Custom Motorcycle: 1977 Brat-style Harley Ironhead Bobber

If you aren’t much of a fan of import bikes, then you definitely have a few things in common with Stefano Poli of Dallas.

They don’t interest him that much either. What he does like, however, are the incredible Harley choppers that keep getting churned out over in Japan. “They’re always coming out with things that are really innovative while staying true to the traditional Harley Ironhead bobber idea,” he says. “Plus, they have an amazing love for details.”

Harley-Davidson Ironhead Bobber shift side.
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Bobber shift side.

The Japanese make mouth-watering sushi, too, which Stefano actually likes as much as their choppers. Luckily, he’s experienced all of this firsthand, since he’s traveled to Japan a few times. He even attended the Mooneyes motorcycle show last December.

While Japanese choppers are undoubtedly cool, Stefano also appreciates their Brat-style Harley bobbers. In fact, that look inspired his vision for his 1977 Ironhead, which he bought in the summer of 2013. But Stefano first needed to get acquainted with his XLCH before any inspiring could take place, seeing as it had two very important roles to fulfill: it was going to be Stefano’s first true build and his introduction to the world of older Harleys. It was the perfect bike to do so because it fit his budget.

Harley-Davidson Brat-style Ironhead Bobber.
Harley-Davidson Brat-style Ironhead Bobber.

And the best way to connect with your bike is by riding the hell out of it—and trashing the engine. Which he did. On both counts. Since no more riding was to be had, then was as good a time as any to start customizing. Stefano wouldn’t have to do it alone, either. At the time, he shared a three-bay, 700-square-foot garage with three friends, and one of them provided a lot of support. “Mitchell helped me out a lot whenever I found myself hesitating before trying something new,” Stefano says.
There were plenty of reasons why Stefano approached the build with trepidation. He had some customizing experience, but it was all limited to installing sissybars, chopping fenders, and swapping handlebars. At least he had some grinders, cutting wheels, and a welder, in addition to, as Stefano made sure to mention, “a lot of determination.”

Stefano felt that the best way to approach it was to start from the rear section and slowly make his way to the front, a process he’s used on his later builds, a 1959 Panhead and 1960 Pan-Shovel. Keeping in mind that a distinct Brat feature is compactness, Stefano first had to fix a few problems that actually helped embellish that aesthetic.

It all began when he tried installing a narrow-ribbed fender over the back tire. Stefano soon realized, however, that no matter how narrow it may have been, it was still much too wide to fit; Stefano needed to make the bike more compact. So, he decided to shorten the struts that mount both the fender and shocks to the bike. He cut off the part that connects the bike to the fender and left the holes that are used for mounting the shocks.

Installing shorter shocks to the now-shaved struts compacted the Ironhead enough so that the narrow-ribbed fender could now almost fit. Stefano just needed to cut it down to size and fab some bungs so he could anchor the fender to the frame and seat. Now about half of the fender slides under the seat or, in Stefano’s words, the seat “now rolls over the fender.” He stresses, however, that this didn’t alter the distance of the rear wheel from the front sprocket.

Harley-Davidson Ironhead Bobber vintage rear brake.
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Bobber vintage rear brake.

That was pretty much it for the rear section, except he might try installing an XR-style loop hardtail later on. While in the bike’s midsection, Stefano went through a couple of oil bags and gas tanks. For the latter, he finally settled on a Frisco Wassell-styled piece. However, he wanted to install it closer to the seat. He cut off the stock mounting bracket and welded two threaded bungs on the frame backbone, which he then used to install the tank.

Turns out, the tank and its positioning (in addition to the overall stance of the bike) are what Stefano thinks are the brattiest things about his bike. As for the oil bag, Stefano couldn’t find the right one, so he fabricated one of his own out of mild steel, making it narrower and shorter than stock so it would fit inside the frame rails (and so he could accommodate a small lithium battery). The fabbing was, as he said, standard. “You just make a cardboard box template, cut the metal to match, and then weld it all together,” he explains.

