Boardtracker: Kickass Choppers Harley-Davidson Evo
Words: Geoff Baldwin Photography: Luke Ray
When I saw this bike the last thing I wanted to do was ride it. Knowing how much it was likely to be worth combined with the fact that it looked like a form over function build my initial reaction was to politely decline. However, Luke’s excitement and my own curiosity convinced me to give it a go.
The bike Vero refers to as his Boardtracker was completed in early ‘09 at his Kickass Choppers workshop. Although it looks like a show bike its owner rides it often and rides it hard so the tyres needed replacing and the entire bike was given a fresh look thanks to new paint and pinstriping. Located at its owner’s house in a secure community complex, we had the streets to ourselves. With curious security guards looking on Vero fired it up and gave it a quick run up and down the street before we got started. It was like reuniting old friends. He was very familiar with the bike and I could see him retracing his work as he looked it over.
When it arrived at his workshop in 2008 the bike was a stock ‘01 Harley Davidson 883 Sportster, which was beginning to show its age. The owner gave Vero a basic brief “make it special and make sure it suits me”. His slender build necessitated a design that was streamlined to avoid him looking out of place in the saddle so Vero looked to the Boardtrack racer designs of the 1920s. With their large wheels and narrow proportions they were the perfect inspiration.
With the engine out of the Harley frame Vero started by ordering a pair of 23 inch rims from HD Wheels in the States. The unique looking rounded rims were drilled and laced to a classic 40-spoke hub and fitted with perimeter brake discs. With the wheels and engine laid out Vero shot some photos and started sketching straight onto the prints.
Taking further inspiration from a beach cruiser style push bicycle in his personal collection he used flowing lines that could be rolled from steel tube and welded in as fewer points as possible to build a strong, rigid frame. To keep the wheels in close to the frame the oil bag was relocated to beneath the engine and a curve in the front down tubes give the front wheel the clearance it requires.
Rear suspension is limited to a pair of tiny shocks under the seat while at the front Vero designed a cantilever monoshock system with a trail that mimicked the rake of the Harley’s original frame.
Vero built a stainless steel fuel tank, which he cradled in the frame and replaced the stock fuel system with an SU carb from Rivera Engineering. He constructed the curvaceous exhaust pipes in stainless steel and exited them on the left side of the bike to give it more visual appeal. Back in ’09 grilled headlights were rare and this bike was one of the first to wear one in Indonesia. To compliment its style Vero designed a grill for between the frame down tubes which also doubles as a cover for a compartment that holds the bikes lithium battery.
Taking a year to complete, the Boardtracker is covered in details that even these photos don’t do justice (sorry Luke). Cool retro fit vintage parts like the winged ’32 Ford hood ornament atop the neck of the frame and the Mini Cooper gas cap look great, but it’s the fabricated bits that really stood out to me. The spun brass bushings, cross-drilled engine mounts, copper oil lines and the aluminium/brass cover on the starter motor have been fabricated to fit perfectly.
Strangely though one of the most interesting details on the bike is also one of the hardest to see. To keep the rear wheel looking as open as possible Vero worked with a German engineer to build a Polycarbonate rear pulley for the belt drive. It’s 1 inch thick, was a crazy idea he shared with the engineer when they met in America and could probably stop a bullet.
When the bike was completed and the owner took delivery Vero soon found out that it was getting ridden much more than he’d expected. Although he’d built it as a capable rider there were a few tweaks made in the months following its completion. Originally it wore bull horn style clutch and brake levers and a custom made set of matching footpegs however they were incapable of handling the amount of use they were getting so Vero replaced them with standard levers and pegs, which have been doing the job well ever since.
Vero learned his frame building techniques with guidance from friends in the States. Sharing his design ideas, welding capability and proposed materials with them he was taught how to calculate the correct angles and proportions to ensure a frame would handle well and he applies this to all of his builds, which brings me back to my riding experience.
With no helmet, no insurance and little confidence I threw my leg over the Harley and fired it up. A quick handling check and I was surprised to find that the front wheel was very light to maneuver and the perimeter brakes did their job well. As I took off I was even more surprised by how well balanced the whole bike was, especially at a snails pace. I did a few slow laps of a roundabout to grow my confidence then clocked up some speed down a street by the house.
Bumps in the road were relatively painless, those pipes sounded incredible and I was able to do a u-turn in the street without putting a foot down. When I pulled the bike up in front of Vero and shut the engine off I said to him “No offence, but I thought it was going to handle horribly, but it handles great!”, he smiled at me and replied “Of course”.
This article first appeared in Tank Moto issue 07.
Follow Vero: @kickasschoppers.