Even though there’s been no official word from The Motor Co., it looks as if the venerable Harley-Davidson Sportster is slowly fizzling out. It’s been completely removed from H-D’s European website, and the once extensive range has been reduced to just three models on the US listing. And with H-D currently on a mission to scale down, we’re not holding our breath for a replacement.
But the Sportster’s notoriety will continue long after the last model rolls off the assembly line. That’s because the Sporty is arguably the most prolific custom donor out there.
There’s a plethora of aftermarket parts available for it, and countless custom shops have cut their teeth on it. Rough Crafts‘ Winston Yeh is one name that stands out—he released his first custom Sportster just over a decade ago, and has scored numerous hits since then.
The Taiwanese designer’s latest bike is a 2019-model XL1200CX Sportster Roadster, dubbed ‘Obsidian Fighter.’ And it’s not only a showcase for Rough Crafts’ signature aesthetic, but also an ode to classic Sportster style.
Winston’s customer is a fan of the era of raked-out choppers, but he already had the Roadster in hand—and it’s tall for a Sporty.
“The main question,” says Winston, “was: ‘How do we combine a Roadster with chopper style, wrap it in a Rough Crafts package, and still surprise the owner?’ The answer is a ‘Frisco’ Sportster bobber with race influence.”
Winston wanted to slam the Harley without sacrificing ride quality, so he turned to his go-to suspension supplier, Öhlins. They supplied a set of slightly shorter-than-stock FGRT 206 forks, and a pair of their Blackline HD 757 shocks, in the shortest length available. The forks were blacked out and the lowers customized to run a single brake, and they’re held in place by Speed Merchant yokes.
The 19F/18R wheels were switched out for a set of 19F/17R hoops from the Japanese company Gale Speed, wrapped in Pirelli Angel GT II sports touring tires. There’s a pair of custom-made carbon fiber covers on the back wheel, to beef it up visually.
The brakes are from Beringer, with a rear mounted on a radial caliper bracket from The Sick Shop. The discs are Rough Crafts parts, with custom carriers that match the design of the new wheels.
For the bodywork, Winston wanted to mash up the unmistakable Rough Crafts vibe with some classic Frisco touches—like a high gas tank with air above the frame. He’s had numerous requests for a bolt-on ‘Rough Crafts’ Sportster tank, so he’s been developing one with a supplier, who sent over a prototype for this project. It’s supposed to sit much lower, but Winston asked his fabrication guy to remount it, to nail the right vibe.
The tail’s a far more contemporary, almost tracker-like design, which pulls inspiration from Rough Crafts’ AMD-winning ‘Stealth Bullet‘ bike. Carbon fiber was laid up over a 3D-printed mold to shape it, with upholstery from CR Custom Leather capping it off.
Winston dug into his own catalog for much of the finishing kit. The handlebars are a new design, but the risers, headlight and gas cap are all existing Rough Crafts parts. The finned air filter is a classic—and often copied—Rough Crafts staple, as are the points and clutch covers.
The front LED turn signals and taillight and turn signal combos are new RC parts, made by Koso. Other bolt-ons include Arlen Ness foot controls and grips, and a set of Rebuffini switches that interface directly with the Harley’s CAN bus, without any fussy rewiring. And to keep the cockpit super sano, the speedo’ been relocated to the side of the bike.
The twin exhaust system adds one more old vs new hit. “The idea is from a very classic slash cut chopper exhaust,” explains Winston, “but with a more modern industrial twist, if that make sense.” The system was hand-built by MS Pro, who handled all the fabrication duties on the project.
CT-Garage took care of assembly, while Line & Circle Custom Paint laid down a signature broody Rough Crafts livery, with carbon inlays. 2 Abnormal Sides came to the party with a pair of custom tank badges, and a set of hand-made pushrod collars.
The idea of a ‘modern performance Frisco bobber’ sounds goofy on paper, but in practice, it works. And it looks like a blast to ride, too. “It rides surprisingly better than stock,” confirms Winston. “I mean… a lot better.”
Here’s to the Sportster, and shops like Rough Crafts that continue to show it love.