Archive for the ‘harley-davidson’ Tag
In 1969 BSA commanded 80% of all the Brit bikes sold here in the USA. Eighty Percent! Who woulda thunk? I, and I think most of us, would have pegged Triumph as the leader but not so say the statistics. What was it about BSA that made it that strong a seller in a time when the Japanese manufacturers were dominating the market? Was it styling? No. Was it performance? No. Was it reliability? Certainly not. So what was it?
Let’s find a bit of perspective here. BSA may have had 80% of the British bike sales here in the states but ‘Made in England’ motorcycles constituted a very small percentage of the total bikes sold here. So small that within a decade, they were all gone from the US market.
From the late 1950’s through the mid 60’s, the British were competing with the very popular Harley Davidson Sportster in the performance category. The Sportster was Harley’s ‘sportbike’, it had a slight horsepower advantage, it had a new look (the peanut tank was quite stylish then), it had the Harley sound and, of course, it had the advantage of being made in the USA. BSA, Triumph and Norton all were better handling motorcycles but back then, straight line speed was king, not the ability to go around corners fast.
Each of the big three from the UK tried styling mods to attract the American market, Triumph with the X75 Hurricane, Norton tried (and miserably failed) with their Hi-Rider chopper model and BSA tried with…well, nothing. Sure, BSA tried a few styling changes like a smaller slimmer tank, the oil in the frame design (which nobody was really happy about), and of course the ray-gun mufflers of the Rocket 3. Personally, I love the ray-gun mufflers but at the time they went over like a fart in church. Anyway, the Brits just faded away into the sunset. Today, Triumph is back in a big way and Norton is getting set to comeback this year with a new Commando and it is beautiful. I hope it succeeds.
I started my street bike life aboard a BSA so the brand has a certain spot in my heart that will never go away. Yes, it stranded me more than once with faulty electric’s, and yes, it leaked more oil in a month than any Japanese bike I’ve ever owned did in a lifetime. It could be a bit (?) temperamental when it came to starting in the morning (or when it was hot and the bike didn’t feel like going anywhere), and it could vibrate the fillings out of my teeth if the carbs weren’t balanced properly, but…when everything was working as it was supposed to, what a joy it was to ride that Beezer. I was raised to ride the canyon roads, to believe in handling over horsepower, and the sound coming from a parallel twin was the sweetest sound in motorcycling.
At one point in time (actually a couple of times) the Japanese manufactures realized that there was something about the British bikes that still captivated the American buyer. Yamaha did great with the XS650, designed to compete with the Triumph, Kawasaki brought out the W650 to head to head with the BSA and Honda tried with the GB500 single. The only one that succeeded over the long run was the Yamaha. Today, the Triumph Bonneville is a huge success because it looks like a proper English motorbike without the oil puddle underneath it.
Lately I have been thinning the herd of bikes in my barn and am starting to look for a new adventure…once I have finished the other four projects I have going, and am being drawn towards a BSA 650. I’m actually looking for one of the last designs more than the old chrome tank styles, mainly because I think they are probably going to be cheaper on the market(?). Today on ebay I found one that might just fit the bill.
On ebay today, there is a 1969 BSA A65 that has been set up for vintage roadracing. Remember, the A65 was BSA’s ‘roadracer for the street’. The A65 put out a very respectable 54HP and would top out at around 105MPH. This particular bike has been upgraded with Marzocchi forks, more modern rear shocks, and a Suzuki twin leading shoe front brake, which was a very good upgrade from the standard brake the BSA had at the time. The motor has been given some extra muscle by way of a 750cc kit But, here is the cool thing about this bike, it can easily be retrofitted with the electric’s to power a headlight, taillight and blinkers so you have a perfect cafe racer with almost no effort! The seller says that it does need some carb work but that’s no big deal. This could be a very sweet Sunday rider.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info.
I recently posted an interesting Yamaha XS650 by this same shop (Loaded Gun Customs), and now they have this cafe’d 1989 HD Sportster up for sale. It’s definitely got some nice mechanical bits on it (the rear-sets and clip-ons), and it has a nice simple look to it. My own Sportster hasn’t been converted quite this far yet, but its getting there.
This bike is probably a 1200, but the seller doesn’t actually say. However, they did put new 10:1 pistons in it, and the cylinders look awfully new, so I would guess they plopped a 883 to 1200 upgrade kit on it and called it a day. It is missing the headlight adjustment nut cover, which is kind of odd given that the rider would have to look at the exposed bolthead and any pooling water every time they rode the bike.
Anyways, there are 2 days left in the auction, and the price is just over $3K. Reserve hasn’t been met, and the Buy-It-Now price is $5,200, so your guess is as good as mine as to what the reserve price has been set at. This is a pretty nice example of a Sportster cafe compared to most that we see…
Here again on the blog is another XLCR up for auction right now on eBay. These seem to be (reliably, at least) the most common factory cafe racer appearing for sale. I know, I know, it isn’t truly a cafe racer what with the high-ish bars and lump of a motor. But at least Harley tried. And my friend Paul loves these bikes…
This one is a Canadian model with about 25K kilometers on the odometer. Currently at $8K with 2 days left in the auction. Sorry, there were no pictures of the left side of the bike…
Clip-ons, 15″ Progressive shocks, modded forks, full Harley tax paid, and sticky Bridgestone BT45 tires.
