Cruising and posing aside, Harley-Davidson’s powerplant takes some beating when it comes to raw, visceral performance. One of the few motorcycle experiences in this genre these days where you actually feel like you’ve straddled a fire breathing mechanical device rather than an electronically tamed marketing experience. And as for customising one, well there aren’t many in the same league as Rough Crafts’ Winston Yeh from Taiwan. His extensive and coveted back-catalogue of builds is instantly recognisable and has been flattered by an awful lot of imitation over the last decade.
The customer for this project came via the local Harley dealer in Taipei. The chap wanted Winston to put the sport in Sportster so ordered a new Forty Eight and insisted it leave the showroom only once given the full monty treatment. The trademark Rough Crafts starting point is to improve performance and handling without chopping the frame or tuning the motor (Taiwanese regulators are sticklers for the integral parts remaining standard). Removing all the heavy, stock components and replacing them with hardcore CAD engineering and striking looks – music to the dealers’ ears as they’re not allowed to sell anything too radical. This restrictive culture has undoubtedly spawned the hotbed of custom bike building talent in Taiwan.
The Raging Dagger’s bodywork and fuel tank is so obviously Rough Crafts. The mould was fabricated the old fashioned way with skill and aluminium by local expert MS Pro before carbon was laid for the final finish. The composite unibody construction and alloy fuel cell beneath contributes considerably to an overall 40kg weight loss.
To achieve handling that matches the rakish looks Winston studied Erik Buell’s suspension set-ups to glean inspiration for the shorter swingarm and underslung shock. An Öhlins AG629 originally destined for a Buell Lightening is now mounted to a machined pivot assembly and Trac Dynamic swingarm. Usually found on drag bikes the swingarm is an off-the-shelf part but with the shock mount deleted prior to fabrication, at Winston’s request. It then required considerable modification to accommodate the oil reservoir. A seemingly obvious place, once Erik Buell had enlightened us all. Rough Crafts’ designed, then laser cut and folded the alloy sheet before a meticulous welding effort, again by MS Pro, resulted in a chunky structure resembling something you’d see in the back of a race bike (check the images at the bottom for more detail).
The frontend is from Winston’s go-to supplier Öhlins, a FGRT206 fork designed for a previous generation Yamaha R1 that’s been stripped and reanodised black. There’s enough of a statement made with a Rough Crafts tank emblem, the owner didn’t need gold fork legs as well. The yokes are a tried and tested Rough Crafts component which combined with the shorter fork and revised rear suspension steepen the geometry considerably, the head angle is down from 30 to 24 degrees. Wheels are superlight and carbon, from BST which look awesome paired with Beringer’s 330mm solid cast iron discs and 6-pot calipers. The disc carriers though are Rough Crafts’ own design, made in collaboration with the French braking specialist.
The rear disc and caliper is also from Beringer but in a rare error Winston forgot to request for mounts to be welded to the swigarm and it’d already returned from powdercoat. The answer was to design and machine a sliding chain adjuster that doubles as a radial brake carrier. I’d have kept that one quiet, the bracket looks way better with a near uninterrupted view of that lovely disc.
For now the 1200cc engine remains standard, with a few exterior embellishments. Roland Sands valve covers and 2 Abnormal Sides push rod collars are purely for show but the Random Engineering hydraulic clutch slave cylinder should make single digit clutch-up wheelies a breeze. MS Pro aren’t just alloy wizards, this beautifully welded titanium exhaust looks wonderful and has been fabricated to Winston’s stringent request that it shouldn’t interfere with the rider’s leg.
Rough Crafts have been in the game so long and done so much R&D that they’re able to grab many parts from their own shelf. The bars, risers, headlight, switchgear, tank cap and air cleaner (Sprintfilter element) are all tried, tested and available for regular customers to purchase. As are the Motogadget speedo, mirrors and M-unit electrical system. The ideal taillight though took some searching for, eventually one for a Honda Grom was sourced from Dog House Racing.
Tyres are, or judging by some of the photos, were at least Pirelli’s acclaimed Super Corsa SC. Now I’m sure Winston can hustle like the rest of us but something didn’t quite look right with the tyre blistering track shots. Turns out Pirelli Taiwan sent one of their tyre testers along to ensure the Raging Dagger was up to the job of wearing their race rubber. It seems he left no stone unturned.
It’s rare that builders as high profile as Rough Crafts share images from behind the scenes but on this occasion we’re very glad to have a few from the Raging Dagger’s development stage. In particular showing the underslung pivot for the Öhlins shock.
Machined from solid to Winston’s 3D render and CAD drawing the pivot means the swingarm pulls the rear shock rather and pushes, the force converted into a compression stroke via the external spring collar.
Not just bracing and visual beefiness the swingarm now houses the oil tank.
It seems a shame for the perfectly formed aluminium body to be just the mould for lighter, more modern looking carbon fibre… maybe Winston should make a raw, brushed version.
Winston has no issue with Rough Crafts being a design house and orchestrator of talent rather than grubby fingernailed try-hard and from where I’m sitting I’m glad he concentrates on what he’s clearly excellent at and leaves the tasks at which he’s merely OK at to other experienced specialists. CT-Garage have worked with Rough Crafts for a while now and took care of final assembly for the Raging Dagger build. It’s a shame Taipei is so far east, we could do with Winston and his collective being right around the corner.
Images by 996Long