some of the wiring harnesses.

By Greg Williams / Photos By Pam Proctor

When Indian announced its 2016 custom-build program called Project Scout, Jason Foster of Mission City Indian in Boerne, Texas, got involved. Jason needed a little assistance, though, and for that he approached Bill Dodge of Blings Cycles.

“He asked for my help,” Bill says from his Daytona Beach, Florida, shop. “I thought Jason wanted me to make a couple of pieces, but the next thing I knew the Scout was in my shop.”

This Indian is Bill’s first experience with the machines rolling out of the company’s Spirit Lake, Iowa, production facility. Bill’s been around the custom motorcycle industry for quite a few years. He was shop foreman at West Coast Choppers, and in 2005 he opened Blings Cycles in New Jersey. The shop moved to Kentucky, and soon after, Bill finally landed in Daytona Beach, a location that puts him at the epicenter of Daytona Bike Week events.

“Since the late 1980s I’ve been modifying Harley-Davidsons,” he tells us. “From Knuckleheads to Evos, I build everything.” Of his particular style, he adds, “I just like to make things different.”

And that’s how he approached the brand-new 2016 Indian Scout. For this build, Jason’s only stipulation was the motorcycle had to have mid-controls. That was it. Everything else was up to Bill’s imagination.

“I wanted something that looked like a racer, but not a flat tracker,” Bill explains. “And people kept telling me Indian Scouts were cumbersome at low speeds, so I wanted it to handle better than stock.”

In order to make that happen, the Scout was immediately taken apart. A pickup truck full of Indian pieces was sent back to Jason, as Bill kept only the Scout’s engine, instruments, frame, gas tank, and some of the wiring harnesses.

Bill Dodge triple trees and GSX-R1000 front end on custom Indian Scout

Dodge grafted a Suzuki GSX-R1000 front end to the Scout’s frame and machined his own aluminum triple trees to fit the neck and the GSXR tubes.

Bill started by grafting a Suzuki GSX-R1000 front end to the Scout’s frame. As Bill produces his own aluminum triple trees, he machined a set to fit the neck and the GSXR tubes. Meanwhile, he added a frame-mounted steering damper to the lower tree for extra stability. The rake remained unchanged, but Bill shortened the overall length of the bike by 1/2″ in the trees. The stock instrument cluster was cut away and welded into a set of Bill’s risers, and these clamp down a ProTaper handlebar. Bill made the grips, and the clutch lever was sourced from a Honda CR500 dirt bike. A custom bracket holds the fly-by-wire throttle control, and the front brake lever and master cylinder came from an ATV. A Hella headlight complemented the de-cluttered style of the front end.

To give the Scout an aggressive stance, Bill opted for his Blings Cycles R9 wheels, 21″ up front and 18″ at the rear. The swingarm was not shortened, but it was shaved of a few brackets, however, in order to help clean up the lines before a pair of Fox shocks were bolted into place. All brake rotors are matching Blings Cycles R9 items, but the dual front calipers are stock Suzuki, and the rear is a product from Indian.

In order to provide Jason with the mid-controls he desired, Bill worked with a local machinist to CNC a unique primary cover on the left side, and a right-side engine cover incorporates what Bill calls Blings Cycles Slash Controls and footpegs in one piece. He hopes to soon have these components in regular production.

Dispensing with Indian’s belt final drive, Bill machined down the stock front pulley. He then opened up a 25-tooth Harley-Davidson Shovelhead sprocket, and pressed the two together before permanently welding them up. That rear sprocket is from Blings Cycles, too.

While Bill is proud of his wheels and the use of his triple trees to mount the GSX-R fork, it’s the tail section that is his favorite part of the build. “I just step back and eyeball the bike, and in my opinion the Scout needed more style in the rear; it has cool lines, but they get lost, so I think my tail section helps reveal them and radically changes the bike,” he says.

Working with sheets of aluminum, a wooden hammer, and leather metal-forming shot bag, Bill hand-shaped the tail section. He also made the seat pan from aluminum and had Duane Ballard stitch a custom leather cover. The pan connects to the tail section before it all gets bolted to the rear subframe with four fasteners.

Duane Ballard seat on custom Scout by Bill Dodge

Talented leather craftsman Duane Ballard stitched up this great looking seat for the Indian Scout Bill Dodge customized.

Speaking of the frame, Bill says nothing was changed on the Indian cast aluminum chassis. “Those pieces are coated from the factory in something that doesn’t like to come off,” he adds. He tried a high-quality chemical stripper; it only made the coating soft without removing it. Sandblasting wouldn’t touch it, either. Bill resorted to hand-sanding every nook and cranny to reveal the aluminum and had it all made shiny by Perfect Polishing Inc. in Daytona Beach.

The 69″ Indian Scout engine is stock, but changes include an air cleaner from Cory Ness and a Dynojet Power Commander. The exhaust is a custom piece of work. Bill cut and welded together stainless pipes to make the two headers and the collector that moves gases through a heavily modified SuperTrapp canister. The aluminum can was shortened about 8″, and the internals have been dissected and replaced to give the Indian a distinctive sound.

The paint on the Scout’s tank, swingarm, and tail section is a classic deep black with contrasting White Diamond Pearl applied by Chad Chambers of Chad Chambers Customs in Daytona Beach. The gold leaf Indian script is also Chad’s work.

