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Harley Cross Bones Gets The Rat Treatment

Custom Motorcycle Feature

Harley Cross Bones Gets The Rat Treatment


Facebook is an interesting construct. As a social networking platform, there are those who either use it religiously or have absolutely no interest at all in taking part in the Internet phenomenon.

Beyond its endless portrayal of the selfie lifestyle, however, Facebook does have some value. For example, Kyle Shorey of Shadetree Fabrications in Dallas maintains a presence on the site. His use of Facebook has landed him some work.

While Kyle was in Connecticut picking up a customer’s bike, he received a message on Facebook from Kay Nikolopoulos in New York. “She said she liked the look of the bikes that I build, and that she was interested in sending me her Cross Bones for customization,” Kyle says. “When I asked where she was located, she said Long Island. I replied that I was nearby.”

They quickly caught up by telephone. Ideas and pricing were discussed, and although Kay said she wanted a ratty bike, Kyle agreed to the job. He and his family were traveling in their pickup, and he already had a bike in the box with room for one more. He stopped at a Home Depot to buy extra tie-downs, and when he arrived at Kay’s, they loaded on her 2010 Harley-Davidson Cross Bones. Soon enough, Kyle was on his way back to Texas with two projects.

Kyle and his company have built something of a reputation. He especially likes older machines, but he specializes in building components for newer Harley-Davidson Softails, including complete bolt-on rear fender kits, handlebars, battery boxes, and gas tanks. He also retails a line of cast parts with appropriately embossed words, such as floorboards that read Step Here, brake pads with Holy $#!% (except for real), and gearshift pads that proclaim Faster and Slower. All tongue in cheek, of course.

While Kyle says he doesn’t build rat bikes, he thought the Cross Bones that Kay wanted would give him the opportunity to do something just a little bit different than what he’d been building. Plus, he wanted to have the machine finished in time so he could deliver it to Kay on June 1, 2014, at Aidan’s Ride in Brooklyn, New York. The ride, hosted by the staff of Indian Larry Motorcycles, is in support of the Aidan Jack Seeger Foundation. Young Aidan was born with ALD, or X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy. This is a disease that affects one in 17,000, and it progressively damages the myelin tissues that cover nerves. Caught early, the disease can be treated, but it’s not usually detected until symptoms begin in mid childhood. Aidan succumbed early in his fight. As the son of Indian Larry shop owners Elisa and Bobby Seeger, the foundation was started to help raise funds and awareness of ALD. Kyle wanted to be there in 2014 to support the cause.

When he got back to his shop in Dallas, Kyle set to work on Kay’s Cross Bones. He intended to keep the seat and handlebars low, so he bolted on a set of his Low Bones bars with a brushed steel finish. One inch in diameter, these speedster bars have integral risers that help give an old-school look to the Harley-Davidson springer front fork. Also, he permanently removed the front fender and placed a Shadetree Fabrications 5-3/4″ brass ring headlight atop the springer. The hand controls are stock, as is the wheel and brake setup, but the grips are Kyle’s own cast aluminum versions, finished with baseball bat grip tape as opposed to his usual leather wrap.

For the seat, Kyle made his own metal pan and covered it with laser-etched leather complete with stainless steel screws topped with brass acorn nuts. He uses the screws and nuts as opposed to rivets, noting that it’s something of a Shadetree Fabrications trademark. When he put the seat on the Cross Bones, he installed a shorter spring to keep it closer to the ground. Kyle made no other modifications in attempting to lower the motorcycle.

Kay’s bike got the first production set of cast brass Step Here floorboards, Holy $#!% brake pad, and Faster/Slower pads for the heel/toe shifter. These components were designed specifically for late model Cross Bones and Fat Boy Lo machines. Kyle makes all of his own molds and sends them out to a local artisan to have the components cast in aluminum or brass. Also on Kay’s bike is a Shadetree Fabrications New York City-cast brass manhole air cleaner cover, which seems fitting since the bike was going back to live with Kay in New York.

At the back of the Cross Bones, Kyle bolted in one of his Softail fender kits. The kit includes all of the hardware required to bolt the custom fender to the swingarm. For his 8″- and 9″-wide fenders, Kyle partnered with Joe Cooper of Cooper Smithing Co. in Buckley, Washington. Working in a small, rustic, yet well-equipped shop, Joe hand-forms custom fender blanks from single sheets of steel. Kay’s bike got the very first proprietary Shadetree Fabrications fender built by Cooper Smithing Co.

The exhaust system is made from stock header pipes, wrapped to give them a ratty look, with cocktail shaker tips attached. Kyle removed the stock powdercoat finish on several engine components and the dash. Then, on these pieces, and just about everything else that would have originally been shiny, he dusted them with a light coat of flat black paint. He went over that with a Scotch-Brite pad to give the surface a timeworn appearance.

On the gas tank, oil tank, and rear fender Kyle sprayed the bare metal with a chemical to induce rust. Once the surface began to oxidize, Kyle sprayed approximately five different layers of paint. Eventually, the layers were sanded back in spots to reveal different colors underneath and the rust.

When he was finished, Kyle loaded the bike in a trailer and hauled it up for Aidan’s Ride. It was the first time Kay got to see the Cross Bones, and Kyle rode the motorcycle on Aidan’s Ride.

Say what you will about Facebook, it was a great connection for both Kyle and Kay. AIM 319