Max Hazan is one of a handful of builders who operate at the intersection of motorcycles and art. It’s a rarefied field: the best-known protagonist is probably Ian Barry of Falcon Motorcycles. But Barry now has some serious competition.
Brooklyn-based Hazan is a former boat-builder, and this Harley Ironhead is the fourth machine to bear the Hazan Motorworks label. He sailed into motorcycle building literally by accident—a severe motocross mishap stranded him on his living-room couch for three months, staring at a beach cruiser bicycle. When mobility returned, he installed an engine in the beach cruiser. After scaring himself riding it on bicycle tires, he decided to build a ‘proper’ custom motorcycle.
“I start with a motor that I find aesthetically pleasing, put it on the table, and build the bike around it,” Max reveals. “The Ironhead has been on my list for a while, and when I also came across some car tires from the 1920s, I got the idea for this bike.”
With the exception of the wheels and motor, every piece of this Harley was made from scratch—usually machined from junk-metal objects, hand-formed, or cast. “I love to build from scratch, although it entails a lot of menial work and time. It allows me to build without compromising the design: Every piece goes exactly where and how you want it. “
Max wanted a bike with clean lines and good proportions. He’s 6’ 2” and the machine needed to feel right if he was riding it. “I didn’t want it to look like a clown-cycle, which is usually the case when the seat is right on the back tire. I have found that my bikes tend to shrink 15% once you take them off the building table …”
It’s a large bike, with 30″ front and 31″ rear tires. It’s over eight feet long, but surprisingly light. “Despite the motor being the heaviest brick I’ve ever worked with, it all weighs just over 300 lbs.”
Why an Ironhead motor? “I always loved the heads on the Harley 1000s. So I bought an ’81 with the idea of running two front heads and dual carbs. I was ready to really get my hands dirty on this one, but after getting into the motor I realized it wasn’t that difficult at all.” Everything was symmetrical—including the studs, oil passages, intake and exhaust cam lobes, and the valve cutouts in the pistons.
“The only invasive work was to cut off the stock intake and exhaust ports, and reposition them so that carbs and pipes cleared each other.” Max tried a few carbs but the Amals seemed like the right choice for the aesthetic—along with splitting the rocker covers.
Regarding performance, Max reports that gains with this setup are negligible—from what he can tell—and estimates power to be 50 to 60hp. “Like most Ironheads, it sounds much faster than it goes. But since I spend three-quarters of the time riding with one hand while shifting gear in the city, that’s not such a bad thing.”
Max fabricated the elegant frame using 7/8″ and 1″ steel tubing. It also houses the oil, wiring and a few electrical components (the bike is electric start, and has a lithium battery in the fuel tank). He formed the rest of the bike by hand too, by machining pieces from metal that was lying around in his workshop, or found at the local junk stores. (Which explains the frosted shot glass acting as a taillight cover, and the porcelain doorknob-shifter mounted on a linkage cut from truck leaf springs.)
“With every bike I try to make a suspension setup that I have never seen before,” says Max, “and this front end is pretty far out there.” It uses dual springs mounted under the fuel tank, and a dampener behind the headlight. There’s around 1.5″ of rear seat spring travel, but Max admits that no one will be riding this bike far. The 1.5-gallon tank holds plenty enough fuel.
Still, if you have to spend as much time looking at this Ironhead as riding it, that’s no hardship. It’s one of the most elegant customs we’ve ever seen.
Images by David Hans Cooke. There’s a full gallery on our Google+ page. Visit the Hazan Motorworks website or follow Max’s news via his Facebook page. Moto Mucci has an enlightening interview with Max Hazan.