Idea to turn “that Sportster in the corner” into The Lightweight Monster
In 2018 I won first place in Led Sled Customs “Sportster Showdown” and received a 1998 Harley-Davidson Sportster as a prize. The bike showed up about 5 months later. I got it running and then it just sat around the shop for me to trip over.
The Before: Christian after winning the 1998 Sportster at Led Sled Customs Sportster Showdown in Sturgis.
Fast forward a few years. Trident Cycle Supply was visiting; diligently working on my Born Free 2020 build. We decided we needed a change of pace. Looking around my workshop, it seemed like there might be enough motorcycle parts to replace the silly chrome accessories on “that Sportster in the corner” and make something that could at least border on “not lame.” We started wrenching under the guise of “let’s slap together some crap from around the shop as cheaply as possible…” I’d say I managed to stick to that mantra about 30% of the time.
The After: Christian Newman's 1998 HD Sportster.
Looking for Scratch to Build 1998 Harley-Davidson 1250CC Sportster
A Wheel from an Abandoned BMW Project
I had a Yamaha inverted front end laying around from an abandoned BMW project (I don’t want to get into THAT story). In my basement there was an American Racing car wheel - an impulse purchase in 2015 and an old Hoosier drag slick I had taken off my Panhead.
Using a manual lathe, I turned an aluminum hub adapter to allow the car wheel to fit on the stock swingarm. The car adapter uses three bearings for extra support on the removable rotor carrier. By turning a new stem, I was able to fit the Yamaha front end to the bike without too much hassle. The factory front mag wheel was refitted for the appropriate metric bearings to utilize the OEM Yamaha axle and make the bike a roller. I tossed a random seat and tank on the bike and thought to myself “well, this thing is almost done.”
Development of the Parts to Complete Engine
Ctnewman Evo Sporty Mag Setup
I think the project took a turn from, “stuff laying around the shop” to “reasonably involved project” was the development of the CTNewman Evo Sporty magneto ignition setup. Up until that point, putting a magneto on an Evo sportster was an ugly affair and poorly designed. After developing the kit, there was some unrealized potential for a unique bike. The decision was made to take it a bit further.
Ledsled Kicker conversion and Exotic Choppers Kicker Pedal.
Reaching out to Salvage Yard 'Connections' to Upgrade Harley with Unique Custom Parts
I started reaching out to friends in the industry to see if they would be able to contribute to the motorcycle building project. I was amazed by the help I received. Huge project contributions came from:
- Lowbrow Customs: hand controls, seat, fender, breather bolts)
- Get Lowered: shocks
- City Limit Moto: front rotors
- Prism Supply: grips, throttle tube, petcock, wires
- Exotic Choppers: kicker pedal, magneto cap
- Ricky Bongos: gold-plated top motor mount
- and my buddy Gennaro: bars, headlight, risers
Removing the Starter and Running Without A Battery
Fitting a magneto no longer required a battery for ignition duties; I knew the starter motor must be removed and the bike becomes kickstart-only, allowing the total removal of the battery. A Led Sled Customs Evo Kicker conversion was acquired and cut down to remove weight and allow more exhaust clearance.
Genius Oil Tank Replacement
Oil tank in place of where the starter motor goes.
Later, when talking about oil tank placement, my good friend Barnfiend suggested “why not put the oil tank where the starter motor was?” Genius. Using the starter mounting bolts as a primary support point, I immediately started crafting an aluminum oil tank, sitting nicely above the Sportster transmission cavity.
With the oil tank relocated and the battery eliminated, I had now opened the entire rear triangle of the motorcycle. A very popular look in the café-racer scene, uncommon on sportsters, thus, to emphasize the lack of battery/oil tank I crafted a set of symmetric dual high-exit stainless pipes that followed the lines of the empty rear triangle. (No, they don’t burn the rider… or even come close for that matter.)
Unique Custom Components to Give a New Life to an Old Motorcycle
At this point my attention started to turn toward the few components remaining that hadn’t been modified or replaced.
Custom made aluminum Sportster gas tank from 4th Floor Choppers
I had been using a re-pop steel Sportster tank for mockup, but something about it didn’t quite fit with the build. It was too big, too normal; I needed something to set it apart.
I wanted to leverage the aluminum Lowbrow fender into the overall aesthetic and decided I needed an aluminum Sportster-style fuel tank. After striking out online due to cost or availability, my ace-in-the-hole 4th Floor Choppers simply said, “I’m making you a gas tank”. Honored, I sent him some rough dimensions and a few weeks later a wonderful hand-hammered aluminum sportster tank was at my door. Utilizing some polishing and masking techniques I was able to add an “AMF stripe” with a custom CT touch. (A similar technique was used to emblazon “1250” on the derby cover).
Setting Up High Quality Brakes
Brake components by Beringer and Lyndall.
Some brake and rotor parts were obtained from Beringer and Lyndall brakes, respectively. These Harley parts had various custom parts made to facilitate their use. Rotor carriers, caliper carriers, brake fluid splitters, fluid reservoirs, etc.
Designing and Building a Creative Rear End
Custom Swing Arm with Gigacycle Garage.
With the only remaining stock component being the swingarm, Gigacycle Garage and I decided to collaborate on an aluminum swingarm to round out the high performance/light weight machine. I designed a bolt-on unit in CAD and Tim Statt at Gigacycle cut it from some large chunks of aluminum bar.
We also designed and fabricated some aluminum foot pegs which took a creative design nod from the “micro hinged floorboards” I built for my 2017 People’s Champ Stainless ’40 Knucklehead.
Front End Customization
Skinny and full of style from all angles.
