Late at night I read the personals ads on Craigslist. I'm mostly cruising for hookers, but the odd ads posted by one-legged transvestites are mildly entertaining too. Psychologists might call it sick or perverted, I think of it as using my PC as an entertainment center. None of that has anything to do with this Electra Glide Standard put together by Todd Matteson at Billet 4-U Customs. I just thought stealing the textspeak from Craigslist for the title would be funny. Hopefully I was right.
If you've never perused the C-list personals, let me translate: LTR means "Long Term Relationship." That's the perfect description of Todd's experience in designing open beltdrives for motorcycles. He opened his doors back in 1993, started making motorcycle parts a year later, and hasn't stopped. At first he made them for Softails and choppers. Amidst the neo-chopper craze, he had a wouldn't-it-be-cool-if moment; one of those epiphanies that bitch slaps you in the brain. Why not put an open belt primary on a tourer?
The ensuing creative rush bore this '02 Electra Glide Standard custom job. Todd left the essentials pretty stock; the motor, frame, and transmission were more or less left alone. True, it did get a new set of pipes, but Billet 4-U focused on cleaning it up and minimizing clutter. Having said that, its 3-inch open belt primary is the star of this two-wheeled show. Todd was among the first primary designers to create an open setup like this one for a Harley bagger. It's been a few years since he revamped this ride; since then it's gone into the hands of Todd's rider buddy, Chip Laustrup. Still, Todd was happy to sit down and talk with us about this machine and how it came about.
HBB How did you get into riding?
TM I've been riding bikes since I was eight or so. That's when I got my first Honda 50. I originally did street rod parts, then I bought my first Harley-Davidson in 1994 and it was all over after that. I just went with it.
HBB Talk to us about the open beltdrive. How'd that idea come about and why?
TM Our claim to fame was our open belt Softail drive. This one was for me to do a bagger beltdrive. I wanted a bike for myself and my thing was open beltdrives, so that's how it happened. It was also a great chance to show off my anodized machine-relief wheels.
HBB What was hardest about designing the bagger primary?
TM Taking the plunge to do it. Everyone thought I was nuts. Softails and choppers were the big thing at that point. Why would you want to do it to a rubbermount cruiser? I wanted to do it, yet it was for my own personal bike, so I had to find time. Afterward I sold a lot of these, but then the market fell off, then other makers started doing them. I do believe we had one of the first on the market, though.
HBB How long did it take to do the engineering on the drive?
TM About a month. It's one of those deals where it was very similar to my Softail drive. The centerlines between the motor and trans are different. The overall length is similar but the length of the belt was the only big difference.
HBB What was the design process like?
TM It was a matter of taking the stock bike, tearing it apart, and reverse engineering from the stock primary. After that, it was a matter of making everything fit per what I had to work with.
HBB So what do you like most about the drive?
TM It was clean and simple. That's what everyone likes about our drives. That pretty much sums them up. We're not all over the board with flair.
HBB What do you like most about that bike?
TM It was just a classic with street rod style, a low, very clean, simple machine. All of my stuff has a hot-rod-inspired look. Not many people were doing 21-inch front wheels when I did it; no one out here was doing it then. This motorcycle also has a bunch of one-off parts on it.
HBB Do you have any big bagger parts designs in the works?
TM Absolutely. We are planning on a product line of bagger parts coming out in the early part of 2011. I'm going to Sturgis this next month to get my bearings on where we're going to go with the product stuff.
HBB If you had to do this project over, what would you do different?
TM I don't think I'd do anything different. Everything about that bike was cool and I dug it.