EXCLUSIVE The Harley Sportster is probably the most customized bike on the planet. But there are surprisingly few examples that butter our toast. It’s the café racer look that seems to be the most troublesome: giving the portly Sportster a sleek and pared-back style is not easy.
So when Winston Yeh of Rough Crafts said he was going to give it a crack, we held our breath. Would even the most accomplished of Harley builders get tripped up?
The answer is no. This is ‘Slate Hammer,’ and Winston has once again nailed it.
The custom Sportster was a commission from a friend, who owns a clothing brand called Taki Design. “He likes to travel with us, and after several trips to shows like Mooneyes and Joints, customs grew on him very fast,” says Winston.
“He needed a bike, so he came to me. He wanted the café racer style, and the bike had to be clean-looking and grey in color. That’s pretty much it: the ideas came together fast.”
Slate Hammer is based on a 2012 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight, which has been fitted with an S&S Super-E carb conversion for extra airflow. The blacked-out engine is also sporting Rough Crafts’ own finned air cleaner, plus beautiful pushrod collars from 2 Abnormal Sides. Immaculately fabricated headers are hooked up to a muffler custom-made by the Italian company Spark.
The highlight, though, is the replica Dunstall GT half-fairing. Supplied by Glass From The Past, these are more usually spotted on little Honda CB vintage racers. The screen was still too high for the slick look Winston was after, so he’s modified it to sit even lower.
The tank is a stock Sportster item massaged beyond recognition. The cutout is a classic café racer look, but the back of the tank has been cleverly narrowed and reshaped, following the form of the rear cylinder head.
The compact tail section echoes the lines of the tank, converging neatly into a waspish rear end. (There’s an oil tank hidden inside, to free up space under the seat.) A tiny lithium ion battery—custom-made by the tech wizards at RCE—hides under the gas tank.
Back Drop of Japan made the sumptuous diamond-quilted leather seat, and there’s a stainless steel compartment under the seat pan for the ECM and fuses.
Subtle suspension mods include riser-less billet triple trees from the Speed Merchant, who also supplied dual-caliper fork lowers from a Sportster 883R. These are now hooked up to a pair of OEM Harley Touring calipers manufactured by Brembo; Progressive Suspension supplied the 15-inch shocks.
The stunning forged aluminum wheels, anodized in black, were made to order by San Diego Customs. They’re fitted with SDC’s matching pulley/sprocket system and Lyndall Racing Brake composite rotors.
Rounding off this amazing build are one-off clip-ons and rearsets, and modified Performance Machine controls. The exquisite grey paint was applied by regular Rough Crafts collaborator Air Runner.
We wondered if Winston owns the Aston Martin lurking nearby in these shots, but the answer is unfortunately no. “When I was planning the photography, Aston Martin Taiwan called up and said they wanted to interview me for their magazine. So we shot the bike in their showroom.”
It’s not often that James Bond’s chosen transport is in danger of being upstaged. Who’d have thought that a custom Sportster would pose a threat?