Lost Boys Bike
2001 Harley-Davidson XR750
By Dain Gingerelli
Peter Pan lives! And he rides a Harley-Davidson XR750 flat track racer–on the street. But what else would you expect from the leader of the Lost Boys? By hook or by crook, he plays by his own rules.
And Peter Pan’s first rule clearly states: “Make up the rules as you go.” Rule No. 2? See Rule No. 1, and those were the rules that Peter Pan, aka Kevin Atherton, followed when he built this XR750 for the street. More on how he did that in a minute.
But first, if Kevin’s name rings a bell, then you’re probably a longtime fan of motorcycle flat track racing. Kevin spent about 20 years as an AMA Expert specializing in roundy-round competition, better known as flat track. He was AMA Rookie of the Year in 1988, and before hanging up his steel shoe in 2007 he had racked up 14 AMA National wins. Not bad for a guy who, at 5’3″, shares the same vertical specs you expect for Peter Pan himself.
But know this: Kevin Atherton was a gritty racer who also happened to possess a strong mechanical aptitude. He used those credentials in 2001 to purchase a new XR750 engine that he reconfigured for a bike he intended to take ice racing during the offseason. See, Pete—erm—Kevin, was born and raised in Michigan, and diehard flat track fans know that motorcycle guys from the state that’s shaped like a snow mitten love nothing more than spending the quiet winter months sliding their bikes on frozen lakes. And Michigan has plenty of those glacier-formed pockets of water that freeze solid, creating the perfect place to play.
Kevin began the engine build with a few choice race parts. He started with a set of lightened flywheels from Falicon Crankshaft Components, which he and his tuner had experimented with a few years prior in hopes of squeezing more speed from their dirt track bike. “They [the flywheels] were too light for the dirt track, but I went ahead and put them in this engine,” he explains. The result is an engine with snappy throttle response.
At this point in the engine story we can drop a few other notable flat track names: Carrillo rods support JE pistons, and the Phil Darcy heads are packed with Del West titanium valves that take their cadence from the same quartet of cams that Harley originally supplied with the engine. There’s also the requisite 39-1/2mm Mikuni flatslide carbs posted on the engine’s right side to complement the sexy Supertrapp megaphones on the left. The engine’s right side also sports a Mert Lawwill magnesium cam cover, and you’ll find a magnesium oil pump tucked inside. The gearbox has Millennium coated XR750 cogs.
Kevin slipped the completed engine into a C&J chrome-moly monoshock frame, similar to the frames that the famous maker supplied him for the dirt. In terms of suspension, the front 19″ wheel rides on a Showa inverted fork with gold-nitrate coating. A single White Power rear shock absorber controls the rear C&J swingarm, and like the front wheel, the rear is a 19-incher, the combo being standard fare for all flat track race bikes. Kevin said he selected the Golden-brand tire (front, offered through Chris Carr) and Continental Blitz (rear) as opposed to the familiar Dunlops used by today’s racers because they’re DOT-approved. Dunlops aren’t DOT certified. Just because you’re Peter Pan doesn’t mean you always break the rules.
The bike’s silhouette is pure flat tracker, too. The ubiquitous 1-3/4-gallon fuel tank butts up against the sleek Saddlemen seat, and the old-school footpegs are from Bates. Ditto for hand controls from Motion Pro, Magura, and Brembo, all familiar names within the flat track circle, and you won’t find an oil tank on this baby. The C&J frame’s backbone holds the Texas Tea.
There’s no charging system, either. In fact, figuring out the bike’s electrics for street use proved a major hurdle, one that Kevin cleared a few years ago after he relocated from the Wolverine State to the Sunshine State of Florida, settling near Crystal Springs on the west coast where the warm weather agrees with some of the aches and pains that remain when a racer retires. And so, with assistance from Wayne Hicks of Wayne’s Citrus Cycle in Floral City, Florida, Kevin devised the bike’s dual-ignition system, with its power source a rechargeable three-cell lithium battery that’s compact and lightweight.
“Essentially, though, it’s a race bike with a headlight and taillight,,” says Kevin. And by the time the battery begins to need a recharge, Kevin’s also ready to park the bantam-weight XR750 for the day; there’s only so much comfort available from a bike intended for racing only. Even so, he rides the XR several times each week.
And what’s it like to ride? First of all the engine is loud, with a capital L. “I removed the Supertrapp’s baffling system, so it’s pretty loud,” Kevin confesses. “And it is a race bike, so I can slide it when I want to.”
But before Kevin rides the XR, he has to start it, and as the photos reveal there’s no kickstart lever or electric starter motor to be found on the bike. Instead, the starter motor is tucked away in a backpack that“Peter Pan” totes along on the ride. “It’s an auxiliary motor like the ones used at the racetrack,” explains Kevin. The hand-held portable motor weighs about 9 pounds and easily stores in his backpack, to be called on to fire up the engine anytime during the ride.
Speaking of rides, it’s not uncommon for Kevin to display a bit of enthusiasm when throttling through the streets of western Florida. That, of course, explains the long, arcing skid marks you might spot at choice intersections or on country roads leading to and from Crystal Springs. As the saying goes, “You can take the boy out of the race, but you can’t take the race out of the boy.” Consider that Rule No. 3.
Owner Kevin Atherton
Builder Kevin Atherton
Year/model 2001 Harley-Davidson XR750
Time to build Four months
Polisher Kevin Atherton
Powdercoater Tim Johnson
Painter Dodge Bros. Automotive, Granada Hills, CA
Color Harley Racing Orange
Engine 2001 XR750
Builder Kevin Atherton
Flywheels Falicon Crankshaft Components
Connecting rods Carrillo
Heads Phil Darcy
Valves Del West, titanium
Push rods Aluminum
Carbs Two Mikuni Flat-Slide 39-1/2mm
Air cleaner K&N
Exhaust Supertrapp open megaphones
Coils Four Pvl [OK?] coils
Wires Four NGK
Regulator Total loss
Oil pump Magnesium race pump
Cam cover Mert Lawwill
Primary cover Magnesium
Gears XR750, Millennium coated
Primary drive XR750 two-row chain
Final drive 520 DID gold chain
Frame C&J chrome-moly single shock
Rake 24-1/2 degrees
Front fork Showa, inverted with gold nitrate coating
Swingarm C&J chrome-moly
Shock White Power
Front wheel Performance Machine, 19″
Rear wheel Performance Machine, 19″
Front brake Brembo
Rear brake Brembo
Front tire Chris Carr Golden
Rear tire Continental Blitz
Headlight Dyna, LED
Taillight Custom, LED
Fuel tank 1-3/4-gallon XR750
Oil tank In backbone of frame
Handlebars Stainless steel dirt track #24 bend
License bracket Custom
Mirrors Dental mirror
Hand controls Motion Pro
Levers Magura clutch, Brembo brake
Audio Exhaust note!