This year has seen the emergence of a new style in the custom bike scene with both Fred Krugger and Roger Goldammer building café racer inspired, Harley engined bikes, however, there is now a more affordable option for those who want the café racer look with Harley power. Hogbitz, in Chigwell Essex, England are now building Sportster based café racers.
The man behind the builds, Brian Udall, takes low mileage Sportsters and rebuilds them to resemble classic Tritons. The stock frame and forks are retained, to keep the cost down, the main changes are to the bodywork. The tank is swapped for a distinctive, hand beaten alloy unit and a new rear fender is fitted. The stock front fender is kept but cut down. The standard fork legs are also retained but polished, as are the calipers. The legs are then raised in the trees to steepen the head angle and quicken the steering.
Engine modifications are dependent on the customer with this example running an 883R motor that has been converted to 12000R and fitted with ported and polished Buell Lightning heads, a forced induction air cleaner and 2-into-1 SuperTrapp pipes.
The bike is finished off with Hogbitz clip-ons and a set of LSL rearsets to push the rider into a racing tuck aboard the custom seat. Hogbitz has plans to introduce its own line of rearsets in the future. There is also the option of an alloy seat unit which replaces the rear fender. The stock hubs are rebuilt into 18 inch alloy rims for the period correct look.
On the road the bike feels quite small and narrow and puts the rider into a stretched out, forward leaning riding position that is hard on the wrists until up to speed when the wind blast relieves some of the pressure.
The motor revs surprisingly freely and accelerated well from standstill and plenty of torque means the bike easily powers through bends in higher gears. It idles smoothly at low speeds in town without needing much in the way of clutch feathering.
Braking is fine with a two-fingered squeeze though lacking bite, which is typical of stock Harley brakes.
The relatively stock suspension soaked up bumps easily but was still firm enough to feels stable and planted through sweeping bends taken between 50 and 70 mph, a benefit of the forks being rebuilt with progressive springs and other internal changes. The change to the head angle made it surprisingly quick turning and flicking the bike from left to right was easy with a quick push on the clip-ons.
With a starting price of £7,500 the Hogbitz café racer is an affordable option for those who want the look of a classic bike but not the hassle of keeping an old Brit bike on the road.
All photos: Duncan Moore