Sportster Rebuild Part 1 – Painting The Sheet Metal

I’ve started the Sportster rebuild for real this time. I took the fenders and gas tank up to InDepth Customs to have them repainted. Matt looked them over and is comfortable that he’ll be able to repaint them with the stock color, using the original decals I found a few years back. We’ve discussed what my goals are, and I think we’re going to be able to work together on it. I’m going with 2004+ 1200 heads, N4 cams, and some sort of performance exhaust. I’m also going to have to do a lot of cosmetic repairs and upgrades, because well, it’s twenty years old. Those are things that Reese and I can do when he’s down here though.

I’m not sure what the actual timeline is going to be, but I’m hoping to have it up and running by the end of May at the latest. Here’s a couple pictures of the sheet metal on its way up there. In addition, there are a few rust spots on the frame that will have to be touched up. I’m going to have him repaint the oil tank as well, because it also has some surface rust. The next step is to get the bike up to the shop so that we can determine what’s wrong with the engine. That will control which direction this project goes.

Tank decals

Tank Decals

Sheet metal in need of fresh paint

Sheet metal in need of fresh paint

King Tour-Pak For The Road Glide – Part 1

Heather and I drove down to Horny Toad Harley-Davidson to pick up the King Tour-Pak I had ordered. The drive down was mostly uneventful, except for the car fire we passed in the opposite direction, not far from the dealership. We got all the boxes loaded up, including the Tour-Pak, a gloss black detachable mounting rack, the correctly keyed lockset, the passenger backrest, and locking detachable clamps, and hit the road for home. Remember that car fire? Well, by the time we left, it had backed up I-35 for a few miles and was getting worse, so we decided to try some back roads to avoid the mess. That worked out well, and we got back to the house in a reasonable amount of time.

And that’s where this becomes part 1 of many. It’s my fault, I should have opened the boxes at the dealership, just to verify that everything was ok. But we were in a hurry, and the boxes were all straight from Harley-Davidson, so what could possibly go wrong? Well… The Tour-Pak isn’t painted correctly. It is Vivid Black, like the label on the box said, but unfortunately, it’s missing the pin striping which the same label says should be on it. So I called the dealership back, and they’re going to ping Harley-Davidson on Monday to see what went wrong and get me the correct Tour-Pak.

Custom Dynamics Bullet Ringz

This morning’s project on the Road Glide was to replace the stock turn signals with Custom Dynamics Bullet Ringz. The stock turn signals are incandescent bulbs with colored lenses, red for the rear and yellow for the front. They’re passable as far as brightness is concerned, and I’m really not terribly concerned about the power draw from them. The Bullet Ringz are LED based, much brighter than the stock bulbs, and give me better running lights, as well as slightly decreasing the load on the charging system.

For the front, I chose to go with the amber/white modules, which have an outer ring of bright white running lights and an inner cluster of bright yellow for the turn signal. For the rear, I went with red/red modules, meaning that both the outer right and inner cluster are red. All of the modules were ordered in chrome, with the smoked lens option.

Installation was extremely easy. Simply take off the old lenses, remove the bulbs, plug the module in to the light bulb socket, coil up the wires, and snap the new module in place. There is no need to replace the lenses, as the module is the replacement. And since the bike has CAN-BUS electronics, there’s no need for a load equalizer. All I had to do was turn on the hazards for a couple minutes to let everything sync up. The end result looks good and performs far better than the original bulbs.


Stock turn signals on the FLTRXS

Stock turn signals on the FLTRXS

Custom Dynamics Bullet Ringz installed

Custom Dynamics Bullet Ringz installed

Stock turn signals on the FLTRXS

Stock turn signals on the FLTRXS

Custom Dynamics Bullet Ringz installed

Custom Dynamics Bullet Ringz installed

MITM 2015 – Day 5

I grabbed some breakfast at the hotel, got caffeinated, and packed the bike up for the last time on the MITM 2015 trip. I headed out down the highway, stopping at Old Fort Harley Davidson in Fort Smith to pick up a shirt. With that side trip taken care of, I was back on the highway heading for home. I know I sound like a broken record, but it really was an uneventful ride. The temperature came up as I progressed south, allowing me to remove a few layers and get more comfortable. I started getting a little zoned out listening to the podcasts, so I switched over to some of my music and did a lot better. I rolled in to the house at around 3 PM, having put 1837 miles on the bike.

