How to build a Harley Sportster flat tracker, the Mule way

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles
If you’ve ever fantasized about building a Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker, there’s a good chance that you’ve pinned a couple of Richard Pollock’s bikes to your mood board. Better known as Mule Motorcycles, Richard has been building flat trackers since day dot and has mastered the art. He can make a Sportster go fast, turn left and look spectacular.

His latest custom Harley Sportster is pure fire. Built for a friend who races in the Hooligan flat track series on the US West Coast, it has a level of fit and finish that you’d expect from a pro race bike. It looks sharp as heck too, draped in Harley’s iconic racing orange.

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles
Richard kicked the project off with a 1987 Harley-Davidson XL1100 Sportster frame, sent over by his racer friend’s sponsor, Barnett Harley-Davidson in El Paso, Texas. He quickly stripped it down to the bare essentials, cutting off superfluous bits like the side stand mount and a portion of the subframe.

Hooligan rules are designed to keep the series uncomplicated and fun, so there are limits to how much you can tweak a chassis. You can’t change a bike’s steering neck, swingarm pivot location or upper shock mounts, and any changes to the stock geometry must be done via bolt-on parts. But Richard knows how to squeeze the most out of a bike, regardless.

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles
At the front end, he slammed on a set of adjustable triple clamps from Durelle Racing, with the front forks from a 1991 Honda NT650 Hawk GT. Out back, he relocated the Sporty swingarm’s lower shock mounts, and installed a set of K-Tech Razor shocks. Between the adjustable triples and the height-adjustable shocks, this flat tracker can now be fine-tuned for optimal results.

The billet wheels are 19” flat track-specific items, supplied by Lowery Racing and wrapped in Shinko rubber. Keen eyes will notice that there’s more meat on the rear wheel than there is on the front; the extra weight helps with traction on slippery tracks.

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles
For the motor, Richard had initially planned to build a race engine from hand-picked parts. But then serendipity struck. “Out of nowhere—or, more to the point, the opposite side of the United States—popped up a Buell X1 Lightning crate motor, un-started, from 2001,” he tells us.

In the end, buying and shipping the Buell mill cost about 60 percent of what building a new unit would have—so it was a no-brainer. Richard installed the power plant, along with a re-jetted Sportster carb and a Daytona Twin Tec single-fire ignition.

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles
Moving to the bodywork, Richard ordered a fiberglass fuel tank and tail section from First Klass Glass in Michigan. They’re quintessential Harley flat track pieces, and a common sight on Mule builds. Longtime collaborator, David Tovar at SBK Paint, tackled the eye-popping livery.

A race-specific number board sits up front—but this is no flimsy, cable-tied affair. Look closely, and you’ll notice that it sits on CNC-machined mounts that clamp to the forks, and can be swapped out in minutes.

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles
Further back are a set of aluminum AFAM handlebars. “I’ve saved them for at least ten years, after using them for a couple,” says Richard. “These bars were known for being mega strong and extremely bend resistant. A perfect fit for the rock-em’-sock-em’ world of Hooligan racing on small tracks.”

The bars wear only a Buell throttle assembly, a kill switch and a clutch lever. So there’s little to replace in case of a crash.

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles
If you’re looking for where the key goes, you’ll be looking for a long time. The bike switches on via a covered toggle switch, mounted to the left of the Sportster’s custom battery box. Fabricated from aluminum, it attaches to the bike where the heavy OEM steel box used to sit, via rubber-mounted recessed fasteners.

Clever details like this are splattered all over this race bike. Sitting on the right side is a stunning CNC-machined mounting plate for the foot peg and brake master cylinder; a part that Richard plans to use on several bikes that are currently in his build queue. It was machined by a family-owned company that he discovered shortly after moving from California to Idaho.

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles
He also credits brothers Chuck and Tommy Connell, for helping him weld up the bike’s tightly-tucked two-into-one stainless steel exhaust. “Lots of guys running Sportsters seem to like the two-two high pipes,” he says. “But for close racing on tight tracks, the low pipe doesn’t put your leg way out and burn your inner thigh.”

There’s more wizardry out back, where Richard combined a Yamaha TZ750 rotor, a late model Honda CB500 front brake caliper and a custom-made carrier to construct the bike’s sole brake. Fast Blast and Coat finished the build off, powder-coating some parts and Cerakoting others.

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles
As always, Mule has delivered a drool-worthy flat tracker that ticks every possible box. And it goes as good as it looks, too.

“The first race outing was a success,” Richard tells us. “The engine is super smooth, quiet and starts instantly with a touch of the button. Handling was right on the money with gobs of power.”

Mule Motorcycles | Instagram | Studio images by Bart Cepek

Harley-Davidson Sportster flat tracker by Mule Motorcycles

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
111 Shares
READ NEXT