Harley’s Custom March Madness

Out to prove that custom truly is king, Harley-Davidson invited dealers to showcase their individuality in the Custom Kings Customization Contest. Dealers from all over the country turned a Sportster motorcycle into a “Custom of One” work of art – earlier today the top 64 creations were revealed for fans to help choose the ‘king’ in a bracket-style competition at www.H-D.com/CustomKings.

The Sportster was selected for its unrivaled ability to be transformed into the very definition of performance art and its attainable pricing, which makes the bike a realistic goal for nearly any rider.

Initial entries were scored by the Harley-Davidson styling team based on criteria including quality of customization and build, fit and finish, use of paint, design, technique and how teams utilized Harley-Davidson Genuine Parts & Accessories.

“Customization is one of the biggest ways riders showcase and celebrate their individuality,” said Dino Bernacchi, director of U.S. marketing at Harley-Davidson. “Custom Kings brings that forward by redefining performance through the expertise and ingenuity of Harley-Davidson dealers throughout the country. All of the competitors have put in months of planning, building and straight-up creative thinking into each of the bikes featured in the contest.”

The entries with the most votes in each match-up will move on to the next round of the competition. Fans will select the final winner after six rounds of bike-to-bike battles.

Fans can view all of the bike builds by following #HDCustomKings or H-D.com/CustomKings for more information and to cast their vote today.

Kurt’s Led Sled Custom Sportster Bobber Bites Him Back

Blame it on the Wapatui punch, a glorious blend of gut-wrenching, largely grain spirits, Red Bull, and cheap fruit slung together, shaken, and stirred, in a trash can. Legend has it that this elegant cocktail made its debut at a frat house somewhere in Minneapolis, but it has apparently gained a popular legion around the banks of Lake Erie and Cleveland in particular. Its magical qualities can make your day and ruin your night. Or make your night and ruin your day. In other words, Wapatui is beautiful. And heinous. Beautifully heinous. However, enough about that distinguished elixir for the moment.

Not to sound like an elementary school grammar lesson, but this bike is cool. I know that. You know that. We know that. But cool can only take you so far, and there’s often a lesson in humility to be found at the end of the trail. Such was the case with Kurt Epprecht last summer during the Sturgis rally. Kurt had picked up a mildly wrecked 1998 Sportster Sport about a year before the hoedown in the Black Hills. The XL wasn’t so demolished that our Wapatui warrior couldn’t ride it from Cleveland down to Pat Patterson and his Led Sled crew in Dayton. Kurt told the boys what he had in mind — and the posture he and his slight inseam so desired — and then let Pat go nuts as only Pat and the Led Sledders can.
One thing Kurt, a track racer and genuine all-around motorcycle fiend, supposedly specified were pipes that wouldn’t easily scrape and turn into scrap metal. Maybe Pat didn’t hear that request or perhaps he just had his own ideas. No matter. Kurt picked up the stunner you see before you (well, not quite) on Memorial Day 2010, blasted off with mad aggression, quickly turning the bike’s initially low-slung dual exhaust into a pair of sparking cheese graters. Clearly something had to be done.

Pat and his henchmen had already tossed everything from Kurt’s wrecked Sporty. In case you’ve never had the honor, Pat and his pals, true XL wunderkinds, take great pride in tossing pretty much everything you hand them with the exception of your motor. They might even toss you if you hang around too long. It’s what they do, and they do it best. (Full disclosure: I have been honored and tossed in such splendor, and I have a sick Led Sled to prove it.)

As you can see, nothing on Kurt’s scoot is stock, save the H-D 1200 mill. From the frame to the bars, fender, struts, floorboards, oil bag, gas tank, battery cradle, seat, paint, fender … The boys really went to town on this one, not that they can otherwise control themselves when handed a lucky victim. They have a disease, which should not be diagnosed.

Of particular note is the front end, a Led Sled first. That’s right,  yet again, another groundbreaking American Iron exclusive. The National Enquirer has nothing on us! “Kurt’s bike is the first springer we built from scratch,” says Pat. “It’s our design, and we’re really proud of how it looks. In the back legs, you might notice a raised part that comes to a point. We’re trying to pay attention to detail and still make it a killer ride. Given the rake and the fat front tire, you can still throw that thing into corners and it’s awesome. You might feel a crack or two in the road, but you can whack it and give it hell just like anything else.”

Although I’d known Pat for awhile before he decimated and then beautifully resurrected my XL, Kurt had never met Pat prior to his Led Sled odyssey. “It’s always kind of strange when you’re building a bike for a dude that you don’t know,” Pat concedes. “But what’s so cool is that he trusts you. And you have to respect that insane trust. Ideally, it becomes a bond.”

Bond, trust, honor, detail … It all comes back to the finished product, with which Kurt was thrilled. Except for those damn low-slung pipes. And now we come to the lesson in humility. Having shredded his exhaust, bada$$ that he is, Kurt went back to the swami and requested that Pat give him the upswept pipes he’d originally asked for. And so Pat did, setting those suckers above the floorboards and angling them, as you can see, over the fender, pointing to the moon, the sun, your deceased relatives, or whatever else you believe in. How gorgeous. Kurt was a happy man.

Then it all went to s#!%.

“It was Sunday night at the [Buffalo] Chip,” recalls Kurt. He was drinking Wapatui (remember that?) with his buddies, and they were just happy to have enjoyed a great day riding Spearfish Canyon, eating Indian tacos, and generally being the distinguished gentlemen that frequent the annual gathering in the Black Hills. Kurt and company were hanging on top of their RV perched above the Chip’s stage hill camp area, perfectly situated to take in the evening’s music. And, of course, soaking themselves in the trash  can glory that is Wapatui.
When the sun sank, the band cranked, and things got really dark. To show his appreciation of the whole spectacle, Kurt zeroed in on the one thing he thought was lacking — a personal “rev check,” whatever that is. (I’ve knelt at the knees of some old school authorities, and nobody has ever heard the term, but, apparently it’s a sportbike ritual referring to revving the hell out of your bike at a standstill — always an honorable practice.)

Kurt’s rev check found him, perhaps a bit sloshed, with his Led Sled bobber in a dim section of grass. “I went to fire it up,” Kurt remembers. “Damn those pipes sounded so good. I had some trouble locating the switches to start the thing, but I worked it out. Then I slung my right leg over and my boot lace caught on the slash-cut, upswept pipes. I tried to pull it off, but things were going and my curled leg and body position would not allow me to free my boot from the pipe. I ended up falling over the bike while my foot was still stuck on the pipe and then the bike fell on top of me. I woke the next morning, and I had a huge gash on my thigh where the petcock had torn through my jeans, and my knee was the size of a pumpkin.”

Kurt spent that day at the Rapid City Emergency Room where he was diagnosed as having a severely sprained MCL (medial collateral ligament) and a shanked quadriceps muscle. “It kind of screwed up my Sturgis vacation,” admits Kurt. “But you can still have fun at the Chip, even if you are crippled.”

For the record, Kurt and his ailments are now healed, his bike is as ratty and marvelous as ever, his treasured (and dubious) high pipes remain, and his arm is frozen from constantly stirring a trash can full of Wapatui.
Fear the juice. AIM

Story as published in the September Issue of American Iron Magazine.