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Bruiser: A Harley Softail drag bike from Belgium

Harley-Davidson Softail sprint bike by BG-Garage Custom
We’ve followed the wacky Sultans of Sprint race series since day one, impressed by the outrageous purpose-built machines that some of our favorite custom builders have produced for it. But the series is much bigger than what we’ve touched on here. Because for every high profile shop or manufacturer with an entry, there’s a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

This unapologetic 2000-model Harley-Davidson Softail is one of them. It was customized by Bruno Belva of BG-Garage Custom, for its owner and series competitor, Rudy.

Harley-Davidson Softail sprint bike by BG-Garage Custom
The Belgian Softail actually first ran in the 2019 season in the Sultans of Sprint’s ‘Freak Class’—but this is the first time we’ve laid eyes on it. And it’s the first time we’ve seen Bruno’s work, too, even though he’s been operating for six years already.

Based in Pont-à-Celles, a small town some 50 km south of Brussels, Bruno splits his time between working on bikes and cars and his day job in the pharmaceutical industry. His workshop is decidedly old school, full of manual machining equipment and nary a 3D printer or CNC machine in sight.

Harley-Davidson Softail sprint bike by BG-Garage Custom
Sultans of Sprint is as much about looking good as it is going fast… but bikes do need to be fast. So for this project, Bruno focused on chassis and weight improvements, and eked a little more juice out of the motor.

Up front are the upside-down forks from a Ducati Monster, tuned to match the weight of the Harley. The wheels were scalped from a Ducati Scrambler, measuring 18” in the front and 17” in the back, and weighing far less than the original hoops.

Harley-Davidson Softail sprint bike by BG-Garage Custom
The front wheel was modified to take a second brake disc, and the back wheel needed extensive work to fit the Harley swingarm. They’re pictured here with the Ducati Scrambler’s OEM tire, the Pirelli MT60, but Rudy races the bike with Michelin track tires.

For the brakes, Bruno installed a set of Brembos from a Ducati 996, mounted up on his own custom aluminum adapters.

Harley-Davidson Softail sprint bike by BG-Garage Custom
The motor is stock inside, but features a number of interesting upgrades. Bruno installed twin Dell’Orto carbs with velocity stacks, and built a stunning asymmetrical exhaust system. And he added a shifting system from Kliktronic, so that Rudy can change gears via buttons on the handlebar.

The bodywork on this Softail is all about tucking in to go fast. Bruno reworked the back end of the bike with a hand-made stainless steel tail section, capped off with a spacious seat. Various electronic components have been repackaged in a tidy box underneath it.

Harley-Davidson Softail sprint bike by BG-Garage Custom
The fuel tank is of unknown origin, but is most likely from a vintage 50cc—it still wears its patina, along with a commemorative 500 Francs coin from 1980, embedded in the filler cap.

Up in the cockpit are LSL clip ons, with race-style switches and levers from Braking, and custom-made rearset foot pegs lower down. This Harley dragster has an LED headlight and a pair of discreet taillights too, because Rudy actually runs it on the street sometimes.

Harley-Davidson Softail sprint bike by BG-Garage Custom
Despite the amount of work jammed into the bike, Bruno reports that he didn’t actually have a lot of time to build it. But he met the brief; the Harley impressed on the track, and Rudy’s happy.

“Rudy had really good results with this bike and won a lot of races,” says Bruno, “probably because he has a really good feeling for that kind of sprint. He is a really good racer.”

Harley-Davidson Softail sprint bike by BG-Garage Custom
With last year’s race season canceled by the pandemic, Rudy’s kept the Harley on ice. We’re holding thumbs that the Sultans of Sprint return soon, so that we can see more oddball customs like this tear up the drag strip.

BG-Garage Custom Instagram | Images by (and with thanks to) Sébastien Laurent

Harley-Davidson Softail sprint bike by BG-Garage Custom