To get the Scout to run cleanly after the air and exhaust modifications, Bill enlisted tuning wizard Zach Johnson of Kendall Johnson Customs. “I’d ridden the bike around a little bit, kind of pampering it before I decided to really get on it,” Bill says of the finished Scout. “When I did, it put down a 60′ strip of rubber in first gear. When I shifted into second, it put down another small strip before going right into a wheelie.”

Bill is more than happy that he was involved with Jason’s Scout from start to finish. Although it didn’t clinch a title in the Project Scout program, it did earn first place in Modified Custom of the US championship round of the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Competition at the 2016 Progressive International Motorcycle Show—pretty good for the first Indian Bill has ever laid hands on. – AIM

This story was originally featured in American Iron Magazine Issue # 347 along with a plenty of other great stories like a father and son who race against each other on supercharged street bikes, Billy Lane’s feature on the 1915 Harley board tracker he built for Buzz to race on, and a review of Harley’s 2017 Road King Special. To order a back issue of this or any other issue of American Iron Magazine, visit
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Polaris Motorcycle Division to Exhibit & Showcase 2018 Models at 2017 AIMExpo

Indian Motorcycle & Polaris Slingshot to Showcase its Model Year 2018 Lineup at American International Motorcycle Expo in Columbus, Ohio

The Polaris Motorcycle Division announced it will make its American International Motorcycle Expo (AIMExpo) debut in September at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The appearance of both Indian Motorcycle, America’s first motorcycle company, and Polaris Slingshot, the bold three-wheeled roadster, will allow the motorcycle industry and consumers alike to be one of the first to view each brand’s full 2018 model year lineup.

2017 Indian Chieftain Elite and 2017 Indian Chieftain Limited

Produced by the Motorcycle Industry Council, AIMExpo is the single most important event of its type in the North American market and has international impact within the motorcycle and powersports industry. Polaris Motorcycle Division’s support of AIMExpo further demonstrates the company’s continued support to grow and expand the motorcycle industry. In addition, the AIMExpo provides an ideal platform to reach consumers and entertain dealers.

“The AIMExpo provides both Indian and Slingshot the ideal platform to reach and engage the North American market and to showcase each brand’s new model year lineups,” said Steve Menneto, President, Polaris Motorcycle Division. “Additionally, the city of Columbus is strategically situated within the sweet spot of our consumer base, as well as our dealer network, making it an ideal location to showcase our products to key constituencies.”

Polaris Motorcycle Division to Exhibit & Showcase New Model Lineup at 2017 AIMExpo

The AIMExpo’s purpose is to serve as the catalyst to bring together industry, press, dealers and consumers in a single arena that creates a grand stage for motorcycling and powersports in the U.S. and North America. AIMExpo delivers an efficient and energetic market-timed expo platform for B2B and B2C in the powersports industry.

“We’re excited to welcome Indian Motorcycle and Polaris Slingshot to the AIMExpo for the first time,” said Larry Little, Vice President & General Manager, MIC Events. “Both brands bring a unique story unlike any other brand – with Indian’s historic place in motorcycling and Slingshot’s category-creating design. We fully expect both brands to be well received from attending industry professionals and consumers, and believe Indian and Slingshot will help contribute to make this the best show yet.”

Indian Launches 1st Eyewear in Spring/Summer 2017 Apparel Line

Indian Motorcycle Co Entry Sunglasses

Indian Motorcycle Co Entry Sunglasses

2017 Offering to Include Company’s First Line of Performance Eyewear

The Spring/Summer 2017 range of Indian Motorcycle apparel and gifts continues to grow with the introduction of new products and categories for the Indian Motorcycle rider and enthusiast. Now available from North American Indian dealers and via, the range includes the following:

Liberty Jacket (MSRP $849.99):
* The US-made jacket has a classic styling and is made from hardwearing horsehide that naturally repels water.
* With a relaxed fit, the jacket includes CE certified shoulder and elbow protectors, a removable red contrast thermal lining, front and back hidden ventilation panels and side seam adjustment.

Indian Motorcycles Liberty Jacket

Indian Motorcycle Co Liberty Jacket

Drifter Mesh Jacket (MSRP $199.99):
* New mesh riding jackets provide further options for summer warm weather riding.
* Lightweight construction with full mesh panels to the body and arms, providing maximum air-flow.
* Distinctive black, grey and ecru color combination with bold applique and embroidered branding to the back and chest with an Indian headdress embroidered patch to the arm.
* Inside the jacket is a lightweight windproof lining that provides protection when the temperature drops.
* CE certified shoulder and elbow protectors and side seam adjusters are further standard features in this jacket.

Drifter Mesh Jacket – Women’s (MSRP $189.99):
* The women’s version of has its own distinctive styling to set itself apart from the men’s version, but still includes the important motorcycle riding features, such as CE certified protectors and removable wind-proof lining.

Shadow Mesh Jacket (MSRP $189.99):
* While the Drifter Mesh has a bolder design, the Shadow mesh is a subtler style with black on black branding and all black color-way.
* Maximum airflow is achieved, thanks to the full mesh body and arms, while the jacket also includes a removable wind-proof liner, CE certified protectors and side seam adjustment.
Indian launches its first performance eyewear range with a collection of 4 designs to provide varying degrees of performance for use on and off the motorcycle, each of which have been CE certified.

Entry Sunglasses (MSRP $29.99):
* The first of the line include scratch resistant, anti-fog, shatter resistant polycarbonate lenses that have 100% UVA and UVB protection.
* The TR90 polycarbonate frame is lightweight and strong and includes non-detachable EVA foam eyecups that help to reduce peripheral light and wind when riding.

