Best-of-the-best bike builders perfect their imagination, skills and technical expertise to claim the national title
By Micaela Wallace
May’s Battle of the Kings (BOTK) at the Roll the Bones Old School Motorcycle & Art Show in Montreal was every custom motorcycle enthusiast’s dream. Celebrating choppers, custom builds, photography, art and music, it was a chance for local makers and people eager to talk bikes to share their passions.
An international event, BOTK challenges builders to transform standard Harley-Davidson® motorcycles into something unique. To inspire consumers to get their hands on their favourite Harley® and make it their own, participants must ensure their creations are replicable and road-legal.
This year’s three Canadian finalists were chosen by the public to create bespoke, cutting-edge Harleys using only their imagination, technical competency and a budget that equates to half the cost of the original stock model. The three teams showcased their builds at Roll the Bones, where a panel of expert judges followed strict protocols to determine which bike would continue to Milan’s International Motorcycle and Accessories Exhibition (EICMA) for the global competition.
Two of the three finalists opted to build off the 2019 Softail Slim® model, with the third team working off the 2018 Sport Glide® model. The builders from each dealership connected with the public at the event to share their inspirations, challenges and excitement over their custom creations. I spoke with the build teams to learn about their processes and inspiration, and the highs and lows of competition building.
*NATIONAL WINNER: Moonshine
Dealership: Calgary Harley-Davidson (Calgary, Alberta)
Lead builder: Justin Willimont
Inspired by the 1983–1992 FXRT Sport Glide models, this bike design stood out from the competition and was truly a dealership effort. Lead builder Justin Willimont, a service technician at Calgary Harley-Davidson, spoke of the camaraderie, passion, innovation and teamwork that led to Moonshine being crowned the 2019 Canadian BOTK winner.
“I can’t take any credit for the vision of Moonshine,” Willimont said. “It was truly a team effort. It wasn’t one person saying, ‘This is what we are doing.’ It was all of us spit-balling and sharing ideas that ultimately led to Moonshine being born.”
The team was inspired by the historical trends of baggers, choppers and bobbers, incorporating all major components of the custom Harley culture to produce a bike that blends new-school technology with old-school style. This merging of eras makes Moonshine equal parts form and function, combining the reborn 1980s FXRT-style fairing with modern advances like hardbags and cruise control.
Sketches, concept sharing and brainstorming kicked off the build process for this team, including Eric Sum from the service department and Ty Troutman, an H-D mechanic.
Calgary H-D staff had a “name that bike” competition, landing on Moonshine after several healthy debates and a few “there-is-no-way-we-can-call-it-that” conversations. The name was inspired by the team’s whisky-lubricated brainstorming sessions and team members’ beards reminiscent of characters from the TV show Moonshiners.
“Once the copper parts came out of the box, it all came together and someone on the team threw out, ‘It looks like a still!’” said Willimont, referencing the copper found in traditional moonshine stills.
Willimont’s favourite part of the bike is the fairing.
“As soon as that fairing went on in prime, I was just like, ‘Yes, we got it,’” he said.
For Sum, the best part is the combination of the black and the copper: “It is classy, timeless and not just another black Harley. It is subtle, clean and well balanced.”
Budget was the team’s biggest roadblock. They had to pare back certain components to keep the build on budget, reproducible in its finished form and road-legal. Despite these challenges, the team is stoked to take their build to EICMA, and will participate in BOTK again if given the opportunity next year.
The Calgary H-D team will represent Canada at the international BOTK event in Milan, Italy.
Parts and Accessories used:
NATIONAL FINALIST: Speedball
Dealership: Harley-Davidson Rimouski (Rimouski, Quebec)
Lead builder: Steeve Dufour
Steeve Dufour used his longstanding passion for Harley-Davidson motorcycles – particularly the early 20th-century racing board-track motorcycles (1910-1931) – to create Speedball. Built off the 2019 Softail Slim, the bike is a tribute to the last model produced by all four original Harley-Davidson founders, the Knucklehead. The result is a truly unique bike with a vintage, minimalist and bobber-esque design incorporating modern performance advances. The name stems from the 1936–1939 H-D tank emblem, Speedball.
Dufour suggested that time and budget were the team’s biggest roadblocks, but the support from dealership management and technical teams allowed them to overcome each obstacle. Once the team had worked on the motor and frame, adding springer forks and holding true to their blacked-out assembly vision, there was no room left in the budget for anything “frilly.”
This worked out well for the team, keeping them focused on building an era-appropriate race bike with minimalist design rather than being distracted by modern-day extras.
Parts and Accessories used:
NATIONAL FINALIST: Maple Slim
Dealership: RPM Harley-Davidson (Jonquière, Quebec)
Lead builder: Hans Leclerc
Maple Slim lead builder Hans Leclerc teamed up with expert mechanic Luc Dubois to create a vintage bobber-style motorcycle with a lot of character.
Raised in the motorcycle scene by his father, who has owned RPM H-D since 1984, Leclerc finessed a 2019 Softail Slim to create this masterpiece. It was Dubois who suggested the copper detailing, giving the Maple Slim a unique take on “vintage” styling with a vastly different interpretation from their Speedball counterpart. Coupled with a Denim Black base, lowered suspension and true-to-form bobber necessities like the springer solo seat and leather swingarm bag, Maple Slim is a sleek, modern-day vintage powerhouse that truly stands out both in the showroom and on the road.
The Maple Slim presented at Roll the Bones is actually the second version of this custom bike. During the competition, a young farmer from Saskatchewan saw what Leclerc and his team were creating and immediately contacted them to ask if he could buy the bike. Wanting to share their build with the right owner, the Maple Slim team sold him the first version and worked tirelessly to recreate the bike to meet the BOTK deadline.
Respecting the budget was a challenge for this team, coupled with connecting their concept to the rules and regulations. Leclerc’s vision and ability to communicate his plans to the mechanical team allowed them to pull the build together on time and on budget.
Parts and Accessories used: