“Street, dirt, ice… She does it all.”
The Harley-Davidson Sportster, introduced in 1957, boasts one of the longest unbroken production runs in motorcycling history — more than six decades. One of the strengths of the Sportster platform is the versatility. From the Ironhead era to the modern-day Evo, the Sportster has proven itself in a wide variety of pursuits, from flat track racer to Evel Knievel’s jump bike to cross-country Iron Butt rallies to desert racing.
In recent years, however, there seems to be a true “Sportster Renaissance.” Roland Sands and his RSD Super Hooligan flat track series has spawned a whole new breed of super hooligan machines, while Mark Atkins and his fellow madmen at Rusty Butcher have been transforming Sportsters into jump bikes and motocrossers. Recently, Biltwell raced their “Frijole 883” over 1000 miles of desert in the NORRA Mexican 1000. Truly, it seems the old Milwaukee tractor is undergoing a revival of sorts.
Enter Mike Schroeder of Red Right Hand of Moto, whose “DirtyXL” we spotted at The One Moto Show and had to learn more. Mike is the General Manager at Grizzly Harley-Davidson in Missoula, Montana, but when he’s not at work, he builds bikes out of his small home shop where, besides the basic tools, he has a hoard of old parts and scrap metal that might work for various projects.
Last year, after Mike helped reboot a local flat track club, he decided he want to run a Harley on the track. He based the build on a 2002 Sportster XL1200C. In this case, “C” stands for “Custom,” which entails a flatter factory tank, forward controls, different seat, and some other accessories — details Mike would scrap anyway. He built the bike not just to show, but to go. He’s ridden the gravel roads of Montana on this machine, he’s raced flat track, and just last weekend, he studded up the DirtyXL for some ice racing fun. Says Mike:
“Didn’t crash = win! Street, dirt, ice… She does it all.”
We especially love Mike’s signature red right grip and the acid-etched rocker box, reading RIDE FAST, TAKE CHANCES — and the fact that the “DirtyXL” was one of the few show bikes to sign up for the The One Pro Amateur Hooligan race at Salem Indoor Speedway on the Saturday night of The One Moto Show!
Below, we get the full story on this home-built show bike / racer!
H-D XL1200 Hooligan Tracker: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I have been around motorcycles since I was a kid. My dad was and still is a rider at 71. I lucked into a job at a Harley shop in Auburn CA during the summer of 1996 and never looked back. Nearly 23 years later and after a handful of different shops, I am now the GM at Grizzly H-D in Missoula. I now own a ’73 Aermacchi I made into a rat cafe, a customized Trail 90 I also showed at the One Moto this year, a ’72 Aermacchi Sprint (in progress), a ’79 CB650 that I am currently building into a scrambler/cafe for my brother, and a ’79 XR500 set up for flat track and ice riding. My daily is an ’03 FXDX, and of course my favorite, the Dirty XL.
I have a small shop at home with mostly basic tools and a ton of old parts, scrap metal and any cool thing I find that may work on something, someday. I love to just use what I have or that came on the bike and alter it to fit my build. I also do my own powder coating which is a huge cost and time saver. To sum it up, I fuc#in love motorcycles!
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The DirtyXL is a 2002 XL1200C.
• Why was this bike built?
I had been wanting something to ride and explore the Montana dirt roads, trails and tracks so I picked up a cheap Sportster and busted out the grinder and got to work.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Last year I helped reboot an old flat track club in town and wanted to run a Harley (since I work for HD) but I also wanted something a bit more off-road. I took inspiration from flat track bikes, scramblers, Hooligan racing… Rusty Butcher with a mix of Hugo Motorcycles.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Powder coat from front to back. Chrome sucks. I shaved the lower legs, chopped the front fender and made it mount up to the fork brace. Built a headlight mount to run a bagger passing lamp, added ProTaper bars and risers from a Husky FC450, worked the hand controls to be clean and fit the ⅞ bars, eliminated all buttons and switches and added my signature red right hand grip.
Converted to a car style start with a hidden headlight switch, and deleted the rest of the wiring and lights. Mounted up an older 2.3 gal tank I had been hanging onto, matched to a Speed Merchant seat. Chopped the struts and rear fender and made a small hidden LED taillight. Used a set of XG750A shocks for height in the rear, FXRP front dampers to get the frontend lift and travel.
Tweaked a TC Bros air cleaner a bit, relocated the choke pull, acid etched Ride Fast, Take Chances onto the center rocker box. Used BMX-style pegs I found, modified a dirt bike skid plate to fit. TC Bros chain conversion, chopped the front pulley cover to expose the sprocket and matched the trim and cut on the cam cover. Running Enduro tires. Stainless exhaust by my buddy, the amazing Colin Cornberg of Number 8 Wire Moto using an old Supertrapp can I had on my first big twin. I had the design in mind and he made it happen.
• Does the bike have a nickname?
• How would you classify this bike?
Not sure, it just likes getting dirty!
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Cutting it’s weight to just over 425lbs and as minor as it is, the old school acid etching on the rocker boxes. First time since grade school that I’ve done that. And the exhaust, even though I had my buddy Number 8 Wire build it, it was my design and I wouldn’t trust anyone else to make it. It came out exactly how I had envisioned it.