Lifestyle Sunglasses (MSRP $29.99):
* Made for riding with a low-profile polycarbonate matte black frame that will fit under your helmet.
* The lenses are shatter resistant polycarbonate and are also scratch resistant with anti-fog coatings and UVA/UVB protection.
* This style is also prescription ready.

Semi-Pro Sunglasses (MSRP of $59.99):
* The frame is a premium TR90 nylon that is strong and lightweight.
* The lenses are shatter resistant polycarbonate with anti-scratch and anti-fog coatings as well as UVA/UVB protection.
* The detachable EVA foam eyecups provide addition protection from peripheral light and wind when riding, and can be easily removed when not riding.
* This style is also prescription ready.

Performance Sunglasses (MSRP $99.99):
* High-quality RochFlex design frame, which is lightweight and durable.
* The photochromic polycarbonate lenses react quickly to changes in light, transitioning from light to dark in around 60-90 seconds. This means the wearer can wear these sunglasses all day, from dusk to dawn, and they will react to the conditions.
* The sunglasses also feature easily removable PU foam eyecups to provide maximum protection against peripheral light and wind.
* This style is also prescription ready.

Indian Motorcycle jersey Spring/Summer 2017 Apparel

Indian Motorcycle Co 183 MPH Tee

In the casualwear range, for men and women, the Indian collection continues to grow, offering new graphic tees, shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts. Two new tees in the men’s range include the World Tee and 183 MPH Tee, both inspired by Burt Munro and his land speed record attempts. The UV Protect Long Sleeve Tee provides UV SPF50 protection with thermal control, dry fast and high wicking properties, thanks to the cotton and bamboo charcoal fabric construction.

For the home, garage and man-cave, Indian offers new ranges of products. From the US-made woollen throw, large home-rug and numerous sizes of metal signs, these products make perfect gifts for any Indian rider and enthusiast. Learn more about Indian Motorcycle and it’s new range by visiting and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media channels.

Harley-Davidson to Lay Off 118 at York Plant as Softail Production Moves to KC

Harley-Davidson's York Plant

The York Daily Record is reporting that Harley-Davidson is moving all production of its Softail cruisers to Kansas City, eliminating 118 jobs at its Springettsbury Township plant in York, Pennsylvania as a result. The layoff affects 110 hourly workers, the other eight either salaried workers or contractors. Prior to the move, Harley produced five Softail models at York and two in Kansas City.

Harley reportedly informed employees in November 2015 that the company intended to move production of Softails to KC starting with the 2018 model year. Workers affected by the move “will have the opportunity to apply for jobs in Kansas City.”

Touring motorcycles and trikes will continue to be produced at York. Harley-Davidson reduced shipments of its 2017 motorcycles in the first quarter of 2017 in an effort to help dealers sell down their 2016 models. For the year, Harley-Davidson said it anticipates “full-year motorcycle shipments to be flat to down modestly in comparison to 2016.”

The Curious Case of Harley’s Tilting Three-Wheeler the “Penster”

Clyde Fessler on the first generation Harley Penster

Clyde Fessler sits on the first generation Harley Penster. “That was my project. I called it Project 21.” (Photo courtesy of Clyde Fessler)

The Harley-Davidson Museum calls it “Collection X: Never-before-seen Harley-Davidson prototype bikes created as concepts but never manufactured or sold.” Among those prototypes is an unconventional three-wheeler dubbed the “Penster.” We say unconventional because not only does it have two wheels in front and one in back ala Can-Am’s Spyder, but the front wheels tilt into turns. According to an article by The Kneeslider, the first version was built in 1998, while a final rendition was completed in 2006.

While information about Harley’s prototype is scant, we were privy to a little more of its history courtesy of Clyde Fessler. Fessler was employed by Harley-Davidson for 25 years, working his way up to Harley’s Vice-President of Development. He also served on its product planning committee for 12 years and has written a book about his time with The Motor Company called Rebuilding the Brand: How Harley-Davidson Became King of the Road.

Fessler said that Harley purchased a company called Trihawk back in the early ‘80s. The company made vehicles with two-front and one-rear wheel. They were powered by a 1299cc flat-four Citroen engine, had front wheel drive, and side-by-side seating. Fessler said he was V-P of marketing at the time and claimed “Citicorp killed it for financial reasons.

Trihawk was purchased by Harley-Davidson in the mid-80s

Harley purchased a company called Trihawk which made two-front, one-rear wheeled vehicles, back in the early ‘80s. (Photo courtesy of Clyde Fessler)

“Harley was in straights and we were looking to diversify but they said consolidate and the project was killed. But I fell in love with three-wheelers and always believed in two-ones,” said Fessler.

“So I hired a guy by the name of Johnny Buttera.”

Buttera, aka “Little John,” cut his teeth as a customizer in the hot rod scene before his career evolved into building front-engine dragsters, funny cars and Pro stocks. Known as a chassis master, “Little John’s” clients included Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Don “Stardust” Schumacher.

“He built race cars for Rick Mears for Indy and he built beautiful Softails. All his stuff looked like jewelry. He did the prototype for the project Penster. That was my project. I called it Project 21,” said Fessler.

Harley Penster first generation prototype was designed by John Buttera.

