These days, you can slot most custom bikes into a clearly defined genre. Café racer, bobber, tracker—a quick glance is usually all it takes. But occasionally a bike appears that defies categorization, like this Harley-Davidson Softail Springer from Indonesia. A modern American cruiser with vintage Brit iron looks? I’m not sure where that fits.
It’s the work of Cosmas Lili Sudrajat, a 38-year-old who lives in a city called Yogyakarta on the island of Java. Cosmas is a fan of British bikes and Nortons in particular, but they’re not easy to come by in the tropical rainforest. So he decided to build his own.
“I’m not a professional bike builder,” he explains. “My job is working in an oil field. But I wanted a bike with vintage British looks and a tough engine.”
After a little photo editing, Cosmas figured that he needed a Softail Springer. He found a 1992 model in good original condition, gathered some tools, and set to work. He modified the rear suspension to lower the ground clearance, and changed the stance with new wheels. The 21” front wheel was ditched in favor of a 19” BSA wheel, and the rear wheel went up from 16” to 18”, courtesy of a vintage Harley WL rim.
Using a 1929 Norton tank for inspiration, Cosmas made a model of a new tank and sent it to a specialist to recreate in metal. He did the same with the fenders, this time using BSA Golden Flash fenders as a guide. And then the 8” headlamp and sprung seat.
When the parts arrived, Cosmas created new brackets to mount them and modified the Harley’s frame to ensure that they all fitted neatly. Most remarkably of all, he also created a copy of the Norton gearbox casing and had it cast in aluminum. The air filter cover is from a Volkswagen car, and the custom exhaust system replicates the classic ‘peashooter’ style. The kickstarter is wired to the electric start, so when the bike is ‘kicked,’ the electrics fire the engine up.
It took Cosmas more than two years to finish his creation. He’s christened it “Norto”—a combination of Norton and the name of his son, Toto.
After all that, I’m still not sure how to categorize this bike. It’s certainly not something you’d see in the established bike-building centers of the West. And even stranger to think it’s roaming the streets of an island in Southeast Asia.
I think I’ll settle for ‘inspired.’