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Sam’s Led Sled Custom Harley Sportster

American Iron Magazine Custom Motorcycle Custom Motorcycle Feature Harley Reviews Sportsters

Sam’s Led Sled Custom Harley Sportster


If you think this little golden beast is absolutely stunning, you should have seen it before. Way before. “Yeah,” notes Pat Patterson, the guru behind Dayton, Ohio’s Led Sled Customs. “Most people bring us new or almost new bikes. In terms of how they usually look when they’re brought to us, yours was kind of an exception.”

And with those words, Pat exposes himself as a generous master of understatement. This Sportster was a wreck when it first darkened Led Sled’s door, the battered victim of a fairly spectacular end-over-end, game-crushing incident that involved, among other things, a frozen front brake and me barrel-rolling 50 yards down the road. I’m not exactly proud of that little stunt. I am, however, proud (extremely proud) of this bike. At least as it stands today. It’s mine, and I’m one lucky dude. Now, with that out of the way we can get down to business.

After my header, I was left with a totaled 1996 XL 1200, a sorry state of affairs by any measure. Always quick with a solution (not to mention a snarky comment), AIM Editor Chris Maida suggested we turn my balled-up bike into a magazine project. I believe Chris’ words were something to the effect of “We haven’t done a Sportster in awhile and so, being the $#@?&% idiot that you are, you just helped us out.” He’s such a kind man.
Anyway, we didn’t have to wrack our brains for long to agree on who would be ideal to tackle such a potentially heinous project. Pat and his Led Sled crew were the obvious choice, as they specialize in Sportsters, and their builds tend to involve chucking everything stock, except for the motor, about the only part of my bike that had managed to avoid the carnage. Okay, maybe my gas cap survived. Regardless, one call to Pat and the party was on.

For those unaware, Led Sled has fast become renowned for its thoroughly unique treatment of Sportys. However, not too long ago, Pat was making his cake as an overland trucker, a job he held for 10 years, starting at age 21 with his own rig. He eventually ended up with six semis and a team he posted on various Midwestern routes. All the while, though, he was toying first with his 1993 XL and later with other people’s rides. When he wasn’t hauling freight, he was in his garage trying to make Sportsters look cool with little more than a bench, grinder, and MIG welder. Pat also discovered he could lay down some killer paint. That led to him going to vocational school and learning how to work a lathe. Then, of course, he needed more room in a real shop.

Although he didn’t realize it, the seeds for Led Sled were quickly being sown. “$#!% just happened, until I was so busy working on bikes one day that it dawned on me: I couldn’t drive trucks anymore because if I’m not here at the shop all the time, this place ain’t gonna grow.” That was around 2003, when Led Sled officially opened its doors. Pat was 31 and destined to become “The Man” in XL land.

“We’ve been really blessed,” admits Pat, considering the state of the custom world today. “I never started this company thinking we’d have a niche or that I was going to roll the Sportster market. I’ll do a big bike for somebody, no problem. But Sportsters are what I want to build. That’s where my heart is. Hell, I still have a million parts in my head that would make a Sportster look cool.”At this point does anyone doubt Pat’s enthusiasm for Sportsters? Let’s hope not.

And so, with my wadded Sporty in hand, Pat and the boys went to work putting Led Sled’s hardtail kit to the test. The kit comes with a rear fender, battery tray, and oil tank already mounted. First of all, they ripped my bike apart and threw everything away, save for the motor and the front half of the frame — all the easier to register and insure it, given the stamped VIN numbers. “We cut the frame right behind the top motor mount on the backbone and then 3″ underneath the rear motor mount,” explains Pat. “Those welds and cuts are right at motor mounts. So even though you’ve just welded it, the rigidity of the mill, which adds a lot of the structure to the frame, basically holds the entire bike together anyway. You could probably run these kits without even welding because of where we strategically place the slugs to slide into the tubes. From there, we just started throwing our parts on it.” Like their new floorboards and that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it covert license tag. “We call it our fleeing and eluding bracket because … ” Just take a guess, please.

Things came together pretty quickly, and Pat claims the build was just plain fun and simple. “After all, our goal is to make it as easy as possible for a dude in his garage to install our parts,” Pat says. “Your bike mainly consists of our hardtail kit. We wanted to show how good your bike can look with just that. When it came time to give it flash, Paughco gave us that bitchin’ front end. Then I narrowed the tank to bring that skinny feel into play.”

And does anyone notice those bars? “With those, we went for an edgy, out-there, hardcore feel. Nothing traditional. You can change the whole attitude of a bike with just handlebars.” Mission most definitely accomplished. “It’s funny. The bike is really so simple, but you still just have to stare at it.” And stare at it people do, often in a trance. After a prolonged meditation, one transfixed friend (an Irishman) mumbled, “It’s amazing, like, Steve McQueen meets Liberace.” Priceless.

On that note, perhaps it’s time to address the way this golden knockout rides. Being a suicide-foot-clutch, jockey-shift, no-front-brake conundrum, it takes some getting used to. For most people, it’s probably not the most ideal machine to tackle the mean streets of, say, New York City. Then again, most people wouldn’t even think of riding this bike — even if they could figure it out, that is. In that respect, it’s got a form of natural theft protection. The truth is, once you get in the groove, it’s an incredibly fun, fast, and nimble animal to bang around on. Just try to avoid the many yahoos who almost crash into you trying to catch a glimpse of a machine they may have never seen the likes of before. It’s not easy being gold. And a Led Sled.