The Harley Penster first generation prototype was designed by hot rod legend John Buttera. (Photo courtesy of Clyde Fessler)

Fessler believed a titling three-wheeler was something the Baby Boom generation would want going forward.

“The mistake we made when designing the Penster was it was from an automotive standpoint. In other words, castor and camber, just like the Can-Am. We’d roll around corners like a truck. The problem with the Penster is that it leaned, but when you wanted to switch lanes, it didn’t react the right way. And even Delphi couldn’t get it. So if you were taking a right hand turn and all of a sudden you had to switch lanes to the left like you can do on a two-wheeler, well it wouldn’t respond but the wheels were still leaning and then you wanted to turn the handlebars they wouldn’t crank over.”

Harley Penster first generation

You can definitely see hot rodder Buttera’s influence on the first rendition of Harley’s Penster prototype. (Harley-Davidson Museum photo)

Still holding onto his love of three-wheelers and belief in two-ones, Fessler later served on the Board of Directors for Lehman Trikes where he was introduced to Bob Mighell. Turns out Mighell owns Tilting Motor Works, a company that has developed a bolt-on, two-wheeled tilting front end kit for Harley Tourers, Dynas and Softails.

“And I took one look at the product and got on it and rode around the block and said this is the magic answer. This is the design that really gives you the feeling of a two-wheeler with counter-steering and has all of the action of a two-wheeler but it’s a three-wheeler,” said Fessler.

He believes in Tilting Motor Works so much Fessler’s invested in the company and was helping out with marketing at the 2016 Sturgis Rally, which is where we first met him.

Harley-Davidson Penster Prototype

The second generation Harley Penster prototype was reportedly completed in 2006. (Harley-Davidson Museum photo)

“I think there’s a place in the marketplace for it. I predict, my gut feeling is Harley’s going to be launching one within the next two to three years, their own two-one,” stated Fessler.

He believes this in part because Fessler claims Harley sent an engineer out to spent five days with Mighell. Later, Fessler tried to make an appointment in Milwaukee with Harley CEO Matt Levatich when Mighell was making a promotional swing through the Midwest, but “they didn’t want to look at it.

“The fact that they didn’t even want to look at it and they had an engineer out there tells me that they got their own project going and they don’t want anything to do with potential legal action later on down the line,” surmised Fessler.

While this is purely conjecture, a three-wheeler that counter-steers like a motorcycle and provides a comparable riding experience would most likely appeal to Harley’s aging demographic. It’s a concept foreign competitors have embraced as well, from Yamaha’s LMW 08H concept to Hoonda’s NEOWING.

Time will tell how this plays out. Erstwhile, we’ve hitched a leg over a Harley equipped with Mighell’s bolt-on conversion. But that’s another story for a later date. Stay tuned.

Harley-Davidson Penster Prototype

The Penster, a three-wheeler with two front wheels that tilt into turns, is in the Harley-Davidson Museum’s “Collection X.” (Harley-Davidson Museum photo)

Sales, Net Income Down in Harley First Quarter Financial Report 2017


Harley-Davidson, Inc. (NYSE:HOG) first quarter 2017 diluted EPS decreased 22.8 percent to $1.05 compared to $1.36 in the same period of 2016. First quarter net income was $186.4 million on consolidated revenue of $1.50 billion versus net income of $250.5 million on consolidated revenue of $1.75 billion in the first quarter of last year.

“First quarter U.S. retail sales were in line with our projections and we remain confident in our full-year plan despite international retail sales being down in the first quarter,” said Matt Levatich, CEO, Harley-Davidson. “We are very pleased with our continued growth in U.S. market share and the progress our U.S. dealers made in reducing their inventory of 2016 motorcycles in the quarter.”

First quarter worldwide Harley-Davidson retail motorcycle sales were down 4.2 percent compared to the same period in 2016. In line with the company’s expectations, Harley-Davidson retail motorcycle sales in the U.S. were down 5.7 percent compared to the year-ago quarter, with the overall U.S. industry down for the same period. Harley-Davidson’s U.S. market share for the quarter was 51.3 percent in the 601cc-plus segment, up compared to the first quarter in 2016. Harley-Davidson’s international retail sales decreased 1.8 percent compared to the same quarter in 2016.

“We recently announced our plan to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders globally. We are energized by our focused strategy, and we believe our powerful brand and commitment to excellence will position us to drive demand for our products and grow our sport,” concluded Levatich.

The company’s long-term strategy through 2027 is focused on five objectives to:

  • Build two million new Harley-Davidson riders in the U.S.;
  • Grow international business to 50 percent of annual volume;
  • Launch 100 new, high-impact motorcycles;
  • Deliver superior return on invested capital for Harley-Davidson Motor Company (S&P 500 top 25%); and
  • Grow the business without growing its environmental impact.


Harley-Davidson Retail Motorcycle Sales

1st Quarter
2017 2016 Change
U.S. 33,316 35,326 -5.7%
Canada 2,361 2,470 -4.4%
Latin America 2,342 1,886 24.2%
EMEA 10,167 10,210 -0.4%
Asia Pacific 6,863 7,566 -9.3%
International Total 21,733 22,132 -1.8%
Worldwide Total 55,049 57,458 -4.2%


First quarter worldwide‎ retail sales of new Harley-Davidson motorcycles were down driven by lower sales in the U.S. As we expected, U.S. sales were adversely impacted by soft industry sales and the company’s decision to reduce shipments of model year 2017 motorcycles. This decision helped dealers focus on selling down their model year 2016 retail inventory. International retail sales were down behind weak sales in Asia Pacific, partially offset by strong growth in Latin America. Retail sales in EMEA and Canada were both down as they compared against strong prior year growth of 8.8 percent and 16.3 percent, respectively.


