Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Gift of "Comfort and Cool"

As my bike continues to evolve, I am always looking for ways to take it to the next level. While a lot of mods are done because they add to the aesthetic appeal or simply "look cool", this one actually gave me the best of both worlds. And for the money, it should! After 10 wonderful years of marriage, my beautiful wife gave me the gift of comfort and coolness all in one box. She bought me an air ride system for my Fatboy. Not just any air ride mind you, she bought me a Shotgun Shock. This system is a bit different from other systems in that it has two switches to allow for increased "tuneability" of the ride height and stiffness of the shock. What this does in real world terms is allows the rider to adjust the height of the rear suspension from slammed on the bump stops all the way to factory height; then the rebound switch allows you to make the shock rebound as soft or stiff as you like. I can air it all the way up to where the shock is so hard I can't push down the rear fender at all, or I can make it so soft it will bottom out on a speed bump. Obviously, the "sweet spot" is somewhere in the middle. The other great feature of this system is that there is only one air line from the compressor to the shock, so there are less hoses to leak and cause problems. In addition, even if you do spring a leak, the shocks use offsetting solenoids that actually push against each other and the system will hold air unitl you dump it with the switches. So if your miles from home and spring a leak, you won't be riding home on the bump stops. Install was easy thanks to my buddy Rob at Black Helmet Customs and JD, the owner/creator of Shotgun Shock, is a cool dude who is always willing to help and stands behind his product. This is something I thought I would never spend the money on, but I have to say, it's a game changer for me. I love it and will have one on every bike I ever own. Not to mention, it's priceless when you pull up to the curb, dump the air, and the rear end floats down. People definately take notice. The next part of the equation is the frontend. Leaving it at factory height is an option, but not for me. I spent $120 on the Progressive Drop-in Fork Lowering kit. The name of the kit is a bit misleading however. For an FX frontend, I think it's as simple as draining the fork oil, removing the fork caps, pulling the stock springs out and cutting the PVC spacers to length. However, with the FL frontends, it's a bit more complicated. What's in the kit? The kit includes two types of springs to replace the one spring in each fork leg. One spring is a longer spring, similar to the stocker, but shorter. The other is a very short spring. Lastly, the kit has some brass washers and a piece of PVC pipe (1" or 1.25" I think). I'll get to the PVC shortly. The Install... Now, keep in mind, I had never taken my frontend apart, so it was slow going at first. Of course, the fork tins and headlight had to come off first. I was able to loosen the bars and lay them back on the tank to get them out of the way. The next step after draining the old fork oil, was to take off the fork caps and loosen the pinch bolts on the triple trees. With the pinch bolts loose, I was able to use my motorcycle jack to raise the bike and actually allow the front wheel and forks to stay on the floor. Once I got enough clearance I could remove the stock springs, "drop-in" the new ones and put the PVC spacers in with some brass washers supplied in the kit. The PVC spacer is cut to length per the directions based on how much drop you want and what model bike you are working on. I think mine was cut to 3" for a 2" drop, but I'm not positive. I finished off with adding some Screamin Eagle Heavy Weight Fork Oil to add a little more stiffness to the forks. The result was immediate improvement in handling and the bike seemed to have better response and a more aggressive stance to it. Coupled with the Shotgun Shock, this thing sits low on the ground and has a really mean look. Needless to say, I reccomend these two mods to anyone. They are not cheap and there are definately more cost effective methods of slamming the rearend of a softail. However, I can't say enough about the ride comfort and adjustability. And there are so few instances with Harleys that you get comfort and cool all in the same mod.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bigger and Better in Texas!

Since I bought my bike 7 years ago, I have wanted a D&D Fat Cat. It's a 2 into 1 pipe that has a lot of attitude and performs great to boot. And, they are manufactured about 20 miles from my house. They are a bit pricey and I fell into the drag pipe trap that so many newbies tend to gravitate towards. Well, after several years I finally convinced my lovely wife that half the fun of owning a Harley is changing stuff. I also found a killer deal on a 1 month old Fat Cat from a fellow member of The system, which retails for $600-$700 depending on the vendor, was for sale for $350 and had been used very lightly. It had the "big bore" baffle in it which would not work with my 88 cubic inch engine, but the baffle could be replaced fairly cheaply. The previous owner bought the pipe and actually needed the Fat Cat's big brother, the Boarzilla, for his big cubic inch engine. So his loss was my gain so to speak. I picked it up for a great price and was thrilled to finally get the pipe I had been wanting for a long time. Of course, when things seem to good to be true, they usually are. The pipe arrived and I went to change the baffle and discovered that the fiberglass wrapped "big bore quiet" baffle was wrapped in fiberglass which had welded itself to the inside of the muffler. I spent days trying everything from knocking against the baffle with crowbars, 2x4s, pretty much anything I could fit in the muffler, to no avail. I sprayed a full can PB Blaster down it and even got to the point of damaging the baffle itself. It never budged. I called D&D and they told me this happens sometimes and they reccomend buying a replacement muffler to the tune of about $300 with the new baffle. Well, now all the sudden my good deal is not so good because I am basically buying a new muffler and used head pipes for more than what I could get a brand new system for from a local supplier. At that point I wasn't sure what to do. I had posted questions on my online resource for all things Harley,, and a fellow member responded that he had an old muffler off his D&D in his garage that had the standard baffle. He made me a good deal on it and because it included the baffle I needed, I ended up only paying about $40 more than I would have had the other muffler worked out. Now comes the silver lining...D&D changed the angle of their mufflers sometime in the last few years. They also make a standard version for softails and a longer Heritage version designed for the Heritage Softail. I have always liked the older style cut and the longer 20" muffler on the Heritage pipe. The new set of pipes I bought had the newer version which I wasn't as wild about. However, the replacement muffler was off an older Heritage and it was exactly the muffler I wanted in the first place. So basically, I bought a system that was made 20 miles from my house from a guy that lived in another State and put it together with a muffler from a guy on the East Coast to finally arrive at my current D&D Fat Cat. The system works great and looks even better and I'll probably never run another exhaust on my ride. I guess it just proves that good things come to those who wait...or it could mean sometimes being too cheap to by new costs a lot more in time and aggravation.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Coil Relocation and Removing the Seat Post

I'm attempting to update my blog with recent mods. A simple, inexpensive project is relocating the coil from the stock position, between the oil tank and rear cyclinder, to the area where the stock horn is located. This also requires moving the horn obviously. Mine is currently waiting to be moved under the tank.

I took a Harley Davidson Airwing horn cover and turned it upside down. Then fabricated a bracket out of a piece of flat bar. Very simpe, just cut to length and drill holes. I used a grinder to smooth the egdes and spray painted it black to clean it up. Then I positioned the coil so the plug wires would exit through the top of the horn cover. There are various horn covers, etc. to do this with, however I have never seen anyone use the Airwing cover so it looks a little more custom. I also used 9" chromeXS spark plug wires from US Kool Lines which match closely with my braided cables and brake line. The only thing left was to extend the coil wires and route them under the tank so they dropped down between the two cylinders where the horn used to be.

Next, I took the bolts out of the stamped metal seat post which is used to hold the coil in the factory position. I had to take a bolt out of the oil tank and take one end of the shift linkage lose to get the post out. The result is a clear space between the rear cylinder and the oil tank. This mod cost less than $100 including the cost of the horn cover and the new spark plug wires but it adds a little custom detail that will set your bike apart from the rest.