Regular readers will know that we don’t feature many Harley Sportster customs. It’s not often that one makes me jump out of my seat, but just take a look at this XL1200 from Illinois-based Bull Cycles.
‘Zephyr’ is one of the more successful café conversions, succeeding where many fail. The visual mass of the engine is well integrated, and the literal mass of the donor bike has been reduced. Which, in the case of a 1995 Sportster 1200 like this one, means a drop in weight to 470 lb.
Bull Cycles owner Justin Powers describes Zephyr as ‘beauty and the beast.’ “We wanted art deco styling paired with modern elements,” he reports, “and a beastly, torque-generating power plant!”
There’s not much left of the donor bike. Only the cases were kept from the original engine, and they’ve been machined to house an S&S Sidewinder big bore stoker kit.
The engine internals are new and heavily upgraded, from the pistons to the cams to the heads. A new carb and adjustable pushrods help keep the 89 ci (1450cc) sleeper in tune, with gases exiting via a custom-made 2-into-1 stainless megaphone exhaust. “It puts out 101 pounds of torque at 3200 rpm,” says Powers. “It’s a handful.”
He’s stripped the frame of as much weight as possible and modified it to take the new engine, which is about two inches taller than stock. The beautiful finish comes from sandblasting and then powder coat, using a two-stage satin bronze that shifts color slightly according to the light. The swing arm was stiffened and braced and then powder coated to match.
A custom battery box houses an ultra-light Antigravity battery. Wheels are 17″ alloys, with a 3-stage powder job. They’re running Avon Venom rubber, which has been dynamically balanced with Dyna beads for a ultra-smooth ride. The forks are customized Wide Glide items.
The hand controls are from Swedish masters ISR, along with the four-piston calipers acting on Russell vented stainless rotors. The brake and oil lines are stainless, and the ignition system comes from Dyna. Other neat custom touches are the finned air cleaner, points cover, master cylinder cover, headlight and primary case. It all hangs together beautifully.
“We understand that the Sportster is not a fan favorite when it comes to donors for a café-style project,” says Powers. “But we’re in the Midwest of the USA where the Harley brand was born, and is still deep rooted today. So we don’t lose any sleep over it.”
I don’t think there’s any need to lose sleep either. Top marks to Bull Cycles for an inspired and finely crafted build.
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