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The Springer Transformation

My Education into Bike Customization for the Poor, Unskilled, Wanna-be Biker.

By Johnny White with photos by his lovely wife
1/5/2022


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Sturgis 2008. Rode this bike from Houston to Sturgis and spent a week drinking, fighting, and riding!
Sturgis 2008. Rode this bike from Houston to Sturgis and spent a week drinking, fighting, and riding!

 
Looking back through photos on the computer, I have come to realize how much a man is influenced by the environment he allows himself to be submerged into. I say this from my own experience as I am currently looking back at the multi-faceted photo sharing sites and currently going through all the pictures I have saved over the years.
 
As cell phones have improved, so has the picture quality and storage capabilities. It seems the old photo albums have been replaced with JPEG files and you hardly see a real camera anymore unless it’s a professional photographer like Michael Lichter or Josh Kurpius.
 
I have never been a great anything other than a great lover of riding motorcycles, imagining what I can do next to them, and as I’ve always said my favorite bike will always be my next one. Well, that sentiment is changing as I look back on what very well be my favorite motorcycle from the past…my 2005 Harley-Davidson Softail Springer Classic.
 
I bought this bike in August 2005 right after my inaugural trip to Sturgis on the 100th Anniversary rattle caned Fatboy with “Bars to the Stars”. That was also the year I met the O.G. Bandit for the first time.
 
Bone stock 2005 Springer Classic
Bone stock 2005 Springer Classic

 
I bought the bike from Mancuso Harley-Davidson in Houston, Texas after seeing it on the showroom floor. I had gotten a gift card for my recent birthday and decided to get a t-shirt. Well, the t-shirt cost me more than $25,000. Most Harley guys, at least the other yuppie dweebs like me, have made the same journey.
 
But back to the story, the bike was a pristine version of Harley’s “Revival” series before it ever existed. She came with the blacked out springer FL forks, tank trim, fishtail exhaust on both sides, a cheese grater in the rear…basically a great starting point. Looking back, I should’ve went in a different direction with her and started making her look retro like the 1949 Panhead I believe she was designed after. Instead, my new love of choppers, bobbers, and all things “cool” at the time drove me differently.
 
Mustache Engine Guard and saddlebags, December 2005.
Mustache Engine Guard and saddlebags, December 2005.

 
I rode the bike bone stock for an entire year. I had made the famous lying quote more than once to my better half, “I love it just the way she is, I won’t change a thing.” For a whole year that rung true. Most of my trips were back and forth to work or the gym. I worked as an operations foreman at a small chemical plant in Galena Park, Texas; right on the Houston Ship Channel. Because my hours fluctuated as I followed a 4 day on, four day off schedule, I was afforded the opportunity to spend a good amount of time in the garage tinkering. This “tinkering” would usually result in my changing the bike again as I had an idea in my head of where it was and where I wanted it to go.
 
What many considered the Crown Jewel front end-FL Springer.
What many considered the Crown Jewel front end-FL Springer.

 
Most of my changes were like most people, limited by 1) my financial situation and 2) my ability. I also had one other caveat, in that whatever change I made had to be completed in time for me to go to work as my bike was my main transport. So, as I started, the bike remained stock until the ride to Sturgis in 2006.
 
My buddy Mike and I had ridden home from The Mecca in 2005 and decided we would make 2006 an epic trip. Well, during the trip I had a little trouble with my pipes choking the bike, even glowing an almost translucent red on the rear head pipe from the jug all the way to the crossover.
 
No modifications were made to this bike except what the dealer had done, so in my mind it was stock and running too lean. Screw it, it’s warrantied, so I’ll ride her till she blows up…idiot. My top speed was 88 miles an hour (Throttle wide open all the way through Nebraska) and once I got home I noticed my brand new chromed Harley exhaust had a yellow/ brown nasty looking burn spot on the rear header, right muffler, and the heat shields looked cooked.
 
Now, I know that sounds trivial, but when I bought this bike, (my 3rd Harley, but 2nd brand new within 4 years) the salesman told me I had a “lifetime warranty on paint and chrome as long as I left it stock. Well, guess what happened when I went to the dealer and asked him the process to have my parts replaced? Yeah, he explained that warranty did not include the pipes.
 
