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A 2011 Harley-Davidson FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic Review
More than a few motorcycle manufacturers have attached the name Classic to various models. Their bikes might be classic in terms of their basic styling, but in truth there is nothing classic about them at all.
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Cylinder Fin Replacement
A short while ago we scored a pulled-apart but intact ’69 Ironhead power plant from our long-time pal Josh Green. The engine was in great shape and it already had the top end done up with bigger pistons and a ton of machine work.
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Old Rims versus Wheel Building
As you know anything goes once you start building choppers and combining old pieces with new currently is the standard. But why don’t you consider venturing into unknown territories and choosing a mix of components which may have never been fused long before?
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Coming from a carburetor or a pair of injectors, a perfectly calibrated fuel mixture won’t provide all the performance it’s capable of if it isn’t lit off at the right time with a big, fat spark. That optimized fuel mixture needs an equally optimized ignition system and pro tuners know it. At Speed’s Performance Plus (SPP) an ignition upgrade is always part of the plan. “It doesn’t take much, either,” says SPP’s Jason Hanson. Maybe some hot new coils, definitely an adjustable control module, quality plug wires, and performance plugs to match, that makes up the parts list. But first come the basics, those common ignition problems that crop up from time to time. “And we see it all,” say the guys at SPP. No doubt, they travel the country tuning literally thousands of bikes a year.
“Most often,” says Jamie Hanson, the other half of this two-brother team, “when a bike comes in spitting and coughing with an ignition problem, a coil might be shot, a plug fouled, or, and this happens a lot, the guy might have gotten a little too fancy trying to hide new plug wires but actually caused his problem by letting those wires rub up against something or get pinched and broken.” None of that takes long to repair, but it’s a shame to just stop there.
A few upgrade parts along with a “dyno tune” of the ignition pays off big, and the more modified the engine, say the guys at SPP, the more important that ignition upgrade becomes. Neglect the ignition, specifically the advance curve, and you’ll be leaving a lot of the gains from any performance pipes, pistons, cams, and heads that you might already have right on the table.
On a fuel-injected bike that custom ignition tuning, setting the timing and advance can be done using the same Power Commander that reprograms the fuel delivery. Just as precisely, too, adding advance where it’s needed or taking some away 1 degree at a time at 250 rpm increments from idle to red line. With a carbureted bike it’s pretty much the same story, differing only in how you get there. Speed’s uses the plug-in Daytona Twin Tee modules on those bikes and with the Twin Tee software, custom calibrates the ignition exactly as it would be done with a Power Commander, right down to the option of multi-spark settings and single-or dual-fire.
About that… older Harleys, pre-Twin Cam, would fire both spark plugs simultaneously. There are drawbacks to that. While one spark plug is lighting the charge in the cylinder ready for it, the other is sparking off in a cylinder that’s not ready for its power stroke. If any residual fuel/air charge is left in that cylinder, which is almost always the case, it’ll also be ignited. That can have an engine actually working against itself. Set to single-fire a Harley is a much smoother-running motorcycle.
Along with custom calibration, upgrades to the coils, plugs, and plug wires make sense, too. High-output coils, delivering up to 45,000 volts, will definitely make for a smoother-running, easier-starting engine. Matching those hi-po coils with the best set of low-resistance wires you can find is another good move. True, due to the relatively short lengths involved in motorcycle applications the energy loss in spark plug wires isn’t that great. But OE-style carbon-core suppression cables can, and do, deteriorate. Solid copper-core cables, on the other hand, aren’t always compatible with those adjustable ignition modules.
A good replacement, savvy tuners have found, is a spiral-core type spark plug cable, readily available. And all spark plugs aren’t created equal, either. Iridium tipped plugs, such as the NGK Iridium IXs SPP uses, have been designed specifically for the performance enthusiast. Yeah, they’re a little more expensive, but besides reliably igniting that mixture, they have superior anti-fouling characteristics. They last. Choosing the right heat range for those plugs is important, too. Modified engines, especially when the compression has been bumped up, will generally require a change from the stock spark plug specs. When the compression goes up so does the heat, and since spark plugs must remove heat, a colder heat range spark plug might be needed. Skip the ignition step in a performance tune and you’re missing out on a lot. Talk to any tuning pros, such as the guys at SPP. They’ll tell you. Check out their website for the 2012 tour schedule. When it comes to performance there’s no reason to leave anything on the table.