With a stator still generating power for lights, a Cycle Electric “batteryless” regulator and capacitor were added, feeding power to the louvered stainless headlight that was etched atop a small stainless mount.
Kustom Tech Levers and buttons.
A commonly skipped feature that was incorporated into this build? Turn signals. Kustom Tech integrated buttons communicate with a Signal Dynamics Penta-Star module, which in turn controls rear mounted, dual-mode Kuryakyn Atto LED signals to act as both directional indicators and brake lights. A second set of single mode lights are mounted to the handlebars. “Sadly,” I was unable to install even a single Kuryakyn™ Hypercharger™.
Custom Harley-Davidson Built to Perform As Well As it Looks
1250 Hammer Performance kit on this motor
Near the end of the project a Hammer performance 1250 kit was installed to give the little 883 the grunt it needed to ensure that it not only looked aggressive, but could perform as well. A rose-gold 520 chain conversion featuring a one-off polished stainless rear sprocket (designed to match the rear wheel) was used.
B-side showing off that frame.
The frame was stripped of unneeded tabs and some ugly factory welds were smoothed. With some color suggestions from Elizabeth, a multi stage orange powder coat was applied by Filthy Habits Fabrication. Matching the kick pedal and magneto cap from Exotic Choppers.
Christian Newman with 98 Sportster.
In the end, the bike is an ultra-fun, nimble, street machine with power to back it up and brakes for days. Weighing in at about 431lbs, it is a truly sporty Sportster, stock Sportsters run around 490lbs or so. Because of the way the project came together, there are a many shades of a similar color family. Initially I was put off by this discontinuity, but as the project came together, I embraced the “50 shades of orange” - consistent in its inconsistency. I’m excited to start packing on miles.
Big Thanks to:
Lowbrow Customs, 4th Floor Choppers, Prism supply, Kuryakyn, Trident Cycle Supply, Spoke & Dagger Co, Ricky Bongos, City Limit Moto, Beringer Brakes, Exotic Choppers, Ledsled Customs, Gigacycle Garage, Lyndall Brakes, Speed Dealer, Elizabeth Decker, FHF Fabrications, Barnfiend, Genaro, Buffalo Harley-Davidson, Hammer Performance, Get Lowered, and Morris Magneto.
-Words By: Christian Newman
-Photos by Jackson Zimmerman
Parts Checklist For 1998 Sportster 1200 Motorcycle Build
Color combos flow just right.
General Model Info
- Owner: Christian Newman @ctnewman
- Year/Make/Model: 1998 Harley-Davidson Sportster
- Fabrication: CTNewman
- Build Time: 5 months
1250 Hammer Performance Big Bore Kit powering this machine
Parts Required to Complete Engine
- Year/Type/Size: 1998 Harley-Davidson Sportster with Hammer Performance 1250cc big bore kit
- Carburetor: CV
- Exhaust: Ctnewman stainless high exit duals
- Air Cleaner: Trident cycle supply w/ Lowbrow Customs breather bolts
- Ignition: Ctnewman magneto conversion, Morris Magneto, Exotic Choppers magneto cap
- Kickstart: Ledsled Customs Evolution kickstart conversion, customized by Ctnewman, Exotic Choppers kicker pedal, baker straight kick arm
- Motor Mount: Ricky Bongos gold plated
- Year/Type: Stock, trimmed
- Rake/Stretch: stock
- Swingarm: CTNewman/ Gigacycle Garage full aluminum, hand polished
- Shocks: Legend Suspensions Revo Arc
- Rear sprocket: CTNewman custom
Front end rocking dual disk brake.
- Type / Brand: 2014 R1. 130mm caliper spacing, custom stem, Yamaha axle
- Fork protectors: CTNewman
- Calipers: Beringer 6 piston front/ Beringer 4 piston rear on Ctnewman carrier
- Rotors: EBC GSXR rotors provided by City Limit Moto w/ CTNewman rotor adapters front, Lyndal rotor rear
- Master Cylinders: Kustom Tech front, Brembo rear w/ CTNewman reservoir
- Other: CTNewman balance tube, Earl’s Performance brake lines
Check out the that slick on the back.
- Front Size: stock 19x2.5 w/ Avon Safety Mileage 4.00-19, bored to accept Yamaha bearings
- Rear Size: Ctnewman hub adapter, American Racing 15x3.5 car wheel, Hoosier 26x2.5 slick
- Plating/Polishing: CTNewman
- Powdercoating: FHF Fabrications
Accessories to Complete the Harley Project
- Front Fender: n/a
- Rear Fender: Lowbrow Customs aluminum Tsunami fender
- Gas Tank: Aluminum one-off by 4th Floor Choppers w/ CTNewman metal-finished graphic, Pingel petcock, modified Speed Dealer cap
- Oil tank: CTNewman, in position of OEM starter motor
- Handlebars: Biltwell via Gennaro Villella, Throwback Cycles risers
- Grips: Prism Supply
- Mirrors: n/a
- Hand Controls: Kustom Tech levers from Lowbrow Customs, Prism Supply Co. throttle tube
- Foot Controls: CTNewman/Gigacycle pegs, CTNewman linkage/ shifter peg
- Headlight: Old Stainless louvered fog light w/ CTNewman mount
- Taillight: Kuryakyn Atto
- Turn Signals: Kuryakyn Atto w/ Signal Dynamics Penta-Star module
- License Mount: pshhhh
- Seat: Biltwell inc. Banana from Lowbrow Customs
Legends shocks, Lowbrow Customs Tsunami Fender, Biltwell Banana Seat, Ctnewman Custom exhaust!
Kicker pedal close up
Ctnewman Engineering Magneto for Evo Sportsters
Morris Magneto and Trident Cycle Supply Air cleaner cover.