What could be more fun than having your own well-stocked workshop, with all the tools and space you need to wrench on your bike? In the company of like-minded folks, who also enjoy throwing the occasional party?
That’s the thinking behind The Kustom Kommune, Australia’s first communal motorcycle workshop. Based in Melbourne, it’s part of a growing global trend towards DIY custom building and general bike maintenance.
To get the word out and attract new members, the Kommune founders decided to build a show quality, street ready shop bike. And the good folks at Harley-Davidson made it possible by donating a 1200cc Sportster 48.
“This wasn’t your ordinary custom motorcycle build,” says Kommune main man Geoff Baldwin, who also runs the Return Of The Café Racers website. “It was more of a ‘proof of concept’ than anything else. Ninety per cent of the build was completed in house.”
The Kommune had two goals in mind for the Sportster: “We wanted it to look amazing, paying homage to Harley-Davidson’s racing past—in particular the XR750TT. And we wanted a bike that could be wholly maintained in the Kommune workshop.”
Being a community funded space, facilities such as dynos and diagnostic computer hardware aren’t on hand. So the Sportster was pulled back to basics by removing the more complicated components and electrical systems—anything that couldn’t be worked on using basic tools and old-school know-how.
A team of Kommune members was quickly assembled. And of course, a budget. “We spent it mostly on materials and parts,” says Geoff. “Time was generously donated.” The team included a welder, a Harley guru, an engineer, a painter, an electrician and an upholsterer—plus Geoff himself and Kommune co-founder Jimmy Goode.
An XR-inspired color palette was sketched out, and Karl Stehn came up with a slick paint design using the classic XR black, white and orange—plus plenty of flake to really make it pop. Traditional café racer tricks came into play, with two Cole Foster tanks being installed—with one chopped in half to function as the tail. The tail also doubles up as the oil tank now, with plumbing routed around a custom seat pan and new support struts welded on at the back of the frame.
The forward controls were swapped out for rear sets, and RSD clip-ons were slipped onto the fork stanchions. The headlight is OEM Harley-Davidson, but mounted as close to the forks as possible.
Out of the factory, the Harley Sportster 48 comes with ABS brakes, an alarm system, EFI and many “fancy sensors and thing-a-ma-jigs.” Since these require more than a basic set of tools for maintenance, they all had to go—saving some substantial weight in the process.
“Matt from Krank Engineering machined spacers to replace the ABS sensors on each axle, and we removed the entire wiring loom,” says Geoff. “An S&S Super E carb replaces the EFI system, and was tuned by ear when the bike was first fired up.” A simplified wiring loom is plugged into an aftermarket ignition system, with a Motogadget m-Unit controlling all the electrical circuits.
The Kommune team opted for chain drive rather than the standard belt—they love the old-school look—and blanked out the rear wheel using a set of raw alloy Moon Discs. Another old-school touch is the diamond-stitched leather saddle.
But the design element that generates the most interest is the full stainless steel exhaust system. The brainchild of Jimmy Goode and Harley specialist Glenn Aitken, it was built entirely in-house using a set of 180 bends and straight lengths.
“Despite all the other trick bits of fabrication and custom work, it’s the pipes that show exactly what can happen when skilled individuals work together,” says Geoff. “Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re our crowning achievement—and to me, they sum up what the Kustom Kommune is all about.”
Now that the Sportster build is out of the way, the Kommune is lining up training courses, a parts store and storage facilities to keep the business ticking over. It’s a great blueprint for grassroots motorcycling—and one we’d love to see in more cities worldwide.
EFI to S&S Super E Carb Conversion
Belt to Chain drive conversion
Removal of ABS systems
Complete Motogadget electronics setup
Entire factory loom removed
2x Modified Cole Foster fuel tank
Aftermarket hand controls
Custom fabricated seat that acts as oil tank
Custom made black leather seat by Weird-o-pholstry
Custom made exhaust by Robbie Ante and Glen Aitken at Kustom Kommune
2″ Lowered front end
330mm Piggy Back Shocks
Mooneyes moon disk rear wheel
CNC’d Rear Sets
Modified rear frame
Custom made bars, spacers, points cover by Krank Engineering
All State Deluxe tyres from Antique Tyres
Roland Sands Design engine dress up kit
Paint by KDS Designs