Sportster Transformation

March/April 2022

Following on from the end of Loadsa Money, I finally get the spare seat from James in LA and take the Honda into Warrs to exchange for the 2014 Sportster.. and here she is cruising on the Woolwich Ferry no less

There are some changes I want to make, of course, but the idea is to take this bike out to Spain and bring back my Fatboy aka Piggy as this is my touring bike and the Sporty will be perfect for tootling around southern Spain and Gibraltar, so not too much outlay intended… well….

The first thing is to drop the seat height so I already bought a set of slammer shocks which Warrs have fitted for me pre collection. I am now able to get my feet flat on the ground, which I much prefer to teetering on tippy toes! Having ridden it a little bit I think about changing the seat, it really is quite strange and relatively uncomfortable. I also would like to change the handlebars, just because, and of course I will internally wire them as usual. Actually the previous owner has fitted after market bars and internally wired, but only on the clutch side; the brake side wires are still showing, which is very weird. LED indicators are a must, I don’t want to be carrying around sets of bulbs, so old fashioned now methinks. Lastly I need to fit my electronics so that means a distribution box to negate having loads of wires direct to the battery, this is especially important as the garage in Spain does not have electrics so I need to ensure there are no parasitic power drains on the battery, which means disconnecting it when in storage.. speaking of which I will also install a lithium battery to save on space and weight… well, that’s the plan anyway… read on:

First thing I do is change the rear brake light assembly.. I have never liked the rear brake light on the Sportster models, it sticks out too far, so I have bought a lay down light fitting which is LED with integral led indicators… nice…

I also have a few items I took off the Honda which I will fit to Sporty including the luggage. On the Honda the bags were permanently fitted but for the Sporty I am going to hang easy brackets so that I can remove the luggage when needed. This means I will have to move the rear indicators out of the way. There is an indicator relocation kit for the sportster but it doesn’t fit with the lay down number plate that I want to align with the lay down brake light.. ok so I’ll have to modify the number plate fitting to accommodate the relocation light bar. This goes ok although a little fiddling about to try and get the indicator wiring hidden. I think it looks ok in the end. I also purchase a couple of LED ‘bulbs’ to replace the originals in the rear indicator shells.. wow they are really bright!!

Next problem… I don’t like the mid controls so decide to fit forward foot controls.. I find a relatively cheap set on Amazon. The shifter side is easiest to fit so I do that first… mmm the footpeg bracket is a little bit wobbly, not entirely happy with that so will try packing it out with some washers, but before that I decide to fit the brake side. This entails loosening off the exhaust pipes, always a pain, but has to be done. Well, I am bloody furious.. the brake side does not fit at all, in fact, these are the wrong forwards. My bike is 2014 and this is of course the year Harley decided to make major changes to the set up of the bike, which means some things pre 2014 do not fit my bike. I bought forwards that were advertised as 2014 up but these clearly are not… mega grrrrr! Lucky I bought from Amazon though so I can return for a refund. Meanwhile I find a set of genuine Harley controls for my bike on flea bay, the seller has never fitted them but they have a small part missing.. ok I check the bike and the part that is missing is already there as part of the mid controls, so I can use that.. yippee! At just over half the cost of a brand new set from Harley I believe they are a bargain and when they arrive they are indeed in perfect condition so I am very well pleased.

As you can see, I have added a brake pad cover, this is so I can fit my Oh Shit brake pad… later.

Next is the bars… I have decided to go with ‘Hollywoods’ as I like the shape of them. The wiring ends up being fairly straight forward but I do have to extend them a little, however the throttle cables are ok length wise which is really great. I also totally remove the stock indicators and replace with small led ones fitted just under the switchgear. The only problem is the throttle cables. I find that the adjuster screw for the throttle cable has seized so I am not able to slacken it off at all, the idle cable is ok though. It also looks like the previous owner had the same problem as the end of the inner cable where it sits in the throttle grip housing is frayed and bent where they have forced it on, ok so new cables are required; I send off for a set of Motion Pro Black Line that have black anodised adjusters as I have decided to go with a pretty blacked out look for the bike overall with some orange accents. I have also decided to fit the Avon anti-vibe grips that I took off my V-Rod and will fit a set of Oberon adjustable levers in Orange to finish off the bars. Last but not least I add a Joker Machine handlebar clamp that was previously on my Forty Eight, which means I need to relocate my Speedo so I purchase a Joker Machine relocation bracket which moves the speedo to the left upper fork leg. While I’m at it I also buy a coil relocation bracket to move the coil from under the petrol tank to the left side of the engine between the cylinders, merely because I really like this look. I also purchase a set of Harley Squealin’ b’Eagle spark plug leads.