Sonic Boom: Misfits Baggers and Pickard USA Shatter the Sound Barrier
The customer wants to stay unknown,” Chris Eder told us when we talked to him about his bagger. Misfit Baggers, which is now owned by Pickard USA, built it for a guy in Ireland who wants to remain anonymous, which is weird because he chose to do so by buying the loudest motorcycle he could find. What eventually became this silver beauty started out as parts call and grew from there. “He called for a fairing and ended up buying three kits,” Chris told us. “He called back three days later for a bike.” Mr. Mystery Shopper chose most of his parts online and communicated them over the phone. Usually that’s not enough to warrant us running a bike feature, so there’s got to be something special, right?
Absolutely. In this case, it was a set of 10-inch subwoofers worked into Pickard USA’s Heavy Hitter extended bags. Installing big sound like that on a set of motorcycle luggage isn’t as big an issue if you don’t mind wearing the same clothes for a week on a long trip. For those of us who don’t like wearing crusty T-shirts, though, storage space on a road tour is a plus. Our Irish friend felt the same way. That upped the difficulty factor on the stereo bags exponentially. Misfit’s solution: a flat subwoofer. Chris tells us that between that and gaining space from using extended bags, the bike only lost 10 percent of its carrying capacity. Cutouts hug the shocks for a precise fit, and a proper seal around the lids keeps the rain out. He also says they crank unbelievably loud sound like a car. “Nothing out there has true base like ours,” Chris said. This was the first set and it was made by hand. However, the company has been refining the subwoofer saddlebags ever since. One of the upgrades: quick disconnection for both the bags and wiring. Come the middle of 2012, it’s going to be released as a production item.
If the subwoofer saddlebags are the star of this show, the angular rear fender sandwiched between them is definitely a supporting player. Between the three of them, the parts lend a sharp cutoff to the motorcycle’s profile. The look is a great match to the fairing, which blends curves and angles in a way reminiscent of a star fighter straight out of a sci-fi movie. A Cool-7 gas tank curves up from the side panels and seat into the fairing, uniting the lines out back with the lines and curves up front. It’s all mounted to a Misfit bagger frame with the same dimensions as a stock HarleyDavidson touring bike. To run Pickard’s Mach-7 23-inch wheel, they make bolt-on trees that kick it out so you don’t have to cut the chassis. They would work with a stock Harley frame too while maintaining proper rake and trail to boot. What’s more, Pickard USA guarantees no wobble as well.
Not only will 23-inch wheel looks and gigantic subwoofer sound get you noticed on the road, but combine them with a big motor and anonymity becomes impossible. It’s hard to be stealthy when your scoot is powered by the roar of a 131 ci JIMS Twin Cam engine, like this one. Unless you’re Harry Potter, chances are you don’t have a magic remote that can keep a power plant like that quiet. You can have a lot of fun cranking the throttle on it, however, and I’m pretty sure our mystery owner does just that, wherever the hell he is. Pickard spiced it up with its own 2-into-1 exhaust and air cleaner. Open belt primaries aren’t exactly standard for a bagger like this, but our Irish friend had one installed on this project. It sends all the mill’s hard-charging ponies to a six-speed Harley transmission.
The black ceramic-coated pipe on this badass motorcycle gives it a bit of an industrial look. Flat metallic silver paint carries that aesthetic throughout the rest of the bike. It’s off set by tribal graphics on the saddlebags and rear fender, as well as Misfit’s logo on the tank and red striping on the wheels.
This baby may have started as a parts order but it grew into something much larger and louder. How could it not be, with a mammoth stereo system and (arguably) more ginormous motor to power it? Its anonymous owner succeeded in keeping his name out of this story. Keeping a low profile on the road though? Good luck with that. Let us know how that goes the first time you whack the throttle or plug in your MP3 player wherever you are.
