Most of us’ve heard the rather unlikely tales of people picking up a totally unbelievable bargain by being at the right place at the right time, haven’t we? And most of us put it down to a case of being who you know, and thus being offered parts at mates’ rates.
Pics: Garry Stuart
This isn’t always the case though, as there’re many of us who’re slowly but surely collecting the parts we need for the next project (or the one after, or the one after that) by pure effort – hunting high and low, with much of our spare time either e-hunting on the interwebs, or traditional physical searching at autojumbles, swap meets, car boot sales and breakers’ yards. In fact, most of us aren’t so much collecting parts for a specific build, just buying cool parts as and when we see them – much like Paul Bowes from Bobber Bros.
Having built a number of bikes over the years, a few of which have been featured in this ’ere magazine, he’s worked out a system where, rather than set out to make a specific bike, with the financial burden of having to buy all the requisite parts within a short period of time, he’d build them from bits that he either made or picked up over several years of scavenging. This is exactly how he built the very cool low-slung Harley chop you see here…
The heart of the beast is an S&S Evolution engine – one of the wide range of S&S Evo’ lumps that vary from 80 to 124 cubic inches capacity (1340-2032cc). This one is a healthy 96 cubes (1580cc) that he’d taken out of a bike that’d been imported from the States. It’d had a huge rear wheel and a frame to match, neither of which was what he was after for his new project, so he kept the powerplant (and a few other choice goodies, such as the sprocket/disc rear brake) and sold the frame and wheel.
The engine, and its accompanying five-speed Zodiac gearbox and BDL belt primary drive, were squeezed into a very cool Flyrite frame – as made by Jason Kidd and the crew at Flyrite Choppers in San Francisco – that Paul’d been lucky enough to stumble across at a Harley-specific autojumble in Dorking. There’s probably a lesson to be learned there – it’s always a good idea to patronise your local autojumble (or ‘swap meet’ if you prefer to use the American vernacular), as you never quite know just what might turn up! After all, you can’t just sit around waiting for someone to offer you your dream parts at mates’ rates…
The frame’d previously been raked out, but he wanted to use a short set of forks for a bobbed, bar-hopper style of bike, so put the rake back to stock dimensions (more or less, it’s now at 33 degrees) to allow the Harley forks, that he’d shortened, to fit. And, while he had the angle grinder, welding plant and the frame together in one place in the Bobber Bros’ workshop, he also shortened the rear, bringing the back wheel forward by two inches. The front wheel is a traditional 21-inch so, with a 16-incher at the rear, a classic chop stance was virtually guaranteed, and the choice of Firestone tyres front and rear give a neat contrast with the circumferentially ribbed, almost racy look of the front hoop allied to the gnarlier cross-hatching of the Champion Deluxe rear rubber.
That svelte and smooth style brought by that front tyre is paralleled in the shaved Harley forks, devoid of any mudguard mountings and with only the lugs for the four-piston Harrison Billet caliper remaining, and with the seal housing and caps that echo the profile of the yokes. A pair of one-off ’bars with built-in risers is home to an AJP master-cylinder, while the switchgear amounts to nothing more complicated than a single button switch on the right-hand ’bar.
One of the few parts that he bought brand new, the Cole Foster fuel tank, was treated to a modified tunnel at the rear end, so that it’d sit nice and low on the upper frame rail, giving a beautifully flowing line from the rear wheel spindle right up to the top of the upper yoke. A pop-up filler cap prevents the lines from being spoiled, and the subtle rib along the centre emphasises the flow of the design.
The right-hand side of the rear wheel is kept clean thanks to the sprocket brake, with the almost organically shaped Flyrite caliper sitting snugly between the frame rails of the hardtail. Thinking ergonomically, he’s fitted the bullet-shaped rear lights and side-mount ’plate on the right frame rail rather than the traditional left – something that’s always struck me (often literally) as being a bit silly, shin-shatteringly silly, given that most of us push a bike from the left. Paul won’t be suffering from continually scabbed and/or bleeding lower legs, but then he doesn’t plan on pushing it much either…
He made the somewhat brave move in having white rubber Biltwell grips and a white leather seat from Chaos Customs (if it was me they’d have dirty finger prints on them before I’d even taken them out of their wrappers), but they all add to the clean and classy monochrome look brought by the black and white paint, done by Paul himself with a neat black pinstripe around the edges of the white panels.
While having the beautiful, flowing lines of a classic Flyrite, the chop does indeed ‘Flyrite’ in that not only does it have the prodigious power output of the 1580cc S&S motor, but it handles extremely well, even given the inherent issues brought about by riding a hardtail on Welsh roads. Having enjoyed the build process so much, this is something of a happy ending for Bobber Brother Paul. I doubt it’ll be the last one he does though…Enjoy more Back Street Heroes reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.