As much as I’d like to beat my chest and say that I’ve logged many miles on this beauty, the honor belongs to Chris Maida who cranked it all the way up the East Coast from Daytona to New York, except for a 200-mile trip to Charlotte to fix a blown head gasket, in three days! I had to fly home. Does that make me soft? Maybe. But my time will come. For the moment, though, Chris, bastard that he is, reigns as the true warrior. You don’t know how it pains me to write that.

Now I’m going to stare at my gorgeous golden girl. AIM



  1. nic e August 11, 2011

    Does anyone know whats the stretch in this hardtail

  2. Joe A June 1, 2011

    Hey again!
    Although I hate the taste of crow I’ve gotta eat it.
    Pat and the crew @ LED SLED kept me posted on my parts and I must say they did take good care of me in the end.
    Yes, I spoke too soon!
    Thanks LSC,
    Joe A.

  3. John N May 20, 2011

    To all the cry babies, I’ve bought a hardtail kit and a wide tire swingarm from LedSled. Both require some minor work but these are customs not some factory manufactured pretty boy bikes. If you cant do a little modifying why are you try to do this type of project to begin with? your complaining about price? Go buy yourself some big name chromed out piece of crap and see what kind of price you pay and have some high profile painter paint your stuff and add up the $$$
    Im completely happy with what Pat and his crew has done for me! Keep up the good work LSC

  4. Joe A May 10, 2011

    I can believe the guy that spent 7k+!
    I ordered a belt to chain conversion kit from (LSC) and the 48 tooth sprocket showed up at my door looking like someone played frisbee with it. It doesn’t look used but it has scratches and gouges. It was suppose to be new but I was suspicious when the factory wrapper had been opened. I’m not even sure if it is correct yet because its flat and 4/4 rigid sportsters I have built in the past required a dished sprocket but it is too early to tell (frame on order). The drive sprocket they sent me used a separate inner spacer and the factory nut lock will not work! They told me (LSC) that “they don’t use a nut lock”. ??????????
    The counter sprockets I have used in the past came as one piece, used the factory nut lock and even came with a new seal. When I called to talk to them about what they had sent me I was treated like I didn’t know what I was talking about and “the difference between a flat and dished sprocket is only .005”, sure! Oh, and did I mention they still owe me an internal spring kickstand? Its been about a month but I will keep you posted.

  5. joe d April 20, 2011

    I went to Lead Sled Customs and purchased their Sportster frame and wide tire kit. Besides the fact that NONE of the parts fit and are unable to completed by even the most experienced amateur mechanic ,due to bad measurements/dimensions and other miscalculations, the level of incompetency and shoddy workmanship is due for some type of award. First, the kit is pretty much designed for you to buy, and then bring back to them and have them complete the project, because it is only after you take your bike apart to swap, that you realize LSC (Lead Sled Customs), fucked up their end, however, your bike is now in pieces and you’ve come this far so you pretty much have to go back to them to have them clean up the mess.

    Second,after dropping off the Bike and spending 7K, I HAD TO WAIT 5 MONTHS TO GET THE BIKE BACK!!!!!!!!! You would think after spending 5 months to put together a supposed month long swap of frames, that their quality would be equivalent to NASA, after all THEY designed the “Kit” and have experience swapping and doing custom work. Well this wasn’t the case, after riding the bike about 3 miles, I noticed the rear wheel start sway. Yes folks, you read it correctly, I spent +7k, and waited 5 months for a bike, and the mechanic didn’t even tighten the rear wheel. Upon closer inspection they DIDN’T EVEN USE LOCK-TITE on any parts. Now experienced LSC mechanics know motorcycles vibrate, and they are gauging their customers, so why not buy a 5 dollar bottle of LOCK-TITE so that their product doesn’t fall apart on the highway?

    Finally, as if spending an exhorabtant amount of money on a product, that was falsely advertised due to shoddy workmanship, and not being able to ride the bike without worrying about THE WHEELS FALLING OFF!! (literally), I call the shop to tell them about my squishy breaks, their reply “you have to ride it for the squish to go away” Folks I couldn’t make that up if I tried. These “expert” mechanics actually told me to continue to ride their signature custom bike with un-bled brakes, some experts… This further shows the either incompetence of the mechanics, or the fact that they think their customers are suckers and should pay for over priced shitty workmanship.

    Also, their custom paint job, which was a simple ONE COLOR spray of merely a tank and two fenders, has ALREADY BEGAN to BUBBLE UP!!!!!!!!!!, It has been kept indoors, and hardly even ridden, (due to all the mechanical problems), and the paint is worse than a MAACO Ambassador special.

    Finally, after asking for custom exhaust, these experienced mechanics decided to cut the exhaust so that it dumped out on my leg DIRECTLY. Now let’s stop and think of this from a mechanics perspective, they install the exhaust, and didn’t even stop to think about where the direction of the gas was being released, and scratch their head and say “this doesn’t look right”? More proof of either incompetence, or having no pride in your work.

    So all in all,after spending over 7000 dollars and waiting 5 months for my bike to get finished because their “kit ” came in such shit condition, my “custom” bike has to be repainted because the paint bubbles, it won’t pass inspection, nearly crashed because they didn’t tighten the rear wheel, and had to re-bleed my breaks (how could you ever trust a mechanic that can’t even correctly bleed brakes or tighten a bolt?), I now have to get the tank re-painted, and had to change the exhaust so as not to burn my legs after riding for 5 minutes, If you still want that “custom look” go to LSC, just be sure to bring a bottle of vaseline a fat wallet, and a truck to take your bike home, cause you won’t want to ride it.