Am pretty pleased with all of that, and I also, initially, replaced the stock headlight with an LED insert, however I spot a rather nice, more aggressive looking, headlight on Amazon; although not a direct replacement I can buy some brackets to fit it to the front forks. This does prove to be a bit of a job, but undeterred I do get it to fit… eventually.

All is going relatively well, considering.. I fit the thunder box distribution unit and wire everything up. Another borrow from the Honda are the rider foot pegs, I initially put the pegs from the V-Rod on as they match the hand grips, but they are quite long so am not entirely happy. I decide to move those to the passenger pegs mounts and fit the Kuryakyn Switchblade pegs from the Honda, having purchased the correct adapters of course.

I also like to change out most of the engine bolts for stainless steel, there is a fasteners seller who has specific bolt kits for Harley, and other bikes, which come in labelled packets making life very much easier I must say.

A few other bits and pieces are on order. The side covers over the battery and oil tanks are a bit rusty in places so I go for plastic ridged covers on both sides with Derby and Timer covers to match; black anodised front and rear axle bolt covers, front fork leg top nuts. I have a chrome fork stem nut finisher and a detachable sissy bar with rack from my old Forty Eight which also fit so pop them on too; (I have several Harley detachable mount fittings from my various bikes so I am able to cobble together a set for this bike).

Am still waiting for the easy brackets to come from the US and a few other items but she is ready to ride… not…. she won’t start!! The fuel pump runs but it won’t turn over.. WTF… while trying to sort this out I manage to drop the bike.. yes I know… but luckily it doesn’t cause any damage. I am now getting a tilt warning in the speedo display.. but I have already picked the bike up. Ok something really isn’t right here… I try disconnecting the main fuse and re inserting to see if it clears it, nope still there. I do check the fault codes and there are many, 10 in total, I manage to clear them all and try again. Still getting a 62122 code.. ok I call Warrs and talk to Shaun. He asks if the BCM module is the right way up… I ask where is it as I have not come across this before and it’s the great big black plastic wedge like box that sits in front of the battery compartment, this holds the tilt sensor and also controls the starting circuit. I look and see the BCM is actually hanging out of the bike, (the side cover is off while I was fitting the distribution box so the BCM has fallen out when the bike went over). I refit it and check the start.. nope won’t start, but the tilt warning has gone so a small success. I call Shaun back and we agree I will get the bike over to Warrs for them to take a look. What a bummer, I was really looking forward to riding her.

While she is at the stealership I set about reinforcing the bags. The problem with easy brackets is they do not really support the bags fully and eventually they start to sag in towards the bike and so I have purchased some 4mm thick aluminium sheet that I’m going to cut and fit inside the bags to strengthen them. I use my angle grinder to cut the sheet to size and shape; all goes well until the penultimate adjustment when I manage to cut myself with the grinder.. unbelievable… the wound is quite deep, but it doesn’t bleed, I guess because the grinder is generating enough heat to seal the wound. I’m all alone and don’t have a first aid kit so end up with a make shift dressing, blue paper towel and gaffa tape no less. I do contemplate going to the hospital as the wound is pretty deep, but once I have my ‘dressing’ on it seems fine and doesn’t hurt at all, so I just carry on.

Well, thats as much as I can do until the bike comes back from Warrs and the brackets arrive, but once all that is done she will be ready to go to Spain/Gibraltar.

The following week Shaun from Warrs calls and lets me know that the BCM, (Body Control Module), i.e. the black slab thing, has failed and as I have bought the bike under the Harley Originals scheme it can be replaced under warranty.. yippee!!! The labour alone for the fault finding has been over £500 so if you add in a new module that brings it to over £800 worth of work so I am absolutely delighted. The other problem is the lithium battery, it isn’t turning the bike over and keeps losing power, so he has put a temporary Harley lithium battery in to get her going, it is one they use for testing so I can borrow that to get the bike home; I mean I just cannot praise Warrs Mottingham and Shaun the manager enough, they are just exceptional. I bought the battery from Amazon so will return and replace it, with a more powerful version. The issue is the CCA, (cold cranking amps), the battery needs to be powerful enough to turn the bike over and start it, once running the battery is really only for the lights etc. so the main criteria is the starting power. The battery I bought is 280cca which should be more than enough for an 883 sportster, but I arrange a return and refund and also order a 400cca battery of the same make, (NOCO), that’ll bloody start it for sure.

