Rockin’ Roller #3

We’re gonna rock, and rock, around the chop…

SO THE bike’s sitting just right, and now it’s time to make those other difficult decisions. What tank will I have? What type of bars? Headlight? Oil tank? My method is one of constant re-evaluation. As much as I’d like to be able to describe every piece of the bike before it’s built, I think this is almost unachievable if you want a truly cohesive chop. I’m a firm believer that one choice affects all the other choices. For example, drag bars might not go well with a long sissy bar, or longer pipes. A skinny tank might not look good with a big belt drive. So after each choice of item, I stand back for a while—sometimes days later making the decision that I’ll change something. The downside to this method is that you might purchase an expensive part only to want to replace it soon after.

If you’re going to do the job, do it right. The last thing I want to do is compromise and end up with a dog’s breakfast.

Obviously some parts of the bike have a greater impact on the overall look, so in the mock-up stage I try to confirm the ‘big’ things as soon as possible, as this stuff affects other decisions to be made. For example, I couldn’t make the sissy bar first as that may dictate what type of tank looks appropriate. In my mind, besides the overall lines of the bike, the tank is the most crucial component in how the bike looks. And the tank type will dictate the handlebars, headlight, and most other things. So the sooner I confirm what’s happening in that area, the better—especially since moving the bike around without handlebars is a pain!

For this project I generally had my mind set on a Sporty tank with T-bars on long risers. But I’d like those seven-inch risers to run parallel with the front-end angle, and because I’d raked the front-end, that angle pushed the long risers back so the handlebars were above the tank, meaning that it looked a bit silly. I’ve got long arms so the bars need to be forward.

I switched the high T-bar idea to just regular drag bars, and mocked it up. It looked good but looked way too much like a Harley version of my drag-bar’ed Triumph! That wasn’t what I had in mind when building this bike. So I tried a set of ape-hangers and now I’m in love with the end result!

Aligning the driveline

But before one can confirm the aesthetic stuff, it’s best to get as much of the other stuff done so you can see how it all looks. And something that doesn’t require much decision-making is aligning the driveline.

Harley-Davidson Evo custom

The wishbone frame was originally made for four-speed Panheads but this one is adapted to squeeze in an Evo driveline. While the Evo fit, the five-speed box wouldn’t as the adapter plate required to convert from four-speed to five-speed raises the gearbox just enough for the front corner to foul on the frame. Enter Mr Ball-peen hammer. Enter him several times. Hard. With no heat (not by choice). After much swinging and cursing (and once stupidly hitting the fins on the motor) I indented the already-indented frame to fit the gearbox and allow the primary to bolt in.

Harley-Davidson Evo custom

Although I wasn’t expecting any problems with the chain line, I thought it a good idea to get it sorted early. I spaced the wheel with dummy spacers so that it sat right in the middle of the bike. The pink string-line was my way of judging this. I then bought a sprocket that sat smack bang in the middle of the edge of the tyre and the edge of the frame leg. After my Triumph experience, I was looking forward to having the perfect rear wheel set-up—a wheel directly in the centre of the bike, and a chain line that had plenty of clearance between frame and tyre.

Changing to a primary sprocket that lined up with the rear wheel sprocket

While I considered using a belt instead of a chain, I wasn’t confident a belt would have enough clearance, and I wasn’t willing to play the clearance game again. The chain would require more maintenance, and be messier, but it would definitely clear everything and it would also help with the older look I was going for. So I needed to change to a primary sprocket that lined up with the rear wheel sprocket. After much measuring with a straight edge and verniers, I calculated that a .500” offset sprocket would fit perfectly. Beauty! Now, the problem of removing the sprocket nut. There is no real way of doing it without the sprocket nut removal tool and that apparently costs $300! So I made one out of a 1 7/8” socket (this one happens to be an impact socket as I couldn’t buy a regular socket) and a piece of steel pipe. Edcon Steel will cut the socket if you ask them nicely. Weld the tube in the centre to create a deep socket, and Bob’s-your-uncle: it worked perfectly. The shaft is taped up in this pic to protect it from Wasko’s with big home-made tools.

Harley-Davidson Evo custom

When in doubt, buy lots. I couldn’t decide which beautiful Paughco dogbone risers I needed so I bought three sets. The three-inch ones ended up on the bike, and these five-inch and seven-inch sets now live on the shelf for the next project. Paughco is a great company, but if you order from them be sure to tell them to post it regular mail. Mine arrived via UPS within three days at a ‘mere’ cost of $160! Not cool.