This was the first long road trip on the Road Glide, and I think it’s a winner. There are definitely some things I’m going to have to change and add to it, but the basic platform is a winner. I’m going to have to add a Tour-Pak soon, as I’m really missing that extra storage space. In addition to that, the XM module needs to be added to the Boom! infotainment system because I don’t know that I can live on the same songs day in and day out. I’m also thinking about replacing the windshield with a taller one. It’s just a smidge too short, with the top two inches of my helmet getting some buffeting. I know I was initially a little down on the stock seat, but it might not need to be replaced as soon as I thought. My butt held up really well. It’s definitely on the list, but it’s a bit lower than I’d originally thought.

MITM 2015 – Day 4

The party’s over, time to go, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. MITM 2015 has come to an end. Last night was really freakin cold, with lows in the 30s. This Texas boy isn’t used to camping in weather like that any more. I grabbed some coffee, warmed up a little, and started breaking camp. With the bike packed up, I said my goodbyes and got on the road.

The first stop was Benld, a small coal mining community not far from the farm, to attend Liturgy at Holy Dormition Orthodox Church. The church has been there for over a hundred years, but sadly, there was no Liturgy this morning, so I made my way over to I-55 and headed south. Since I kept the Liturgical fast, I stopped for a brunch before crossing in to Missouri, and then continued on my way to Fayetteville, Arkansas.

After I arrived and got settled in to the hotel, I called a cab and got a lift over to Apple Blossom Brewery for dinner and a flight of beers. I’ve heard about this place a number of times on the Basic Brewing Radio podcast and had to try it out. It wasn’t terribly crowded, and I was seated immediately.

My tasting flight was as follows:

  • Upper Wharton Creek Fresh Hop Ale
  • Sturdy Hippy Sour Saison
  • Everly Pale Ale
  • Helles
  • Unwind Wheat
  • Grumpy Maverick Imperial Rye IPA
  • Hazy Morning Coffee Stout

All of the beers were very good, definitely showing the skill of the brewers there. And the food was excellent as well. I had the fish and chips, because, well, it’s comfort food. And for dessert I had a pecan pie that was to die for. This place is a hidden gem, and if you’re in Fayetteville, please stop in, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

MITM 2015 – Day 3

That was a chilly night, but after all these trips to the farm, I’m used to it. This morning’s plan was to get moving, head in to town for breakfast and a fuel stop before heading up to Peoria to see Reese. The was in the low 40s with a strong wind, which made things a little unpleasant. But with a couple layers and the Road Glide’s fairing, it was comfortable enough. I made it up to Peoria a little before lunch, and got to spend some time with Reese doing some gaming and talking, before we headed out to run some errands and hit up Five Guys for some burgers.

Reese has been having trouble getting certain of his Xbox One games’ multi-player functionality working and I’ve been suspecting that it’s the wireless router for some time. So we hit up Best Buy and picked up a much newer one. After lunch, we set it up and got everything configured so that their wireless devices wouldn’t notice the difference. Then we cranked up Titanfall and tried to connect in to a game. It worked perfectly, so we’re going to call that problem solved.

Sadly, I had to head back down to the farm, so we said our goodbyes and I got back on the road. It was still chilly, but not too bad, and I made it back just in time for dinner. We grilled up burgers and brats, and we got to enjoy some homemade rhubarb pie and heirloom tomatoes thanks to Milo and Janet. After that we retired to the fire to enjoy the evening before we all headed home.

MITM 2015 – Day 2

I got up, grabbed some breakfast, and packed the bike up. I’m definitely missing the Tour-Pak, and will be adding one as soon as funds permit. But the removable saddlebag liners really did help out. I topped off the tank and got back on I-44, heading north and east towards Illinois. The ride was pretty uneventful, and still warm, though I don’t think that’s going to last.

I stopped for lunch at Missouri Hick BBQ in Cuba, MO, a place we’ve eaten at before. If you’re in the area, you really should stop by. Their sloped, gravel parking lot was the first real challenge of the trip. I was really worried that I’d drop the bike while backing it down in to a parking spot. Thankfully it stayed upright, and I enjoyed some great brisket while my adrenaline level returned to normal. Another splash of fuel and I’m back on the highway, heading for the party.

Not much to report for the rest of the ride. The bike ran well, and I’m even getting used to having real cruise control, which is a wonderful thing.

I pulled in to the farm in the late afternoon, got caught up with some really good friends, got my tent pitched, and unloaded the bike. After that it was time for some beer and dinner and then time around the camp fire. The weather’s definitely gotten cooler, and they’ve forecast lows in the 40s. I’ll be fine sleeping, but I’m heading to Peoria to see Reese tomorrow. I’m thinking that’s going to be a cold ride. But it’ll be worth every bit of it.

