Italy’s Rock Hard Custom builds a street-tracking Sporty…
In 1996, Harley-Davidson introduced a new member to the long-running Sportster lineup, the XL1200S Sport. The Sportster Sport had the same stump-pulling Evo V-twin as the regular XL1200, but in a rare departure for the Motor Company, the 1200S also boasted an array of upgrades aimed at sport-minded riders: fully-adjustable Showa suspension, 13-spoke cast aluminum wheels with Dunlop Sport Elite tires, tracker-style handlebars, and dual front floating-disc brakes.
The folks at Motorcycle.com were well impressed with the Sportster Sport, calling it a delight when the going got twisty:
“If a Harley is what you want, and carving canyons is what you crave, then this Sporty is the bike for you.” –Motorcycle.com
Enter our new friend Fabio Milanese of Verona’s Rock Hard Custom, a 29-year-old builder who spent six years burning the candle at both ends, working in his father’s auto garage by day and on motorcycles by night before he opened his own shop in 2018.
The bike you see here is a ’98 Sportster 1200S that Fabio built for himself with clear inspiration from H-D flat trackers, especially the legendary XR750 — the winningest racing motorcycle of all time. Fabio felt that a lot of the Sportster street trackers he was seeing looked a bit “coarse” in terms of their design and bodywork — and we’d tend to agree. On plenty of such builds, the tank and rear fender don’t seem to flow very well, and the whole bike can look clunky and out of balance.
So Fabio designed and laid down his own fiberglass bodywork, with clear cues to the XR750. The bike is now rolling on twin 19-inch wheels with Borrani rims and Mitas H-18 flat track rubber, and he also upgraded the rear shocks (Öhlins) and ignition (Dyna 2000). Other upgrades include performance cam, Mikuni carburetor, Supertrapp 2-into-2 exhaust, and XR1000 replica heads.
Fabio says his Sportster street tracker is very powerful, responsive, and confidence-inspiring on the road, and he’s particularly happy with how the bodywork turned out:
“I’m very proud of the design of the body and how the tail is connected to the gas tank.”
Below, we talk to Fabio for the full story on the build. Be sure to follow him at @rock_hard_custom for more!
Sportster 1200 Street Tracker: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’m Fabio Milanese and I live in Verona (Italy). I’m 29 years old and I opened my garage in 2018.
I worked for six years in my dad’s car garage and after work I spent the evenings / nights working with motorcycles. The first bike that I made was for my friend Matteo in 2013, and everything started from there.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
The bike is a 1998 Sportster 1200s fully restored.
• Why was this bike built?
I made this bike as a personal project.
• Why was this bike built? (Customer project, company promotion, personal, etc.)
The bike is very simple but i wanted to build a flat track bike with a cool body…because in my opinion, often those bikes are very raw and the design is a bit coarse. I’ve been influenced by the XR750 from 1970.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
The custom work done on this bike include the full fiberglass body, custom frame to adapt the body, wiring harness, 19” wheels with Borrani rims, performance cams, Mikuni 42 carb, Dyna 2000 ignition with small hi-output coils, Öhlins rear suspension, Supertrapp 2in2 and EMD XR1000 replica heads.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride?
The bike is very powerful and responsive, and thanks to the rear and front suspensions, it’s very precise and gives you confidence while riding.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I’m very proud of the design of the body and how the tail is connected to the gas tank.