Custom made tips for customising


Earlier this year, the UK & Ireland network of 29 authorised Harley-Davidson dealers took part in a Harley-Davidson UK & Ireland competition to build a stunning Dark Custom™ customised Sportster® XL 1200 X Forty-Eight®. Of the few rules involved in the ‘Battle Of The Kings’ (BOTK) – all H-D dealers are renowned for their customising talents – the finished bikes had to be built to a target retail value of no more than £15,000 each including the original £9270 retail price of a standard Forty-Eight bike including all parts, paint and labour. So how do you achieve a look or style that stands out as different from the others?


The end result was 29 bikes and all different in style and detail. Scrambler, Bobber, café racer and other styles materialised and put in front of Harley-Davidson owners and fans via the H-D UK & Ireland Facebook page for judging alongside a panel of judges to decide which one was the winner. The winning machine, ‘Warr’s Urban Racer Sprint’, came from Warr’s Harley-Davidson (Kings Road), London. Charlie Stockwell, Head of Design and Custom, designed and built the bike. In his words: “It’s a little bit of café racer and urban brawler. It’s got a heavy amount of café racer influence in looks but doesn’t feature drop bars and rearset footpegs because it’s made to be rideable, hence the name ‘Urban racer’.”


While it was obvious that every dealer had poured heart and soul, sweat, tears and maybe a drop of blood into creating their superb machines, it’s not so obvious how the mind can mentally sketch what a customised bike should look like before it’s even been built. With that in mind, we asked the BOTK participating dealers what’s the best advice for anyone who wishes to fully customise / personalise their Harley.


It’s all about It’s about making sure the bike flows. Or as one dealer said, “It’s a bit like decorating your house. You’ve got make a plan and know that the components you fit engage with the colour and shape of the rooms, or in this case the bike as a whole” There is also a matter of inspiration, which usually comes first. It can be a genre-style such as café racer or scrambler. When you’ve got this in your head, start looking for the creative inspiration. Many, many websites have ideas that can be evolved to your own design – not just motorcycles but anything that can form ideas for shape and colours and little details like size of, say, a rear light. Movies, shows, image collection sites like Pinterest are ideal for forming a plan.


Next on the list is thinking about parts and how these can alter and determine the end result in keeping with your mental design. This is when cost starts to rear its head! When it comes to motorcycles, they are no different to anything else in life when it comes to spending money – if you have the finance then you can pay the earth for anything, but on a budget require careful shopping and a mental barrier that flashes “stop” if you even briefly think something is too expensive.


There are easy, cost-effective ways of transforming a bike into something different. Just lowering the bike on its suspension alone can give a bike a low, slammed style. Raising the bike can lead to a scrambler look or something radically different. A perfect example is the long-fork and raised ape-hanger handlebar adaption first seen years ago with the original ‘chopper’ motorcycles.


One of the most important rules, if you like, is to stick with the original plan. Steven C, Willis, Dealer Principal for Shaw Harley-Davidson put it like this: “Silhouette or style? It’s what you think will make the bike stand out. And when you have that and the genre of the bike in place, don’t deviate and try to add in a different style or element – it’s a brave man who changes tack half way through a build because the end result is usually something that you think is good because of all the effort put into it. But in reality and in the eyes of other people, it could be the opposite.”


Whatever path you chose, be it full customisation or simply changing parts for custom accessories, your local Harley-Davidson dealership can help. After all, they are all Custom Kings.


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