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Custom Motorcycle Feature

Tim Johnsons Reconstructed Custom Harley Softail


Photos by Don Kates/Shooters Image

Contacting motorcycle fabricator Roger Jones about the custom Ultima-powered bobber gracing these pages proved interesting. During the day, Roger is the director of product support for Terex Cranes in North Carolina. At one time, Terex built a line of heavy cranes called the American. In the industry, a crane is often referred to as ‘iron.’ So when I called and told him I was a contributor to American Iron Magazine, Roger at first thought I was calling because of an issue with a crane. It took a couple of minutes to sort out the confusion, but then the story started to flow.

A self-professed nuts and bolts kind of guy, over the years Roger has spent time restoring Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He’d pick one up cheap, fix it and sell it. Then, he started crafting customs, and this 2010 Softail-style bobber is his fourth ground-up build. Roger’s three-car garage in Wilmington, North Carolina, is equipped with plenty of welding and metal fabricating equipment. He also does all his own paintwork.

“It sounds cliché, but with this bike I just wanted to build something that would not get lost in a crowd,” he says, and adds, “Everything, including the colors, was chosen to be unique.”
However, there are two build stories here, because as soon as Roger had the bike put together he sold it to Chief Warrant Officer Tim Johnson.
Tim was on active duty in Korea when he was searching craigslist and saw Roger’s bike. He sent his wife, Natalie from their Sanford, North Carolina, home with their truck and trailer to inspect and ultimately buy the motorcycle.

“I was happy with the bike,” Tim says. “But I knew I had some plans for it.” And he’s embarrassed about this next part, because not long after getting home and riding the machine, he laid it down, twisting a few parts and scuffing some paint. That just put in motion some of the changes he’d been intending to make.

To start, Roger built the bike around a Demon’s Cycle softail-style bobber 250 frame featuring 38 degrees of rake with a 2″ stretch up and 4″ out. He ran a 19″ front wheel in a long DNA springer fork topped off with a set of 16″ apes he’d made for the project. He found an Indian Larry “dished” gas tank at a swap meet and made up the mounts to bolt it to the backbone and further modified it by moving the filler neck higher up.

Roger bent up a sissy bar using 3/8″ solid steel rod and created a rear fender out of part of a wide-tire blank that had long been kicking around the shop. Roger also made up a seat pan, glued down closed-cell foam, and covered it all with rivet-studded leather around the edges. He suspended the back end of the seat with scissor springs. The oval oil tank is an off-the-shelf item of unknown origin. Roger modified it to hold a small glass mat battery and some electronics by cutting into the back of the tank and welding in a metal box. For power, Roger pulled a 2009 Ultima 107″ engine out of the crate and backed it up with a six-speed Ultima transmission. Ultima provided the primary belt drive, and final drive is belt to a Brakester combined pulley/rotor mounted to an 18” Weld Wheel that’s no longer in production.

“I was in my neighborhood riding home from a bike show when I hit some pine straw on the road, lost control, and hit a rock,” Tim explains. “It wasn’t my proudest moment, but that just meant I got started sooner than I’d expected making my changes.”

Roger also made the mount to hold the AutoMeter Pro-Cycle 3-3/4″ white-face speedometer just off the top left side of the engine, and fabricated the license plate bracket that’s set off with LED illumination. The headlight is a 5-3/4″ Bates-style modified with a high/low beam toggle switch at the back of the shell. Roger hid most of his custom made wiring harness in the frame and installed a waterproof boat ignition switch for start and run functions.

Roger painted the frame black and concocted his own paint color and graphics for the tins and followed up with pinstriping by Rare Air Werx Inc. of Leland, North Carolina. That’s how the bike was built and that’s how Tim bought it, but shortly after his purchase a slight mishap speeded up his own customization plans.

Reflecting the bobber as it’s seen in these images, those changes included the installation of a 4″-under Ultima springer fork that’s holding a larger diameter 23″ Metal Artopia five-spoke wheel shod in Shinko rubber. Tim kept the DNA Specialty four-piston front caliper.

In the crash, Roger’s 16″ apes were destroyed so Tim selected a similar style set to replace them from JSR Custom Choppers. Paint on the gas tank had to be touched up, and the oil tank was completely repainted. Out back, Tim installed an SAS—Simplified Air Suspension—setup from Custom Cycle Control Systems.

While he was at it, Tim took the opportunity to black out some of the engine parts, and removed the cylinders and cylinder heads for black powder coating at T&A Powders in Sanford, North Carolina. When Roger built the bike he used a set of LSD Big Radius drag pipes covered in custom heat shields. Tim kept the pipes and shields but modified them by painting the heat shields and changing the profile of the pipe tips.

Tim liked the saddle Roger made, but found it was too small for his comfort. To replace it, he bought a similar style rivet-studded seat from Mother Road Customs in St. Charles, Missouri, and installed coil springs under it instead of Roger’s scissor springs.

Roger’s impressed with the changes Tim made to the motorcycle. “I think that’s part of the game,” Roger tells us. “It’s cool building something you think looks good and that someone else finds cool, too, and can then make his own. Tim’s got a good eye, and the changes he made make the bike even better.”

And the best part Tim says, the bike is a rider. “It’s a great handling machine, pine straw aside,” he chuckles. “It sounds fantastic and always gets lots of looks wherever it goes.” AIM 380

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