In a dank, humid, makeshift city in Sturgis, South Dakota, stumbling around hordes of chopper fans awaiting the Teutuls,' arrival, I almost fell over when I first saw it,--a rider,'s custom adrift amidst a sea of copycat ,"old-school," kidney beaters. The skull-emblazoned batwing bagger simultaneously screamed Harley and radical. I searched for a nearby owner, asked anyone within earshot if it was their bike and came away empty. As frequently happens when I encounter a bike I absolutely have to have for the magazine, nobody spoke up. I resorted to wedging a business card between the seat and tank and slinked away. As luck would have it, a short while later my phone rang. It was a guy named Bull asking me why I left a card on his bike.
We wound up meeting, and I told him my intentions. He was game, but we had to wait for the Metzeler bike show, where his bike was competing, to end before we could leave for a photo shoot. After Bull won the Consumer class and posed for photos with Metzeler honchos, we attempted to cut a dusty trail out of downtown Sturgis before the sun set behind the Black Hills. Once outside of town, we were drawn to Bear Butte,--a spiritual ,"mountain," that holds special meaning to the local Native Americans. I found a dirt road that lead to the hallowed grounds and communicated, in the most respectful way I could, to the spirits that are said to inhabit and protect the area. Immediately after my offer of goodwill, the winds kicked up and howled all around us. I thought it was an ironic situation considering the hundreds of skulls painted and sculpted throughout Bull,'s bike. At the conclusion of the shoot, as day turned to night, we stood in awe before the most magnificent of sunsets.
So Bull, how did this bike build come about?
Much like any other Harley purchase, this bike started out simple with a basic exhaust upgrade for a stock FLHX. That was just the beginning.
Wow, the project seemed to take on a bit of a different light after that.
You see, I work as the customizer for Wisconsin Harley-Davidson in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. I routinely deal with bikes being taken from stock to mild to wild. One day during the summer of 2006, I was on our showroom floor with Will Christman, owner and painter at The Sign Shop of Racine in Racine, Wisconsin. Will had done more than a couple of great paintjobs for us over the years. Will asked me when I was going to have him paint my bike. That simple question sparked the seven-month-long project that you see in these photos. We shot some ideas back and forth but didn,'t really commit to anything.
What finally sealed the deal between you and Will?
A couple of months went by, and Will,'s words continued to ring in my head: ,"As the customizer, I should have the coolest bike in the dealership.," That was the justification I used with my wife. So the planning began. I don,'t like the stock front bagger fenders. They are too squared off. I wanted to fit a fender tight around the tire so that it would hug the wheel rim. I called Fat Katz and had them send me a 270-degree fender blank. One of my coworkers pointed out that I should get 18-inch wheels so that the fender fits right. So out came the wheel catalogs, and hours of searching went by. I looked at all the wheel companies we do business with, and I could not find exactly what I wanted. I called Greg Hoeve at Ego Tripp Wheels and described to him what I was seeing in my head, and he said, ,"No problem.," Greg was excited to do the wheels and got his staff working on the designs right away. When the actual wheels, rotors and pulley showed up, I was speechless. Ego Tripp had created a beautiful set of wheels. Exactly what I wanted.
How did you decide on the extensive fabrication work that went into the bike?
I saw a Russ Wernimont 6-gallon fuel tank for touring bikes that had such a different profile and hugged the top of the rocker boxes so well that I had to have it. When the tank came in, it went straight to my fab shop. Then my friend Ben Robins and I got out the plasma cutter and began cutting the front fender. We continued cutting until the fender just fit over the wheel/tire combo.
How about the custom saddlebags and rear fender?
One day the shop owner mentioned that the bike looked a little funny with the big fuel tank and the stock bags. This planted a seed in my head, which two weeks later grew into a set of Milwaukee Bagger stretched saddlebags. I am not a fan of plastic or fiberglass fenders, so we decided to try steel. With two donor rear fenders and some added material, the fender seen on the bike was born.
What can you tell us about that motor; it,'s not the H-D Twin Cam that came with the bike?
I couldn,'t just leave the bike all show and no go. After all, I tease people all the time about that. I started looking at motor options and our sales manager put me in contact with a friend of his, Jeremy Gilbert at S&S. Jeremy worked me one hot deal with some special touches. I decided to use the S&S 124ci T (two-cam) motor. S&S built the custom gloss black motor with diamond-cut cylinders and heads. But this bike was not going to go that easy. Jason Sumwalt from S&S called me and told me that the heads that had been powdercoated and diamond-cut were Evo heads ,... oops! S&S redid a set of Twin Cam heads and had them diamond-cut in a hurry. Jason then called me and told me that the motor was ready for pickup. Since S&S,'s La Crosse facility is not that far away, I drove up to pick up my new fire breather. When I got to S&S, my heart dropped to my shoes as I saw the motor they built was a 124-inch T with Evo mounts ,... double oops! But Jason and the crew in La Crosse guaranteed me that they would fix it and have the new motor to me in 48 hours. Jason himself drove the motor down from the S&S facility in his own truck. That is an effort that I would be hard-pressed to see out of any other manufacturer.