The Harley-Davidson XR-750 is nothing short of a legend among motorcycles. The bike has more AMA wins that any bike in history, and it’s been called “the most successful race bike of all time.” Besides its well-known flat track dominance, the XR-750 was the favored jump bike of Evel Knievel, and versions have competed successfully in road racing and hill climbing — where a nitrous-injected version of the engine was estimated to top 150 horsepower!
Today we have a 1989 Harley-Davidson XLH1200 Sportster built into an XR-750 style street tracker, brought to us by photographer Nic Millan of Oregon. The owner says of the concept:
Taming a purpose built race machine like an original XR750 for use as a street machine, sort of a daily rider, is not very practical, very costly, and is rife with potential problems and pitfalls. So, I decided to do it as a ‘one-off’ my style with a blend of new and vintage styling. It would look almost like an XR750, but would be streetable as a daily rider, and be easy to maintain. Since light weight is free horsepower, keeping it light weight was a priority.
Below, we have a full interview with the builder.
XLH1200 Street Tracker: In the Builder’s Words
• Please tell us a bit about yourself and your history with motorcycles.
Anything with an engine, that’s me since I was about 10 years old. At that age I helped my dad work on his hotrods by handing him what tools he needed. By age 13, I had my first motorcycle. By the time I was 16 (the age to get a drivers’ license) I’d already owned two motorcycles and two cars. Over the decades I raced motorcycles, ran cars at the drags, built several street rods, built and ran sand rails, was involved in drag boat racing, hot air balloons, built a high performance experimental aircraft, and am currently rebuilding an original vintage operating WWII carbon arc 60” searchlight. And all the while staying involved with motorcycles thru the decades. The workshop (my center of the universe) is fully insulated, heated and cooled, and has a stereo and TV. It is decorated with black and white checkerboard wall trim, garnished with multiple pictures, posters and plagues most of which are of my favorite brand of motorcycle: BSA. Some of my most successful hunting adventures also hang on the walls. The shop currently holds seven restored/built motorcycles and a vintage Mini Cooper. The WWII searchlight is 20 feet long and 10 feet high, so, along with the airplane will not fit in the shop. They reside in my hanger at the airport.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
Harley-Davidson, 1989 XR750 (built from an XLH).
• Why was this bike built?
After having fully restored multiple vintage British motorcycles (BSA’s), one of which less than 20 were ever factory produced, it was time to build something different. A street tracker sparked my interest, and with Harley-Davidson’s vintage flat track racing history, it had to be a Harley. Because it was a Harley, my vintage British bike friends kiddingly accused me of going to the ‘dark side’.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
With Harley-Davidson’s very successful flat track racing history with the XR750 in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and which continue even today by privately owned XR bikes, I decided that model machine would be the basic concept for the build. Although it has been done, taming a purpose built race machine like an original XR750 for use as a street machine, sort of a daily rider, is not very practical, very costly, and is rife with potential problems and pitfalls. So, I decided to do it as a ‘one-off’ my style with a blend of new and vintage styling. It would look almost like an XR750, but would be streetable as a daily rider, and be easy to maintain. Since light weight is free horsepower, keeping it light weight was a priority. I was striving to get it as close as possible to the weight of the vintage BSA’s at nearly 90 pounds less.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Starting with an XLH frame, engine and forks, most everything else was custom. The XR750 styled fiberglass tank and tail piece/seat was procured from Phil Little Racing. Most all mounting brackets were fabricated from aluminum or carbon fiber. For weight savings, fiberglass, carbon fiber, aluminum, and chromoly was utilized where possible.
• Please include a list of the changes made/parts used
Weight Savings – 77 Pounds Changes
Carbon Fiber Phil Little Fiberglass Tank, Tail, Seat
Battery Surround & Cover Golden Tyre Flat Track Tires
Headlight Housing Lithium Battery (4 Pounds)
Electronic Module Cover SuperTrapp Polished Stainless Exhaust
Air Cleaner Cover Dakota Digital Speedometer
Oil Tank Cover Buchanan Stainless Spokes & Nipples
Timing Cover EBC Rotors – Floating Stainless/Aluminum
Flanders 32.5” Dirt Track Bars
Aluminum Shortened Bar Risers (Modified)
Battery Tray (Fabricated) Biltwell Whiskey Throttle (Modified)
Excel 19” Shouldered Rims Jack Hammer Grips
Fork Brace (Modified) ISR Aluminum Brake/Clutch Controls
Front & Rear Hubs Progressive Suspension 15” Shocks
Hydraulic Brake Switch Mount (Fabricated) Chainsikle Aluminum Low Rear Sets & Pegs
Headlight Mount (Fabricated) S&S Air Cleaner (Modified)
Rear Sprocket Magnum Shielding Black Stainless Braded Lines
License Plate Mount (Fabricated) EK X-Ring Chain (Chrome Plated)
Speedometer Housing & Mount (Fabricated) Progressive Suspension Fork Springs
Speedometer Sensor Mount (Fabricated Extended Side Stand 1.5” (Modified)
Performance Machine Brake Calipers Delrin Chain Idler (Fabricated)
Horn Mount (Fabricated)
- Swingarm (Fabricated)
- 7/8” Headlight
- Front/Rear Turn Signals (rear in license plate frame)
- Tail/Stop Lights (in license plate frame)
- Starter Switch (Hidden)
- Headlight & Turn Signal Switches
- 1 Inch Horn
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Fabricating the carbon fiber parts such as the oil tank cover, battery, and electronic module covers, and others was very satisfying. I had fabricated carbon fiber handle bars in the same shape as the Flanders steel bars and which weighed one third the weight of the steel bars. They turned out real nice, were super strong, but after one ride with them, I re-installed the steel bars, as the carbon bars had too much flex. The front end of the bike was not stable at speed.
The chromoly swingarm I fabricated turned out real nice. It is very strong, has no flex, and at five pounds total weight is one-half of the weight of the original steel swingarm. The weight reduction is actually multiplied since the swingarm is unsprung weight.
The aluminum front fork brace was extensively modified from an original vintage brace I procured on the internet. To fit the wide width of the flat track tires, I had to split it down the center and weld in a one inch wide piece, then cut and reshape the side curves for tire sidewall clearance. A lot of work went into that brace, but it turn out nice.
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