BMW Motorrad Spezial

Hide Sportster SP-20: A modern Harley Cafe Racer

Harley cafe racer
We don’t often feature modern Harley customs, but this cafe racer is worth closer inspection. It’s the latest machine from acclaimed Japanese builder Hide Motorcycles (aka HIDEMO) and it’s based on a 2003 XL1200S.

The standard Sportster, despite its low 28-inch seat height, always looked a little high off the ground, but the Hide SP-20 looks properly slammed. That’s due to a new tank, rear fender and spoked wheels; the front fender has been removed to improve aesthetics still further.

Harley cafe racer
According to Hide, the objective was to evoke a 1960s vintage racer look, creating a compact bike ideal for city streets. The internals of the dual plug, pushrod OHV Evolution motor are unmodified: with around 72 ft. lbs. of torque, performance is ample for this kind of machine.

Harley cafe racer
The motor will breathe a little easier though, thanks to a custom exhaust and a freeflowing Hide air intake assembly. The standard of finish is superlative, as you’d expect from the Kawasaki City company. And the low-key paint job shows that Harleys look better without metalflake and chrome.

This is one hog I’d love to have in my garage.

Harley cafe racer

2003 Harley-Davidson XL1200S custom
One-off mufflers, rear fender and fuel tank
Gurimeca brake muster assembly
Magura clutch lever assembly
Rear tire: Avon 16”
Front tire: Super Eagle 19”

HIDEMO parts
IG coil mount and meter mount assembly
Mini buttons for handlebar
Modified handlebar
Turn signals
Side number plate mount assembly
Air cleaner assembly

Harley cafe racer

  • The sportser has always been my favourite out of the box Harley and to be fair to HD with their new 48 and Iron versions they have been trying to get a more street look like this one – but hey I like Harleys.

  • Bikeexif

    Beautiful details, just wish it had a bigger, traditional sportster-style tank.

  • M Jimid

    Great bike, though I’m not hip on the tank or seat. Their styling makes me think of the Galactic Empire from Star Wars, a series I am definitely not fond of.

  • Guest

    Thanks Chris for an uncommon and beautifully constructed (and photographed) machine. And what a thoughtful gift for all the Harley and all the less then practical custom haters out there. Thiswill be just the thing to lift them out of their mid-winter blues. Well done my friend.

    • indeed sometimes there is a need for 2 Bike EXIF’s – I guess its a Mars and Venus type thing!

      • joe momma

        …like when we get five beemers and six little hondas in a row……??

  • Eric271

    Fine – until you have to sit on it, let alone ride it, with your knees up your armpits.

  • VMoto

    I like the tank, is it a one-off, or can it be purchased?

  • Sportster Cafe

    Nice bike, though I wish they did not lower it, EVO Sportsters handle suprisingly well! Not sure about the head breather assembly, EVO Sportsters spit a lot of junk out of the head, that little filter will be dripping pretty fast! Still, they got the lines right, and a shorter rider will appreciate the slammed look.

    • Zyonsdream

      I have a similar breather on my 1450 and it has not leaked a drop of anything in the first year.

      • BorrowedSuits

        In counter-point, I have a similar set-up on my 1200 (though I’ve routed the breather to the bottom of the down-tubes), and it does develop a little dribble of oil on its chin. Just a solitary drop that occasionally falls.

  • gebeme

    Serious question: Is there something that prohibits relocating the coil somewhere less conspicuous? Nearly every HD I see is ruined by some tacky air intake on the right and a big ugly coil on the left.

    • That’s what happens when you put a motor in the wrong way. Nobody complains about that stuff with a Guzzi. ;-)

    • bryguy9

      Actually sportys put the coils on the frame under the front of the tank. That big ugly thing on the left is the huge chrome horn ;-)

      • BorrowedSuits

        On this bike, that thing on the left is in fact the coil. The horn is between the down-tubes, in front of the first head.

  • Harleys ain’t so bad!

    That is one ugly bike! If I were at HD, I think I would issue a press release condemning it! They have taken away everything that makes a bike look like a HD except for the drivetrain. Why don’t you show more HD bikes here???? .

