McGoo’s Harley-Davidson EZXLIV Street Tracker
WTF

McGoo’s Harley-Davidson EZXLIV Street Tracker

August 13, 2017

If you can’t decipher the cryptic MoCo model code in the headline, you’re not alone. Bill Bryant coined his “EZXL” project designation nearly a decade ago to describe his first Sportster refurb. Bill’s “easy” builds were defined by his “beauty by subtraction” aesthetic, and shined a bright light on what could be done to Harley’s diminutive V-twin with minimal cutting, welding and fab skills. Since then Bill and I have stripped, bobbed, chopped and modified nearly a dozen Sportsters, each one more rewarding and fun than the last. Why so many different variations on H-D’s alleged “girl’s bike?” Cynical silverbacks at Cook’s Corner might tell you otherwise, but I believe the Sportster is the best handling, lightest and most reliable machine in the MoCo stable. Plenty of dirt track hooligans seem to agree, because ’86 to ’03 Sportsters are the bike of choice for many homegrown racers in this growing scene. This EZXLIV (read that: EZ XL 4) is the second street tracker in my personal stable, and the fourth in a succession of fat-wheeled XL’s Bill conceived years before Harley dropped its first Forty-Eight. I’ve built choppers, ridden baggers and ogled bobbers, but my BMX roots keep dragging me back to the dirt-track dreams of my youth. Like most fat 50-somethings, “On Any Sunday” was a powerful influence in my formative years, and guys like Jay Springsteen and Kenny Roberts were my heroes. In the early ‘80s I witnessed the final Ascot Mile before they razed the track to build a parking lot for LA Unified School District. I’ve seen XR750s at full song, and it is glorious. While I’m clearly not man enough to keep a vintage race bike in track trim, I know how to polish a turd. The reliable but turd-like donor for this project was the ‘01 883 I built three years ago to showcase our bolt-ons for XLs. Six months before that bike debuted in our 2016 catalog, my friend Chris Hardwick at Temecula Motorcycle Service installed a 1200 kit to haul my 225 pounds down the highway. That motor had less than 1,500 miles when we rolled EZXLIII onto the chopping block, so friends and I invested our energy in flash and filigree like wheels, paint, and upholstery. While Rouser Rob stripped the donor bike, I scoured the innerweb for hoops, hubs, spokes and meats to give my street tracker the sneakers it deserved. I love building wheels from scratch, and this pair is among my favorite. The package comprises two 19-inch, 40-spoke Sun Alloy rims—2.85-inch in the front and 3.15-inch in the rear. The rear hub is Harley’s ubiquitous spun alloy unit with little more than fresh bearings and a light scrub with a kitchen pad. The front hub is a stillborn Biltwell product I designed eight years ago. Its spool design mimics the flange height, width and bearing spacing of Harley’s single-disk Sportster hub, sans brakes. Over the years this prototype has seen action on at least six different choppers in Bill’s and Otto’s stable, but finally landed back in my stash for this project. Custom-cut stainless-steel spokes from Buchannan’s and a pair of Maxxis DOT dirt treads complete the package and set the tone for my hooligan’s speedy style. “Spoke sniffer” is a disparaging term bicycle nerds use to describe anyone finicky about high-tech horseshit. My spoke-sniffing tendencies are well known among the pedal set, but became less refined after I made the jump to infernal combustion. I’m still mildly OCD, but myriad motorized conundrums over the years have made me lazy. If there’s a shortcut, I’ll take it. When I do, I usually regret it. Such was the case with the forks on this beast: a set of used 39mm trees off a late-model Forty-Eight, plus the shaved and shortened 39mm legs from my donor bike. Given the matching size on both parts, I thought building the new front end would be a simple matter of mating all parts into a slightly wider whole. Ha! Little did I know the center-to-center width on Forty-Eight trees demands a comparably wide axle that’s only available in 1-inch. A wider ¾-inch O.D. custom axle would have to be crafted from scratch, and my lathe skills are shit. Fortunately, Rouser Rob (“The man who invented the Sportster” according to Mike Deutsch) is a master mechanic and XL customizer whose skills in magic are fueled by copious bushels of the wizard’s thistle. After putting our stony heads together Rob and I dreamed up a welded shim and lathe-turned axle refurb that solved our problem. Biltwell product manager Erik Westergaard stepped in with some SolidWorks wizardry of his own by designing a set of sexy conical hub spacers and an axle shim. Custom parts in hand, I assembled the front end without drama. To make sure it worked as good as it looks, Sean at Burly/Progressive donated a set of preload adjusters and heavy-duty fork springs. Coupled with a set of 14-inch-long Progressive 490 shocks my street tracker’s stance and bounce are sweet as pie. Thanks for the tune-up, Sean. The rest of my street tracker facelift was easy, if not exactly on the cheap. Since the bike was bought and paid for years ago, I chose not to skimp on boner-inducing upgrades like paint and leather. Cue trumpet fanfare for Hot Dog Pete and Duane Ballard. These guys have sanded, painted, stained and pounded more steel, fiberglass and leather than any five craftsmen before them, and have the chemically pickled grey matter to prove it. I’ve poked around both their shops and breathed the toxic fluids they use to earn a living. In a word, it’s mind-blowing. Glue. Paint, Stain. Stripper. If it smells like a Pakistani taxi driver getting a perm in a sewer pipe and burns like Chernobyl, these guys swim in it. After anointing my tins with paint and pinstripes cooler than three Fonzies, Hot Dog passed the pillion pan to Duane for some wildly over-the-top upholstery in cattle, brass and suede. As always, the results speak for themselves. There are more affordable painters and leather crafters in Chopper Town, but none more talented, detail-oriented or reliable. Gracias, amigos. A quick flip through the Drag Specialties Big Book landed a set of blinker mounts that I repurposed with some angle iron to create a bracket for my 19-dollar LED headlight. A cat eye taillight set me back another seven bucks, but disappeared nicely beneath GP Glassworks’ fiberglass seat pan after some bracket fab work by Weste and me. The cockpit is the same as it ever was: Biltwell Tracker XL bars, a Whiskey throttle and a pair of our Torker grips in natural gum color, safety-wired, of course. The single hand control is a billet clutch lever from Hawg Halters. With my El Diablo Run deadline looming ten days out, I still didn’t have an exhaust. As I lamented this fact over lunch with co-workers, Google king Mike D pulled up the Cone Engineering website on his Obama phone. Their stainless-steel 2-into-1 pipe/muffler combo is a top choice among SoCal-based hooligan racers, and a steal at 600 bucks. Thirty-six hours after Mike’s Google search Weste and I were bolting up the stainless-steel icing on my fire-breathing cake. After a shakedown ride, Rouser Rob fine-tuned the CV carb with a smaller jet to balance out power throughout the rev range. She’s a blast to ride, albeit a slightly scary one—I’m still a fan of front brakes, at least on pavement. How I evolve into this rank amateur hooligan thing remains to be seen, but I’ve promised myself to give Hell track in Riverside at least one try. If I don’t wad it up it will be a miracle. Wish me luck. – McGoo Harley-Davidson EZXLIV Main Image Harley-Davidson EZXLIV