One day the world will run out of things to do with a Softail, but there’s no sense of that happening any time soon.
We shouldn’t be that surprised. Folk around the world have been changing bits of a tiny range of motorcycles for generations now, and still keep coming up with new combinations of parts! Okay, some bits won’t necessarily be original, but then a good custom bike is always more than a combination of its parts.
Take this simple Springer Softail as a case in point. No rose-tinted, retro pastiche this, it looks aggressive with its steep stock rake, and that short flat hugger mudguard foreshortens it further: it’s on the short side of squat and spoiling for a fight. In fact anything that might visually stretch it out a little has been modified!
The powdercoated hot-rod red DNA Fat Daddy wheels with blacked-out spokes do nothing to soften its lines but tie in nicely with the blacked-out Springer forks and the red race number on the round oil tank, and the abraded and distressed steel of the tank beneath a layer of semi-gloss clearcoat lends it a purposeful look.
Why’s the oil tank black? Because it’s right! Commissioned by SDT Graphics and built by Lord Drake Kustoms, whose work we’re seeing more of, it’s an example of the sort of cross-over styling that is resulting from new ideas coming across.
Fran Manen has got a name for himself locally as a café racer man, and a builder of low, lean Triumphs but he likes to wrong-foot those who would typecast him. We’ve seen his Rat’s Hole-winning Dyna, 883R Sportster Racer and it was always going to be to see what he’d do with a Softail.
It’s as close to an ‘old school’ custom as you’ll get from LDK, and is based on a 2005 FLSTSC – a Springer Classic – which was specifically chosen because he didn’t want to use “typical and cheap aftermarket Springer forks”. It had to be authentic: it had to be more authentic and more radical. It also came with black forks already, which was a bonus.
There’s nothing much that hasn’t been messed with in some form or other and having stripped the bike down far enough to get the original oil tank out – leaving just left the motor in, and even that lost its covers while they were refinished – he lopped the fender horns off and got busy.
The engine covers were the easy bit: lose the chrome and apply a textured black powdercoat, and finish them off with RSD’s ‘Clarity’ covers: there was no place for chrome on this machine and it’s a miracle the fork springs and damper came out unscathed.
The tighter rake of the FL forks combined with the 120/70 Avon Venom wrapped round the 21-inch rim to pick the front end off the ground and set the stance, and with a set of near flat bars in place of the near beach bars of the original bike, one of the primary triangulation points was in place: the top of the headstock.
Yes, technically, the top of a headstock is the top yoke which is physically in touch with the steering heads bearing’s cone, but visually here it isn’t. Springers don’t have a highly visible slab of cast or billet aluminium to guide the eye, and you choose where you want the eye to be drawn to. Here it is the handlebars, as though they were bolted to a notional top yoke.
With a lower tank, those flat bars would look like drag bars on straight risers – which, technically they are – but by lifting the modified XL tank above the frame, using a neat trick to hide the production economies of a part of the frame that was never intended to be seen by the public, its spine is visually raised, and indeed you eye is drawn to the top line of the tank which flows from the bars to the rear wheel spindle in a single curving arc: the second triangulation point.
The straight line from headstock to spindle is often held as a panacea: a throwback to the days of rigid frames and inherently right! And while not cast in stone, it works more often than not and Fran has got that line with a difference: while most such curves are gentle, the SDT Vintage is aggressively steep. It’s punctuated only by the minimal solo seat – upholstered in the same leather that Ferrari use to trim their cars – fitted rigidly and sympathetically aligned.
To keep the bike level, height has been added at the rear, and the overall effect is of a bike that was already compact looking even shorter!
What bodywork LDK didn’t make, they modified to get the lines they were after, which included the tank and its raised mount, the ignition relocation bracket, the oil tank with all fittings and the entire seat. And while they ordered-out when dressing the motor with a few RSD bits – in the form of rocker boxes and the air cleaner on the fuel-injected 88B motor to match the clarity covers – they also made the wrapped short exhausts which play along with the ‘short’ theme, barely reaching the transmission.
The speedo relocator, halfway down the front leg, on the primary side came from Joker Machine, as did the LED indicators and the shifter link – you can’t make everything, or at least it doesn’t make much sense to when the right bit is available – and you might spot there’s still a trace of the original Springer Classic in those Vintage footboards, except they would have been the squarer Electra Glide type rather than these half-round ones.
And the simple tank has been finished off with a simple graphic, even if it has been topped off with some contrast-cut RSD billet.
All-in-all, not your average Softail custom, and it’s certainly not your average Springer Softail, but who wants average?
And it’s not a Café Racer either … at least not in the conventional sense, or even the emerging style. Well, not stylistically: I reckon it’ll lend itself to that head down, hunched over stance: well, a man has got to have his vices.
But old school? Well, old is relative. It’s going to be interesting to see whether this style makes it across the Atlantic, but with LDK has set up a European operation in southern Spain, there are at least be one outlet promoting such crossover customs.
Original motorcycle: H-D Softail Springer Classic FLSTSC
Builder: Fran Manen
Company: Lord Drake Kustoms
City: Miami, FL (USA)
Engine: 88 Twin Cam 1,450 cc
Oil tank: LDK
Rear mudguard: LDK
Tires: DNA Fat Daddy (16 “back and 21” front)
Front Suspensions: Springer
Rear Suspension: trimmed 1 inch
Fuel tank: Peanut 3.3 gallons (modified by LDK)
Tank base and location on: by LDK
Seat and base: by LDK
Repositioning reels: by LDK
Painting and rest of finishes: by LDK
Others: RSD caps, Leds flashers, relocate speedometer, H-D Vintage footrests, Avon cuffs …