History is definitely on the side of the mighty Sportster. It's the lightest, sleekest, and inch-for-inch the powerhouse of the extensive Harley-Davidson history. Unveiled in 1957, the unit construction mill with trapdoor gearbox was the evolution of the K-models that ripped up the street and strip. A major innovation of the XL motor was the inclusion of overhead valves and the addition of the iconoclastic Shovelhead-style rocker-arm covers. Retained from the K were the four-cam configuration and transmission cavity cast into the crankcase. The quad-cam arrangement meant better valve control through reduced pushrod angles, and the one-piece motor/tranny case made the combo lighter and more rigid than a Big Twin.
Originally offered in 55 ci (883cc) the XL grew to 61 ci (1000cc) in 1972 along with the less Shovelead-like notched rocker cover. We stumbled upon two great examples of Ironheads spanning two decades of production; a '73 electric-leg only, right-side shift and a late AMF '84 model. Rigid and raw, four-speed, rollin, smokin' freakshows. Turns out these two bikes and their riders, Devin and Kazoo, ride and work together.
Devin's Sporty started out as a garage-find, basket case, '73 swingarm bike. Over the course of a few years the bike was treated to all sorts of nastiness, the uglier the better. Devin, who owns Freedom Cycles in Orange County, California, ditched the shocks in favor of a swap meet special weld-on hardtail kit. Keeping with the theme, the welds were left raw as was the hobbled together front section of the frame. This bike was built to ride, it's lean, quick, and raw. There's no paint, and extremely minimal extras. In fact, there's nothing on the bike other than a small round mirror that wasn't chopped and tossed. There's no front brake or fender attached to the narrow-glide front end. There's no rear brake pedal instead the right side handlebar lever controls the single caliper. For the most part the motor is stock, but is fed through a Mikuni carb.
Kazoo, originally hailing from Hiroshima, Japan, bought his Ironhead in relatively stock form. He rode it for awhile like that but wanted to change the bike into something as small and maen as possible. Cash was the only problem. As a surprise for his B-day his friends pitched in to cover the cost of a Paughco rigid frame. Once the motor was put into the frame the other parts came along slowly; scouring local swaps and getting takeoff parts from Freedom. Like Devin's bike, Kazoo's rides on dual 19-inch wheels and tires. His split head XL features an S&S Super carb and free breathing velocity stack. His custom graphics come from a spray can along with the custom Mother Mary sticker on the tank. When asked about the cosmic significance of the symbol, Kazoo smiled and said, ihe just liked the looks,i and iit's good luck.i So there you have it.
These two, board track, dirt slider Ironheads run like bat's out of hell. They're fast and dripping with attitude. These bikes were built in the style of the true chopperoto primarily be ridden hard and fast, and not to impress. It turns out they're pretty good off road too as we ripped around the mountains for an afternoon for the photoshoot. SC