This Helmet Hair feature motorcycle is something out of the ordinary, alone Jeffs story about the bike is nothing less than amazing. Not going to reveal the point to you now, because I want you to have the same experience I had when reading Jeffs tale. So I’ll just cut to the chase and let Jeff from San Diego, CA. tell you about his 1973 Harley Davidson XLCH 900.
“The idea for this bike actually begins with Tupac –yeah that Tupac. Tupac Amaru Shakur, the rapper and actor. A couple of years ago I was thinking about how even after ten years since Tupac was taken from us, that he is still well known and loved by millions –kind of like Elvis. And since I like Tupac’s music and acting, I thought that I’d build a tribute to him and then sell it to raise some money for his foundation, which was founded by his mom and is basically about helping young kids get into positive and creative activities. Sitting down to figure how I’d do this, the first thing I thought about was what I wouldn’t do. I knew that I did not want to build some heavy and ponderous swing-arm custom loaded down with excess weight. I thought that this bike should be of the era in which Tupac was born and raised –the 70s. I also wanted to build something that would be lean, fast, and dangerous. Kind of a reflection of his life. That got me to thinking about an Ironhead and the rest is history.
I found a 1973 XLCH 900 in northern California and bought it based on the photos. Once it got shipped to me I knew I had a long road ahead. First off, it was barely running. The Mikuni’s choke lever seemed to do nothing. I had to choke the carburetor by placing my knee over the intake just so I could start it! I’d later find out that the previous owner was running it like this because the pilot air screw and idle screws were both seated and the jet was set too high. Basically this meant that even running an open carb with no filter, that the engine was starved for air all the time. I was fouling plugs inside of ten seconds unless I sped up to about 50mph whereupon the open throttle would almost even things out. Also, the girder front end was (no surprise) too long for the frame, which made the bike look like it was perpetually going up a hill. I could go on about rebuilding the clutch (the cable broke while I was riding it), rebuilding the rear brake, installing a new gen./digital regulator, realigning the cams, replace/rewire all electronics, raking the front end with a saws-all, fabricating brackets, boxes, removing the swing arm, cutting a fender, massaging the frame and replacing it with a rigid bolt-on, etc., but you get the idea. Total tear down and rebuild. That took about sixty days.
Once I had it mechanically perfect, I began to think about how it should look. The chrome was destroyed from two years of outside storage. So that would have to go. But the main thing was, I knew that I was not going to plaster a bunch of cartoon gangster junk all over it and turn it into some lame “theme bike” First, because I don’t build toys; and second, because I wanted my small tribute to the man to be a positive one. So, no gun-grip handlebars, no bullet risers, no magnum bolt covers, no painted on bullet holes, etc. In fact, no violent imagery at all. Instead I created a roses and thorns design to represent the beauty, death and rebirth of life. Yeah I know, kinda’ Zen and all that. But like I said, I wanted it to be positive. This took about thirty more days to finish. Mainly because all those little intertwined thorns, rosebuds, and so on, take a long time to paint by hand. By the way, the gas tank reads “Thug Life” in the same lettering style as Tupac’s tattoo. Also the rear fender reads “Only God Can Judge Me” –another reference and one that also speaks for how a lot of us bikers view society.
In the end it looks like what I imagined, and I think I’ve achieved what I wanted. Older riders dig the details, like the raked out girder front end, no front brake, no blinkers, completely hidden electronics, and 70’s paint style. While younger generation of riders digs the aggressive stance and the unusual raw beauty of it (compared to today’s modern somewhat overdressed choppers). They also eventually do a double-take when they notice the specific details and realize where the inspiration came from. All in all it’s a scary blast to ride and I reckon that’s something.” Jeff. There you have it, a Tupac tribute Ironhead and it’s a 1973, which we all know is a magic number. To put it like one of the dudes from Jockey Journal “That motorcycle doesn’t suck at all”. Nice job, Jeff. Hope you complete your mission for the bike.