Motorcycles and Related Products Segment Results

$ in thousands 1st Quarter
2017 2016 Change
Motorcycle Shipments (vehicles) 70,831 83,036 -14.7%
Motorcycles $1,099,702 $1,317,578 -16.5%
Parts & Accessories $169,025 $183,705 -8.0%
General Merchandise $55,836 $70,618 -20.9%
Gross Margin Percent 35.9% 37.4% -1.5 pts
Operating Income $238,842 $332,457 -28.2%
Operating Margin Percent 18.0% 21.1% -3.1 pts


In the first quarter, revenue from the Motorcycles and Related Products segment was down versus the first quarter of 2016 on lower shipments.

Financial Services Segment Results

$ in thousands 1st Quarter
2017 2016 Change
Revenue $173,221 $173,358 -0.1%
Operating Income $52,636 $56,371 -6.6%


The Financial Services segment operating income was down 6.6 percent year-over-year due to a higher provision for credit losses. 

Income Tax Rate

For the first quarter of 2017, Harley-Davidson’s effective tax rate was flat compared to the prior year at 34.5 percent. The company continues to expect its full-year 2017 effective tax rate will be approximately 34.5 percent.

Other Results

At the end of the first quarter of 2017, cash and marketable securities totaled $844.7 million, compared to $739.1 million in 2016. Harley-Davidson generated $159.9 million of cash from operating activities in the first quarter of 2017 compared to $41.1 million in the same period of 2016. The company paid a cash dividend of $0.365 per share for the first quarter of 2017, an increase of 4.3 percent compared to the first quarter of 2016. On a discretionary basis, the company repurchased 1.2 million shares of its common stock during the first quarter of 2017 for $70.9 million. There were approximately 177.1 million weighted-average diluted common shares outstanding in the first quarter of 2017, compared to 184.2 million shares in the first quarter of 2016. At the end of the first quarter, 18.0 million shares remained on a board-approved share repurchase authorization.


For 2017, Harley-Davidson continues to anticipate full-year motorcycle shipments to be flat to down modestly in comparison to 2016. In the second quarter of 2017, the company expects to ship approximately 80,000 to 85,000 motorcycles.

Harley-Davidson continues to expect full-year 2017 operating and gross margin as a percent of revenue to be approximately in line with 2016.

The company continues to expect that full-year 2017 capital expenditures will be $200 million to $220 million.

American Iron News Harley Offers Rebates To Sell 2016 Motorcycles

Reuters is reporting that “Harley-Davidson has taken the rare step of offering rebates on its 2016 motorcycles to U.S. dealers as an incentive for them to shift a backlog that has restricted sales of its latest models.” The report is based on statements from three anonymous Harley dealers and two unnamed analysts.

The rebate is stated to be up to $1,000 on 2016 models and will run through the end of April according to the Reuters’ report. Though the practice is something Harley’s competitors frequently incorporate, The Motor Company generally takes a staunch stance against the practice. But a strong dollar has actually been working against Harley as it lowers the price of motorcycles from competitors abroad and reduces profits on motorcycles Harley ships oversees. There’s also been strong competition internally from Polaris Industries whose Indian Motorcycle brand has been cutting into Harley-Davidson sales.

Harley-Davidson’s First Quarter 2017 report corroborates the Reuters’ report as 2017 motorcycle shipments have been reduced to 70,831 in the first quarter, a 14.7% reduction compared to the 83,036 it shipped in the first quarter of 2016. “This decision helped dealers focus on selling down their model year 2016 retail inventory,” states the financial report. The First Quarter 2017 statement also shows that retail motorcycle sales in the U.S. were down 5.7% compared to the year-ago quarter.

The Reuters’ report claims that two of the three dealers who confirmed the story said they had never been offered a rebate before.

One Harley dealer in a western state reportedly told Reuters’ “It’s not normal. Usually, any incentives are customer-facing.”

Dream Ride Editor’s Choice Winner: The Red Mosquito 2004 Night Train

2016 Dream Ride Editor's Choice Winner

This sweet customized Harley Night Train earned our Editor’s Choice Award at the 2016 Dream Ride & Show.

  • Photos by Mark Velazquez 

Beneath the massive tent that houses the show bikes at the 2016 Dream Ride, one man stands out from the rest. His salt-and-pepper beard, trimmed yet full, his overalls cuffed to just below his calves, and his flip-flops exposing his toes to the subtle summer breeze set him apart from most other attendees, myself included, in boots with worn left toes and protection-less jeans. Yes, on this warm August afternoon, Chris Donaldson’s outfit truly belied the voracious young builder’s latest accomplishment. His craftsmanship on Bert Marinaro’s 2004 Night Train led to the bike’s designation as the Editor’s Choice winner, and yet, amid photos, trophies, and an interview, he is inundated with humility, true to form for a man in cuffed overalls.

Chris patiently and meticulously walks me around the bike, excitedly pointing out the multitude of pieces that required extra attention and dedicated work. Every piece of this drastically reworked motorcycle has Chris’ fingerprints fossilized into it, with this build essentially taking three years to finally be a complete, fully functioning, everyday rider. Owner Bert even rode to the Dream Show in Farmington, Connecticut, the day of the event, a fact made all the more refreshing while standing next to the builder amid a sea of trailers and hitches.