Out front, Stefano stumbled upon a few more challenges, including retro-fitting the hamburger wheel on a 35mm front end, which he’d shaved. “It was not trivial,” Stefano confirms. “The spacing between the legs are just enough to slide the wheel in.” He needed, however, to customize the axle to match the different wheel and legs specs, which involved a “few brackets and other smaller pieces.” For this, he turned to a local machine shop.

Harley-Davidson Ironhead Bobber classic style and swagger.
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Bobber classic style and swagger.

What he did do himself was add a Japanese-made part to give his Japanese-inspired bike some bratty flair: an Ushio Electric piece with amber glass. He thinks it was originally used as a car fog light. For the paint, Stefano turned to Scott at Chemical Custom Candy. “I asked for the specific set of colors and the panel work on the tank and fender,” Stefano explains. “Scott did the hard work of making it happen, and he nailed it.” And remember the engine Stefano trashed? He got it repaired at Brown Cycles so he could finally try out his first true custom build.

“It’s a fun bike to rip around in town,” he says. Stefano tells us, however, that it’s not a good idea to try jumping curbs. Sounds like an interesting story. We have a feeling that he’ll have a lot more tales after he gets even more acquainted with his Ironhead. Maybe he’ll get to ride it in the Land of the Rising Sun! RC

Custom Motorcycle: Patrick’s 1977 Custom Shovelhead

Patrick Huban of Brooklyn thought he’d hit the friends-and-family-special jackpot.

His buddies Tyler and Pete owned their own bike shop in nearby Red Hook, and Patrick was itching to modify his recently acquired stock 1977 Shovelhead FLHS. Instead of getting everything handed to him on a chrome platter, Patrick found himself in one of your classic exiled to the back of the
proshop situations.

Patrick's 1977 Custom Harley Shovelhead

“I was lucky they let me use a tiny space in the back of their shop,” Patrick says. That’s because co-owner Pete believes quite fervently that every builder should go through some sort of rite of passage, one we perceive as wrenchin’ in turmoil. “Pete learned to build bikes lying on a dirty floor in New Orleans with no A/C in the summer,” Patrick says. “He thought I should do it that way, too.”

The irony, however, is that despite Patrick having access to some of the shop’s tools, they weren’t enough. Shovelheads, Patrick realized, require very specific tools, such as a 1-7/8″ extended mainshaft sprocket nut socket. Patrick needed this very tool when his mainshaft started leaking. “There was no way I was getting that nut off without it,” he says. It didn’t help that Patrick, who used to race metric sportbikes, didn’t know much about Harleys, especially older models.

Patrick's 1977 Custom Shovelhead

Patrick also didn’t know that you shouldn’t tear things apart willy-nilly during the teardown. “I remember just yanking out all the old wires at the beginning,” he recalls. “I had no idea where any of them went.” Now he does.

Patrick’s buddy Keino Sasaki helped Patrick make a list of wiring after the yanking incident—including the ignition, charging system, coils, and starter—which Patrick installed. Keino’s list soon got a whole lot longer—much longer than it should have. Sometimes Patrick bought a part, thinking it came with something else, when it didn’t. Other times he’d just purchase the wrong thing altogether. “I found myself saying ‘nothing fits anything’ a lot,” recalls Patrick. “With newer bikes, you just buy the parts and bolt ‘em on, but ‘bolt on’ for vintage Harleys is definitely not the same.”

Patrick learned a bolt-on lesson after installing a four-speed ratchet top transmission pushrod and throw-out bearing replacement kit. “I was riding with this old-style kit and all of a sudden my clutch wouldn’t engage,” Patrick remembers. “It was like a cable snapped.”

Patrick's 1977 Custom Shovelhead

He later discovered that Harley had replaced this item because the pushrod umbrella would often slip out of place and fail to apply pressure onto the pushrod. “I don’t really see the point of selling or installing this piece if it were a frequent problem back in the day,” he comments.