He also stated because I added a set of throw-over saddlebags that I had added non-Harley parts to the mix, which also voids the warranty. Now, if you have ever met me you may have noticed my eyes slope down a little on the outside and may be set a little too close together, but I promise you I’m not downsy…I’ve been tested.
 
I couldn’t believe what he was telling me and rather than fight it and waste my time, I decided to go a different route and start chopping up what I didn’t like. To be clear, this putz didn’t last at that dealership long and I have no hard feelings to them, as they treated me well over my life. This guy was a one off, and his ignorance should not reflect on an otherwise stellar dealership.
 
But this is in fact that point where I started down the “I’m no Jesse James or Billy Lane, but I can chop this thing up” modification journey.
 
August 2006, started chopping stuff off
August 2006, started chopping stuff off

 
August 2006, time to chop and start the process figuring I will learn along the way. The first modification had to be exhaust, since that’s where the start of the concern was. I took the burnt to hell mufflers off and set them aside to sell. Looking back, it’s amazing the amount of parts I sold on E-bay at that time.
 
Today, I am more likely to sell it locally, but E-bay was the thing then and people paid well for H-D parts. After a quick call to Bandit, a new set of Hooker Headers were headed my way. I tried to ride sans mufflers for a while, but besides looking dumb as shit, it also lost all back pressure and the bike ran like hammered dog poo. I even tried a small bolt through the ends with a nut on top to give it a little back pressure, but it sucked.
 
So while I played with the exhaust, I decided the tank needed some changes and I removed the metal strip and tank badge. The front fender had to go, although it is a wonderfully functional piece and a beautiful FL fender with matching light, I stripped it and sold it. Now I was free to see that big fat front tire, which in my mind made the bike look lower…more muscular.
 
See the table and pics below for the following journey.
 
I always loved the angle of the front end and chunky front tire look
I always loved the angle of the front end and chunky front tire look

 
Bobber article: https://www.bikernet.com/pages/story_detail.aspx?id=246
 
List of major modifications and timeline: Bought Bike new in August 2005, reminded me of 1948 Pan.
 
December 2005-Added Mustache Engine Guard and throw over saddlebags. August 2006-rode bike to Sturgis and back. August 31, 2006-Start of Choppin-removal of exhaust-started at the mufflers. Removed toolbox. Removed Front Fender.
August 2006, my confused attempt at choppin.
August 2006, my confused attempt at choppin.

I changed bars several times to get the right look and feel. Bandit sent me to Kent Weeks, of Lucky Devil Metalworks for some inspiration and to learn “The Code”. It was obvious I was clueless as there’s more to choppin than just cutting off crap.
Lucky Devil custom...made my bike look fat, slow, chunky, and irrelevant.
Lucky Devil custom...made my bike look fat, slow, chunky, and irrelevant.

I sent Bandit a few pics proud of my “bobber”. Bandit immediately called and explained why it looked terrible. He recommended pipes and a tuner to start.
SEPT 2006. Headed in the right direction. Changed bars and removed more unnecessary crap.
SEPT 2006. Headed in the right direction. Changed bars and removed more unnecessary crap.

October 2006, I installed Hooker Header pipes and a Terry Components tuner. I also removed the tank trim until I could decide on something better.
October 2006-The Hooker Headers are on!
October 2006-The Hooker Headers are on!

My feeble attempt at a "scenic" country style shot. October 2006
My feeble attempt at a "scenic" country style shot. October 2006

December 2006 I cut down the stock seat and shaved all the foam off. I re-covered the seat with a pair of chaps I had. Again, I sent pics to Bandit and he had to rescue me again. We talked through the details and Heartland Biker sent a 180 rear fender and seat my way.
January 2007. I had made several more mods, but the new modifications are just now coming.
January 2007. I had made several more mods, but the new modifications are just now coming.

