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EMBRACING THE CHALLENGE OF WELCOMING THE CHALLENGE : 1997 HARLEY DAVIDSON SOFTAIL FATBOY
As a custom motorcycle shop, we at Benjie’s Cafe Racer are always up for a challenge, especially in regards to custom bikes. We were recently asked to build a bobber-style bike from a Softail Fatboy. Though bobber’s aren’t part of the typical BCR fashion, we accepted the challenge, embracing a new frontier for us in design.
When we first received the bike, a 1997 Harley Davidson Softail Fatboy, it donned custom work from the early 2000s; it had bright orange & black paint with lots of chrome & huge ape hanger handlebars. The owner, an avid rider, wanted something different from the usual bobber. He wanted something he could ride without discomfort, whether for short or long rides.
After stripping the bike to just its bare frame and suspension, we started working on the design & fabrication. First up was the gas tank. Along with the motor, the gas tank is the centerpiece of any motorcycle. For this build, we wanted something small & narrow. We scrapped three different tank fabrications before settling on a teardrop, peanut style gas tank, topped with beadworks. Following the lines of the frame’s backbone, we mounted the tank on an angle. We stuck with the stock Harley OEM gas cap & added newer model Softail OEM tank badges.
Moving to the front of the bike, we got rid of the stock chrome shrouds & made stainless steel fork covers with a brushed finish. We couldn’t find a headlight, signal lights, or a tail light that fit the build, so we custom fabricated our own to fit the overall look & finish of the bike. The headlight bucket & headlight ring were made from scratch out of stainless steel & the back cover was made custom out of aluminum. For the signal lights, we wanted something small, yet visible, & we wanted the tail light just a bit bigger. We made the brackets out of stainless steel rods to make it look like the tail light was floating. The client is used to riding ape style handlebars, but wanted something narrow, so we made the handlebars out of 1 ¼ inch stainless steel & curved the sides to match the front curve of the tank.
For the seat, we wanted to avoid a conventional single seat, commonly found on bobber style bikes. We wanted something different & more comfortable. We styled the seat with a seat bump that blended nicely with the tank, providing a smooth shape into the rear fender. The seat bump was designed with the Mad Hatter in mind, notched in the back to clear the rear fender when the rear suspension compresses, & with stainless steel trim detail. We used black suede upholstery with rib pattern stitching.
With regards to the exhaust, the owner wanted something obnoxious; he wanted something that would stand out, something loud, & something that complemented the rest of the bike’s design. We made a 2 into 2 exhaust out of stainless steel with a segmented pie cut for additional detail & fabricated a fishtail with a ⅜ inch perforated enclosure to slightly dampen the sound of the exhaust.
The oil tank was made out of mild steel with added aluminum side covers to match the gas tank & seat. The ignition switch was relocated on the side of the oil tank with exposed lines outside the tank for additional detail.
The foot controls, lever, & floorboards were made out of stainless steel & aluminum. The rear fender was fabricated out of aluminum as well, and the sissy bar was made of stainless steel with a velocity stack also fabricated out of aluminum.
At Benjie’s Cafe Racer (BCR Designs), we believe that every bike shop should always challenge themselves. When we started the business, we mostly built cafe racers or scramblers/dirt track style bikes. When we were given the opportunity to build a Harley bobber, we embraced the challenge as well as the change.