I bought this Sportster bone stock off of Craigslist in 2013. I had no knowledge of what it took to work on and maintain your own bike, I just wanted to ride with a few of my friends that had bikes. I rode it as I bought it for at least months. It may have been weeks, I’m not exactly sure but it wasn’t very long before I sparked interest in changing everything about the bike aesthetically. It was the guys at the Dojo that were always helping me diagnose and fix my bike when something went wrong, allowing me to learn about and understand my motorcycle. Getting my hands on my bike in that shop and hanging out with everyone and their machines left me longing for the ability to fix my own bike and for the personal touch and simplicity of a custom built motorcycle.
Over the next 5 years I rode a lot and changed things here and there. I remember my first custom adventure was internally wiring a set of Biltwell Chumps. I was in my parents basement with a Dremel hacking janky square holes that I could hopefully stuff the stock wiring through. It was a fucking mess lol. I eventually got it done though and was proud of the outcome. Looking back at it now I’m like “wow, what a dumb thing to do”, but you’ve got to start somewhere I guess. I believe the turn signals came off in this same hacking session. Soon it was properly rewired, the tank was changed, the front brake was disposed of, and a friends old 8 over set up along with his old sissy bar and seat combo were put on. I rode it this way for years. Until one day I went to start her up and it didn’t make a sound. Turns out it was just a dead battery but this is what prompted me to tear the whole thing apart and do a full on build.
So I ordered a frame. I figured that since the motor was going to be out of the frame I should go ahead and slap a 1250cc big bore kit on it, so I ordered one of those as well. Me and my friend Scotty spent a few hours one day tearing the bike completely down and removing the motor, we trucked it to the Dojo and from there the build took off. We started breaking open the top end and every now and then someone would stop by to offer tips and suggestions. At one point Duane came through and offered his fabrication expertise on the frame build. After we got the big bore bolted on I threw the motor in the new frame, did a chain conversion, spaced the rear wheel, hammered in some neck cups and got the front end on. A few days later I went by the shop to drop off parts that had come in and the bike was already on Duane’s lift. I was hopeful that we could use the prefabbed tabs that came on the frame for most of the mounting points but it turned out that not one of them would work for what I was trying to do. So Duane started to cut everything off and remake the parts himself. Within weeks the bike had already begun to come together. The rear fender was mounted with a tall, slim, straight as an arrow sissy bar. The battery tray was mounted, so was the brake stay and exhaust mount. From there Duane and I talked about what kind of seat I was going to run and how I wanted the taillight mounted. After trying a bunch of seats that were laying around the shop and even ordering one that ended up looking real stupid, I decided on just making my own.
I spent some time cutting and measuring and taping cardboard to get the shape that I wanted for my seat pan. Then I laid it out on some sheet metal and cut it out with an angle grinder. I bent it all up the way I wanted and passed it back to Duane to fabricate where and how it mounted to the frame and sissy bar. When he finished that I cut, shaped, and glued the foam for the seat and passed that to Brandon Smith to get upholstered and sent the frame and rear fender with Mike to get powdercoated. Mike also took my lowers and sissy bar with him so that he could properly polish them up. While they were working on those things it was time for me to get to work on the gas tank. I had never painted a gas tank before but I knew that I wanted to do it myself and with my own design. For my first try at painting a gas tank I of course go for the seemingly easiest and most forgiving design, flames. After painting, taping, painting, hating the design, sanding and repeating this process about 5 times, I end up ordering another tank because the flaws from past mistakes had become too obvious. I body worked the new tank and made sure not to repeat the same mistakes I made on the previous tank. The first shot on the new tank ended up being my final product. I think more time was spent on that tank than anything else on this build, at least on my end, and although it is by no means a perfect or even really great paint job, I’m super proud of it and think it’s pretty damn good for a paint job that was done hanging from a tree in my backyard with overpriced rattle can spray paint.
