Sporty #13: Build a Harley-Davidson Sportster for desert racing in 3 weeks

Sporty #13: Build a Harley-Davidson Sportster for desert racing in 3 weeks

This starts as a continuation of the 2019 Mint 400, where we teamed up with Rusty Butcher (Mark Atkins) to see if fools would be interested in racing Harley's in the Nevada desert. After it was all said and done it seemed like a really bad idea, but after a few months I think we all forgot how stupid and grueling it was and all we could think about was doing it again. So this time we decided to build a new bike for a new rider. Sporty #13 for the CEO, Justin Hertel (Me) Here's a few photos on how that bike went together in the after-hours and weekend here at the shop.

1996 Harley-Davidson Sportster

The search for a candidate took a bit longer than expected, and it was right under our nose the entire time. We traded Rusty Butcher a few pairs of sunglasses and we had ourselves a non-running, incomplete, albiet fairly fresh solid mount 1996 883 Sportster. A perfect candidate for a desert bike.

Tear down started quickly. And this was actually the first project in the new HWV Race Shop. At this point the bike has been converted to a 1200 and we are starting to put things together - 4" risers, Renthal RC bars mocked up with switches.

Our wheels from Virus Moto showed up quickly, but didn't really fit at all. We found they took different brake rotors, and needed new spacers made to set them correctly. After a few phone calls we found they were hubs from an early 2000s dyna and the parts we needed ordered. This was still very much in the mock up stage, with about 2 weeks to go time. As you can see we have our RWD shocks on, the Jagg Oil cooler and have the hand guards thrown on.

A desert race bike needs a desert race light - So KC Hilites supplied us with exactly that with KC FLEX™ Quad LED Combo Beam System. With that took a little bit more work and some creativity to get it to fit just right.

So the whole front of the bike comes on and off, and on again to ensure proper placement of the light, fender, and number plate combo. You can also see we've bolted on a few other odds and ends here.

Here you will see a piece of sheet metal around the bottom triple clamp, this will provide a sturdy base for the KC Quad light, and also contains riv-nuts for our moto fender. The angle iron up top with the riv-nut is for our number plate mount.

Here's the bottom of our triple clamp, showing our fender mounts (Riv-Nuts), You will also notice the KC light mount.

This is our completed fender, light and number plate mount. Care was taken for serviceability, ensuring the fender and number plate could be easily replaced just like a real dirt bike, and that both of them were equally secure. The light mount needed to be angled to ensure proper light angle. It was also designed for easy removal and is easily adjusted if need be.

If you've ever worked on a Sportster you know there's TONS of wires and plugs that run up to the neck of the bike and into the stock headlight. We wanted to keep things as simple as possible. On switch, starter and light switch. That's it. Anything not essential was eliminated. Running lights, turn signals, gauges, dummy lights, horns, etc. were all clipped and cut back.

And this is what you end up with. Nice and simple.

We are about 4 days out at this point. We've made steady progress on the bike, and as you can see now we have a few more pieces to the puzzle mounted: Controls, pegs, skid plate, and rotors along with final mounting of the front and rear fender.

Fork boots on. S&S air cleaner on. Tank on. TBR pipe on.

About 2 days until go-time and we got the final piece to the puzzle, this beautiful prototype Saddleman gripper seat. Unfortunately we didn't specify our tank size and this was built to our other bike's specs, which is a peanut tank. With no time left to get a new one made, and no other seat to run (Bike came without one) there was only one option: Get to chopping. You can see here the front material has already been pulled back and a cut line is drawn...

After a little cutting and reshaping the foam it's together. We bled the breaks, put gas in it and lucky #13 fired right up.

I promptly took it on our HQ flat track where we rattled some things loose within minutes. After a few more shake downs it was good to go. All-in-all this turned out to be an extremely solid bolt on build for just a short couple of weeks that proved worthy of the terrain at the Mint400.

Here's a break down on the parts used:

1996 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883

Motor and everything attached to it:
1200 CC kit
stock carb
stock trans
S&S Stage 1 air cleaner
Jagg Universal HD Oil Cooler

Two Brothers Racing

Chain Drive:
Low Brow customs (48 tooth rear sproket, which was geared WAY too low for this application)

Controls: TC Bros Mids
(These are not designed for off-road use, and required modification to stop peg mounts from spinning)
Pegs: Bung King

Skid Plate: TC Bros

Rear: Russ Wernimont Designs / Walker Evan's Racing 16.5" Piggy Back adjustable
Front: Race-Tech Springs, and valve. Stock length fork tube, 20 W fork oil

Wheels & Tires:
Rear: 148/80/18 18" Mitchellen Desert Race (Tube)
Front: 19" 110/80-19 Pirelli Scorpion Rally (Tube)
Wheels and Tires ordered and assembled through Virus Moto
Spacers made by RT Machine in Gilroy

Calipers: Stock
Rotors: Twin Power Floating (front and rear)

Seat: Saddleman Desert Race seat (Ask for the Mikey Virus seat)

Front End:
Bars: Renthal 7/8" RC High (With 1" to 7/8" shim)
Risers: Joker Machine 4"
Hand Controls: SK Machine / Still Kicking Moto with ASV levers
Throttle: Biltwell Whiskey Throttle (single cable)
Starter Switch: JFG Racing
Headlight Switch (Amazon POS)
On/Off Kill Switch (Amazon POS)
Handguards: Cycra Probend CRM
Grips: Renthal

Moto Plastics:
Number Plate: UFO CR 95-99 HO02674001
Front Fender: UFO Universal Supermoto B000GU0RT8
Rear Fender: UFO Universal PP01109

Head light: KC Hilites FLEX 10W LED Light with AMBER cover
Tail Light: KC Hilites Cyclone 5W LED acc. light

Special thanks to Carlos at No-End customs for painting the tank and Rob at RT Machine for making spacers for us in a pinch.


Reading next

Last Minute Mint
Sporty #13: Glamour, Testing & Race Day @ The Mint 400


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