Bert Marinaro with his custom 2004 Harley Night Train built by Chris Donaldson of Donaldson Fabrication, LLC.

Bert Marinaro with his custom 2004 Harley Night Train built by Chris Donaldson of Donaldson Fabrication, LLC.

“This bike was built to be ridden,” Chris says. “There were several instances when the owner found it difficult to appreciate some of the one-off creations until they were visually appealing, but first we had to conquer functionality.” That helps explain the lengthy build time. But so does the meticulous eye with which Chris turned his attention to the foot controls, hand controls, front end, motor, gas tank, frame, oil reservoir, seat…you get the picture.

Let’s start up top, where the bike sports a supremely minimalist design. Chris opted for a set of highbars from Exile Cycles with risers from Roland Sands Design, which include an internal throttle assembly that helps set the stage for the ultimately clean system. Aiding in the effort to remove all the hubbub around the bars, Chris designed and manufactured a one-off remote master cylinder, which is operated by a modified clutch cable, and a bell crank system supplied by a remote reservoir. It’s a fresh design, and one that only entices the eye to look even closer at the minute details sprinkled throughout the body of work.

Red metal flake, gold leaf, silver leaf by Robert Pradke

This king tank received the Donaldson touch before being coated in red metal flake paint and both gold and silver leafing by Robert Pradke.

The gas tank is a modified king tank (note the crown gas cap) designed for Sportsters. Chris cut and lowered the tunnel to mount the tank higher on the backbone. The fuel petcock was relocated to the rear. The oil tank is also a custom-made piece, a mild steel cylinder with integrated battery box, ignition switch, and high-beam switch, the latter two components complementing the clean look on the handlebars. We’ll revisit the oil tank soon, as the paint and decal remain pertinent to the build. One of owner Bert’s favorite pieces of Chris’ work is the beehive oil filter located on the left side, just behind the BDL primary. Made from a single piece of 6061 aluminum, this is a fully functional oil filter with an integrated Harley filter, and the addition of copper supply and return lines accentuate the retro styling.

Bert wanted the bike to remain relatively modern, while achieving the appearance on an old school bobber. The springer front end was handled by Thompson Choppers from Ozark, Missouri, a well-chosen piece in the appeal to elder aesthetics. The chassis rolls on two Performance Machine (PM) Gasser Contrast wheels, 21″ up front and 18″ behind, wrapped in Metzler rubber, a tastefully modern look that meshes with the springer and other vintage-esque pieces scattered about. But Chris and Bert had to compromise on a few other parts, including the West Coast Choppers Jesse James rear fender, which Chris did not want hugging the tire nor too far forward. But Bert remained adamant about both this and having baffles in the exhaust, which was another Donaldson original made from .125″ stainless steel. The seat is custom-made, a steel pan with a support bracket and rear fastening system that allows for quick access to the battery. Bert did meet Chris in the middle, however, especially when it came to including the sissybar that not only adds another visually pleasing aspect (this was Chris’ take), but functionality, too. Now, both men can attest to the bar adding necessary support, especially “when the rider launches from a stoplight with 105 hp.”

Bert Marinaro's Red Mosquito

The “Red Mosquito” theme was influenced by the Pearl Jam song.

Speaking of those 105 ponies, Chris beefed up the motor as well, as he worked with supreme autonomy from Bert. “When it came to the motor and mechanical aspects, Chris had free reign,” Bert says. With room to maneuver, Chris punched the 88″ Twin Cam up to 95″, and opted for S&S Cycle 570 gear-driven cam, Screamin’ Eagle (SE) pushrods with .569″ of lift (“a perfect fit”), SE 10-1/2:1 forged pistons, and S&S Super E carburetor. The transmission remained untouched, but he did go with a BDL primary and clutch. The foot controls come from PM, but those presented another challenge for Chris. They had to be greatly modified in order to be pulled back to compensate for Bert’s limited leg reach.

And how about that paint? Both Bert and Chris came to a consensus on who would handle it: Robert Pradke of Eastford, Connecticut. A quick glance through Robert’s Instagram is all the evidence you need to understand why the two went with his tightly controlled vision, but you needn’t log online to figure this one out. Pradke laid down a base of red metal flake and hand-painted the gold and silver leaf flames flowing along the tank and fender. The Red Mosquito was influenced by the Pearl Jam track of the same name, which happened to be rocking across the airwaves when Bert was in Pradke’s shop. The caricature painted on the oil tank is curled in such a way that it almost mimics the aggressive style with which one would ride, buzzing through the wind at breakneck speed, riding the high.

After walking around the bike several times, round-trips filled with crouching, leaning in, stepping back, Chris’ wife, Carolyn, comes to collect him from the Dream Show tent. “She really runs the business,” Chris says with a hearty chuckle. “She flicks the lights in the workshop on and off to let me know it’s dinner time.” Donaldson Fabrication is as grassroots as it gets, as Chris works closely with his father on most projects they take in, and it’s not Chris’ full-time job, either. “We are a small shop focusing on the quality and individuality of each and every bike. Our goal is to fit the motorcycle to the owner while maintaining his or her original vision and to create a functional work of art,” Chris says. After taking home the Editor’s Choice award, Bert says, “Yes, it took the better half of three years to complete, but it worked out for the best.”

