general 2 king


By Mike Zimmerman, H.O.G.® staff writer

They call their creation “General Mayhem.” Built to conquer city streets and rural roads alike, this extreme custom Sportster vanquished all challengers in six rounds of heated bike-to-bike battles to become the U.S. “Custom King” for 2016.

The General started out as a bone stock 2015 Sportster® 883 SuperLow, transformed over many months into a work of art by the dedicated design team at Hal’s Harley-Davidson in New Berlin, Wisconsin. Their mission was straightforward: win the 2016 Harley-Davidson “Custom Kings” competition, pitting dealer against dealer in an epic battle for customization supremacy.

The first challenge was to be chosen by the legendary Harley-Davidson® styling team to advance to the round of 64. Judging criteria included quality of customization and build, fit and finish, use of paint, design, technique, and how teams utilized Harley-Davidson® Genuine Parts & Accessories. Once the 64 were chosen, the fans took over, casting votes across the nation to choose the rad-est of them all.

“Our vision was a modern-day dual-sport bike with an edgy, minimalist look that would appeal to millennials, hooligan riders, or the young at heart,” said Bud Curtis, team lead at Hal’s Harley-Davidson. “We are proud to have built the General Mayhem, our take on a Sportster that we hope can be enjoyed by the masses.”

The General Mayhem bike features a dual headlight to provide protection in a rugged environment, a 1200cc engine conversion with tuned exhaust to optimize performance, and a fabricated tank with padded inserts that allows the rider to connect to the road. The olive green color is in honor of the U.S. military, and the “5150” etched onto the oil tank refers a police code indicating “general mayhem and chaos,” said Carrie Schmidt, Hal’s marketing manager.


 Our vision was a modern-day dual sports bike with an edgy, minimalist look that would appeal to millennials, hooligan riders, or the young at heart ...”


“We turned it into this wonderful cross between a scrambler and a sport-utility, said Bud Curtis, team leader at Hal’s. “It’s kind of our idea of what our customers might be looking for, particularly those who are young at heart, or the millennial, or somebody who just wants to go out and have fun on the weekends in the dirt and ride it to work on Monday.”

While some dealer teams really stretched the limits of their design imagination, Hal’s took a different route. They wanted to make sure this iconic model stayed recognizable.

“We wanted to reflect the fact that it’s still a Sportster, the oldest motorcycle in Harley’s [current] inventory,” Bud said.

Besides Bud, other design team members included Ryan Achterhof, Terry Galagan, and Tony Sholts. But those are only the “official” members of the team. “Everyone at the dealership, at one point or another, had something to do with this,” Bud said.

And that’s not all. Adding a “feel good” touch to an already awesome story, the team at Hal’s had a unique partner in their project: the local New Berlin High School BUILD Team. Working together as part of a national BUILD Challenge, the team and their mentors turn the Custom Kings build into an educational experience for the students, opening the road to learning more about the world of motorcycling and sparking their passion for the Sportster’s unique style and unrivaled performance.

When all the work – about 300 hours worth – was finally complete, the “masses” liked what they saw. Encouraged by a rigorous social media campaign, voters turned out in force, round after round, to power the General to victory.

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A Tradition in the Making

Following in the tire tracks of the 2015 edition, the 2016 Custom Kings competition was a huge success. “We were thrilled by the response from the dealers across the country, said Dino Bernacchi, director of U.S. marketing at Harley-Davidson. “And Hal’s Harley-Davidson served up a striking design that challenged the status quo and took the artistry and quality of the Sportster SuperLow to new heights.”

The 2016 competition marked the second year of Custom Kings. In 2015, dealers built their creations on the new Harley-Davidson Street® platform. Yellowstone Harley-Davidson in Belgrade, Montana took home the top prize with a vintage racer-themed creation. Sportster models were chosen for 2016. The goal in both contests was to showcase how even a “basic” Harley-Davidson motorcycle with attainable pricing can be transformed into something truly unique, individual, and amazing.

“Customization is one of the biggest ways riders showcase and celebrate their individuality,” said Bernacchi. “Custom Kings bring that forward by redefining performance through the expertise and ingenuity of Harley-Davidson dealers throughout the country. All of the competitors have put in months of planning, building, and straight-up creative thinking into each of the bikes featured in the contest.”

The other seven finalists vying for the title with Hal’s Harley-Davidson were:

  • Four Rivers Harley-Davidson, Paducah, Kentucky
  • Independence Harley-Davidson, College Station, Texas
  • Schaeffer’s Harley-Davidson, Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania
  • Southside Harley-Davidson, Virginia Beach, Virginia
  • Toledo Harley-Davidson, Toledo, Ohio
  • Yellowstone Harley-Davidson, Belgrade, Montana
  • Zylstra Harley-Davidson, Ames, Iowa

If you’d like to see the General Mayhem up-close, it will be on display during the Harley-Davidson Museum® Custom Bike Show at the Milwaukee Rally in September and will remain on display at the Museum through November 1, 2016.

And while no plans have been announced for the 2017 edition of Custom Kings, you can be sure that dealerships across the country are already thinking about how to make their entry – or your bike – something worthy of wearing the Custom Kings crown.