Chops Old School Sportster

It’s a good sign when you talk to the ‘owner’ and the ‘builder’ of a bike separately and find they agree on all the details that matter. It demonstrates a sound working relationship with each party acknowledging the other’s contribution and according him the respect he deserves.

“THIS IS my little getting around bike,” said Chops, the owner of this sweet Sporty. “I’ve got a Road King at home which I use on long distances, but this is something I ride with the boys around town for an hour trip; hour and a half trip. Anything above that and I’ll just jump on the big bike, but I get in and out of traffic all right with this one.

“I wanted something looking old school but I wanted something fairly new so I could do a lot of riding, so I bought a Sportster from Harley Heaven in Melbourne and went straight to Pega’s Custom Cycles.

“Chops wanted me to build him something old school, a bobber,” said Joe Pega (generally known just as Pega), the builder. “We threw a few ideas together and he said, ‘Do what you have to do. I just want something that looks a bit old school’.”

“I went there the next day and when I saw the bike I said to myself, ‘Christ, what have we done here?’” said Chops. “The only thing left was the engine sitting on the frame. The front-end was on, but apart from that everything else was pulled out of it. I’ve still got all the original bits at home, if anyone wants any, they’re there.

“Pega got my ideas and knew what I wanted and put it together. We started by shortening the back guard a touch; he worked on that. The tail light Pega found somewhere; I got it black chromed.

“As far as the seat’s concerned, same deal. We talked to Con from CKT, the trimmer who does all the work for Pega’s Custom Cycles, and he worked on it until he got it right.

“The next project was the pipes. Pega actually designed the pipes and we went into the city, into a little shop — he knows all the hideaways where you can pick up bits and pieces — and we bought the fishtail ends, just raw metal, and he put them all together, shaped them all up and got them sorted out and chromed by Bill Stones at Preston Plate.”

Pega found making the bars to be not quite as straightforward as usual, and nothing off the shelf was going to do the job. “We had to make the bars to suit because he’s got rods in his wrist — there was a bit of fiddling around, with getting him to sit on it and tacking it and untacking it — so those bars turned out to be a bigger journey than I thought. And they just look like a normal set of bars, but at the end of the day, they’re taking care of his wrist and that’s what it was about.”

Chops was a frequent visitor to the workshop, and generally kept informed and involved at every stage. “All the cabling had to be especially made because of the length of the bars. Pega knew what I wanted and he got it all done. Then we went through and put all the cosmetics on as far as all the covers and little bits and pieces you’ll pick up on the way, the caps and everything else.

“The blinkers had to be rewired. You can see the small LEDs tucked in under the mirrors where the switch blocks are. Everything’s been changed: grips, forward controls, all the covers, the discs, all the pinstriping to give it the old look; he’s raked it and drilled a few holes to make the chain guard look a bit different.”

No matter how talented and versatile a bike builder is, there’s always room for others to bring their specialised skills in. One of Pega’s mates, Nigel Green, does all his brake lines. “He’s got his own hose company. He does all my bikes because he does good work and they’re all approved which is pretty safe for my customers and for me. We’re all happy to have the bling, but at the same time, I like to run good brakes and good lines so thank God I’ve got Nigel.”

Chops wanted something like a sheriff’s badge on the tank, to reflect his status as Road Marshal with the American British Motorcycle Club. This gave another of Pega’s contacts the opportunity to showcase his skills. “Michael Azzopardi at Krazy Kustoms did the paint job. He’s a good little worker and I think his name should get out there because he’s very creative.”

“The back shockers aren’t the original ones; we had to get new shockers in from the States.

“We changed the front light and there’s a little bullet, a 44 Magnum, in the new one. Being a hunter myself, I like that sort of look. My mate Mick — people know him as the Nutty Professor — came up with the idea of putting bullets in. We only had 30/30 bullets on and it really didn’t stand out how I wanted so I chased up Barney, another mate, and he had 50 calibres and Mick put them together. They do the job and I like them.

One of the little touches that add a lot to the overall look was the whitewalls. “We couldn’t get a whitewall front tyre, so Pega sent me down to one of his contacts and the bloke did it on the bike itself. It’s given the bike the real old school look so I’m quite happy with it.

“The engine has a Race Tuner. Pega sent me down to where he gets his V-Rods tuned and the fella did a great job. He had it for about four days, and from when I took it in to when it came out, it completely blows you away.

“As far as speed’s concerned, she’s a little beauty, a real fast little machine. I’ve had a few goes, and I can’t really get close to the V-Rods, anything else I think I’ll leave behind; this has got a fair bit of power. Being the Road Marshal with the club gives me the chance of zipping in and out real quick, so I’m happy with it.

“It’s won me six out of six shows; the last was People’s Choice. It’s won Best Sporty and Best Old School and all that sort of stuff so I’ve been really happy with the outcome of the whole bike — a great job by Pega and everyone else who got involved.

“I’ve only had it for about 14—15 months and I’ve probably done about 8500 km on it. I took it up to Queensland and that was a big eye-opener for a lot of people who thought it was an old bike. I said, ‘The number plate says old, but that’s about it.’”

So if your first glance at the photos had you thinking ‘old Sporty’, you’re not alone. As Pega says, “A few people mistake it for an old bike, it’s got the registration plate OLD 59. It’s an ’09, not a ’59. He’s got a brand new bike that looks like an old bike.

Words & pics by Chris Randells

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