By Mark Masker and John Jackson
Another Drews Masterpiece
When I drove into the narrow Sunset Beach, California, street and arrived at Mark’s house, he was already at work in his tiny one-car garage. My view immediately fell on a gloss black and chromed Flathead chopper built in the authentic ‘60s style. Just like many of his other bikes, this machine could’ve rolled out of an Ed Roth Choppers magazine straight away. Back in February 2011, when I visited Mark he had the ’48 Panhead frame sitting on the table in his living room with the engine mocked up in it.
Mark is a very humble guy and it took him a while to tell me that not too many people had even seen the bike when I showed up at his place. The story behind this bike is that he was actually going to build it together with this dad. Unfortunately his father passed away and the bike project, which wasn’t much more than a pile of parts at that moment, just kept laying in a corner of the shop. Marl< always thought it was going to be a burden to finish the bike, but now that it’s done, he is very proud of it, and he should be.
When I saw the frame sitting on the table, I thought it was already chromed, but I was actually looking at Marl<’s metal finishing and polishing. For about a year Mark worked on small areas of the frame on a daily basis. He would make a mark on the frame with a piece of tape, and would say, “Today I’ll polish these 4 inches.” He doesn’t even remember how many hours it took him, but he’s very sure that he put more time into detailing the frame then it took to build the entire bike. It’s no secret that Mark is a freak for the details. Look at the fender for example. The first thing that came to my mind was a’59 Chevy Impala, and that’s exactly the way where Mark wanted to go with it. He wanted to do something special and he did. Look at the scoops on the tank. They are similar to what he did on his Triumph, but in a different manner.
The shifting on Mark’s bike is also special. He used an old four-speed housing, which is converted to a three speed. It contains an oversized Second gear, which works like Second and Third on a normal transmission. The clutch works with a mousetrap, and Mark shifts with a Thoro speed shift. It’s a pretty rare old gem, which converts a hand-shift Harley to a foot shifter way before Harley would use foot shifts on its production bikes. The ratchet, which usually sits on the transmission housing, now sits by your left foot.
Up top Mark used a classic 1942 clutch lever and an aluminum Panhead front brake lever. He describes the brakes as “nothing fancy.” Up front he makes use of a Triumph Pre Unit brake, which came with the fork. In the rear, the stock mechanical Harley-Davidson drum is used. Marl< also installed a set of heavier springs in the forks, so they can carry the weight of the heavy American V-twin compared to the skinny British machine they came off of.
The list with impressive parts is endless. He’s running one of those neat 2I inch front wheels combined with a skinny front tire, like on his Triumph. 0n the rear he runs a Beck Front Runner, also an original Harley-Davidson accessory. The ape hangers are 1 inch Flanders, but it has a 15/16 step down throttle area, so you can mount a Triumph Pre Unit throttle.
Last but definitely not least, is the beautiful polished ULH motor. It was bought from a friend. Mark had another one, which he sold, so he could upgrade to this shiny showpiece. It is a thing of beauty.
Mark’s dad was a man of the “real biker” kind. He always advised Mark to build closed primary bikes because he had some friends with missing fingers. The weird thing is that the bike Mark was gonna build together with his dad was going to have an open primary.
The sun had suddenly disappeared in Sunset Beach. We were going take it out for a ride nonetheless since it was going to be the bike’s first official outing. When I asked Mark where he was gonna put his feet, he told me, “On the brake pedal, like they used to do it back in the day.” And what about you’re left foot? I asked. “Well, we’re gonna have to see where my left foot goes.” Classic Drews.
By Maurice Van Den Tillaard
Most of you have probably experienced the dreadful feeling of a sputtering motorcycle trying to suck the last bit of gas from the tank until ultimately you have to coast to the side of the road up shit’s creek. And of course, the next gas station is a few miles away. We’ve been there before and it pretty much sucks. Thanks to the Fuel-Tool ($89.99) we’ll never have to siphon gas again!
The Fuel-Tool is a convenient way to transfer fuel from a friend’s fuel-injected Harley if you get in a jam. But even if you’re riding alone the Fuel-Tool could also come in handy since bikers tend to help a comrade on the side of the road, and the chances are pretty good that their bike(s) are fuel-injected. We tested out the cool new gadget and were blown away out how simple and effective it was. Want to see how the Fuel-Tool works?
