MODIFYING YOUR bike is like most things in life—there’s a hard way and an easy way. The easy way involves getting exactly what you want by spending whatever it takes. Great if you’ve dollars to spare, but for most of us, it ain’t always that simple.
The hard way means a little bit more work to get those desirable customising parts, meaning you may have to wait a bit longer, but plenty of money can be saved. Take Brad Doyle and his Harley Softail for example. The bike looks good enough to have been built by a professional shop with access to an open cheque book, but Brad has done the majority of the work himself over the past few years, throwing it all together in his cramped garage.
And he’s gone about the build using an increasingly-popular resource: eBay. Bikes that can almost be called ‘eBay Specials’ are becoming more and more common at shows as builders discover the range of parts on offer on the auction website, normally at pretty tempting prices. Brad reckons 75 percent of the parts used on his Softail have come through eBay, sometimes at around a third of the price he’d been quoted from dealers.
Over time, custom parts have come up on the website that fit into his design agenda. “I just type in ‘Harley Chrome’ and then go through the hundreds of things for sale to find the stuff I want,” Brad says. “Most of the stuff is Genuine Harley and comes from the USA, Hong Kong or here in Australia.”
Although the prices may be easier to stomach, buying from the internet does have its problems. “Some of the parts I buy are generic so need a bit of modification to fit my bike,” says the Army recruit from Perth. “You get used to not receiving the exact part you need, and because of all the different parts it is built from, I call the bike ‘The Pig’. That’s why there’s a wild pig’s head coming out of the painted flames.”
Speaking of flames, if you look at the mirror stems on the Softail you’ll see the origin of the whole theme of the bike. Brad originally had no plans to modify his Harley but these mirror stems kicked the whole thing off.
“I used to have a Ducati,” he says, “but crashed it and decided I had to get away from superbikes as you can’t help driving them like you stole them. This is my first Harley as I wanted something comfortable for long cruises. About six months after buying it new, I got the mirror stems, liked the flame idea, and the flood gates opened.”
They sure did. As you see the bike now, pretty much everything has been customised except for the big-twin engine and its gearbox.
With a 60-degree rake and four inches on the forks, it sits pretty on a front 21 x 2.15 Sinuous Amber front wheel and 18 x 5 rear. These wheels have been imported from the USA, and as far as Brad knows, it is the only set in Australia with this design.
Always one for a challenge (after all, Brad’s built the bike in a two-car garage beside two cars), he was told he couldn’t fit anything bigger than a 150 back tyre on the bike. Not one to be defeated, Brad’s squeezed on a 160 Avon Storm racing rear; all without any modifications to the rear end.
He was also told the ‘cow bell’ coil cover on the left hand side of the Softail’s Twin-Cam couldn’t be replaced with the chopper coil cover he considered a better look. Well, a bit of mounts modification work and its two fingers up to the doubters as the new cover now fits in place and looks a whole heap better than the standard item.
The bike’s frame is still standard but now sits two inches lower at the rear thanks to a suspension lowering kit—even so, Brad says it’s brilliantly comfortable to ride. And while we’re at the rear end, anywhere that can be chromed has been and that includes the swingarm and brakes.
In fact, just follow the length of the bike and chrome is the redeeming feature; from the A-frame oil cooler to the drag bars; from the short shot pipes and all the way back to the license plate holder. And where possible, those flames keep making a welcome appearance.
The chrome flames are joined by True Fire paint on top of the bike’s Sierra Red base colour, while some Candy Apple layering adds that bit of extra shine in the Perth sunshine.
The finished product may look as though it’s just for show events, but thankfully, Brad still gets to appreciate the comfy Softail on some hardcore rides. “I love to get out and enjoy it,” he says, “and have just got back from a 2200 km route taking in Margaret River, Esperance and Kalgoorlie over just four days.” Quite a trip.
Brad says he’s now run out of things to do on the bike so may have to start a new project. With the quality of his chromed Pig we can’t wait to see the results. Just think, it all started from just a mirror stem with a few flames. Great job.
words by Iain Curry; pics by Brian White