Type to search

Readers Ride: A DIY Custom Sportster Inspired by Japan

Readers Ride

Readers Ride: A DIY Custom Sportster Inspired by Japan


We don’t know for sure. Maybe it has something to do with not being subjected to the ridiculousness of Daylight Saving Time or having access to the amazingness of trains with foot spas (yes, these exist). Regardless, seemingly every single custom that churns out of Japan is glorious. Every. Single. One.

Derik Gustafson of Austin, Minnesota, agrees and decided to do something about it. “I had been following a lot of what had been going on in Japan with bike builders there, and that quickly became my inspiration for my next build,” he says. By following, Derik meant he clicked follow on Instagram. Derik also spent time surfing forums, including ChopCult.

Whether or not he was just a lurker, Derik finally identified his concept: hardtailed, simple, and skinny in the Japanese style. “I wanted to keep things as vintage looking as I could,” he adds.

However, that reasonable goal soon became quite a tall order when Derik bought a $500 1976 Sportster. “It had been completely torn down with some stock stuff on there,” Derik remembers. “Lots of aftermarket garbage.” Derik also used the words basket case to describe it. Basically, he faced a formidable learning curve. “I appreciated the challenge though,” he says. “This build really built my confidence.”

Both the building of Derik’s confidence and his custom occurred using normal tools, though Derik later purchased a small wire feed welder to fab a key relocation and coil setup. And while he had permission to work in his two-stall garage, Derik was given one rule: “My wife’s car had to be in the garage every night,” he says. “But my side was mine to do whatever I wanted with.” Regardless of what side Derik worked in, neither has heating. “It can get pretty cold,” he says before quickly adding, “but not cold enough to stop working.” At least they’re insulated.

Derik’s aforementioned learning curve began at more of a rigid angle than a rounded arc when removing the rear section to install the David Bird hardtail. “It was awesome making those first cuts, knowing there was no going back,” Derik comments. Next, he converted the neck to accommodate a front 33.4mm drum.

Motor work, primary reassembly, and carb rebuilding soon followed in Derik’s garage, along with machining the clutch shell to add a kicker. But transmission mods were completed at a Harley shop. “The Ironhead transmission is prone to issues,” explains Derik. “I just didn’t have the tools and knowledge to nail it.”

Derik did, however, possess the know-how to modify the rear fender when a new rear wheel made fitting parts together difficult. Luckily, an aftermarket sissybar, rear brakes, and seat came on with no incident. “The exhaust I installed got a little weird to hang right, but I figured it out,” he adds.

And to get that “vintage AMF look with a colorful twist,” Derik applied Sparymaxx, a product he swears by for builders on budgets. Derik, are you sure you live in Minnesota and not, maybe, Tokyo? AIM