Turning Granddad’s Harley into a Champion Flat Tracker

Harley Sportster Flat Tracker
Some people find it hard to hold onto a bike for more than a couple of years. It doesn’t take long before an itch sets in, and they find themselves window-shopping for the next set of wheels.

Canadian Ben Boyd is not like that. He’s owned this 1989 Harley-Davidson Sportster for a solid 23 years, since 1994, and not once has he considered shifting it. That’s because he inherited it from his late grandfather, Fred Boyd.

Harley Sportster Flat Tracker
“Fred was a pretty big name in the post-war racing scene here in Vancouver, BC,” Ben tells us, “and was team mate to Trev Deeley—the guy who established Harley-Davidson in Canada.”

“Fred died when I was seven and I inherited this little Sporty. I’d been riding and racing MX since I was five, and used to sneak Granddad’s bike out well before I had a license. Heck, I even rode it to my first date!”

Harley Sportster Flat Tracker
“After several years of injury-induced hiatus from racing, I’ve come back to it. I’m now racing flat track a fair bit, and won the North West Championship vet class this year.”

The Sportster’s evolved over time into this bona fide hooligan flat track racer. Ben doesn’t consider himself a pro builder though, but rather a hobbyist, wrenching under the moniker ‘Escape Velocity Cycles.’

Harley Sportster Flat Tracker
“I’ve always worked on my own bikes and built customs,” he says, “but they’ve usually been scrappy street fighters and such. I thought I’d make this one pretty, and see what happens.”

Over the years, Ben’s done everything from gradual improvements to full rebuilds on the Sportster, eventually setting it up as a street tracker. Then Super Hooligan flat track racing took off, and he decided to make it his race bike. “If you’re interested,” he quips, “I’ve got cutesy 35mm photos my mom’s taken of me and the bike over the 23 years I’ve had it.”

Harley Sportster Flat Tracker
Though this Sportster is old, it’s packing a helluva punch. “The original motor was a hot-rodded 1200 cc four-speed,” says Ben. “It snapped its crank, on a road trip across America that didn’t get very far. Once it needed a motor swap, I kind of went wild on the build.”

There’s now a Buell X1 unit in there, running Andrews cams and S&S roller rockers. It’s also been converted from “the crappy Buell EFI” to a carb arrangement. The setup includes a Mikuni HSR45 carb, a Twin Tec ignition and a Hammer Performance intake.

Harley Sportster Flat Tracker
The one-off exhaust mimics the lines of the original Buell pipe, but swings up-and-over the primary—to provide extra cornering clearance—and terminates in a ‘Max Race’ can from Cone Engineering. “It makes a futile attempt at providing back pressure,” says Ben. “Most of its ample power is high in the extended rev range.”

Super Hooligan rules dictate that a bike’s frame must remain stock from the rear shock mounts to the headstock. So racers need to get creative in order to fine-tune their bikes’ geometry.

Harley Sportster Flat Tracker
Ben set the bike up right by installing a set of Yamaha R6 forks in custom Weiss Racing adjustable triple trees. The forks have been upgraded with Öhlins internals, and there’s a custom-built set of fully adjustable Öhlins shocks out back.

The matching 19” wheels are from an older Sportster, and are wrapped in Mitas flat track rubber.

Harley Sportster Flat Tracker
Up top is a tank from “some god-awful chopper thing,” tweaked to lie flat for a smooth transition to the seat. The tail section’s an Airtech part, and hardly needed any trimming to fit. The rear of the frame’s been looped up to match it, and Randi at local upholsterer Aro Upholstery handled the seat pad.

With no need for lights, a speedo or switches, the cockpit is super-minimal. There’s a set of flat track bars from Vortex, a Motion Pro quick turn throttle, and a pair of purple Oury grips. The Sportster also hosts a mixed bag of smaller parts, including a billet sprocket cover donated by the crew at Speed Merchant after the OEM part broke at Dirt Quake.

Harley Sportster Flat Tracker
This flat tracker’s legacy and enviable list of upgrades already make it a winner in our book. But it’s the zany ‘Lazer Zebra’ livery that really has us frothing. “AJ McAllister of Noice Paint laid down the wild teal-peach-pink double fade base coat,” says Ben, “and then meticulously applied the zebra stripes over it.”

“In bright sunlight you can see the subtle rainbow flake in the rich black of the zebra pattern. Being an old school sign writer by trade, AJ also hand lettered the text and number plates that bare Granddad’s number.”

“But there are some scrapes and dings,” says Ben. “It’s a true race bike. She ain’t no show pony.”

Escape Velocity Cycles Instagram | Images by Dylan Davies

Harley Sportster Flat Tracker

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