Harley-Davidson Evo custom

I dug the ape-hangers but it was time to refine them to make them just right. I thought the centre of the bars stuck out too wide from the risers. I also thought the ends of the bars could be trimmed as they were a bit wide. After measuring carefully, I cut about 1 ¾” out of the middle of the bars. I drew a line on it beforehand to assist welding it back up in the right place. A solid slug was placed inside for strength. I can do this because I’m not running handlebar controls so I don’t need wiring inside the bars. Geoffrey once again did the honours.

Harley-Davidson Evo custom

Fitting the Ramflo air filter

I always had this cool Ramflo filter in mind for this project. I think it locates a bike firmly in the ’70s or ’80s period, and I think they look pretty street tough. It reminds me of Weber carbies. Problem is, it doesn’t fit easily with a Keihn carby so an alloy backing plate would be needed. Incidentally, I was about to order a filter from the States when I found one in Australia for cheaper. After closer investigation I realised that Uni Filter Australia (02-9482-1792) supplies them out of Hornsby. Cool!

Harley-Davidson Evo custom

I got some alloy plate about 6 mm thick and set to making the adapter. The hole-saw barely fit into my drill press but it got the job done. I screwed it on to check for fit, then after this shot was taken, I located the other two holes, drilled them, and shaped the plate to fit nicely.

Harley-Davidson Evo custom

After playing around with a mustang tank I had sitting on the shelf, I thought it looked great but needed a bit more body. I found the perfect tank in the Paughco catalogue, but it’s a tank that no-one seems to have heard of, and one that I haven’t seen much in Australia: a ‘custom universal axed gas tank’. It’s perfect for what I want but mounting it so it ‘floats’ on the top frame rail required some thinking. I cut off the standard mounts at the front and back and came up with a three-point mounting system that should work very well. It involved a bolt coming straight down from the tunnel and through the frame. Instead of welding a bolt straight to the tunnel and risking a future fuel leak, I shaped a piece of plate to weld to the tunnel, and welded the bolt to that.

Then needed to make tabs for the outside of the rear of the tunnel. Easiest and strongest way I found was to cut a piece of pipe—luckily the piece of pipe I used for the special tool earlier perfectly fit the curvature of the tunnel. Alright! I cut a piece then bent it out and bashed it straight before drilling and shaping it into neat tabs. Strong-as!

I cut a bung to fit perfectly between the tabs, then filed a hollow in the middle so that it could be welded to the underside of the top frame rail. Since a bolt could not go all the way through, both ends of the bung would need to be tapped. It took about two hours to make this bung. So the next morning when I loaded the bike up and drove it to Scruffy’s for some welding, I was truly pissed off with myself when I accidentally left the bung on the floor of the ute, and it now resides somewhere on the side of the M5 freeway!

I realised my mistake at Daz’s so he went into his scrap box to look for something to fit. Freakishly, the only piece of steel he had equal in diameter to the one that needed replacing, was 59 mm long. I required 58.5! This piece you see pictured in the tank was found in a box and put in between the tabs (admittedly hammered) without modification!

I rushed to prepare it for welding before Geoff closed up shop, managing to grind, file, and tap two threads in it within the hour. Only problem was I grinded and burnt my knuckles in the process—rushing causes injuries! But I got it done, and Geoff is pictured here welding the bung for the rear tank mounts. He also welded another bung I made for the front mount, that goes right through the top rail.

Harley-Davidson Evo custom

So this is where I’m at. Woohoo! A bad-ass mo-sheen if ever I seen one! You can just see the tank mount underneath, but the tank otherwise ‘floats’ beautifully on that frame. Other things of note are the ape-hangers after adjustment. Most wouldn’t pick it but the apes aren’t as wide; they now look more like Flanders-style bars which suits the style of bike I’m going for.

I’m absolutely stoked with the progress I’ve made so far, but there are still some significant things to go. The mid-controls will be a difficult task, as will mounting a sexy rear fender that is strong enough to regularly cope with a passenger. As I write this, the tank is being prepared for paint and Santino is warming up the airbrush. Next month will be either another fabrication story or an article on the mural art tank. Either way, there’s plenty to look forward to. Stay tuned!

words & pics by Wasko

Make sure you check out Rockin’ Roller Part #2 and Part #4.

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