Here we go again. Another XLCR up on eBay right now (about 9 days left). This one is probably the lowest actual mile XLCR I’ve posted (5,318 miles), but it is also in no way a restoration bike like some of them. Bidding right now is under $1K, but somewhat obviously, it hasn’t met reserve yet. The only text in the listing about this actual bike says that it has new tires, a new battery, and had the fluids changed. Since it’s a Harley, I’d assume it probably leaks a bit of oil. That’s it, nothing else interesting to say about this bike. Click through if you want to check it out…
As you may or may not know, I like Sportsters. I have 2005 883 myself, and have been converting it into a cafe racer for the last two years. Cafe conversions of the XL are fairly few and fair between relatively speaking, so when one comes up for sale on eBay, or I find one elsewhere, it tends to end up posted on the blog.
What we have here is a 2002 XL 1200. What does buying a 1200 and not an 883 get you? About 20 extra horsepower and dual front discs. While this bike has some nice mods done to it, it is far from complete. The clip-ons are there. The fender has been bobbed nicely. The bike has the black-out treatment on lots of the parts.
So what’s left?
It’s got to have a new exhaust. I don’t even want to think about how loud the stock head pipes run without mufflers must be. and it probably has moved the power band completely to the top end. I’m going to guess that the carb has been set up properly given that the bike has cams and head-work done to it. Oh yeah, did I mention how loud it probably is?
The wheels: stock Harley wheels are heavy! It needs something lighter. Sportsters can be made relatively light compared to their portly weight in stock form, but one of the most important weight-loss procedures is losing the factory boat-anchors. Plus, Sportsters with 18″ 40-spoke alloy rims built up on nice, stock alloy hubs look really sweet!
Three sets of foot pegs: it’s got three! Pick any two and get on with it. Rear-sets would be best, but lose the highway pegs if nothing else.
That’s it. I’m done complaining. This is a good build-up of a Sportster into an almost cafe racer. A couple of tweeks, and it would be done. And I bet it’s a lot faster than a lot of bikes out on the road…
Mostly for my friend Paul (because he really loves these bikes), here’s another XLCR up on the auction block. This one is a rider, not a 100pt restoration like that last one I posted. Overall, it appears very clean with the usual signs that it’s been ridden (motor is not perfectly painted, some bolts and metal parts appear to have a bit of corrosion, and the rear seat cowl has some kind of scuffing that could probably be buffed out). But for a bike that is 31 years old that has 11K miles, it is in pretty good shape. It does come with the manuals, lots of service records, and a dual rear seat.
Given it’s current state of shine, I’m going to guess that the reserve is $8,500 and $9,500. Good luck if you are bidding on this bike…
This is a really clean example of an H-D XLCR. Since you are at this site, I am pretty sure you have heard of it before, but if you haven’t, it was a factory (mostly) cafe racer from Harley-Davidson that was produced only in 1977 and 1978. Under-powered at 61hp compared to it’s contemporary brethren, but with a full helping of somewhat European styling, it was never a sales hit and disappeared from Harley’s bike roster after just over 3,100 machines were produced. It was something of an oxymoronic bike, as current owners of Harley-Davidsons didn’t care for the styling, and speed-freaks could go 20 miles an hour faster on the top-end with a stock CB750.
Be that as it may, the bike for sale here is very, very clean and has been restored to within an inch of its life. Good luck finding a nicer example, unless it is one that was hermetically sealed as it rolled off the factory floor. The auction hasn’t met reserve yet, but there are 6 days left. I’ll post a “How Much Was It Worth?” on the back end…
I am really torn by bikes like this. Converting a Sportster into a cafe racer is kind of a daunting process. There aren’t a lot of sources for true cafe-styled parts for these bike (especially 2004+ rubber-mount bikes), and when you tell the parts guy at your local shop what you are doing, most likely he or she will give you a blank stare.
So if you do manage to find the parts, then you have to do a good job with the conversion. With this particular bike, it is certainly beautiful, and has a number of really nice parts attached to it: Storz rear-sets, nice race-style seat, beautiful H-D themed paint, and a great intake/exhaust combo. But a well-built cafe racer is more than a simple sum of its parts.
In this case, I am concerned that the bike looks lowered front and rear. For my personal Sportster cafe racer, I actually raised the bike 1″ in the front and 2″ in the rear to try for more ground clearance. And I don’t really want to be careening through corners while trying to maintain a grip on the shiny bits at the end of these drag bars. Cafe racers typically have a form-follows-function aesthetic, while this bike is trying to go both ways. Like Storz rear-sets on a lowered bike.
Now, if I could bolt my 15″ shocks to this bike, add my clip-ons, and put some stiff Race-Tech springs in the front end, this would be a great bike…
The auction has only 6 hours left, and the price is over $8K USD. Can this bike break the $10K mark? It probably should, but we’ll see. “How Much Was It Worth?” to follow the close of the auction…
How many of you have heard of Detroit Brothers Custom Cycles? You there, in the back, are you raising your hand because you’ve heard of them? Oh, okay, the bathrooms are just down the hall. Well, if any of you ever peruse The Horse magazine, you might have seen their bikes gracing the pages of that fine magazine that displays bikes/choppers other than your typical v-twin custom. Some of the bikes are even somewhat cafe’d.
But be that as it may, DBCC has got one of their creations up for sale on eBay. And it’s a cafe racer!!! And as you may know, I love cafe racers!!! You can click through to check out more, but here’s the skinny on the bike…
Take one 1994 Sportster frame, insert a Buell 1200cc motor, graft some Kawasaki forks onto it, create a kinda crazy fairing, give it a cool semi-retro paint job, add all the requisite cafe racer accoutrements, and stick a model on top of the bike.
So is it cool? I think so. Actually, I prefer it without the fairing. But overall (fairing or no), it is nice to see a chopper builder doing something that can actually be ridden, and is probably quite fast. As a cafe racer Sportster owner myself, I am glad to see someone else taking up a full conversion from plain-old Harley to something that actually deserves the name “Sport”ster. More pics and specs available on eBay…