When I first saw Jim Stuart's 2007 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Standard here, I thought of a razor. I wasn't sure why at first. The Palladium Silver paint shouts, "Look at me, I'm metal!" When you absorb the precision fit of the side panels and the tire-hugging fenders with their complex curves and points, the total package is just outstanding. (Mark Masker's initial thoughts on this bike)
Matt Risley is the man behind this bike and performs his metal-bending finesse from his shop in Phoenix. You would hardly ever know by meeting Matt that he is a mad metal-man. His mind is sharp, more of a thinker-philosopher than a bike builder and doesn't come across with any of the attitude that sometimes plagues his tribe of craftsmen. Like a few others in this wonderfully talented industry Matt is, at least to some of us, more an artist with an engineering mind. Hmm, wait. Maybe it should be an engineer with an artistic eye. Either way, few people have the left and right side of their brains working together; many barely have one side that is unusual.
Matt's canvas just happens to be motorcycles. There is a distant memory of a young guy that reached the highest level of certified Harley mechanics—Master of Technology. That may have been Matt; clearly our memory has been compromised. On that topic, it's a bit confusing even for motorcycle industry veterans to know what to call Matt's shop. There's Matt Risley Innovation, sometimes written as Innovations; MRI; Matt Risley Customs; MRI Customs, and there's likely more. Just Google Matt Risley, as we had to because the website apparently changed along the way as well; or did it?
Back to the task at hand, it took Matt two years to create Jim's one-of-a-kind ride. Matt tells us, "He spent a lot of money on it and completely trusted it would happen. He didn't even pick a paint color. I totally appreciate Jim, his business, the faith he gave me to let loose on this project."
In a very large nutshell, the idea behind this work of art was to build a bagger that was extremely different. Yes, I know. You hear us say that all of the time. However, there's a razor of a different sort when it comes to creating a customized motorcycle, especially when the builder goes to extremes. It's a sharp edge between sublime ambition and gross overindulgence. Motorcycle shops walk it every time a customer tells them to just go wild. The key is balancing form with function, which is pretty much how Matt approached Jim's Standard. When we talked to Matt about this motorcycle he was elbow deep in hard work at his shop. A quick hand wash later, the interview was on.
Baggers: Everybody in the industry has their own take on, "doing something different." What was your approach to that here?
Matt: Looking back on it, as I built this bike a couple of years ago, I wanted to see the rear wheel and such. The bike was to be as clean as possible and I had other ideas for new things like the dash TV, detachable saddlebags, and so on. I hired an artist to come to the shop and sketch out a couple of ideas that I had. They turned out pretty close to what I wanted and we went from there.
Baggers: Speaking of the TV, you put a lot of effort into revamping the electronics. Care to elaborate on that?
Matt: I wanted to clean up the inner fairing as much as possible so I decided to install a Kenwood DVD, CD, with touchscreen navigation, and use a Dakota Digital speedo. The outer fairing has my Flush Mount Lite kit and I added a scoop. The back end of this bike is where all the work went, though.
Baggers: Tell us more about making the bags and fender. What was the hardest part?
Matt: All of it—every bit. The whole thing was hard as hell. We made the bags and fender out of metal first; reverse molded them, and made the actual parts out of fiberglass. My shop's not built for glass work. It's hammers and vices. We had to make tools to make the product. The hardest part was getting it all to be quickly detachable. Just the hinge system on the saddlebag lids has 100 hours of work in it.
This is a totally different beast. The whole idea was being different from the extended bags with lids; to go from bagged to bagless and still look good, but in such a way that no one would ever know this was a bagger when the bike is stripped down. The rear fender slides on the rear struts; it's the support system for the saddlebags and side panels. Not only are the bags and panels integrated around the exhaust system, I really wanted them to show off the rear wheel, which is something you don't see on a bagger with extended luggage. I also integrated the side panels into the rear fender for a seamless line. The side covers are boltless and held in with Harley side cover grommets.