While Patrick didn’t know much about vintage Harleys, he did know he wanted a “slim and practical” bike. That’s why he hacked off most of the body work. The frame, however, was off-limits. The only time he broke that rule was when his peanut tank wouldn’t sit flush with the original mounts, forcing him to hack the original dual tank mounts off.

Patrick steered clear of chassis-chopping, however, when mounting his 7″-wide rear fender onto the frame with spacers. (He didn’t install it to the swingarm because the fender would’ve moved with the shocks.) Patrick also welded a tab to the rear downtube so it wouldn’t pivot if someone sat on the p-pad. Another problem: the fender got in the way of the chain, so he cut a small section out of the fender to let the chain pass through.

Patrick's 1977 Custom Shovelhead

Like the rear fender, Patrick planned on having his aftermarket seat rest on the frame. But he also wanted it to flip up so he could access the oil tank, fuses, and relays. Welding a seat hinge to the frame addressed the second issue but not the first. So Patrick welded mounts to the bottom of the top frame rails to hold the seat down. However, the seat’s screws weren’t long enough to pass through the hinge and frame rail. So he welded screws onto the seat’s mounting screws. That worked. Patrick reached underneath the frame rails with a 1/2″ wrench to secure them.

The bottom frame rails, meanwhile, received mid-peg controls. Patrick first installed a curved V-twin tab to secure a solid steel tube which he then threaded together through a hole he had drilled. Next, Patrick bent the tube where he wanted his feet to rest with Pete’s tube bender. And that’s where he installed the peg mounts.

But all that work was for naught. “Mid-pegs are tough to make perfect from scratch,” comments Patrick. “I ended up going to the stock position, which works great.” Other parts he switched out after customizing them included his stock wheels. Both were terribly dinged up, so he bashed them with a copper hammer until they were “straightish.” He did, however, keep the front forks after rebuilding them with a kit. “They were basically pogo sticks,” he says.

Patrick's 1977 Custom Shovelhead

Patrick may have gotten help with fabbing a wiring harness and rebuilding the carb, but he did the paint himself—with a rattle can. Initially, Patrick tried to make it look like a “super-pro job” by sanding, buffing, and applying clearcoat, but all that changed when his wife, Jessica, accidently left a big mark in the paint with her nail. “I ended up actually really liking it,” he says. “It now has a worn look that I couldn’t have done on purpose.”

Jessica not only unintentionally made her husband’s bike better but intentionally, too. She bought him a vintage AEE Choppers triangle headlight with blue glass. It’s easily his favorite part.

Today, Patrick no longer works in that small space at the back of his buddies’ shop. Now he does everything in his small garage, and he finally has some SAE tools of his own, too. In fact, that’s where he switched out the front wheel. Patrick also added new apes and replaced the oil pump’s ball bearing and spring in his garage.
And, sure, while Patrick didn’t learn how to build his Shovelhead on a dirty floor in the summer with no A/C like Pete did, we believe Patrick went through his own rite of passage—successfully. RC

Custom Motorcycle: Dirk’s Home Built Custom GSXR

Late autumn last year, while preparing to shoot riding shots for this story, Dirk Vanzuuk, stepping into his leathers and suiting up for the ride, seemed a bit annoyed. “This used to be a lot easier,” he said.

Dirk’s an old friend of mine and the owner of this custom GSX-R. We met and worked together more than 20 years ago at a small sign shop in Port Chester, New York, where I first saw this unique machine.

Dirk grew up in Westchester County, New York, obsessed with cars, motorcycles, and just about anything else that involved horsepower. Along with this fascination for go-fast machines, he’s also an incredibly talented artist; this bike exemplifies that talent. He has designed, sketched, assembled, and painted this bike several times over the years, assembling it anywhere he could find space to work: his brother’s apartment, a friend’s basement, his girlfriend’s kitchen, until eventually landing in his own garage. Yeah, it’s a home build—several homes to be exact.