By Jordan Mastagni
It would be great to have the essential gear and tools especially on long drives, motorcycle rallies, and road trips. Before heading out, make a checklist and include items like motorcycle helmets, protective gear, tools, gadgets and many more. Its best to prepare ahead so you’ll have all your necessities to avoid any inconvenience along the way that could ruin your trip. Good luck and always ride safe!
Jon McDevitt bought an almost-stock ’09 Road King, but the purchase was bittersweet. The chromed-out bling machine didn’t necessarily fit Jon’s tastes, so the bike would need to undergo a transformation to get it up to speed with a little more edge, so to speak. Jon’s a young buck (22) and really digs the “murdered-out” look of a Harley.
Since the Road King was dripping with chrome, Jon’s first priority was to blacking out the entire bike, starting first in the handlebar department. Utilizing all H-D components, Jon went with a set of black Fat Ape handlebars with risers ($319) along with a black Handlebar Cover kit ($49.95) because Jon likes that “in the wind” feeling while riding. Because the 16-inch apes are that much taller than stock, Jon also ordered a longer two-piece Black Diamond brake line ($69.95 upper, $139.95 lower), clutch cable ($109.95), switch wiring with cruise ($109.95), and Twist Grip sensor kit ($99.95) to fit the new application. To keep a view on those behind him when riding, a brand-new set of Tapered black mirrors ($69.95) were also chosen. Lastly, to roll on the throttle better, Jon liked the look of the Get-A-Grip hand grips ($79.95) to give the all-black handlebar setup a subtle chrome contrast.
We headed over to Jon’s place of business; the Harley-Davidson Fleet Center in Carson, California, to document the installation and see how the swap would better fit Jon’s needs. Overall, the installation was relatively easy and performed in just a few hours.
By Jordan Mastagni
Before You Go!
No matter how many times you customize your bike, make sure you know the state laws to avoid of your destination to avoid unnecessary delays that could ruin your riding experience. State laws regarding motorcycles are varied from state to state. Motorcycle helmets are required in some regions while some don’t. Some have a specific height for their ape bars which is required for every biker that enters their boundary. Happy riding and drive safely.
The Skullcrusher is our newest low profile motorcycle helmet. It’s similar to the Beanie half helmet but has a tapered rear end to allow for easier head movement while still maintaining a shield for the back of the head. The side has a different curve to it similar to the Six Shooter helmet. Like all Skull Crush helmets, it has a carbon fiber / kevlar shell. It has moisture resistant memory foam. The straps exceed automotive grade nylon, secured to the shell by industrial grade steel rivets.
Customizing your Harley can be an endless task. Swapping out pipes to get a different sound or more horsepower, installing a gel-pad seat for more comfort on long rides, or replacing chrome for black components or vice-versa; one bike could go through several styles in its lifetime. While it’s fun to continually change up the looks, sound, and performance of our motorcycles, one thing that sometimes gets overlooked is safety, more specifically lighting.
While the standard halogen bulb on OE models does an ok job cutting through the night, there’s definitely room for improvement.
Last year Harley-Davidson came out with a new Black LED Headlamp, which we thought would look good heading up our long-term 2011 Blackline. Harley offers the headlamp in a 5-3/4- and 7-inch version, it also has matching 4-inch Auxiliary Lamps to really brighten those dark backroads. If black isn’t your thing, Harley offers the lamps in chrome versions as well. According to Harley the headlights provide a “daylight color impression” that appears more natural to the rider.
The solid state LEDs in the headlight are designed for long life and are shock/vibration resistant. Best of all the assembly fits into the stock headlight housing with no extra wiring or components and simply plugs into the stock wiring harness. The opportunity to have better lighting backed by a black appearance seemed to fit perfectly with the semi-blacked-out theme of our Blackline.
By Eric Ellis
Responsible driving is a must simply because this makes the road safe for ourselves and the people around us as we cruise. Aside from safety gear like motorcycle helmets, protective clothing, and other technical essentials in a bike, the headlight is equally very important. You can choose anything you feel gives you a wider coverage through the night as you drive. So, until next time, drive safely and happy riding!