Sportster Desert Sleds by El Solitario

Harley Sportster Desert Sled

Article by Rick Brown of BikeBound.com.

Most people would not select Milwaukee iron as their first choice to tackle crossing the Sahara, but David Borras of El Solitario (The Lone Wolf) definitely travels to the beat of his own drum.

Harley Sportster Desert Sled

The story begins with three friends and an idea. A ten day road trip across the Sahara, on identical bikes, with bespoke gear, clothes and support vehicle. El Solitario was tasked with preparation of the bikes, as well as the garments and accessories needed to survive the rigors of the desert.

With El Solitario, there is often no middle ground. Love it or hate it. To categorize their bikes as unique would be an understatement. Borras says their mission statement can be reduced to four words: ‘eclectic, one of a kind, bold, and anthropomorphic.’ Further, character is emphasized over metrics.

Harley Sportster Desert Sled

El Solitario has a history of controversial builds, none more so than the ‘Imposter.’ Often derided as appearing to be the result of a high speed collision between a BMW RnineT and a shopping cart, it quickly earned the title of ‘World’s Ugliest Custom.’ On the other hand, this shop in Galicia, Spain, has always turned out well crafted bikes and gear, and when Borras approached Harley with this wild idea, they jumped aboard, as did a number of other high end vendors.

Harley Sportster Desert Sled

The process of converting an iconic 550-pound cruiser into a reliable desert sled is not a simple one. Obviously, the first issues to be addressed were ride height and suspension. El Solitario went directly to the Swedish suspension experts, Ohlins, to craft a solution. While the inverted front forks’ internals could be dealt with through with re-valving and revised springs, the Sportster’s weight and ride height presented rear shock constraints Ohlins Race Division hadn’t faced before. In the end, they modified a set of rear shocks from an off road racing ATV and the problem was solved. A custom skid plate was fabricated for the inevitable impacts.

Harley Sportster Desert Sled

The carbon fiber hand guards were designed by Bark Busters. Clearly, spokes were mandatory. Kineo produced the 19” front and rear rims, which were shod with Dunlop tubeless DT3 flat track tires.

Harley Sportster Desert Sled

The matte black 2 into 1 exhaust was designed and produced by SC projects. The custom brake discs and calipers are by the Swedish manufacturer ISR while the soft luggage is by Kriega.

Harley Sportster Desert Sled

The Desert Wolves accomplished their mission and were recently presented to the public at the 2017 Wheels and Waves in Biarritz, France. Appropriately, they were housed in six foot steel cages.

Follow the Builder

Follow El Solitario:  Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Web

More Custom Desert Sleds

BMW R100GS Restomod Bavarian Beast: BMW R100GS Restomod - “The best combination of old airhead reliability, modern electrics, and suspension.”  There are builders who are always jumping from one two-wheeled platform to another, never seeming to modify the same type of bike twice. Then […]
Triumph Scrambler Triumph “Whitehall Scrambler” by Acre Moto - Classic style, modern performance…  For a long time, we’ve been fans of restomods — vintage motorcycles whose period aesthetics are largely retained while the bike’s suspension, brakes, electronics, and overall performance are boosted to modern […]
Rickman Metisse Steve McQueen Desert Sled The Cool One: 1971 Rickman Metisse 650 Desert Sled - Clinton Hill Classics recreates Steve McQueen’s Metisse desert racer! In the 1950s, brothers Derek and Don Rickman were successful UK motocross riders who decided to turn their passion into a business, building off-road chassis kits […]
Plush Sled: Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled II - DDM returns with one stunning desert sled…  At the end of 2020, we featured a Kawasaki W650 desert sled from Rick Hannah of London’s Dirty Dick’s Motos, a semi-pro shed builder who said he got […]
BSA Hornet Desert Sled Mexican 500 Machine: BSA Hornet Desert Sled - Scott G Toepfer’s NORRA 500 Beezer…  Introduced in 1964, the BSA Spitfire Hornet was destined to become an icon of California desert racing. While the sooty streets of industrial England may seem a long way […]
Triumph TR6C Desert Sled Come Correct: 1968 Triumph TR6C Desert Sled - Joey Yedowitz builds a period-correct ‘sled down to the nuts, bolts, and washers… The Triumph TR6C was the 1960s version of the company’s single-carb, high-pipe 650 scrambler. Not only did it perform the most iconic […]
Triumph T100C Desert Sled All Parts Fun: ’66 Triumph T100C from Tamara Raye - A Disneyland engineer and rockstar bassist builds a desert Tiger… While the 650cc Bonneville may have been the big seller for Triumph in the 1960s, the 500cc Tiger 100 range remained extremely important to the […]
Honda XL600 Desert Sled Prairie Dog: Honda XL600 Desert Sled - Marmisto’s take on the classic Desert Sled – the Prairie Dog There are custom bikes with build sheets that read like expensive shopping lists, outfitting the machine in a dizzying array of high-spec bling, and […]
BSA B50MX Vintage Warhorse: 1973 BSA B50MX - “This bike is like a owning a horse…. Whisper softly to her and she might get you home.” The BSA B50MX was the motocross version of the beloved B50, which would be the last of […]
Bud Ekins Desert Sled Bud Ekins Desert Sled by Ace Classics - Ace Classics builds a faithful replica of Bud Ekins’s desert sled… James Sherwin “Bud” Ekins was an accomplished motocross, desert, and enduro racer from Southern California who would become one of Hollywood’s most famous stuntmen, […]
Johnny Campbell Tribute: Honda XR628R Baja! - Desert King: GPgarage Moto builds a tribute to the King of Baja… Johnny Campbell is a living legend of off-road racing, a man known as “The King of Baja” for his 11 Baja 1000 victories […]
BSA Victor 441 Desert Beezer: 1967 BSA Victor Enduro 441 -   Rock drummer Jorma Vik builds and races a classic Beezer… In the 1960s, BSA motocross star Jeff Smith convinced the factory that it was time to develop a lighter, all-new machine to replace the […]
Kawasaki W650 Desert Sled Posh Sled: Kawasaki W650 Scrambler - Dirty Dick’s Motos builds a fast & reliable modern desert sled… Produced from 1999 to 2007, the Kawasaki W650 was a retro throwback to the British twins of the 1960s, featuring a 50-hp parallel twin […]
Honda NX650 Desert Sled Desert Dominator: Honda NX650 ‘Sled - “A lighter, more powerful, more aggressive, go anywhere version of the Dominator…” The Honda NX650 Dominator has become one of the world’s most popular custom platforms, featuring an XR-based 644cc four-valve single-cylinder engine, twin stainless […]
Triumph New Bonneville Scrambler Burly Bonnie: Triumph Bonneville “Laia” by Tamarit Motorcycles - The Triumph “New Bonneville” has proven to be one of the most versatile contemporary platforms for customization. The straight-twin roadster competes directly with the 883 Sportster: “The Triumph Bonneville is unquestionably the better motorcycle. The […]

Save

Save

One Comment

  1. Swiss suspension experts? U know Öhlins is swedish, right?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*