Gary Pinchin with his 1991 Harley Sportster

Gary Pinchin with his 1991 Harley Sportster


Keeping it real - ish

By Gary Pinchin -

First rides & tests

 15 February 2007 14:16

I’ve been in therapy. Spent a couple of days last week ripping bits off my ’91 Harley Sportster. Evenings had my head stuck inside the fabulous W&W Cycles catalogue compiling a wish list of bits. Went to see Dave Barringer at Northants V-Twin to pick up a new tail-light on Friday. Dropped by a local custom bike show at the weekend. 

I really can’t think of a better was to spend my free time.  It’s the sort of stuff I used to do years ago when life was a lot simpler and I rode a shitty old Triumph Bonneville.  I guess things haven’t changed that much, just got a shittier Harley!

Last week was so far removed from my day job of covering BSB for MCN. Not complaining about my job, because it’s the coolest way to earn a living imaginable, but it’s good to do something different to recharge the batteries. And yes, I know what you’re thinking, it’s still bikes. But in very different way.

My Sportster project has been on-going for some time. Two years actually since I bought the thing from NVT. But it’s not been so much work in progress, more a figment of my imagination. 

I bought this particular bike because it was clean. Pretty much stock apart from the slash-cut pipes and a few bits of Live-to-Ride tat bolted on.  But my ambition was always to ‘personalise’ it a little – and get rid of the tat.

But I’m not talking full-on chopper job here. I kinda’ like the minimalist approach to custom bikes. Not that ‘hang as much chrome or billet metal on the thing that you can find’ that seems to be the way these days. I like Old Skool: bobbers with stock front ends, hardtail rears, simple paint jobs and as little chrome as possible - just like the original choppers when the battle-weary  guys came back from the WWII, hacked all the excess tinware off their ex-WD 45s and rode off in search of freedom. Can’t do the bobber thing thanks to a long-term back injury. But I can still work a hacksaw.

If, like me, you’re keen on the idea of owning and running a chopped streetbike but need some inspiration, watch Choppertown. It’s quite simply the best motorcycle documentary ever. It’s about building a chop ands features a bunch of bikers from California called the Sinners.  It’s definitely not American Chopper or OCC – but very real people building very real bikes. 

Anyway, inspired I might be but I’m still absolutely crap with spanners. Luckily a mate of mine called Mike Harley was keen to pitch in with the spanners. He’s actually a scientist specialising in the effects of climate change but likes to tinker with old bikes. Not surprising since he grew up riding things like Panther singles and B44 BSB singles. Kinda’ bikes that needs lots of work. This project is therapy for him too. You can only bang your head for so long against the wall trying to advise the Government on climate change. The suckers never listen anyway. The sort of changes we need to save the planet is not vote-grabbing stuff is it? Besides, saving my Harley is far more important.