I get myself over to Warrs and pick her up. On the ride home I decide I really, really don’t like the seat, it feels like I am on top of the bike rather than in it, if you know what I mean, I like to feel part of the machine rather than a cherry on a rock cake so it’ll have to go. A bit of research later and I definitely like the look of the La Pera Cherokee two up touring seat, it has some back support too so I begin looking for a bargain. Well would you believe it, I find one nearly new on flea bay and make an offer… boom, done.

The replacement battery has arrived from Amazon, but when I go to fit it I find the terminals are the wrong way round, I think about how I might extend or stretch the cables but in reality that would mean buying or making new longer cables to make this battery fit, nope not doing that so it will just have to go back again. Ok the only NOCO lithium battery with the correct terminal set up is the one at 280cca so this make is just no good. I have an Anti-Gravity small case battery in my Panhead and although they are pretty expensive, I know it will fit and be powerful enough and it will give me more room in the battery compartment for the distribution box and additional wiring. I order one but don’t think it will arrive in time so I will have to take it over with me another time and fit it then. I call Warrs to talk to Shaun about borrowing the battery for a while longer, I speak with Tim as Shaun is off today… I am just speechless.. Tim tells me to keep the battery and have a good time in Spain!! I mean, words fail, this dealership is just the best ever.. I’m not stupid, I know I am a good customer, after all I did go in once to buy a set of wheel bearings and left with a motorcycle so they know I am going to go back to them again and again, but seriously, above and beyond indeed.

Time is getting pretty tight now as I have a ferry to Spain booked for the 6th April and I need everything done for the 5th so I can ride down to Plymouth. Final fitting for the luggage, covers etc., a couple of orange decals to liven up the petrol tank, the ‘Fucking Hot’ heat shield on the pipes, ‘Faster’ shift peg and ‘Oh Shit’ brake pedal and she is done… woohooo… ahhh…. then I remember the exorbitant cost of changing a tyre on Piggy in Spain so take a look at Sporty’s tyres and, although they have quite a bit of ‘meat’ on them, there is some cracking to the side walls.. so yep I need to change them both. I like the idea of a pair of white walls on this bike and am astounded to find Metzler actually make tyres with orange walls.. I mean what could be better, so boom I buy a pair online and arrange to have them fitted by Karen, my pal and owner of Zenith Motorcycles… it’s all a bit desperate as the tyres don’t arrive until the 4th but Karen can fit me in on the 5th to get it done, which means a late start out to Plymouth, but I can stop overnight on the way so its not really a problem. (When checking out the date of manufacture they are indeed the original ones, some 8-9 years old.. well past it).

The tyres come with a blue coating on the orange portion which needs to be cleaned off.. another delay, but I’m not taking her all the way to southern Spain with ‘dirty’ orange walls, no way…

At last, she is all done and I am very pleased with the results… the only things left to do will have to be done in Spain at some point; Gloria bought me a front engine cover, but I don’t have time to fit it as the bolts are a bugger to get to and I probably need to take out at least one of the fork legs to get on them properly. The anodised rear axle bolt covers don’t fit, the grub screw that holds them on is not in the right place… crap I know.. but I can re-drill and tap new holes, but again no time for that now.

The after photos

The full list…

Internally wired Hollywood bars

Avon Anti vibe grips

Mini led indicators front

Led ‘street fighterish’ headlight

Black anodised fork nuts

Black anodised front axle bolt covers

New throttle cables – motion pro black line

Oberon adjustable levers in orange

Most engine fasteners and others swapped out for stainless steel

Joker machine speedo side mount relocation bracket

Coils relocated to left side of cylinders

Harley forward controls

Kuryakyn switch blade front pegs

Avon anti vibe passenger pegs

La Pera Cherokee touring two up seat

Derby, Timer, oil tank and battery covers changed to ridged design

10.5” Slammer shocks

Lay down number plate bracket modified to accept rear turn signal relocation bar

Led rear turn signal upgrade to standard shells

Led rear light/brake light with incorporated turn signal

Metzler M888 orange wall tyres

Viking luggage on easy brackets

Harley sissybar and rack

Antigravity Lithium ion battery (to be fitted at some point)

Thunderbox distribution box

Garmin GPS bracket

Quad lock phone mount with anti vibe fitting and wireless charge head

And last but not least…

Fucking hot exhaust pipe heat shield

Faster shift peg and

Oh Shit brake pedal

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