And so Chris heads off, and I make a few more rounds, snapping some photos and picturing myself in the leather-bound saddle. When I first arrived at the show tent, the glistening red custom was my personal choice for the award, yet I thought it stood little chance of actually being chosen given some of the other bikes that were entered in the contest. I kept returning to it, and after speaking with Chris, he puts into words the reason I felt drawn to it. “The beauty of this bike is found beyond the initial walk-by, and it isn’t really recognized until one takes the time to slowly examine each of the custom pieces as an individual element. It’s then that the bike really comes to life,” says the man in the cuffed overalls. This bike truly is one to be celebrated. AIM

If you like this story, there’s plenty more good stuff in American Iron Magazine Issue # 346 including a feature on Arlen Ness’s 1970 MagnaCycle, Rick Petko’s Racer X Boardtracker, and PDX Speed Shop’s cool XL Surfster!  To order a back issue of this or any other issue of American Iron Magazine, visit
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Indian Motorcycle & Veterans Charity Ride Announces 3rd Motorcycle Therapy Adventure to Sturgis

Veterans Charity Ride rolls out of Red Cliffs.

Nomination Program to Award Post-9/11 Veterans With Epic Adventure via “Hero’s Ride of a Lifetime”

Indian Motorcycle, America’s First Motorcycle Company, has again joined forces with “Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis,” a nine-day journey that provides veterans a chance to use motorcycle therapy as a way to decompress from the challenges of post-war life. Through the “Hero’s Ride of a Lifetime” program, well deserving veteran heroes can be nominated to join the ride from now until May 21.

Rolling out of Los Angeles on July 28 on Indian motorcycles, trikes and Champion Sidecars, the ride provides participating veterans the opportunity to work toward overcoming their post-war challenges while out on the open road. Riding through the most scenic back roads of the western United States, veterans will not only experience the great outdoors and the beauty this country has to offer, but also make stops to meet with other veterans, supporters, riders, and participate in various adjacent adventures. Upon arrival in Sturgis on August 5, the group will be treated to a special “Heroes Welcome” before taking part in a week of activities that further solidify the brotherhood and sisterhood formed during the ride.

“We’ll spend over a week riding on America’s most beautiful roads, getting to know each other and helping each other through Motorcycle Therapy,” said David Frey, Veterans Charity Ride Founder. “The shared experience of serving brings us together, veteran to veteran, to help each other heal.”

Twenty deserving veterans and veteran mentors will join the Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis in 2017. Additionally, organizers are offering two post-9/11 veteran heroes the chance to participate in the ride via the Hero’s Ride of a Lifetime program, which enables the public to nominate these two veterans. One space will be given to an ambulatory veteran motorcycle rider (proof of motorcycle license endorsement and sufficient riding experience required) and the other space will be given to a severely wounded or amputee veteran to ride as a sidecar passenger (no motorcycle experience required). Submissions are now being accepted online (here) with the selections to be announced July 4.

The Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis was conceived and developed by veteran Army Paratrooper Dave Frey and Emmy Award-winning producer and director Robert Manciero of Full Vision Productions, leveraging the therapeutic effects of motorcycle riding to create an adventure of a lifetime for wounded veterans.

Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis 2016

Primary sponsors of the Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis include Indian Motorcycle and Champion Sidecars & Trikes, with additional sponsorship and support provided by Monster Energy Drink, Cycle Gear, Nordic Components, Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys, and the Sturgis Buffalo Chip.

“Indian Motorcycle has been a proud supporter of the Armed Forces dating back to its role as a military supplier during WWI,” said Reid Wilson, Indian Motorcycle Marketing Director. “It’s an honor to give back to our military veterans through our relationship with the Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis and the incredible experience this ride provides.”

“Supporting our veterans by donating sidecars to accommodate amputee veterans in a safe, comfortable manner is something near and dear to our team and to me personally,” said Craig Arrojo, President of Champion Sidecars. “We are honored to be associated with such a worthy event, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with the Veterans Charity Ride for years to come.”

To follow the Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis, support our veterans, donate and hear their stories, visit and To nominate a post-9/11 veteran for the Hero’s Ride of a Lifetime program, visit

Harley-Davidson Launches Café Custom Accessories for Sportsters

Harley Roadster with Cafe Custom Accessories

Harley Roadster with Cafe Custom Accessories

A Look That’s Light, Fast and Loaded with Hard-Edged, Retro-Custom Attitude

Less is more because less is faster. That was the simple philosophy of the original café racers – bikers in 1960’s England who stripped motorcycles down to the bare essentials and put their machines to the test street-racing from coffee shop to coffee shop. The bikes became known as “café racers” and the stripped-down style became iconic.

Signature café-racer features – low-slung handlebars, rear-set foot controls and a narrow profile – define the look and feel of the new Café Custom accessories available now for Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycles from Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories.

Designed to transform the style, attitude and performance of the Roadster and other Harley-Davidson Sportster models, the new Café Custom accessories leverage the popular retro-custom look influenced by vintage café racers and the current garage-built bike scene. Café Custom accessories – including a sleek tail section with solo seat, clip-on handlebars and rear-set foot controls – may be installed as a complete package or individually, and combined with additional Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories items to complete a personal custom vision.

“The new Harley-Davidson Café Custom accessories dramatically alter the look of a Sportster, but they can also transform the riding experience,” said Harley-Davidson Senior Product Manager Rebecca Krueger. “The low bars, rear-sets and the seat position put the rider in an aggressive, athletic posture. When blitzing back roads or snaking through an urban jungle, riders feel connected to the motorcycle and the pavement because their weight is shifted lower and forward over the front wheel of the bike. Curbside, the look is unmistakably classic. These Café Custom parts provide the perfect foundation for a uniquely personalized Sportster.”