January 2007, I removed the stock fender and cut the frame to modify it so the Heartland kit would fit the bike. At this point, my wife was sure I was either out of my mind or lost it entirely. No matter my schedule at work, I was constantly messing with this silly bike.
My crude attempt at designing what I wanted her to look like
My crude attempt at designing what I wanted her to look like

Using a sawzall on the frame. Look how confused I am wearing a beanie and a tank top. Is it cold? Is it hot? what are you doing young man?!
Using a sawzall on the frame. Look how confused I am wearing a beanie and a tank top. Is it cold? Is it hot? what are you doing young man?!

Grinding on the frame-January 2007
Grinding on the frame-January 2007

January 22, 2007. I finished with the mock up and am ready to ride.
January 22, 2007. I finished with the mock up and am ready to ride.

Again I played with different bars trying to obtain the look and feel I was after.
After my initial ride, I was in love...for now.
After my initial ride, I was in love...for now.

February, after a month I had painted the rear fender and changed bars. I hated the dirtbike rear end but needed to work a few months to save the dough to do what I wanted.
February, after a month I had painted the rear fender and changed bars. I hated the dirtbike rear end but needed to work a few months to save the dough to do what I wanted.

April 2007 I saved enough scratch to have the rear end lowered and have the stock 88 inch upgraded to 95” with cams. MAN WHAT A DIFFERENCE that made. This bike came alive. The lowered stance really improved the look and made the bike look even longer. I was falling in love.
April 2007, Lowered, Bored 95" engine with 211 cams, and dripping with fresh new potential.
April 2007, Lowered, Bored 95" engine with 211 cams, and dripping with fresh new potential.

April 2007, have to have the Bandit's Bedroll perched on the bars.My first custom bagger LOL.
April 2007, have to have the Bandit's Bedroll perched on the bars.My first custom bagger LOL.

August 2008-The bike stayed that way besides minor bar changes over the next 18 months and I made a second trip to Sturgis on the bike.The slammed rear end and Heartland seat made it an absolute bear to ride more than 50 miles. I mean, on the way home we were stopping every 65-70 miles so Mike could re-fuel his peanut tank on his rigid chopper. He rode my bike one stretch and said he’d stay with the chopper and it’s spring seat. Hmmm…that got me thinking.
Inspiration from Danny Frassen stolen from jockey journal
Inspiration from Danny Frassen stolen from jockey journal

Danny Fransen Bobbers and jockey journal to the rescue.
Another inspiration...also Danny
Another inspiration...also Danny

October 2008-I found an old “tractor style Spring seat” on Ebay and installed. LOVED LOVED LOVED it.
Bobber Tractor seat-an actual H-D serial numbered job I found on E-bay. This was Fall 2008.
Bobber Tractor seat-an actual H-D serial numbered job I found on E-bay. This was Fall 2008.

October 2008, the seat laying on the frame
October 2008, the seat laying on the frame

Riding in a very different position from stock!
Riding in a very different position from stock!

December 2008-Installed wide rear wheel from Ebay and 180 tire. Also installed 1932 Ford taillight/ stop lens and side bracket.
December 2008, finally added the 180 rear wheel/ tire combo.
December 2008, finally added the 180 rear wheel/ tire combo.

This was how the bike stayed and how I rode it until I traded the bike in. With just under 40,000 miles, this Springer Classic provided an education of sorts for both my family and I as I really became enamored with the modification of a stock H-D. I learned that I am in no way meant to be a custom bike builder, so I just write about what I do so others can enjoy, poke fun, and maybe learn from my ignorance. Either way, I still ride and enjoy the piss outta it, so it really doesn’t matter if people like it or not, just that I enjoy it and am willing to share my love with others.
This bike ended up being a nasty ride that I unfortunately don't have any more. The fuel control module is fitted into the toolbox to give me space under the seat for the new bobber seat.
This bike ended up being a nasty ride that I unfortunately don't have any more. The fuel control module is fitted into the toolbox to give me space under the seat for the new bobber seat.

Keep riding my friends, and share what you know with those who will listen Enjoy the New Year!

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Reader Comments


Story must suck as it doesn't seem to get much traffic. Fire the writer!

John White
Sugar Grove, IL
Saturday, January 15, 2022
Editor Response Start over!
--Bandit

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