James Roper-Caldbeck builds some of the coolest vintage Harleys around. And he’s a long way from Milwaukee—four thousand miles away, to be precise, in the Danish capital of Copenhagen.
James’ specialty is traditional bobbers: clean, low-slung machines with an appealing retro vibe. He’s finally getting the recognition he deserves, with a coveted place in The Brooklyn Invitational show later this month.
You’d be hard pressed to tell, but this FLH is actually a budget build. “Jens, my client, came to me asking for a bike similar to David Beckham’s Knuckle, built by the Garage Company.” There was just one small problem—Jens was on a Budget.
“As we all know, in the world of vintage Harley-Davidson, shit is getting really expensive,” says James. “Especially when you start mentioning the words Knuckle, rigid frame and springer.”
James suggested a different direction. One option was to use a late Shovelhead Electra Glide, and when Jens saw some examples, he was excited again.
The project started with a 1971 FLH shovelhead that had been repainted in a bright blue. “Otherwise it was in extremely original condition,” James notes, “right down to all the factory hardware, like the nuts and bolts. That’s rare.”
Mechanically, things were pretty good. The engine and transmission had already been rebuilt and the S&S carb looked new, so James’ main job was to install a new electrical system. He also got rid of the huge battery box: “After finding the smallest battery possible, I then chopped the original box down and used a Sportster battery cover.”
The tank is from a Danish SCO moped, and something of a signature item on Jamesville builds. After adding the mounting tabs and a new petcock bung, James made a new aluminum gas cap to replace the original plastic one. (“I don’t like plastic.”) The rear fender is from a Super Glide, which James chopped. “I then welded the tail closed, and installed two marker lights as the taillights.”
He’s installed 19’’ Akront aluminum rims front and back, and covered them with 400-19 Excelsior Comp-H tires with a classic European three-block tread pattern. (“I was told they were used on British racing cars in the 30s.”)
James admits to having misgivings when he started the build—he’d never built a custom bike using a swingarm frame before. “The hardest and most important job on these bikes is getting the stance right. That’s true with all bikes, but with a swingarm, stuff is moving…”
I’d say James got the stance just right. There’s a late 60s muscle car feel to this FLH, helped by the red leather tuck n’ roll seat. The racing stripes paintjob subtly amps up the vintage vibe, and the twin rear lights look like they’ve been lifted straight off a ’68 Charger.
If you’re within shouting distance of NYC, head over to the sixth annual Brooklyn Invitational on September 20. A Customs From Jamesville ’49 Panhead will be on show, alongside machinery from other Bike EXIF favorites like Walt Siegl, Dime City Cycles and Scott Jones of Noise Cycles.
If that’s a little to far to travel, head over to the Customs From Jamesville site to see more of James’ work.