Dirk’s passion for motorcycles was ignited after he saw Mad Max for the first time. The hero drove a modified Ford Falcon XB GT coupe (“The Interceptor”). The bad guys rode custom sport bikes, obviously. Several Mad Max movies have been produced over the years, and even with the occasional dud, one thing’s always been consistent in these films: unique custom cars and motorcycles. I’m sure most of you can relate—granted you’ve seen the movie, or at least the recent Mad Max: Fury Road. If not, please close the magazine, roll it up tight, and smack yourself on the head! How do you expect to “ride eternal on the highways of Valhalla” without seeing Mad Max?!

When I asked Dirk about the inspiration to customize the Gixxer, the answer surprised me. There wasn’t some lightbulb moment. Rather, it sprung from an unexpected trip through a storefront window.

The build started back in 1996, with a basically stock ’86 GSX-R1100, a game-changing bike in its day. “This bike was fast,” Dirk says; it was the king of light-to-light road racing until R1s and Hayabusas hit the scene in 1999.

Dirk’s build was a result of circumstance. He told me that back in the day he’d basically do burnouts and wheelies until he shut the bike off. A post-work wheelie wasn’t out of the norm—not until the bike hit an unexpected pothole causing a violent tank slapper. He did his best to hold on and keep the bike steady to no avail. He eventually relinquished control seconds before hitting a curb, which sent the bike tumbling and barreling through the front window of a local business.

Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in the accident. But damages to both the business and bike were costly. Smoke was everywhere, oil was on the ceiling tiles, desks, and computers were scattered—it wasn’t pretty. Dirk ended up having to sell his 1969 Camaro in order to pay for building repairs, plus several tickets and court fees. That morning, before this all happened, he remembers being very upset about a small scratch he saw in the fairing. Bigger problems awaited him.

Most of the bike was destroyed in the accident. The motor had a hole in it, the forks were bent, and the bodywork was toasted. So, Dirk took the bike apart and separated it into piles: salvage and trash. “I was left with a frame, swingarm, shock, and the back wheel,” he says.

He replaced the Gixxer’s engine with a 1989 Suzuki Katana engine. This, he says, has a little more torque and midrange power, plus the pistons and cam had been upgraded. So, longer burnouts and wheelies? Excellent.

The forks, wheels, and brakes came off his friend Mike’s 1993 GSX-R750 Superbike. Mike raced and crashed the 750 in Daytona. Surprisingly, the only undamaged parts were those that Dirk needed. After a few drinks and some tough negotiating, a deal was struck.

Dirk decided to go with a naked streetfighter look, which, he says, only a few people were doing in the ’90s, but usually not well. He wanted this bike to look like something Suzuki would have built.

After cutting away everything that wasn’t needed, ditching those pesky fairings, fabricating a tail section, and drilling holes into anything that needed to shed a few pounds, the bike took form. And after a coat of dark orange paint on the tin this Gixxer looked absolutely menacing!

Today, the bike remains true the original build, one of the key differences being the color. That changed several times over the years. That dark orange became gray, which became flat black, ultimately morphing into the white with orange and black stripes you see today. Each paint job was impressively done with rattle-can spray paint, Dirk saying the most important aspect is the prep work.

He fabricated the tail section using a foam block, sandpaper, and his stylistic eye. Once he had the desired shape, he created the plastic mold using the foam. It looks like it’s straight from the factory.

The current headlight is actually from my 2003 SV650, a parting gift of sorts as the SV was stolen soon after. Dirk’s Gixxer is a combination of long-lost rides from the past.
Despite the mishmash of parts from donor bikes, Dirk’s work is nothing but meticulous. Nothing looks out of place. Perhaps from working in small, unorthodox locations over the years, He developed a very organized way of doing things, and his handiwork here proves that and exemplifies his creative eye.

