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"Baggers", December 1, 2012



WORDS: Greg Friend of Gearhead Inc.

PHOTO: Don Kates-Shooters Images

Planning is the key to a well-built bike. Coordinating sheetmetal fabrication around polishing and/or building a motor and paint all take time, plus shipping (or driving) to and from facilities must be factored into the equation as well. Add impatient customers with unrealistic expectations (reality TV is NOT and never will be reality), and the pressure to enter bikes into shows to market a shop’s ability can paralyze an inexperienced builder. Most custom bikes take a few months to a year to build, and about the only time one can be put together in less time is when it’s built for the shop. Brad Ilse, the owner of Outlaw Customs in Pipestone, Minnesota, saw an opportunity to show the world what Outlaw Customs was capable of by entering a bike into the 2011 Full Throttle bagger show in Sturgis. The problem was that it was just barely over a month away, which left him with little time to build the bike and get it to South Dakota.

With more than a decade of bike building under his belt, Brad knew what he was getting himself (and the shop) into, but, like Hannibal from The A-Team, he had a plan. Also like The A-Team, he started with junk parts that could be brought back to life: a crashed 2006 Street Glide that he bought from an insurance auction, which left him with a handful of parts he could use, namely the driveline and some miscellaneous mounts. The crashed bike was quickly torn apart while he and the guys from the shop prepared to work on the new frame and motor simultaneously.

Brad’s plan for the ’Glide’s driveline was to keep the judge’s eyes on his bike. It came with an 88ci motor but he wanted to increase the displacement to 120 ci, but it would have to be completely disassembled in order to do so. The cases were split and bored to accept H-D big cubic inch cylinders and CP pistons. An S&S 4-3/8-inch flywheel assembly was utilized for additional stroke. Duke’s Speed Shop took care of the headwork; they ported and cleaned up the heads and got them back to Outlaw HQ in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. As soon as the exterior components of the transmission, primary, and motor were ready for action, they were sent to J.D. Polishing who made ’em shine. When the parts returned to the shop, they were quickly reassembled and awaited their home in the frame.

With the stock frame out of commission Brad and his team began work on creating a completely new frame to cradle the engine. The neck was raked to 38 degrees, the down tubes were shaped to channel air around the motor in an aerodynamic fashion with a chin spoiler molded in between them, the backbone was stretched 4 inches over stock, the seat pocket was dropped down about 3 inches, and the swingarm was stretched an additional 4 inches as well. Brad intended the bike to sit low, making sure that the air ride controlled suspension in the front and rear maintained sufficient travel when riding, but sat lower than stock by about 3 inches. “I plumbed the bike’s air-cushioned suspension to run off of one compressor — it takes a little longer to pump up to ride-height, but it saves some weight and I didn’t have to figure out where to hide a second compressor,” Brad said. A matching set of Outlaw Customs wheels were bolted to either end of the chassis, with a 26-incher in the front and an 18x5.5-inch in the rear; both with four-piston calipers. The minute that he finished welding and grinding on the frame, Brad had it sent out for paint, and a few days later it returned to the shop, ready to receive the driveline.

Sheetmetal work had to be finished well before the deadline because many painters consider themselves artists and have a bad reputation for missing deadlines, plus Brad still had to have a few days for the final assembly. He started with the stock H-D rear fender and split it in half and added a section through the center so it would accommodate a 200mm wide tire. Side covers were bent and twisted to transition into the Nasi bags and lids that were attached to either side of the frame. The stock gas tank and dash were shaved of any unnecessary tabs, the welds were cleaned-up, and they were lengthened a few inches to flow with the elongated frame. Designed from past builds, Outlaw Customs manufactures its own fairing that incorporates the headlight from a Victory motorcycle and it fits a stock inner fairing with a few tweaks here and there. Once again, upon completion of the custom “tins,” all the pieces were rushed to the painter.

With a short amount of time left before the show, Brad and his team worked on getting the polished and recently assembled driveline into the painted frame while he waited for the sheetmetal to receive color. The painted sheetmetal was picked up two days before he was slated to leave. “Ivan (one of the shop’s techs) and I worked for two days straight without any sleep to get all the accessories installed and working properly, but we got it finished in time to leave for the show on schedule!” Brad said. “It was certainly a blur, but another one of my crew testrode the bike (that had some sleep) and it worked flawlessly. He gave me the OK on the bike and rode it directly into the trailer we were loading up for the show.”

Brad loved the fact that “his plan came together,” but he enjoyed the judge’s response to his bike even more. Built from scratch in 35 days and personally delivered to Sturgis to witness the judging, the bike took Second place, which was no small feat when considering that it was one of the fiercest competitions at the show with possibly the most competitors. “I don’t always build bikes so quickly, but when I do I try to do it right. I’m just glad the judges agreed,” Brad said.

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