The king is crowned

The king is crowned

The EICMA show in Milan saw the culmination of the 2019 Battle of the Kings contest, where five finalists – representing Canada, the USA, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Germany – went head to head and the new King was crowned. We spoke to the contestants before the final to find out what goes into creating a world-class custom Harley-Davidson motorcycle…

Canada: Moonshine

Calgary Harley-Davidson® created a neo-retro midweight bagger inspired by the 1980s FXRT, without losing an ounce of the functionality found in the donor Sport Glide®.

“We wanted to create a bike you can just get on and ride,” explains Trevor Madore, General Manager of Calgary Harley-Davidson. “We started with the new Softail platform in the form of the Sport Glide, but really brought the retro style back, with detachable bags and mid-range controls to give a more aggressive riding position and copper accents to really brighten it up.”

Dominion Collection parts from the official Harley-Davidson P&A Collection, including mirrors, grips, pegs and shifter, have been used extensively while P&A Blackout parts replace the chrome accents on the motor for a contrasting blacked-out look. Copper accents brighten the rest of the bike and give the bike a vintage bagger appearance. A new adaptive headlight completes the transformation on a small build budget.

“This is 100% what the new generation of riders in our region is looking for,” said Trevor. “Once our customers saw this conversion, now everyone is buying Sport Glides.

“The Battle of the Kings has been a really cool competition for us; we do a fair amount of custom building in Canada so we thought we’d put a bike in and see how we do – and ended up winning Canada, which brought us here to EICMA. It’s given us the chance to see the new Harley-Davidson models, too. Love them, and love the direction the company is going, introducing more riders to Harley-Davidson worldwide.”

United Kingdom: The Crook

Charlie Stockwell of Warr’s Harley-Davidson took a 2019 Street Bob® and took inspiration from one of the first bikes he created as a custom builder to deliver a bike with an understated vintage bobber look. It’s also designed to be accessible to others wishing to create a relatively straightforward custom look in their own build project.

“I wanted to keep it simple and build something that anyone else could replicate, so there is very little fabrication involved in this bike,” Charlie explains. “The only real fabrication work is the shortened fenders to get that true bobber look, and the cut-outs on the gas tank, which is a signature look that I’ve used on a few of my builds.

“The aim was to give the bike some aggression but for it to be easy to live with – and, most importantly, to make people want to ride it. So it’s not too stretched and chopped. The vintage look comes from the vintage tyres on fat rims front and rear and the exposed rear tyre for the authentic bobber look.”

Harley-Davidson parts are used throughout, including the Tuck & Roll Solo seat, re-covered to match the saddlebags, and chrome Defiance P&A Collection parts used on the motor, grips and footpegs.

“The Battle of the Kings contest is such a great idea for the worldwide dealer network and I hope it continues for a long time,” says Charlie. “It’s an important platform for dealers to show what they can do with a relatively simple level of customisation, and allows us to reach out to new customers on social media – people who may not walk through the dealership doors but can get to see what we can do with our products and skills.”

Mexico: Joe Tracker

The team at Harley-Davidson Quéretaro took inspiration from Harley’s board track history to create their BOTK entry Joe Tracker from a Softail Slim®.

According to Dealer Principal Oscar Penata, the aim was to appeal to a younger audience by bringing elements of Harley-Davidson racing heritage to the modern era.

The donor Softail Slim received CVO® 21-inch wheels front and rear, twin headlights, a Harley-Davidson Solo seat and leather accents throughout to emulate the 1920s board tracker look the team had in mind. The clean profile was enhanced with discreet running lights and turn signals while a paint scheme in heritage Harley colours – light blue and white – makes for a vintage look.

“It was important for us to keep all the contemporary Harley-Davidson engineering in this bike to keep the performance levels and rideability customers are looking for,” says Oscar. “The custom scene in Mexico is growing fast and we wanted to show it is possible to achieve a very particular look in a way that is not expensive and is relatively easy to do. We want to promote the custom scene to everybody and make sure the final product is exactly what the customer expects.”

And the new Harley-Davidson models launched at EICMA? Oscar is enthusiastic. “We really, really like the new bikes. They look great and they will allow us to attract new and younger riders, which is very necessary in our market.”

Germany: Roar

The team at Harley-Davidson Niederrhein had a very clear goal in mind with their BOTK entry Roar: take a new FXDR™ – already a street race-style bike – and make it lower, stronger, more powerful and more visually arresting.

“We chose the FXDR as the donor because it already has so many great, high-specification parts in its original form, including the front end and the powerful engine, meaning you don’t have to change so much to reach the end goal,” says Dealer Principal Andreas Bergerforth. “We added Screamin’ Eagle® Performance parts to give it even more power, Dominion Collection parts and new paintwork to make it stand out.  This style of bike is typical of what German customers want – race styled, low, bad and very fast – exactly what German customers like in a Harley-Davidson.”

As for the new Harley-Davidson models launched at EICMA, Andreas is impressed by the new direction. “These bikes open up new and different areas for the company and for us,” he says. “I really like the streetfighter style of the new Bronx™. I think we could make something very special from it, making it even more of a streetfighter, like we have made the FXDR into even more of a street race bike.”

And the new king is….

USA: FXGTS Coast Glide

With five exceptional custom bikes from across the world fighting for the Custom King title, each showcasing a very different style, the decision was never going to be an easy one. In the end the judges’ decision – led by Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson VP of Styling & Design – went to Coast Glide, the performance cruiser from Laidlaw’s Harley-Davidson, Los Angeles.

Based on a donor Sport Glide, the Laidlaw’s team took inspiration from retro performance baggers like the much-loved FXRT to create a bike reflecting the SoCal bike culture of today, while paying homage to Harley’s performance touring heritage.

“We wanted to build something on the Softail chassis that has the retro throwback style of the FXRT model,” says Sales Manager Matt Laidlaw. “The design for this bike very much comes from the FXR days, mixed with the West Coast ‘purpose-built’ culture that’s going on right now. We see a lot of guys getting old FXRs and really riding them aggressively, so this kind of bike is what our customer base really like, an agile, fun mid-size touring bike that can do it all, from lane splitting to a long road trip.”

Coast Glide uses the dual disc front end from a Harley-Davidson touring bike to transform the look of the original Sport Glide, matched with an FL fender and striking orange wheels. Dominion Collection parts in orange – grips, footpegs, primary covers – make a bold statement, contrasted with black mirrors and custom-painted stock saddlebags. A FXRT-style from fairing, custom fitted and painted, completes the performance bagger look.

All hail the new king!

If this has you itching to start work on your next custom project, why not visit the official H-D Parts and Accessories site here