    • gebeme

      “They have taken away everything that makes a bike look like a HD”

      I think that was the idea. :P

      • HDs ain’t so bad!

        OK, you win! :)

        • BorrowedSuits

          I’d add that you might expand your view of what an HD looks like. This is a great figurative quote of a classic 750 street tracker — a quintessential Harley if there ever was one.

          • David

            I don’t know. For me, it feels like such bikes are an aquired taste. I ruled out buying a stock Forty-eight because I think the gas tank is too small so I am not picking just this bike. Maybe it is the tank size that bother me as I want a bike that I can ride for a few hours. Bikes like the Forty-eight seem like “just for fun” bikes and that is not what I am interested in. But I think this bike would be interesting if it had knobby tires…. yea, a dirt bike!!! :)

    • There are plenty of websites that feature a lot of Harleys, but this isn’t one of them. We do occasionally run older, more obscure, unusual or beautiful Milwaukee bikes though — like this one.

      • HDs ain’t that bad!

        OK, I don’t know much about the site. I just surf in to look at the pictures even though I don’t have a special interest in bobber or cafe racers. I don’t know why but this bike just got under my skin for some reason but it looks like they did nice work! :)

  • joe momma

    .;….i’m betting that those pipes took some time…..they are a cross between stock, somewhat anglular and flawless radius xr/kr/wr pipes……good chit maynard…….haven’t you heard….sportster is the closest thing to a harley you can get……..??

  • KIK

    i love the bike , i hate the pipes, they look like they were bent on someones knee..beautifull tho

  • D2237

    Subdued, Somewhat practical, and tastefully done for a Harley. Harley needs to take note, these little bikes with minimum styling have so much more appeal than any over the top 900 pound Harley dresser dripping in useless chrome.

  • Many Japanese builders in general, and Hide specifically, do one thing exceptionally well: little details. That’s the beauty in this bike, there are little details everywhere you look that are each little “ah!” moments… the low-mount signals, the under-mount mirrors, the matte silver or gloss black in areas usually chromed on Harleys, the de-emphasized tank (which most Harley builders use an excuse to stuff a zucchini in their trousers), the longitudinally-stitched seat which flows with the lines in the rear fender. All very little things, but all tastefully chosen, subtle, and the heart of this bike’s design.

    I am curious about the photography itself; is this a cold light overcast day, or is there some manipulation? Doesn’t matter as the photos capture the “cool gray” theme.

    • In this case, I didn’t manipulate the images — Hide sent them to me. I suspect they dialled down the saturation in the images though. Check how ‘flat’ the orange is on the blinkers. And yes, it looks like the shoot was on an overcast day. In this case, I think the effect works.

    • Guest

      I find it difficult to believe that there is only one thing that virtually all Japanese custom bike builders builders do exceptionally well.

      • “They do one thing” is _not_ semantically the same as “They ONLY do one thing”.

        They do many things exceptionally well, of course I was discussing only one of those many things.

        • Guest

          My point is that you are stereotyping Japanese builders. Just because your comments are positive doesn’t change that fact. Custom bike builders regardless of their ethnicity are unique individuals and I’m fairly certain they would not appreciate any limitations put on their creativity.

  • Mule

    I really like how clean this bike looks and I really like the tank. However, steel rims should be banned in the free world. Take 40 lbs on unsprung weight off in one modification… aluminum rims. Oh yea, and add about 4-5″ more on the rear fender.

    • Where do you get 40lbs?

      A typical aluminum spoked wheel assembly including tire is about 15-20lbs. Identical assembly in steel is no more than 5-7lbs more.

      Not saying it wouldn’t make a difference in an all-out racebike, but seriously… a street cruiser on city streets is probably better off with a more dent-resistant steelie than a soft aluminum.

      • Mule

        Huh? Dent prone? Maybe someone should have told all the OEM’s to make their street mags and motocross rims out of steel.

        Actually, that was an exaggeration. I weigh everything, so what I meant was more of a “lighter wheel” swap. I can’t stand steel rims and especially HD steel rims. So I would go to lighter hubs, 36 spokes instead of 40, 9 gauge instead 7-8 gauge, S-can the solid plate swirly rotors, lace up SUN aluminum rims and lose the rear “truck” tire. Might end up at 35lbs or whatever. Regardless, it would be substantial.

