“Electric Revolution” brings copper and wire to that bastion of internal combustion, the Petersen Museum
The King of Custom Motorcycles left a big mark on the industry
This brooding Street Bob came out on top as the 2018 Battle of the Kings Grand Champion.
You might assume the biggest custom bike competition in the world is the AMD World Championship, a sprawling event whose next celebration takes place at the 2020 Intermot show. But perhaps you’ve also heard of a little shindig called the Battle of the Kings?
It’s a sanctioned throwdown between authorized Harley-Davidson dealerships from more than 25 countries to see who can dream up the coolest custom, and it also happens to be one of the largest custom bike competitions on the planet. With the 2019 event already underway and with US and Canadian dealers in the mix this year (the US dealer contest in 2015 and 2016 was known as Custom Kings), you can bet this showing will be chock-full of mind-blowing builds.
It works like this: Dealers must build a custom Harley-Davidson using a budget no bigger than half the cost of the original model with a specific quota of H-D aftermarket parts (50 percent being Genuine Motor Accessories). The builders are allowed to choose from three style categories—Dirt, Chop, and Race—but this year, they can use any model from the range (excluding trikes and CVO). The rules may sound restrictive, but in the end they ensure a level playing field and encourage a good measure of creativity from the builders. Simple, right?
From there fans vote online for their favorite custom Harley as each country’s favorite bike (strictly one vote per login). Each country then declares a National Winner with the five most popular bikes from each region selected, and a panel of international judges picks a finalist from each region. All finalists and their one-off creations are then flown to Milan for the EICMA 2019 show where the Grand Champion will be crowned.
In 2018, more than 300 dealers entered, and a seven-man team of judges led by Vice President of Styling and Design Brad Richards made the final call. The 2018 Grand Champion of the Battle of the Kings was Bangkok Harley-Davidson with its Street Bob-based “The Prince,” winning by one vote!
The epic international showdown looks to be bigger than ever in 2019 with more than 350 entries already. This year, US dealers are aiming to inspire the next generation of builders by teaming each build with a trade school and having students wrench along with dealership guys. We’re personally having a blast following the Buddy Stubbs H-D build on Instagram (@buddystubbshd), watching Crew Chief Danny Wilson transform a Fat Bob with students from the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute.
Here’s a look at some of the past winners and a few current entries (2019 voting has started in other countries but doesn’t open for the US Battle of the Kings until April 15 at h-d.com/botk.
RELATED: Battle of the Kings: Project #002
inalist (out of three) in last year’s BOTK competition was Adelaide Harley-Davidson Bike Works for its race-themed H-D Roadster called “Back to the Track.” (Harley-Davidson/)
The international Harley custom build-off between dealers will include the US and Canada this year
You might not have heard of Blacktrack Motors, a custom builder based out of Luxembourg, but that might be about to change. The group’s latest build takes Harley-Davidson’s beastly Fat Bob and recasts it as—wait for it—a slim and trim café racer. And you know what? This skinnier Bob is a real stunner.
The Blacktrack BT-03 looks like the epitome of a modern-day café racer, and the inspiration behind it, says Blacktrack founder and designer Sacha Lakic, is “the Harley-Davidson XLCR.” “Produced between 1977 and 1979, it was the only café racer in the history of Harley-Davidson. I was spellbound every time I saw one on the streets of Paris.”
But clearly the BT-03 isn’t just a straight replica of the XLCR. You might spot hints of the XLCR’s DNA in the BT-03’s angular stretched fuel tank and tailsection and seven-spoke wheels, but the Blacktrack bike is far more sport-focused, with a contemporary aesthetic and stance that give it an unmistakable race vibe.
With the limited-edition BT-03, Blacktrack continues to mine the past for inspiration as it has on previous builds, which were also sporty designs. The shop’s first bike, the BT-01, was based on a 1980s-era Honda CX500—a practical ride appreciated more for reliability than styling. Blacktrack clapped on all-new bodywork to sleeken the aesthetic, and chose components to improve performance and weight.
With the BT-02, Blacktrack went bigger and bolder, starting with a new Triumph Thruxton and bestowing it with iconic Norton Manx styling. It too featured bespoke bodywork and a custom exhaust to yield a nostalgic sound. As you might’ve guessed by now, the Blacktrack Motors business model is building exclusive performance-based café racers.
For the BT-03, a burly Harley-Davidson Fat Bob was chosen as the donor, 114ci Milwaukee-Eight powerplant and all. But, frankly, this Softail just doesn’t seem like a natural fit for a racy bike, so…why?
Lakic explains, “The Fat Bob is the most exciting Harley to ride. The wheelbase is certainly a bit long, but the geometry is well thought out, and allows you to roll turns faster than any other Harley so far.” Not only that, but there’s not much left of the original Fat Bob anyway; Blacktrack kept only the motor, transmission, and frame—replacing everything else with custom and upgraded components to improve looks, reduce weight, and improve handling.
Every aluminium part is designed in the Blacktrack Motors studio and then CNC-machined by a trusted technical partner. A crucial point is the rear frame assembly—which acts as an interface between the Bob’s original frame and the BT-03’s custom bodywork. Composite parts include the front fairing, front fender, fuel tank, tailsection, and a cover plate for the rear shock.
The Fat Bob’s main frame and geometry remain unchanged, but Öhlins suspension, Dymag forged aluminium wheels, and Beringer brakes all make the scene here. Blacktrack Motors also installed a performance air filter and a custom-built stainless steel exhaust system with fuel mapping to match.
