Rusty Butcher Racing builds a desert-ready Sportster…
Introduced in 1957, the Harley-Davidson Sportster has long remained the most versatile machine in the Motor Co.’s lineup. It’s been used as everything from a learner bike to an Iron Butt rally mount, from countless custom incarnations to a 4th place finish in the 1986 Baja 1000.
In recent years, there’s been a real resurgence in the popularity of the Sportster platform. If we had to put our money on the one man most influential in this Sportster renaissance, it’s Mark Atkins aka “Mark The Butcher” of Rusty Butcher — a California-based brand that puts their stable of Sportsters front and center:
“Our marketing spins around me doing wild things on Sportsters (ex. Jumping over Green Day on a roof ramp to ramp for music videos, flat track racing X Games, desert racing at The Mint 400, wheelies, and even supermoto).”
When we first came across their series “Butcher’s World” back in 2016, we couldn’t peel our eyes away from the insane antics of Mark and his crew, as they ripped their custom-built Sportsters across motocross tracks, cleared breathtaking gaps, raced flat track, and wheelied all over their hometown of Corona, California.
Their videos opened a lot of minds to what was possible on a 400-pound V-twin, and inspired who knows how many riders to add a Sportster to their garage. Soon, it seemed the whole industry began following suit.
For instance, the Roland Sands Super Hooligan series, along with hooligan classes at local races all over the country, have made it possible to go flat-tracking on a Sportster with minimal barrier to entry, capturing the “Run What Ya Brung” spirit of a simpler times.
What’s more, a Hooligan class was introduced in the AMA National Hare and Hound Championship in 2020, which includes the mighty Mint 400:
“In the early days of Hare and Hound racing, motorcycles were adapted to take on the rugged, off-road terrain of the wild west. Since then of course, OEM’s have changed the game through their development of off-road specific motorcycles intended for serious off-road racing. Today, the series sees the story come full circle with the addition of the Hooligan Open class. Intended for highly capable, 750cc and above off-road-forward street motorcycles, the class embraces the classic ‘On Any Sunday’ pure joy of riding and racing a motorcycle.” —Dirt Bike
Today, we’re thrilled to present the latest stallion from the Rusty Butcher Racing shop, a 2003 Sportster built for good times in the desert…and a little racing:
“Bike was mainly built for myself to enjoy desert trips with my friends. The Mint 400 race just happened to be the first event we attended!”
The bike has gotten the full Rusty Butcher desert treatment, including CRF450 forks, a 5-gallon tank from Carducci Dual Sport, an S&S Cycle 1200 kit, Saddlemen seat, custom-built Racetech 16.5 rear shocks, 21/18 Excel rims, a Rekluse auto clutch, and a custom carbon Two Bros Racing exhaust that Mark helped design. Says Mark of the riding experience:
“I always tell people it’s like hanging onto a bull full speed that’s out of control.”
Below, we talk to Mark for more details on the build, and share more shots from photographer Jonathan Griffith (@jonathangriffith).
Sportster Hooligan Enduro: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your brand, Rusty Butcher.
My name is Mark Atkins (aka Mark The Butcher). I am 34 years old and started riding motorcycles at 3 years old. Rusty Butcher is a brand that I own and our marketing spins around me doing wild things on Sportsters (ex. Jumping over Green Day on a roof ramp to ramp for music videos, flat track racing X Games, desert racing at The Mint 400, wheelies, and even supermoto).
• What’s the year / model of the donor Sporty?
2003 Harley Sportster 883.
• The bike was built for the Hooligan Enduro class of the Mint 400, yes?
Bike was mainly built for myself to enjoy desert trips with my friends. The Mint 400 race just happened to be the first event we attended!
• What’s some of the custom work done to the bike?
This bike has…
- CRF450 forks
- Custom oil tank/battery holder
- IMS Sportster gas tank designed by Carducci Dual Sport that is 5-gal
- 883 to 1200 S&S Cycle kit
- Saddlemen Virus Moto style seat
- Racetech 16.5 rear custom-built shocks
- 18/21 Excel rims built by Dubya
- Rekluse auto clutch
- Custom carbon TBR exhaust we designed together
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride? How did it handle the Mint 400?
I always tell people it’s like hanging onto a bull full speed that’s out of control.
• Any sponsors, team members, or buddies you’d like to thank?
About Rusty Butcher
“Rusty Butcher was started to bring back the original, raw feeling of good old fashioned goods. Products today are made too easily and too quickly, taking away from the love, attention, and character that each item deserve Rusty Butcher Is dedicated to creating quality products that use the best, most original trustworthy materials and techniques that have stood the test of time. ‘I saw an old butchers cleaver in an antique store once… and when I picked it up, I noticed how solid, sturdy, and incredibly sharp it still was. After 100+ years of use and storing, it still held together and held its sharp edge… It was so simple. No new complicated modern materials. That rusty cleaver blade made me realize that simple, raw, carefully constructed items can, and will always be favored as a work of art rather than just another product.'”
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