Good Times Racing’s Sportster Desert Racer…
The Harley-Davidson Sportster has been undergoing something of a racing renaissance in recent years. The Roland Sands Super Hooligan series, along with hooligan classes all over the country, have made it possible to go flat-tracking on a stock-framed production bike without forking out a king’s ransom, capturing the “Run What Ya Brung” spirit of a simpler times.
“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
Of course, it isn’t the first time Sportsters have tackled the desert. More than 35 years ago, a specially-built Sportster desert racer, “Harley’s Comet,” too home a 4th place finish in the 1986 Baja 1000, and in 2018, Biltwell’s “Frijole 883” became the first Sportster to finish the 1300-mile NORRA Mexican 1000 race. More recently, we featured Rusty Butcher’s Hooligan Enduro Sportster, built for the Mint 400 and other desert races.
Today, we’re thrilled to feature this “Bajarley” desert racer from Rich Silva (@richsilva221) of Good Times Racing, built from a 1995 883 Sportster and raced in the Mint 400, Biltwell 100, and more. Rich has been flat tracking a Sportster for some time, but he didn’t have any desert racing experience before the wild hair to build this bike:
“Bike was built as a crazy idea that came up in conversation with an old friend… We were chatting about The Mint 400. I mentioned to him that there were guys racing the Mint on Harley Sportsters… Long story short, his business was flourishing, and he offered to fund the Harley Desert bike project for the Mint 400. I learned to ride in the desert on a 500-lb Harley Sportster. Probably not the brightest idea but ignorance is bliss.”
Indeed! Working with his friend and fabricator Jim Bandelin, Rich and team drew ideas from Bitwell’s aforementioned “Frijole 883” build and the small crowd of Hooligan desert racers who’ve turned Milwaukee tractors into desert sleds:
“Mikey Hill, Mark Atkins, Jake Pope, and Kole King were crucial in sharing information.”
Rich gives us the full build sheet below, but highlights include a CRF450 front end with Race Tech internals and Scotts Performance steering stabilizer, Race Tech 17.5″ Piggyback rear shocks, a custom 21″/18″ wheelset laced by Dubya USA, a Stealth Pipes HHP (Hoops High Pipe) exhaust system, custom skid plate and rear sets, and much, much more.
Rich and teammate Joey Elms (@dirtthrower) have finished the Mint 400 twice now on this “Bajarley,” placing 5th (2021) and 3rd (2022). What’s more, Rich returned after an early crash in the 2021 Bitwell 100 to take 3rd place in 2022.
He says racing desert on a Sportster is takes grit and a good deal of mechanical empathy — but he doesn’t do it because it’s easy:
“Riding a Sportster in the desert is like riding a brick, no matter how much work we do to the suspension. The rear only has 4 inches of travel with a stock swingarm. That’s the fun part about riding this bike — it was not produced from the factory to do the things we put it through. If I was interested in a smooth predictable ride, I would race a dirt bike.”
“I am 100% proud of the end product. My goal was to make it look like a show bike and be a go bike.”
“Bajarley” Sportster Desert Racer: Racer Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
My name is Rich Silva. I’ve had my M1 since I was 19 years old. Bought my first bike at age 28. I started on a Honda Shadow 750 because that’s all I could afford. I always dreamed of owning a Harley, now I race Harley Sportsters. I race Hooligan Flat Track and Desert. I also own a few Harleys for street riding. Most of the work is done right out of my garage with the help of many talented friends who are willing to teach me.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
The Desert bike build is a 1995 Harley Sportster with a stock 883. We bought the bike from Jason Klements aka Fast J!
• Why was this bike built?
Bike was built as a crazy idea that came up in conversation with an old friend. It was spring 2020. We were chatting about The Mint 400. I mentioned to him that there were guys racing the Mint on Harley Sportsters. He asked me why I wasn’t racing since I race a Sportster in Flat Track. I told him I’d never ridden in the desert and plus I can’t afford to build another race bike. Long story short his business was flourishing, and he offered to fund the Harley Desert bike project for the Mint 400. I learned to ride in the desert on a 500-lb Harley Sportster. Probably not the brightest idea but ignorance is bliss.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
My teammate Joey Elms has history racing desert. He suggested we take notes from guys who already built and raced these heavy street bikes in the desert. The design concept was to emulate as much as we could from Biltwell’s “Frijole” they raced and completed in the Norra 1000. I reach out to my friend Jim Bandelin who is a badass fabricator. He said if I can think of it, draw it and he can make it. We took ideas from many other guys who also had already transformed a Sportster into a desert racer. Mikey Hill, Mark Atkins, Jake Pope, and Kole King were crucial in sharing information.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
- 2005 CRF450 front end with KKE supermoto brake set up
- @fasstcompany Flex Handlebars
- @scottsperformanceproducts Steering Stabilizer
- @motionpro Rev 2 Throttle kit, HD 09-12 XT1200X (Modifications needed)
- @lowbrowcustoms 2.9 King Sporty Tank
- @lowbrowcustoms Tsunami Fender
- @lowbrowcustoms gas cap
- Paint by Donnie Walker Jr @uncle_donnie
- Lettering by Bill Walker @ohz1
- @saddlemen @virusmoto_ Seat
- @racetechinc 17.5 Piggyback rear shocks
- @racetechinc front suspension with gold valve emulators & lowered 2 inches internally with @sealsavers dust covers
- Wheels by @dubyausa
- Stock CRF 450 front wheel laced to D.I.D Dirt Star/ST-X Strong MX Rim
- Stock Harley 40 spoke hub laced to Excel Rim
- @shinkotires with Heavy Duty Tubes
- Front – Fat Tyre 90/100-21M/C 57R
- Rear – 505 120/100-18 M/C 68M
- @stealthpipes HHP Exhaust – (Hoops High Pipe)
- Soon to be in production
- @usapartsco motor mount
- @bareknuckleperformance axle adjusters
- Custom Rear sets with CRF450 peg mount brackets
- Adventure pegs
- Custom Skid plate and clutch cable protector plate
- Custom Brembo rear brake caliper mounted to stock brake hanger
- @lyndallbrakes 54T Sprocket and gold brake rotor/pads
- @chainsikle shift linkage
• Does the bike have a nickname?
The bike has been called two names. “Bajarley” and “Good Fella.” Green for the money, gold for the honey.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Riding a Sportster in the desert is like riding a brick, no matter how much work we do to the suspension. The rear only has 4 inches of travel with a stock swingarm. That’s the fun part about riding this bike — it was not produced from the factory to do the things we put it through. If I was interested in a smooth predictable ride, I would race a dirt bike.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I am 100% proud of the end product. My goal was to make it look like a show bike and be a go bike.
The Biltwell 100 was my first solo race. I raced the Biltwell 100 in 2021 and wiped out within the first 5 miles. I grabbed a handful of front brake and ate shit. I didn’t know that front brake is not so nice on the dirt. That ended my day with a fucked-up hand/wrist and a mangled bike. I came back to the Biltwell 100 in 2022 and completed the 100 mile race and earned 3rd place.
As a team, Joey and I completed the Mint 400 both times we entered. I am proud that we finished the Mint 400 twice as a team. 2021 we finished in 5th place. 2022 we finished in 3rd place.
Riding in the desert is tough and even tougher on a Harley Sportser. It’s you against yourself and the machine, pure grit. You must have mechanical empathy for these Sportsters. You can be the best damn rider out there, but fukn, if you override your machine you won’t make it to the finish line.
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