I finished up the tank and then spent a lot of time trying to understand a wiring diagram drawn by our friend Boozer. After a few sessions of him explaining what was going on and me frying a few wires and figuring out where and how I wanted to run things I had a running chopper. I love this bike. I’m proud of what I envisioned and what came out on the other side of it. I’m proud of the relationships that were thickened throughout the process of the build. This is my chopper, built by me and my family that is the Dojo.
Owner: Ryan Grayson
Year/Make/Model: 2001 Harley-Davidson Sportster
Fabrication: Duane Boatright
Build Time: About 5 months.
Year/Type/Size: 2001 Sportster 883cc —> 1250cc
Carburetor: Harley CV Exhaust: Drags
Air Cleaner: Lowbrow Customs Louvered for CV carburetors
Year/Type: Kraft Tech Sportster Rigid Frame K15100
Rake/Stretch: 30* Rake no stretch
Type / Brand: Stock Sportster narrow glide with 6 overs
Front Size: 21”
Rear Size: 16”
Paint by: Tank: Ryan Grayson
Plating/Polishing: Sissy bar/Lowers: Mike
Powdercoating: Frame/Rear fender: Mike
Front Fender: N/A
Rear Fender: Cycle Standard 5” Steel Flat Trailer Fender
Gas Tank: Lowbrow Customs Super Narrow Frisco Mount Sportster Tank 1.6 Gallon Handlebars: Pangea Speed Streamliners (If you can't find Streamliners take a look at Lowbrow Rabbit Ear Handlebars)
Grips: Lowbrow Customs Cole Foster Signature Grips - Black
Mirrors: N/A Hand
Controls: Shovelhead clutch lever and perch
Foot Controls: ?
Headlight: Advance Auto Parts LED
Taillight: Cat Eye off of something?
Turn Signals: N/A
License Mount: zip ties
Seat: Pan/Foam custom made: Ryan Grayson / Upholstery: Brandon Smith
The Wreck story.
I finished the bike around May or June. I ripped around on it all summer, tweaking things as needed. Months later came a perfect day for riding. It was a Saturday at the end of September. The fall temperature was perfect and it was college football season so the roads were nearly empty. Me and my buddy Zach took full advantage and decided to go hit some backroads that end up over by Barber’s Moto Park. We rode for a while then stopped at a gas station, had a smoke, and decided to head to a brewery for a beer. We head back into town and passed through an intersection directly next to each of the bars that we work at. About 50 yards after we go through the intersection I check over my shoulder real quick to make sure Zach is still with me; he’s not there. I remembered him mentioning that he had to take a doo doo so I thought “Oh, maybe he pulled off to Saturn or Avondale to unload”. So I doubled back and came to the same intersection but on the other side. I was sitting in the turn lane waiting for the light to turn green so that I could make a left onto the street that we work on.
The light turns green. It’s a setup with no designated arrow to the turning lane so I have to wait for traffic to pass before I can make my turn. So I wait with my clutch in and foot on the brake ready to make my move. A few cars pass when a silver Jeep catches my attention. He’s in the lane of traffic that would pass right next to me headed in the opposite direction that I’m facing. It seemed like his trajectory was beginning to veer a little too far left so I focus in on it. At first I figure this is a friend of mine that has seen me and was giving me the “WhHoAa I’m GonNa HiT Ya!” goof off bull shit. I quickly realized I had no idea who this guy was and that he was looking straight down in his lap and had absolutely no intention of correcting his path. All of this happened in about 3 seconds. As soon as I understood what was going on it was already too late. This guy smacked the shit out of me. I don’t know how fast he was going, maybe 35mph? It’s hard to tell, anyone who sees the security footage of the impact is highly impressed that I was able to get up and push my bike out of the road. It was so crazy haha. Looking back on it now it makes me laugh. I just remember slow motion flipping off my bike and just thinking “I can’t believe this is really fucking happening”. It was so dreamy. Next I remember my legs going behind me and landing on the pavement as I kind of rolled myself the rest of the way out of the flip. Instinctually I quickly get up off the road, I have no idea where to look or what to do, I was just in pure shock. I checked myself out. I was good, just a little tweaked. I look to my right and my bike is on it’s side halfway under this guys jeep. It was running, leaking fluids and had a front end that was turned almost all the way around. It was probably 5 seconds of me taking everything in and accepting the situation. While everything’s processing I look up at the driver and throw my hands up in frustration. It’s a panicky frat looking dude who looks like he’s about to shit his khakis. He proceeds to back off my bike for which at first I’m thankful. I assume he’s going to get out of traffic and pull into the gas station right next to us so that we can figure out what happened and how we were going to handle it. This guy throws his car into drive and literally floors it and is gone just as quickly as the whole incident started.
