At this very moment, somewhere on Japan's flattrack circuit, there's a racer running this very bike. Japan was the end of a long journey for this Ironhead, a journey that started a few years back in St. Louis, Missouri.
That's when Jeff and Jason Tiedeken got their hands on it. Back then the two brothers operated Metal Morphosis Cycles out of a 3,000 square foot shop in Minnesota. Big brother Jason was a mechanical engineer who did some revolutionary work with bicycle suspensions; Jeff assisted him and eventually became a good fabricator. It was a natural progression for them since their dad was seriously into hot rods.
They took their inherited knowledge and applied it to motorcycles. Along the way, though, they kept it simple. "We build bikes we like, and if someone wants to buy them, that's cool," Jeff said. "We do it to our liking. These are our bikes and we do a lot of weird stuff." The Brothers Tiedeken worked on smaller-displacement bikes at first, and jumped into the H-D end of the pool with a couple of Sportsters, like this one.
Jeff was hunting for a '60s magneto Ironhead; his search led him to a complete one on E-Bay. According to the listing, all it needed was some cams. He won the auction and shortly thereafter hopped in the truck to make the run from Minnesota to St. Louis to claim his bike.
He got a big surprise at the end of his drive, though. Instead of "needs some cams," the listing should have said, "Needs a cardiologist." The V-Twin heart grenaded awhile back. It seems a piston was hitting the top of the cylinder, and as a result all the internals were dead. Not too happy about all of this, Jeff brought it to the owner's attention and got a polite, understanding response: "Nope, you gotta pay for it." Jeff's a man of his word, so he kept up his end of the deal and loaded the bike into his truck. Needless to say, the trip back was a lot longer than the trip out. When he got home he tore into the motor, realized he'd have to buy everything but the cases and the transmission, then put it on the back burner in favor of another bike.
It didn't stay on the back all that long, though. The two brothers took a long, hard look at the poor dead thing. This being a '69 Sportster, they thought, why not turn it into a copy of Mert Lawwill's '69 flat track racer, only in their style? They did that in two ways. First, Mert's bike was an XR750, this one's an XL900. Second, they went with full black with orange on the panels-Lawwill's bike was the reverse of that. Still, it had to bear at least some resemblance to Mert's machine. "We didn't want to spend a whole lot of money on custom parts," Jeff said, "but use modified stock parts like the racers did."