Kaotic Kustoms Harley Tail-dragger
By Wayne Scraba photos by Shooters Images
Kyle Murphy owns a small, full-service custom and repair shop in Batavia, Illinois. The shop goes by the name of Kaotic Kustoms, and according to Kyle, there can be moments when the shop is true to its name. Murphy isn’t shy about what he works on, and that can include pretty much anything from lifted 4×4 diesels to sportbikes. Additionally, Kyle’s operation is a one-man show, and, to the say the least, business keeps him hopping. What personally drives Kyle, though (and perhaps the real crux of the operation), are hot rod Harley-Davidsons, custom Softails in particular.
While Kaotic Kustoms has only been in business for five years or so, Kyle has been involved in the mechanical end of the motorcycle and car business for almost two decades. He began wrenching at the back of a motorcycle dealership, and today he’s doing the exact same thing, except for himself.
Murphy is quick to point out that one of his big secrets in business is to keep costs under control. Essentially, you have to give customers the biggest bang for their buck. The motorcycle spread out in the pages in front of you is a good example of this philosophy.
For a small operation, Kaotic Kustoms rolls out more than its fair share of custom baggers. They’re still a hot commodity, and Murphy builds some wild ones, but he really wanted to do something different for his personal ride. By building a bike for himself, Murphy tells us he’s not restrained by a customer’s whims and desires. He can build it the way he wants. As it turns out, Kyle was attracted to the long, low tail-dragger look that’s all the rage on the West Coast. The perfect model for a Cal-look bike is a FLSTN (Softail Deluxe). So that’s what Murphy set out to find. It didn’t take long before he tracked down a super-low mileage creampuff at a nearby Harley-Davidson dealer. The machine wasn’t in his shop for long before it was stripped down to the bare essentials.
Given the great performance a late model Twin Cam can provide, Kyle left it alone (and in the frame). The biggest change to the 103″ powerplant was the exhaust. It now wears a set of 39″ Samson Cholos. They’re the signature pipes of a So Cal low riding tail-dragger, and they fit the bill perfectly. A Vance & Hines tuner looks after the electronics for the EFI system. The only other modification to the Twin Cam is the air cleaner, which is a Roland Sands Design Speed 7. Backing up the engine is a stock primary, stock clutch, and stock six-speed Cruise Drive gearbox.
The big changes to the bike are on the chassis. Out back, the swingarm is chrome-plated. The stock suspension was ditched in favor of an air ride package (controls are on the handlebars). On the nose, Murphy swapped out the fork legs for a set of smooth jobs from Arlen Ness. The front end was lowered, and as you can see, the right-side caliper boss was shaved. For brakes, the machine wears chrome-plated OEM four-piston brake calipers, front and rear. The rotors and rear pulley are from Sinister Wheel. They (obviously) match the 21″ front and 16″ twisted-spoke Sinister wheels. Kyle wrapped the wheels with appropriate white wall Avon Cobra rubber: a 120/70-21″ skin up front and a MT90/B-16″ job on the rear.
To keep the look right, Kyle stretched the stock fenders. He added 5″ of stretch to the front and a whopping 8″ of stretch to the rear. Murphy tells us it took a lot of work to get the arch right, while at the same time keeping the lines flowing cleanly. The fenders are all metal-worked and metal-finished. The reason for only using metal is the fact that Kyle doesn’t really like adding fiberglass extensions to steel fenders (the bond never lasts).
Upstairs, part and parcel of the tail-dragger look are apehangers. In this case, Murphy added a Burly Brand 1-1/4″ apehanger (14″ rise), mounted by way of a set of Drag Specialties Buffalo risers and a Burley Brand gorilla clamp. Hand controls are chrome-plated Harley-Davidson bits, while the grips are from Arlen Ness. Ditto with the underslung Radz mirrors. The brake lines are braided throughout, and virtually everything on the bars is polished and chrome plated.
Speaking of chrome: this bike drips with chrome (which is par for the course with this look).
Almost everything that could be plated was. All of the work was handled long distance by Classic Chrome Components out of Santa Ana, California.
For lighting, the bike wears traditional low rider headlamp nacelle visors, signal lamps, and spot lamp visors. Out back the taillight is an equally traditional tombstone from SoftBrake. The plate mount is also out of the SoftBrake parts inventory.
Kyle didn’t have to go far for paint. He went right next door to Spike Body Werks for color. The scheme is based upon House of Kolor Orion Silver base, covered in Candy Root Beer and Candy Honey. Check out the photos for the intricate lacework buried deep in the Root Beer. It’s all separated with hand-laid silver leaf and hand pinstriping. As you can see, it’s drop-dead gorgeous.
You’d think this bike was built as a showpiece. But you’d be wrong. There are no big shows planned or scheduled for the bike. Instead, the tail-dragger is Kyle’s personal rider, and it’s his company calling card. He builds one every year or two, and in this case, he hasn’t had much time to actually use it. Between work at the shop and old man winter rolling in, the cruiser is quietly resting at Kaotic Kustoms. Rest assured, however, the locals will get a close look at it soon enough. And that’s important because Kyle is determined to drag that popular So Cal tail-dragger look back East. Watch for it! AIM