MITM 2015 – Day 1

The first day of the first long road trip on the Road Glide, up to Illinois for MITM 2015, started off well. I got rolling at around 9:30 AM, and headed north on 121, on my way to Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri. I left late enough to miss most of the morning rush hour traffic, but early enough to got out of the city before the heat built.

With The British History Podcast playing, I cruised up the tollway and on to US-75 north in to Oklahoma. I stopped for lunch and fuel in McAlester, OK, taking my time to cool down and rehydrate before getting back on the road. I had a nice chat with a guy who rides a Yamaha trike. I guess Road Glides aren’t seen all that much, because he didn’t know what it was. We talked bikes for a few, then I headed inside to get lunch.

I rode a little further up US-75, then on to US-69 north, making my way over to I-40 east in to Arkansas. After a stop to rehydrate and cool down, I was rolling again and made it in to Arkansas. At Fort Smith, I got on I-49 north and headed for Fayetteville, with a gas and hydration stop just outside of town. From there, I bushwhacked over to US-412, heading for Alpena. US-412 is a great ride, with nice sweepers and a few higher speed twisties, though nothing challenging like The Dragon. I merged on to US-62, then took US-65 north to Ozarka, MO, which is my stopping point for this leg of the ride.

I put a total of 466 miles on the bike today, and it’s definitely living up to my expectations. That’s not to say that there aren’t things I’m going to change, because there are. First off, I need a taller windshield. It does a great job of creating a pocket of calm air, but I’m just tall enough that it hits the top two inches of my helmet. And the stock seat, while adequate, will have to be replaced with something that offers a little more long distance comfort. I’m also going to add a rider backrest, also for more long distance comfort.

The First Wrenching On The Road Glide

Reese and I did the first bit of wrenching on the Road Glide this morning by installing the Smart Siren II (Harley part number 68328-06A). It wasn’t much, but it was enough to start getting familiar with the bike. I wanted to install this module to enhance the functionality of the factory security system that the bike came with. This is the first stage of the upgrades, as it gives me the ability to use a remote pager for notifications, which will be nice when I’m on a road trip.

Installation was very simple, though I did mess up the steps and set the alarm off because I didn’t pull the main fuse at the right time. After correcting that, I continued to mess things up by installing the module upside-down. Trust me, it should slide right in to the cavity designated for it. If it doesn’t, flip the darned thing over and try again. It’s not a friction fit, it really will snap in. Learn from my fail.

So, after doing all of that wrong and fixing it, it was done and functioning. The bike now chirps when arming and disarming, and will alarm if someone tries to move it when it’s armed.

Taking A Road Glide Special Out For A Test Ride

I’ve been thinking about picking up a new bike for a while now. I really enjoy riding the RT, but the maintenance costs, both in terms of time and money, have soured the relationship. I had been looking at the Dyna Switchbacks, because they’ve got bags but still have some performance. So I went up to American Eagle Harley Davidson to talk to the sales people and throw my leg over a bike or two.

When I got there, James and I started talking about bikes, and I tried the Dyna on for size. It just wasn’t my thing. I’ve gotten really spoiled with the RT’s fairing, a lot more than I thought I had. So we went over to the Road Glides. These are full sized FL touring bikes, which are a lot heavier than what I’ve been riding. But the fit and feel of them! I had to take this one out for a test ride. James got me set up, and I went over to the Rider’s Edge lot to do some figure eights to get comfortable with it before heading out on the road. Despite my misgivings, it handled well and didn’t feel nearly as heavy as it is.

Feeling a little more confident, I went and explored the neighborhood behind the dealership for a while, getting used to the handling, braking, and acceleration. It was comfortable and easy to ride around on surface streets, including taking some U-turns. Eventually, I got on to I-35E and headed south. This is not a good road right now, what with the ongoing construction, but the Road Glide’s suspension handled it well. Handling was good, throttle response was great. Any time I needed a little oomph to pass a truck, it was there. I actually messed up and missed my exit, which forced me to go a lot further south before I could get turned around to get back to the dealership. That gave me the space to test the cruise control, which sealed the deal for me.

I got back to the dealership, checked back in with James, and started talking numbers. We got to a figure that was good for both of us, including a very reasonable trade-in amount for the RT, without any real hassle. At that point I called Heather, talked it over with her, and headed home. Once she got home from work, we headed back up so that she could try it on for size. It got two thumbs up, so I’m heading back up tomorrow to sign the papers, hand over some cash, and bring a new bike home.