You’ve either got it or you haven’t. ‘Max’ Ma Yicheng of 2 LOUD Customs in Taipei has it, by the bucket load. You only need to take a look at his Instagram feed to know that he’s one of those talented individuals who’s able to combine an eye for the perfect aesthetic with top class craftsmanship. These days it’s rare that both are integrated with as much conviction as this Harley-Davidson XL883C Sportster.
Taiwanese motorcycle regulations are tighter than here in the UK so Max endeavoured to create a subtle blend of the old school on a modern base. Straight-through pipes and brakeless hubs may be cool, but a big fine or worse just isn’t worth it. Usability is paramount with any build from 2 LOUD’s Taipei workshops and the choice to utilise donors built within the last few years is one of Max’s USPs. The other is his machining skills. Anyone can customise a Harley, either from the giant parts catalogues or online emporiums featuring every bolt you can imagine, and many more you didn’t know existed. Mostly, Max makes his own parts in-house.
This Sporty is from 2009 and left Milwaukee running EFi and all the associated lecky spaghetti. Even the most skilful builders aren’t magicians so one solution for neatness is to middle finger modernity and fit a carb. A single Mikuni HSR42 now sucks through a beautifully machined 2 LOUD air filter. The exhausts are simple, swooping brushed stainless stubs with removable baffles to keep the noise police happy, and from here they look like they’d sound just peachy.
OK, so the motor is no knucklehead in the eyes of aficionados, but it’s also not a big dollar repro. The polished cases with brushed finished accent parts belies the donor’s young age. With a bit of a squint the belt drive nearly disappears too.
The stock hydraulic fork makes way for a lovely springer setup, juxtaposed by floating front disc brake. Max could probably make his own calipers but chose the sensible option of a 4-pot unit from Performance Machine. The brackets are of course handmade. At the rear the setup is similar, also from PM, with custom bracket and rose-jointed torsion bar.
Max wanted a slim and elegant stance and the simplest way to do this is get rid of the overly chunky wheels and rubber, namely the 16″ rear. A narrower 18 incher with faux Firestone (Japanese-made Adlert) tightens up the backend visually and jells with the tall, skinny front – a 21″ rim on stock hub and genuine Deluxe Champion. A tiny, machined headlight with frosted glass adds to the retro feel but inside live a pair of high output LEDs.
The ugly rear castings of the stock frame are long gone, lopped off and the remains smoothed. Shock absorbers are nowhere to be seen either, instead a pair of rigid struts prop up the Max’s posterior. Comfort stretches to a leather saddle, made in-house. There should be enough flex in that massive sidewall to soak up the worst bumps, but perhaps not the moans of keyboard warriors itching to upload their witty and snidey remark.
The oil tank is particularly neat and fills the space beneath the seat meaning the Motobatt lithium battery has been banished to a box below the swingarm. Rather than fit the smallest one he could Max went for one with loads of capacity and all important cranking amps. The ECU, relays and ugly electrical gubbins are also housed within a compartment inside the oil tank.
There’s a lot of detail here and choosing a favourite part isn’t easy but the fuel tank and cap are surely a winner. The 4.5 litre vessel is hand beaten with a gorgeous, curvaceous shape, emphasised by the polished, raw metal under the wave of burgundy paint. The pinstripe is gold leaf, nice. The vintage style cap is a work of art and clearly a demonstration of not only Max’s skill but also his patience.
Max’s brief, in his words, was “to create an XL883C that looks slender, low to the ground, yet capable of riding normally on roads while retaining all the necessary functions, and having a simple elegant look.” And boy has he delivered. I’m not a Harleyist, I owned one once by accident and that nearly put me off for life, but it’s bikes like this that make me want to try again.
Images by Double Photography