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Building a Street Bob custom using Harley’s rulebook

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
More Harley-Davidsons go under the grinder than any other make of bike. But surprisingly, The Motor Co. seldom commissions customs from big-name builders.

Instead, it has developed the annual Battle of the Kings contest—where dealers customize a bike within a very strict rule set. To get a taste of how hard that is, we flew to Milwaukee for the second Harley-sponsored ‘Brewtown Throwdown’ event.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
The Brewtown Throwdown is a build-off between teams, made up of people from different walks of life. Last year, our team was tasked with building a Sportster café racer. This time around, I was on a new team with a new donor: a fresh-out-the-crate Street Bob.

We had to operate within the BoTK rulebook—which means a set budget, and a specific quota of H-D aftermarket parts. But we only had a couple of weeks to prep, and a mere two and a half days for hands-on wrenching. So it didn’t take long to settle on a team name: Quick ‘n Easy.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
My teammates included an X-Games gold medalist, a rock climber-slash-fitness model, a Harley-Davidson engineer, and a couple of guys from Vice. Our HQ was Milwaukee Harley-Davidson, with shop boss Goran Zadrima leading the team, techs John (below) and Carlton showing us the ropes, and Harley PR guy Joe Gustafson keeping a watchful eye over us.

The style brief was simply “dirt, chopper or track.” We picked track, and started refining our ideas via Skype calls, a Google Drive folder full of inspiration pics, a comprehensive parts list and rough Photoshop mockups.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
The classic XR style is de rigueur for Harley flat trackers, but it’s a tall order for the Street Bob’s proportions, and building a new subframe would have been a push on our timeline. After healthy debate, we reached into Harley’s history for inspiration—all the way back to the 1946 Harley-Davidson WR racer.

Those racers were stripped down for going fast on sketchy dirt tracks. By taking advantage of the Street Bob’s pseudo-hardtail frame and minimal styling, we knew we could create a contemporary re-interpretation of the iconic WR.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
The first step was to get as much prep work done as we were allowed. So Milwaukee Harley-Davidson quickly chopped the rear fender, then sent the bodywork off to Aces Auto Body for paint. They knocked it out the park in a deep vintage red with gold scallops.

By the time we’d all congregated in Milwaukee, Goran and his crew had installed a new rear shock from suspension experts RWD. It’s a custom-built unit; 1” longer than stock, with a remote reservoir and full adjustability. We started ripping everything else off the bike.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
Our new rear wheel was a skinny 19” rim laced up to the stock hub. The guys spooned on Dunlop dirt track rubber, and hooked up the massive 60-tooth sprocket for our chain conversion kit. With the wheel on, our vintage tracker’s stance came together quickly.

The Street Bob’s engine is mostly black, and our style guide called for a little more variation. Most H-D customers would probably have picked an all-chrome setup, but we opted for the ‘Dominion’ collection instead; bronze parts with contrasting brushed aluminum bits. The rocker box covers, transmission side cover and derby cover were all swapped out.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
Harley’s parts catalog also had just the seat kit we needed—a solo setup with a mount kit that can run either rigid, or with springs. Goran has great contacts, so we had Milsco custom-make the pan and upholstery for us, with a stunning triple-stitched diamond pattern using gold thread.

Clearly the seat’s meant to be installed by an expert, because we couldn’t make sense of the instructions. But we eventually figured it out, swapping the springs out for the rigid setup at the last minute, so that the bike wouldn’t feel spongy to ride.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
The kit comes with a cover plate to hide the wiring—but it also hid away the beefy Eibach spring on our custom shock, so we left it off. (I’m not admitting we used a rattle can, but I will say that there was one non-black part under the seat that is now black.)

It was decided early on to give our vintage tracker a few modern touches. So we ordered a set of mid-mount foot controls from Speed Merchant, Thrashin Supply Co. pegs and shifter nubs, and a set of chrome Thrashin mid bend bars.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
Those bars aren’t as wide and high as traditional flat track bars, and when combined with the peg position, they create an aggressive riding stance. But getting the pegs to fit was our biggest snag.

All credit to Speed Merchant—they’re very well made controls—but they’re designed for the Fat Bob, and they’re designed to work with stock engine covers. And since the Street Bob’s stock shifter is mounted different to the Fat Bob’s, we had to mod the setup slightly.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
Hiccups are all part of the game though. Ask me how I finished installing the new Screamin’ Eagle air filter, only to realize that we’d ordered the wrong backing plate. Or how Milwaukee H-D’s parts manager had to drive to Janesville in the snow to pick up last minute parts, like shorter brake hoses. And that moment we finished weaving the wires for the switches through the new bars, the wrong way round.

Still, John and Carlton had plenty of experience between them to make sure we didn’t screw anything up too badly. And everyone was stoked to be turning screws—not least of all American Ninja Warrior contestant, Ninja Natalie, who wielded a grinder for the first time to cut the rear struts down to size.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
Bill Davidson (above left) even popped in during the build, and helped us figure out where to put the rear license plate. Both plates carry the same number X-Games medalist Lance has raced MX with since age six: 54.

The Street Bob will eventually go up for sale, and needs to be street legal. So even though we ditched the lights and turn signals, they all unplugged from the wiring loom without any cutting, and the speedo is still in play. We also left the front brake and the ABS system intact, and mounted the front board on quick-release H-D windshield mounts.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
On went a Vance & Hines two-into-one race pipe—another modern touch that sounds as good as it looks. Carlton installed Vance & Hines’ Fuelpak fuel management system too, allowing him to fine-tune our bike from his smartphone.

We also swapped out the fork lowers for a pair of Low Rider items, to change the look up front from black to brushed aluminum. The tank got a bronze gas cap, and the radiator a color-matched surround. And we left the sides of the tank bare, relying on a super-minimal air filter cover plate to get the point across.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
The tank does sport our team name on top of the tank though, thanks to artist Allen Beck. We asked him what style he was feeling, and he replied “70s shag-wagon,” so we left him to do his thing.

As we buttoned it all up, Natalie, Lance and I took turns trying out the riding position. Without fail, each one of us cracked massive, dorky smiles as we hopped on. Quick ‘n Easy’s set up for hooliganism for sure; it’s less of an all-day ride, and more of a mental taco chaser.

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
As day two wrapped (yes, we finished a half day early) we fired it up. We high-fived. We rolled it into the parking lot for burnouts in the snow. And we all wished we could take it home.

With thanks to Harley-Davidson | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Wes Reyneke

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown
Team Quick ‘n Easy
Lance Coury (Thrashin Supply Co. owner)
Ninja Natalie‘ Duran (Pro rock climber and fitness model, American Ninja Warrior contestant)
Marko Lazarevic (Harley-Davidson engineer)
Dan Meyer and Billy Voermann (Vice)
Joe Gustafson (Harley-Davidson PR and team mom)

Milwaukee Harley-Davidson
Goran Zadrima (General Manager)
John Gaedke (Service Technician)
Carlton Harris (Service Technician)
Alex O’Malley (Parts Manager)

Building a tracker-style Street Bob custom at the Harley-Davidson Brewtown Throwdown

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