The passion for this Gixxer runs deep. A few years ago, Dirk was diagnosed with an advanced stage of throat cancer, which required aggressive treatment and an even harder fight from Dirk. For months Dirk summoned the courage to march on, channeling the strength of his wife, Patti, and friends. Like the bike build, he evaluated the situation, salvaged what he could, and built upon it. He kept his eye on the future, keeping his goals alive. One of those goals? Ride the Gixxer on a race track again.

Ultimately, Dirk beat his cancer to a pulp and has been cancer-free for the past five years.

Did he get back on the track? You bet. And I’m happy to report I rode alongside him. OK, maybe I was behind him. The dude’s fast!

Yeah, we’ll all get to that point someday, where our knees ache and zipping up the leathers used to be easier. But if you can suit up, throw a leg over your ride, and wheelie like it’s 1996 – it’s all good. Just watch for potholes, you don’t want to have to sell your ’69 Camaro.

Dragon Ball FighterZ: 7 Things You Need to Know

[vc_row][vc_column][rs_special_text tag=”div” font_weight=”400″ font_color=”#333333″ line_height=”30px” font_size=”20px”]When a top-down shooter like Nex Machina comes along, I’m reminded that even in this age of procedural open worlds and emergent storytelling, you don’t need a lot of buzzwords to have a good time. Its five stages of simple, fast, sometimes frantic bot-blasting can be daunting to the unprepared. But when I got a good run going, the responsive controls and exciting, sci-fi graphics made my frustrations with its sometimes nasty death penalty worth it.[/rs_special_text][rs_space lg_device=”20″ md_device=”” sm_device=”” xs_device=””][rs_special_text tag=”div” font_weight=”400″ font_color=”#333333″ line_height=”30px” font_size=”20px”]Each stage is divided up into rooms where you have to defeat several waves of robotic enemies, optionally saving defenseless humans to increase your score, before proceeding to the next. The baddies are both visually interesting and clever in their design, and every world introduces new ones so the combat never feels repetitive.[/rs_special_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][rs_space lg_device=”20″ md_device=”” sm_device=”” xs_device=””][rs_video_block video_url=””][rs_space lg_device=”20″ md_device=”” sm_device=”” xs_device=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][rs_special_text tag=”div” font_weight=”400″ font_color=”#333333″ line_height=”30px” font_size=”20px”]Each stage is divided up into rooms where you have to defeat several waves of robotic enemies, optionally saving defenseless humans to increase your score, before proceeding to the next. The baddies are both visually interesting and clever in their design, and every world introduces new ones so the combat never feels repetitive.[/rs_special_text][rs_space lg_device=”20″ md_device=”” sm_device=”” xs_device=””][rs_blockquote cite=”Elton Musk”]I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.[/rs_blockquote][rs_special_text tag=”div” font_weight=”400″ font_color=”#333333″ line_height=”30px” font_size=”20px”]Set in the J.J. Abrams Trek universe, Bridge Crew’s single-player campaign centers around the U.S.S. Aegis–which, after a brief training mission, sets forth on its task to help the Vulcans find a new home. This mission takes the Aegis into a Klingon-controlled territory, the Trench, and into the heart of a potentially ugly interstellar incident. You can fill one of four roles aboard the ship: the Captain issues orders to every other department from the holographic menu built into the player’s chair, the Helm puts you in the driver’s seat, Tactical handles shields and weaponry, and Engineering determines how much power gets shifted to the ship’s vital systems.[/rs_special_text][rs_space lg_device=”30″ md_device=”” sm_device=”” xs_device=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][rs_progress_bar_rating summary_text=”Despite the frustrations its upgrade system often caused me, I had a good time navigating Nex Machina’s array of twin-stick shooter challenges. “][rs_progress_bar_rating_item rating_label=”Gameplay” rating_number=”9.5″][rs_progress_bar_rating_item rating_label=”Graphics” rating_number=”7.5″][rs_progress_bar_rating_item rating_label=”compatibility” rating_number=”8.5″][/rs_progress_bar_rating][/vc_column][/vc_row]