As seen on TV: An S&S-powered panhead by MB Cycles

Custom S&S panhead by MB Cycles
There’s not much reality in reality TV these days. But there are still shows out there that are more interested in their source material than they are in hype. The German program, Handwerkskunst!, is a prime example.

Handwerkskunst! (which translates to ‘craftsmanship’) is dedicated to craftspeople of varying vocations and backgrounds. Each episode focuses on an object, whether it be a cabinet or a carnival float, and the process of building it from beginning to end. There’s no fancy title sequence or even background music—just selective narration, and the rustling of the tools and machines used in the process.

Custom S&S panhead by MB Cycles
If you tune in to the show a month from now, you’ll get to see how Martin Becker at MB Cycles built this shimmering Harley-Davidson panhead. The project itself was commissioned by a friend and regular client (this is his fifth MB Cycles custom), but it provided the perfect opportunity to go behind the scenes. So Handwerkskunst! filmed the whole process—from raw frame to final test ride.

As we’ve come to expect from MB Cycles, this panhead is an intoxicating mix of vintage, reproduction and custom parts, all masterfully blended together. Like a good chef, Martin knows how to pick the right ingredients—and how to turn them into a five star dish.

Custom S&S panhead by MB Cycles
Calling it a Harley-Davidson is a little deceptive, because very little here actually comes from The Motor Co., save for the bike’s frame. Martin started with a 1946 H-D ‘Wishbone’ unit, then matched it to a reproduction Springer front-end from W&W Cycles.

The wheels are a mixed set, and both sport drum brakes. A 21” Kustom Tech item sits up front, with an aftermarket part of undisclosed origin at the back. Both are wrapped in sawtooth treads from Firestone.

Custom S&S panhead by MB Cycles
The engine is just as tasty. It’s a 93 ci panhead motor from S&S Cycle, hooked up to an S&S Super E carb, and aftermarket exhaust headers with MB Cycles mufflers. The ignition, coils and oil pump are from S&S too, while the charging system and regulator are Accel parts.

Other changes include a six-into-four transmission conversion, an FXR clutch cover, and a BDL Shorty open belt primary with an Antigravity battery wedged ‘into’ it. Martin converted the panhead to an electric starter too; you’ll spot the start lever tucked away under the oil tank.

Custom S&S panhead by MB Cycles
With a foot-operated clutch and a hand-shifter, the panhead’s cockpit is delightfully sparse. Martin started with a set of his own ‘Snake Low’ handlebars with integrated risers, fitted with a single Kustom Tech lever and an internal throttle. A teeny tiny Motogadget speedo sits just below the bars, with two LED warning lights mounted to the top yoke (the bike does have switches, but you have to know where to look).

Rounding off the front end are a single rear-view mirror and a tiny headlight. Both are neatly mounted to the springer forks.

Custom S&S panhead by MB Cycles
Further back you’ll find the repurposed tank from a Harley-Davidson Sportster. A slim seat sits just behind it, with a cutout that offers access to the oil dipstick. Rounding out the bodywork are a custom oil tank, and a rear fender from Cooper Smithing Co. that Martin tweaked a little.

Mounted to the left of the frame are a MB Cycles license plate bracket, and a single-sided fender strut that also holds mini taillight from FNA Custom Cycles.

Custom S&S panhead by MB Cycles
These sort of trick details are lurking everywhere on this vintage dreamboat. The small brace that secures the back end of the fuel tank is ridiculously elegant for such a small part. And the gas cap and Prism Supply Co. foot controls are all adorned with engraving work, masterfully executed by Carsten Estermann.

The paint job is just as exquisite. Done by frequent MB Cycles collaborator, Chiko’s Pinstriping, it features a deep yellow metal flake base, punctuated by silver leaf striping. The panhead’s finished off with powder-coating work by Metal Skin Works, and chroming and polishing by Polierservice Zwickau.

Custom S&S panhead by MB Cycles
Martin’s Handwerkskunst! episode airs on German television (and on YouTube) on the 24th of March. You can bet we’ll be tuning in—we’ve admired his work from afar for the longest time, and the chance to see his process up close is too good to pass up.

MB Cycles | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Riders Eyes Photography

Custom S&S panhead by MB Cycles

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