Twisted Harley-Davidson Softail

Some bikes have a hard life but bounce right back, bigger and better all round than when they started. This is one of those bikes…

RAY bought this Softail about eight years back. It’d had a hard time before he rescued it, being left outside to rust in the steamy Darwin weather, and sorely in need of a new front-end after being crashed.

Once the work got underway, Ray stripped the unnecessary bits and pieces and replaced the front-end. Encountering the usual frustrations that bedevil anyone rebuilding a bike, the final setback for Ray—which turned out to be a blessing in disguise—came when one of Joe Pega’s sons had a couple of people run him off the road while riding it.

Pega Custom Cycles is one of Victoria’s leading motorcycle workshops, with an enviable list of satisfied customers and an impressive catalogue of show winning but still rideable custom Harleys. If ever you want someone to feel a sense of responsibility towards fixing your bike up, Pega’s your man.

Damage this time around was pretty comprehensive and included the tanks, front-end, side case, points cover, forward controls, pipes, carby and manifold. Fix it or start afresh with something else? The answer for Ray was clear, “It’s a Softail, it handles like shit, but I ride it pretty well every day. It’s one of those things I’ve had for a long time and you get attached to things, you know.”

Repairs soon started, and as is inevitably the case, replacing like-for-like wasn’t really what anybody wanted. The front-end was followed by a front wheel with subtly twisted spokes, then a white walled tyre followed that, and then a VPW headlight was added.

Pega made a set of bars and put a set of SCE forward controls on it, and then set to work himself on the high impact paint job. Further tinkering and fine adjustments followed, with grips, fresh mirrors and diamond-cut heads courtesy of Mick the Nutty Professor. This is the sort of specialised detail work that’s incredibly time consuming and must be done with total concentration if it’s to work properly. It was and it did.

More chroming was next, then a rear wheel—again with subtly twisted spokes—accompanied by another whitewall tyre.

With the bike looking better than it ever had done, Pega says, “We added a Mikuni 42 mm carby and an air cleaner, and it kept coming back—it was like the road for that bike was from the clubhouse to my house. He goes, ‘It doesn’t want to go anywhere else’.”

In a club of hard riders, Ray’s probably not the most gentle with his bike, “It’s been revved to the limiter every time it’s been anywhere; the motor’s held up quite well actually.”

An enthusiastic and successful drag racer, his shredded tyres from burnouts have ripped the bike’s number plate off a few times. Nuisance value rather than a problem, but jockeying for position in the pack can be problematic at times. “I’m usually in front down the straights but I’m behind all the V-Rods through the corners and I’ve got to work my way back up the pack. The only problem has been breaking shockers leaping off gutters. When I’ve been in the pack and trying to get a position, I’ve broken the shockers a few times. We had a few dramas there but it’s been a good bike; it’s a head turner, it looks good and it goes alright in a straight line.”

The next step for this bike will be for Pega to put in a 113 cc El Bruto, the one manufacturers Ultima aptly call ‘a barrel chested brute of an engine’. Accompanying that will be a six-speed box, and what’s left will be going into another project, a wide-arse-end Low Rider type of bike. 

According to Pega, “That should keep Ray happy for a little bit longer.”

Words & pics by Chris Randells

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