Impala-blue XLH883 Sportster from RULER…
Since its release in 1957, the Harley-Davidson Sportster has proved itself as the most adaptable motorcycle in the Motor Company’s bloodline — and perhaps the most versatile American motorcycle of all time.
Sportsters have raced the Baja 1000, diced with Ducatis in the Battle of the Twins, won countless custom shows as bobbers and choppers and café racers, starred in TV shows like Then Came Bronson, and the Sportster lent itself to the creation of the legendary XR750 — the most successful flat-tracker in history. To this day, our friends like Mark Atkins of Rusty Butcher are racing Sportsters in the “Hooligan” classes of various off-road series.
Unfortunately, Google reports that questions like Is the Sportster a real Harley? and Is a Sportster a girl bike? continue to be popular search queries. Anyone with even an inkling of motorcycling history would never ask such a question, and sometimes the only reply is that old biker’s standard: If I have to explain, then you wouldn’t understand.
One place where the Sportster is properly revered is Japan, and one of our favorite Japanese builders is RULER, a department of HBC Motorcycle Company led by Takeshi Mizuta. Takeshi is an avid rider who lives on two wheels…and tries to infuse this joy of riding into his machines:
“I commute 120km round trip every day, over 33,000km a year, and approximately 900 hours a year (I will continue to do so in the future)… I produce and sell custom bikes that incorporate the ‘fun and joy of riding’ that I feel every day.”
In 2021, we featured RULER’s “Knocky” 883 Sportster, and we’re excited to showcase Takeshi’s newly completed build, a ’97 883 dubbed the “Strollster.” As always, Takeshi put the rider’s style and intended use of the machine at the forefront. In this case, the customer already owned a Harley Big Twin, which he uses for longer trips. In contrast, he wanted a lighter, more minimalist machine to ride locally and check on his tea farm.
“He wants to ride this ‘sport-ster’ to ‘stroll’ around town, longest maybe three hours or less, he said. So I gave this XLH the name ‘Strollster.'”
From the beginning, the owner knew he wanted the bike to be a 1960s Chevy Impala light blue, and Takeshi let this idea of lightness pervade the entire build. He chose a solid-mounted donor not just for its actual lightness (the post-2003 rubber-mounted Sporties are more than 50 pounds heavier), but for the lighter sensation of these earlier Sportsters.
“I especially like that the solidmount not only IS lighter than the rubbermount, it FEELS lighter. It has a more ‘athletic’ feel than the smooth, lazy rubbermounts.” -Vic Rattlehead, ADV Rider
The bike is done up in a light scrambler style, good for the dirt roads around the owner’s tea farm, and there’s plenty of 60s charm. Highlights include a larger 18-inch rear wheel, custom aluminum fenders and struts (again, with lightness as a goal), a RULER-made handlebar with Flanders-style clamps and two-button switches, slightly lowered suspension (1″) to account for the owner’s stature, coil and ignition relocation, Supertrapp exhaust, and much more.
All in all, it’s the perfect bike for its owner and intended usage, and Takeshi is most proud of the balance, proportion, and coloring of the machine:
“Ruler always thinks about the coloring and material of the parts on the bike, so this machine represents our pickiness in this regard. (The logo on tank, for instance: the lettering’s edge color is the same as the aged seat color, while the silver letter color is the same as the aluminum cylinder, etc.)”
Below, we talk to Takeshi for more details on this 883 “Strollster.”
Harley XLH883 Custom: Builder Interview
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
Harley-Davidson XLH883 (1997).
• Why was this bike built?
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Design concept: Free-feeling, easygoing, casual.
Influenced: 1960’s IMPALA light blue.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
- Short rear fender made from a universal cycle fender
- Rear fender strut, polished aluminum
- Saddle seat mounting
- License place angle adjustment (about 5 degrees down)
- Ignition coil side-mount relocation plate, with switches
- Short front aluminum fender
- Ruler and XLH logo on side, same color as body
- 18 inch 2.15rim for rear (front is stock 19-inch)
- Scrambler handlebar (Ruler)
- Flanders-style handle clamp
- Old style small brake master cylinder
- Two-button switch for turn signals (Highsider)
- Proton small LED turn signal, mounted to fork upper and rear axle (Highsider)
- 48mm digital speedometer
- Single throttle cable
- Lucas-type side-mount 5 3/4″ headlamp
- Side-mount light holder (Gasbox)
- Stem mount mirror holder (Motorrock)
- 2.25 small Sportster fuel tank
- Polished round stainless air cleaner (Motorrock)
- Supertrapp 2-into-1 exhaust open end
- Ikon suspension about 1-inch lower than stock
- 1-inch lower front fork
- Mini crocker tail lamp
- Aged saddle seat and pillion seat
• Does the bike have a nickname?
The owner has another HD Big Twin. If going far or touring with mates, he uses that, he says. He wants to ride this “sport-ster” to “stroll” around his town, longest maybe three hours or less, he said. So I gave this XLH the name “Strollster.”
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
It’s Harley-Davidson Sportster, but the point is “LIGHT.” Even a stock rigid-mount XLH series is lighter than the rubber-mounted Sportster series.
As much as we can, we modified or built parts with simplicity and lightness as the goal (that’s why we used some aluminum parts for the front fender and strut, etc.).
Owner’s purpose of riding this Sportster is, as I said, to stroll around town. The owner has a tea farm as his business; he says can go check the tea fields with this machine — it’s like riding scooter! No need for a leather jacket or special riding gear — just grab his helmet, gloves, and ride with t-shirts and jeans!
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
Balance of each part’s size, and the coloring of all the parts.
The owner isn’t tall, which is why we went with a low-down build even though it’s a scrambler style. Narrowed handlebars, seat position, etc. — all to suit him.
The light blue was the biggest point of this bike. The owner requested that color from the beginning. So we chose each part’s color — not too shiny with only chrome or polished parts, not too dark with black-out paint.
Ruler always thinks about the coloring and material of the parts on the bike, so this machine represents our pickiness in this regard. (The logo on tank, the lettering’s edge color is the same as the aged seat color, while the silver letter color is the same as the aluminum cylinder, etc.)