Café Custom accessories can even evoke a craving for more power.

“During testing we found the control and confidence a rider feels in the café riding position ignites an instant desire for more-potent Sportster performance,” said Krueger. “Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Accessories can unleash the potential of a Café Custom Sportster with the no-compromise Screamin’ Eagle Stage IV Street Performance Kit and the new Screamin’ Eagle Fully Adjustable Front Fork Kit and Screamin’ Eagle Fully Adjustable Piggyback Shocks.* Harley-Davidson can help Sportster owners create a bike with total Café Custom style, attitude and performance.”

Since not every Sportster owner has a fully-equipped garage – or the time and expertise required to scratch-build a custom motorcycle – Harley-Davidson Café Custom accessories have been designed to provide factory-quality fit and function with no cutting, welding or fab work required for installation.

Harley-Davidson Café Custom Accessories Low, narrow Gloss Black Clip-On Handlebars (P/N 55800647 39mm fork, P/N 55800668 49mm fork, P/N 55800646 55mm fork; $249.95**) enable the rider to “tuck in” over the tank in a classic, aggressive riding position to help to reduce wind resistance and improve control. Ideal for carving corners and splitting lanes (where allowable by law), these Clip-On bars mount on the fork tubes below the upper triple tree and narrow the overall width of the bike. Fully adjustable for reach and height, these individual 12.25-inch bars are engineered from solid aluminum for strength, and drilled and dimpled to accept bar-end mirrors and standard hand controls. The bars are secured to the fork tubes with precision-machined clamps and aircraft-grade hardware. Each kit includes bars, fork clamps and all mounting hardware. These bars fit many 2014-later Sportster models, and individual vehicle applications may require separate purchase of an instrument mount and cables or brake lines. See an authorized Harley-Davidson dealer for fitment details.

Harley Sportster Cafe Custom Bar End Mirrors

Harley Sportster Cafe Custom Clip-On Handlebars and Bar End Mirrors

The new Round Bar End Mirrors (P/N 56000133 Right Hand upright position, P/N 56000134 Left Hand upright position; $99.95**) complete a cut-down Café bike look. The mirrors offer an improved field of view on a bike equipped with narrow bars, are adjustable for maximum rear visibility, and can be positioned above the bar or, in some configurations, below the bar. Right and left mirrors are sold separately and include hardware required to fit both 7/8-inch or 1-inch bars. Installation requires separate purchase of Diamond-Black Hand Grips (P/N 56100199 or P/N 56100202; $99.95**). These mirrors fit stock or accessory handlebars on 1996-later Sportster models as well as many other Harley-Davidson motorcycle models. See an authorized Harley-Davidson dealer for fitment details.

The relationship between the seat, the handlebar and the foot controls has an enormous impact on the control and confidence felt when riding a motorcycle. The new Rear Set Foot Controls (P/N 50700040 Gloss Black, $699.95**) move the foot controls to the passenger foot peg location, transforming the Sportster riding position from a relaxed cruiser to an aggressive, curve-carving posture. When combined with Clip-On or Sportster Clubman Handlebars (P/N 55800342, $199.95**), the resulting hands-forward and feet-back profile drapes the rider over the bike for a feel that’s one with the machine. This complete Rear Set Control Kit includes all required components and hardware and retains the standard shift pattern. Unlike many after-market rear-set kits, this Harley-Davidson kit can be installed with the Original Equipment exhaust system. Installation requires removal of passenger footpegs and footpeg mounts and is for a solo rider application only. The kit reuses the Original Equipment rider footpegs and fits 2014-later Iron 883, SuperLow, Roadster, SuperLow 1200T, and Forty-Eight models.

Harley-Davidson Cafe Custom Rear Set Foot Controls

Harley-Davidson Cafe Custom Rear Set Foot Controls

The fast-back Café Custom Tail Section (P/N 59500644 Unpainted, $549.95**; P/N 59500560DH Vivid Black, $699.95**) mirrors the look and feel of the iconic 1977-79 Harley-Davidson XLCR Café Racer model, and re-imagines the style for the modern era. This seat supports an aggressive, lay-down riding posture when combined with Clip-On or Sportster Clubman Handlebars (P/N 55800342, $199.95**) and mid- or rear set foot controls. An upturned tail and longer nose positions the solo rider closer to the tank for better weight balance, quicker steering and added front-end feedback. The bolt-on design wraps the fender struts – no frame modification is required – and the installation is reversible back to a stock seat. The complete kit features a sweeping composite tail section with a steel inner support, a deep solo seat with backstop pad, and all necessary installation hardware. The kit fits 2007-later Iron 883, Roadster, Nightster, Seventy-Two and Forty-Eight models. Canada and other International models may require separate purchase of License Plate Bracket Kit.

Harley Sportster Cafe Custom Tail Section

Harley Sportster Cafe Custom Tail Section

These and other Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories are available at more than 750 authorized retail locations in the United States and online.

* Screamin’ Eagle products are not available for sale in all countries. Please contact your local dealer for more information.

** Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), excluding taxes, shipping and labor cost for installation. Prices at local dealerships may vary and are subject to change. All items are subject to availability and prior sale by our dealers.