Replacing the weighty OEM parts meant the Fat Bob’s unsprung mass was reduced and the BT-03’s overall dry weight came down to 546 pounds, giving it an excellent power to weight ratio.
So can you buy one? Yes—if your wallet can withstand the hit. Past Blacktrack builds went for somewhere north of $50K, and we’d expect this one to be more as only four will be made.
|Base model:||Harley-Davidson Softail Fat Bob 114|
|Engine:||Milwaukee-Eight 114ci (1,868cc)|
|Main frame:||Harley-Davidson Softail|
|Rear subframe:||Blacktrack Motors|
|Triple clamps:||Blacktrack Motors|
|Front suspension:||Öhlins FG424|
|Rear suspension:||Öhlins HD 501|
|Front wheel:||Dymag UP7X custom forged aluminum|
|Rear wheel:||Dymag UP7X custom forged aluminum|
|Front tire:||Michelin Power RS 120/70ZR17|
|Rear tire:||Michelin Power RS 190/50ZR17|
|Front brakes:||Beringer Aerotec Radial 4-piston, Beringer Aeronal 320mm discs|
|Rear brakes:||Beringer Aerotec Axial 4-piston, Beringer Aeronal 290mm disc|
|Front fairing:||Blacktrack Motors|
|Front fender:||Blacktrack Motors|
|Fuel tank:||Blacktrack Motors|
|Seat:||Blacktrack Motors, leather cover|
|Handlebar:||ABM MultiClip Sport 1 in.|
|Controls:||Beringer levers and master cylinders|
|Foot controls:||Blacktrack Motors|
|Exhaust headers:||Blacktrack Motors twin stainless steel system|
|Exhaust mufflers:||Jekill & Hyde Shorty|
|Dry Weight:||546 lb.|
|Lean angle:||36° left and right|
The Motor Company’s musclebike gets whittled into an adrenalized café racer by the Luxembourg shop
Creating a custom out of a Gold Wing seems like a daunting challenge no matter how you slice it. Just wading through all that bodywork alone feels like a weeklong mission. But when Southern California’s Steady Garage got the call from American Honda for a cool custom based on the long-haul tourer that would be unveiled at Daytona Bike Week, the folks there knew they had to answer—even though they had just 45 days to do the deed.
The challenge was doubly difficult because with the Wing’s new design there’d be little guidance from existing builds. The Steady guys—Kevin Dunn, Duy Nguyen, Jimmy Chen, and Ray Tong—wanted to create a bike with modern styling while still giving a nod to the Gold Wing’s legendary heritage. “Stylish but functional” doesn’t always turn out to be as easy as it sounds.
Luckily, these guys have friends. Designer Francis Clemente came up with a design that appealed to both customizers and purists, using the air suspension and contrasting mufflers to shape the silhouette. A handcrafted leather saddle, exposed metal details, and scallops in the paint provided the “Cool Wing” those quirky design elements that instantly gave it a new identity.
It then became a team project, with Steady Garage calling on several other top pros to help out. Mooneyes built a mold specifically to make the retro disc covers for the Wing’s front rim, and Platinum Air Suspension chipped in air shocks to get that slammed stance but without completely trashing ride height. Onboard stainless steel air tanks from Dirty Works store the needed air, which is then delivered by a single Viair 380c air compressor.
Paint is often the main attraction on a custom build, and in this case, Maxima Imagen applied color to 33 individual parts. But don’t assume this Gold Wing ditches its high-tech DNA; you’ll also find the industry’s first motorcycle blind-spot monitoring system (BSM) here, thanks to the Cub Group. Adding the icing on this cake was Rogelio’s Auto Upholstery who fashioned the ribbed leather seat.
It seems like a win-win for everybody on this one; “The Gold Wing is one of our halo products,” says Honda Motorcycle Shows and Public Relations Manager Chris Cox, “and we wanted to highlight the fact that while it’s rightly known for its amazing touring capabilities, it’s also a very high-performance machine that can be appreciated by a broad range of enthusiasts. Steady Garage embraced that theme for this project, and we’re very pleased with the result. Cool Wing has a youthful, creative, exciting spirit, while still respecting the Gold Wing brand and what it stands for.”
Steady Garage’s “Cool Wing” adds a liberal dose of style while keeping the function
Drip, drip, drip, drip….
The slow release of details from Harley-Davidson about its hugely anticipated, much-buzzed-about but short-on-specifics electric bike, LiveWire, continued this week as The Motor Company revealed more numbers. This time, however, Harley is giving us more concrete and verifiable data on things like acceleration, range, and charging capability.
The updated production specs come from the Geneva International Motor Show, where H-D is displaying the 2020 LiveWire alongside several lightweight EV concepts. At the same time, The Motor Company announced that European preorders for LiveWire will open in April (check it out) with deliveries expected by the fourth quarter of 2019 in most European countries. Preorders for the US have been open since January.
But the big news is the verified performance info for LiveWire, so here goes:
t to push motorcycle status info to the rider’s smartphone so they’ll see stuff like battery charge status and available range (provided there’s a sufficient cell signal). Charging station locations can also be seen in the H-D app, as well as tamper alerts and vehicle location. Riders will be able to configure reminders about upcoming service requirements too. (Harley-Davidson/)
Latest figures on the electric bike’s acceleration and charging info from The Motor Company