Over the past winter, I (along with a few of my trusted buddies) embarked on a long journey to spruce up the Sportster that I got last summer. There was nothing actually wrong with it other than a battery cable that snapped in half but I really disliked the color of the thing and the really ugly, hand-painted cancer ribbon on the back fender. There was actually a fairly neat painting on the rear fender as well but it was always obscured by the big seat so it had to go too. Out with the old and in with the new.
The first step I took was started well before anything was disassembled and I may have even started this before riding officially ceased for the winter. I wanted to get a jump on the tank graphic and color options. Color was fairly easy as I knew I wanted a bright blue of some sort. This pays homage to the motorcycles I grew up with. My dad had a big, decked-out blue bike (among others) and my grandpa has a smaller, navy blue bike. The main directive I had at the time was “classic” and I tried to stick with that in all aspects. A big load of color with a splash of white on the side of the tank. The Sportster didn’t have any Harley markings on the side of the tank when I got it and I decided that needed to change so I got to work.
Jason at Kustom Persuasion actually sent me a video on Instagram one day (check it out here) and it took me a few days but I eventually decided that we’d go with that look. I originally wanted something with less white but it was too good of a look not to utilize.
The next step was the disassembly and Garry took care of that for me. By that I mean that he didn’t even give me a chance. I think it was January when my mom, Garry and their friend Joe stopped by our house in Cleveland and we got to figuring out why the bike wouldn’t start. Garry eventually discovered the severed battery cable and the next day he showed up in his truck and took the whole Sportster to his garage for surgery. He tells me that he had that cable fixed before it was even out of the back of his truck. He’s been a big help with teaching me as much as I can absorb and it’s really because of him that the bike came out looking as good as it did during reassembly.
Anyway, over the next couple days he ripped all the old stuff off the frame and set aside anything I’d need to get painted. It wasn’t too long after disassembly that I had it out at the Kustom Persuasion shop to sand, prime and paint.
Once I made time to get out to the shop (it’s 70 miles from my house) I immediately got down to business prepping the metal for paint. That means a bit of taping and a lot of sanding. This isn’t the 1800s and we do use power tools but it’s still a pain in the ass and takes a bit of time, especially on the back fender that had a thickly-painted mural on it. The front fender and tank went really smooth but the back took maybe 3x longer than those items. One really cool thing that appeared when sanding the back fender was seeing the guide lines that were used when painting the “Pony Express Round-Up 2000” image. I’ve never actually seen anyone do some airbrushing or hand-painting on a bike so it came as a surprise to me when they started making an appearance. Very cool stuff.
To round out the night, Jason and I sat down with a book of import car paint chips to decide on the blue/white combo. Initially I wanted a bit of an eggshell white (classic theme still in mind) but after seeing the amount of pearl in the blue I knew that wouldn’t work. We went with a gorgeous blue and white combo that was going to pop like crazy when all was said and done.
In another week or two Nancy and I were back in Clyde and ready to prime the tins with Jason. I had finally narrowed down the designs to test on the side of the tank. I knew I’d have to get the size and style nailed down that night so that Jason could have them before spraying clear on the tank. I printed out various widths and then cut and mounted them at the shop to see what looked best. In the end I decided on a version that uses the ITC Serif Gothic typeface. I LOVE that font family and it really has an old-school look I was going for. After dicking around with the graphics, I put Jason to work where he sprayed prime and then the first base of white. More was to come but this would be all the painting I would see live.
Jason would be leading the way from here on out with the painting. I actually ended up not even being around for any it and only got to see progress through the images he would text to me. Technology might suck a lot of times but I am really happy it’s around for things like this.
The first night was the rest of the white and then he’d move on to the striping layout and all of that pretty blue. I got to give my thoughts on the striping lines and the placement of the vinyl lettering. It was nerve-wracking for me to not have my fingers moving stuff around but I trusted that he’d do fine in the end (and he did). Each new set of photos I’d get just made me more and more excited to see the final product. Even the Old Dude showed up and gave his approval.
Once Jason was done laying down all the paint we let the pieces dry as much as possible and then moved on to reassembly. Spring was starting to roll around and Garry wanted the space in his garage back so I happily obliged and we made it happen on a chilly Friday morning. I took the day off of work and went to Clyde without Naners just to get the work done.
Garry originally told me that I’d be the one doing all the work so that he couldn’t be blamed for scratching new paint but he just couldn’t help himself in the end. He enlisted his son (also named Garry) to help with the events of the day and we were glad he was there. I dropped off the parts around 9am and went back to pick up my mom and grab some donuts for everyone. By the time we arrived at his house they already had on the front fender and were working on the next bits. Of course. That crazy old man just couldn’t help himself.
We worked front-to-back and had the front fender and tank on kind of quickly. The vacuum hoses and fuel lines were a bit of a pain but they went on and are still in place so I consider that a win. At this point I am basically a third set of hands. Not doing much but I’m giving it my all at whatever they ask me to do. The back fender proved to be a real pain in the ass because Garry wanted to hide some of the wires that go to the turn signals. Personally, I would have ran them the same way they already were but after seeing it complete I do think it was a good decision. It definitely looks better and functions as it should.
Now, I could take off/install a front fender anywhere and the tank I have dealt with too. I couldn’t have done anything with the back fender if we weren’t at Garry’s house. We had the bike jacked up and suspended from his rafters in the garage to give us extra clearance and to keep it upright when working. There really isn’t a lot of space around the back wheel and letting the tire drop this way was a huge help. We’ve since messed with the turn signals a bit without doing this and it’s incredibly tight and hard to spin a bolt even 1/4 of a turn.
The reassembly ended up taking most of the day (of course) but it was finally done after a final oil change and seat installation. I was finally able to roll it out into the sun and snap a photo. I just couldn’t stop looking at it. Jason crushed the paint, Garry was the master mechanic I’ve come to expect and Garry 2 kept us all entertained and was a huge help as well. I couldn’t be more proud of how it came out and I don’t think I could ever thank the people that worked on it enough for all that was done.
I’ve finally washed it (after about 45 days) and even bought a new windshield for it. The old one was all scratched up from the previous owners and I couldn’t take it anymore. It’s slowly becoming my own and every time I get on it I’m happy to see it again. The compliments keep coming in and to know that everyone’s work is appreciated by total strangers is a really cool feeling. Last year I was able to ride 3,000+ miles from late-July until early-November. I’ve already got 1,000 miles put down and I’m shooting for at least 4,000 more. Keep your eyes peeled and maybe you’ll catch me out there on the road.