2010 Harley-Davidson FLHR
It's corny enough I titled this story Avatar, but for a second I was tempted to write the tale in N'avi. I'm certainly geek enough to do that, but I didn't want Toph buried in hate mail. That would mean no more freelancing for me, and if I stop getting paid, several strippers will starve.
What an avatar really is, though, is an embodiment. In Hindu mythology, avatars represented the gods here on Earth. Online, your avatar represents you. This blue beauty represents Hill Country Customs in Spicewood, Texas. Robert Smith (no, not that guy from The Cure who stopped MechaStrissand on South Park) opened the shop's doors back in the '90s when he built his first custom Harley. It was the next big step in his love affair with all things two-wheeled. This ride symbolizes what he's learned as a shop owner/builder in the years since that great day.
Robert's story starts at age 11. Racing BMX bikes was his life growing up and that lead to the one he has now. One of his neighbors had a horizontal lathe and vertical mill in his garage. It proved to be kinda handy when Robert and his friends decided to make custom parts for their bicycles in order to shed weight and go faster. By 14, racing got a lot easier on his quads; he made the leap to motocross racing. Adding a motor to the mix meant a lot less pedaling to go fast. It also introduced him to working on motorcycles. His sponsoring dealership ran him on a tight budget, so by necessity he learned motorwork. As fate would have it, Robert loved being a gearhead.
Two years later, he leapt off the track, figuratively speaking. By this time he was old enough to drive a car on his own. Some kids spend those high school years on athletics, video games, and, according to filmmaker John Hughes, detention. Robert's adolescence went into creating a few show trucks.
Truck building kept him happy through college but it was later when Robert found his true passion: V-twins. They dated at first but it grew into a long-term relationship when he started the part-time business in his garage. A few years later Hill Country Customs opened its doors as a full-time custom shop.
That's what led to this bagger. Hill Country created it to let folks know what it could do. Born a Road King from the factory, Robert converted it into his vision using a Paughco frame with a stylish gooseneck at the top of the downtubes to tweak the style. It's mated to Robert's own clean left forkleg to really show off the beautiful front wheel. Between the 1 1/2-inch under front end and the Arnott air suspension out back, Robert can slam it down low at will. Both ends were beautified by RC Components wheels.
Although the stock chassis didn't make the cut for the finished bagger, the motor did. Well, kinda. One of Robert's buddies packs a Dave Mackie-outfitted custom mill in his scoot. Robert didn't want a steady diet of dust in his riding regimen so he upgraded his Harley Twin Cam with a Zippers 103ci kit to run against his pal's hot rod.
Since this bike was going to serve as a rolling ad for the shop, looking good was an absolute must. "It's tough and has a little bit of attitude. It's not super shiny. You pull up to a bar, it looks badass," Robert said. Most shops throw tons of flashy sheetmetal into their business-card bikes, not Robert. "I like OEM components for the fit. I'm into taking OEM parts and modifying them to look better, cleaner. The goal was a clean, stock-ish bike, so I focused on the paint instead." As you can see, the rest of it was blacked out. Hill Country fabricated the apes and ran internal lines (except for the throttle cables) to clean up the hand controls.
Once the paint was finished, the real pressure kicked in. Robert wanted the project ready for the Lone Star Rally. That wouldn't be a big deal if he was planning on next year's event, but to make the one coming up, he had to be done in six days. He rolled up his sleeves, dove in, burned the midnight oil, and made it happen.
The end result? His own personal avatar. Robert has taken this show on the road, and not just to the Lone Star. You'll find him at events like Daytona, where he works on bikes in his booth during the rally. If the customer can't get to him, he'll get to the customer. It's blue, but no CGI was harmed in the making of Smith's avatar. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to feed the strippers.