My mind was blown. I really just got hit. My bike is really fucked up. That guy really is gone forever. I realize that there’s nothing else I can really do except get my bike out of the road, so I pick it up and wheel it to the sidewalk. Some fellow motorcycle boys that were eating lunch across the street had made their way towards me to see if I was ok as well as some other passers by. I started pacing around and checking the damage on my bike. I had turned the front end back the right way and gave it a good look. There was a huge gash in the body work of my tank, the fork tubes were tweaked to the side and one of them was super bent, my front rim had a flat spot in it, my rear exhaust pipe was cranked down onto my frame with the mounting tab bent all the way in towards the wheel. What a mess. I was pumped full of adrenaline and the reality of the situation starts to set in hard. Before I can get my phone out to I guess call 911 a car pulls up next to me. It’s a young female, she’s calmly leaning her head out the window with her phone in her hand. She looks at me and says “Hey I got a picture of the license plate”. Angel from heaven! She told me that she saw him about to pull off and she thought to herself “not today” then quickly got a snap before he could get away. I could have kissed her. We exchanged numbers so she could send me the photo then she just cruised off to continue her day.
After all this I called 911 and did the whole medics check me out and police report thing. I don’t want to get into too much detail about my dealings with the law in this accident, but I will say it was a frustrating mess trying to work with the Birmingham Police Department. They couldn’t have cared less that I was almost killed and this guy was just going to get away with it because he drove off. They left the scene basically saying “That sucks, good luck”. Shortly after the police showed up so did my girlfriend who I had called after I called 911. I briefed her on what happened then showed her the picture of the plates. She immediately threw it on Instagram and minutes later Nick pulled up on his panhead; our shop is maybe 5 blocks from where it happened. Soon after Zach pulled up as well. Jerimiah called me instantly and so did Bowles and a few other friends. As I’m hanging up my phone and lighting a cigarette I see Boozer and Kevin pulling up with their trailer. Within 20 minutes of the first photo going up it had been blasted all over the web. It was everywhere and everyone was pulling together to help out in anyway they could. This Birmingham family rules! I’m truly blessed to have so many people have my back in such a shit situation. That was really an overwhelming feeling to experience.
So did we find the guy? I’ll just say this, it’s all good and I’m stoked that I was damaged physically hardly at all. As for the bike, I had it ripping again in maybe a little over a week. Matt already had a wheel in my spot the day that it happened. Derek let me have some 6 overs that he had laying around in his spot. I was originally running 8’s but I ended up liking the 6 over set up more. I sprayed the gas tank that I had tried too many designs on black and bolted it on. I bent some things back in place and I was good to go. Shane snagged my tank so he could fix the body work and spray over it so it would look like nothing ever happened. He cleared and buffed the shit out of it so it actually looks a little better than it did before I got hit haha. I just got the tank back about a month ago so it hasn’t been back in it’s intended form for very long. Once I got the tank back I made a few other small changes; I gave Matt his wheel back and put on one of those mini spools and ditched the useless rectangle fog light and am now running just a square LED mounted at the bottom of the trees. The bike’s had an interesting first year of existence to say the least.
Words by: Ryan Grayson • Photos by Jerimiah Smith