        However, I’m not criticizing the bike here, that’s just how I do things. I like light and I like aluminum rims.

        • …and you build race bikes. Which this isn’t one of. Which means the point of exaggerating the relevance of a small detail as a negative was… what?

          I bet those aluminum wheels cost hundreds of thousands of dollars! Oops, I exaggerated.

          A lot of people who post irrelevant negatives on these very individual and beautiful bikes need to find a webpage that has one bike they really like, and just look at that same page every day. They won’t be as disappointed.

          • Mule

            Like I said, I wasn’t critcizing this bike. I like it. Just don’t care care for steel rims. EVER.
            And I like the exhaust. The bends remind me of a radial aircraft engine exhaust.

  • yep. thats a harley i like, and i think its because it doesnt look like a harley at all. looks like a stretched out “bratts style” cb with a vtwin in it. I really dig the old school massey ferguson paint too. any more photos anywhere??

  • A sleek and basic look. Something, I really appreciate. Two small changes I would have made. The original control position makes the seating position to upright. Conflicts with the bike racy look. Second, that tank on a 1200 is not going to get me anywhere. You would have to stop for gas every 100 Km!

    That grey paint; provides some great inspiration.

    (One more thing. When you dislike the bikes on the blog, dislike old BMW’s, Café racer style Honda’s and custom HD’s, why oh why do you not search for a blog with more bikes of your liking? If that why even take the time and effort to whine about someone else hard work and passion?)

    • BorrowedSuits

      Heh — that was my first thought about the tank. Pahrumph. Pahrumph. Aaaand, you’re done. Fill me up! I need to go another 20 feet!

      Still, great fabrication and nice iteration of that old, classic design.

    • HDs ain’t so bad!

      “why oh why do you not search for a blog with more bikes of your liking? If that why even take the time and effort to whine about someone else hard work and passion?”

      I don’t know if you were replying to my post but if so I would say the same. If you just want to read cheerleader posts, why bother to read mine???? I have seen some nikes on this site that I like but this one was not one of them.

    • joe momma

      …..i thought he was dissin’ me……..because… the dog……we can……??

  • Andrew

    I can imagine seeing this bike on some city street in Japan as I’m rubber-necking in a taxi, gawking at all the different bikes streaming by. Mostly one sees a stream of ubiquitous scooters or small commuter bikes with ultilitarian baskets and boxes mounted; male and female riders evenly mixed. To see a HD in Japan is special and to see a one-off custom like this would have me rolling down the window at the next light and giving the rider a thumbs up from this Amercian. He would smile proudly and probably give me the two fingered V-sign and blip the throttle a couple times. Oh yeah, we both get it. Too cool.

    • always_go_big

      “To see a HD in Japan is special and to see a one-off custom like this….”
      Actually mate, the place is rife with them, one at every stop light, and a fair share of them sweet understated customs along the lines of this beauty! Chris, thanks for featuring some HD talent from this side of the pond.

      Hidemo delivers the goods again!

  • Bordeaux4130

    Beautiful bike. I bought a Forty Eight and have similar intentions. HD’s don’t have to be chromed out tacky representations of poor taste that so many expect them to be.

  • Kdibnah

    You have to at least have fenders – in the city and it rains? A guy is washing his car and you have to pass? That tank looks nice, if you don’t mind fueling every 2 days. Stupid with no mufflers and the low signals are probably legal but nobody can see them.

    I like it, though – the workmanship is good. I am inspired to try similar with a Sporty – they don’t go, they don’t stop and making one do same might be fun.

  • bryguy9

    Sportys rule!

    Chrome is not a crime. It’s a personal choice. I might not be your choice. But I will defend to the death your right to choose( just so long as you ride).

    Harley Davidson is only guilty of one thing – successfully building and marketing a brand. Anything that becomes successful, sooner or later someone will consider it in bad taste.

  • Snackmacka

    What is wrong with chrome??? If I buy the HD that I have my eye on, I will try to post a picture of it here…. plenty of chrome and a few retro mods included!!! :)