1986 HD Sportster – Out with the new, in with the old!

Late last year I started to look at everything I was doing and wonder where it was taking me. I definitely over think everything and It was starting to take its toll on a lot of aspects of my life.

Motorcycles were always a small component of what I do, over the last year it all changed and turned into a major component. If I continued on the path that I was heading down I think I would have turned into some form of garage hobbit, hiding in a dark corner waiting for another project.

I had to rethink what I was doing and remember why I love motorcycling, its the thrill of the ride, the places it takes you, the social aspect of it, the enjoyment of feeling the machine beneath you and improving its every aspect.

I started to look around the garage and understood what I needed to do, I needed to make the most out of the things I had, I returned from Christmas holidays and pulled the entire garage apart, I removed everything that I wasnt using and if it didnt hold a significant relevance to me then it was destined for either the garbage or eBay.


My XL1200 flat track bike was one of those items, it was an amazing machine but it was practically useless as it wasn’t allowed on the roads. So late last year I formulated a plan to swap out the 2012 model XL1200 and replace it with an earlier bike to have on club registration (you get a discounted 90 day permit on 25 year old vehicles). I found a bike on the border that ticked all the boxs.


Its a 1986 HD Sportster, originally this bike was a 883cc machine, its now out to 1200 with an impressive spec list. Not only that but the previous owner had redone just about everything on the bike in a very tasteful manner, something thats hard to find in our local HD scene.


So with the late model Sportster stripped of everything I wanted a roadworthy certificate and registration on the 1986 Sportster it was time to make it mine.


The entire CBR1100 front end slipped straight into the frame (Harley’s don’t change much in the engineering department) so that meant the front wheel would slip in too, the rear wheel had a larger axle and the larger sprocket meant the braced swingarm wouldnt work either.


So instead of modifying this swingarm I decided to make my own.


I have never really like the slip in axle adjusters on most of the HD motorcycles, I had an idea to make this a little neater.


Using 2.8mm steetmetal I simply drew up the shape of the swingarm, made a template and cut the pieces out making sure the fit was perfect before welding.


The new bike was so much lighter than the one it replaced, I wanted to make it as light as I possibly could, the new front end was a massive saving in itself.


I made the wheelbase as short as possible, the beauty of a HD motorcycle is its all engine appearance, I wanted to enhance that with a compact appearance.


With everything in the clearance and brake department checked out I couuld finish sheeting in the swingarm.


Now I could concentrate on the shock tabs, with the shocks taking the weight the swingarms job is to simply stop the flex and keep the wheel in its intended position.


Some time on the welder later and I am happy with the new piece.


Time to get the tank and seat sorted and get the bike on the road. Ill update this as the bike progresses.

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