The owner, designer, and builder of this red hot café called Red Baron, Francisco Manen, could chalk up another person who incorrectly assumed that all café Harleys are Sportsters. Looking at photos and not the actual LDK bike does not immediately give you the size disparity between the similar, yet totally different models. Paying a little more attention on the second peek, the spirit of the late Tony Randall pointed out my flawed assumption and I’m still hanging my head a wee bit low for jumping to conclusions in the blink of an eye. Never again. Well maybe never ever, but I will try and pay more attention.
All righty then, what we have here is a 2001 Harley Dyna Low Rider donor bike that Francisco ran through his own extra-large version of the infamous As-Seen-On-TV Slap Chop. Just like that little contraption that made infamous infomercial pitchman Vince “ShamWow” Offer way more famous than me, all the good Dyna ingredients are still there, but sliced and diced along with some added seasoning until it won the café racer class at the 2013 Daytona Bike Week Rat’s Hole Show.
Motors make a café racer and having a hulking Harley-Davidson 88” Twin Cam V-twin onboard is adequate firepower for a point and shoot special. Francisco did a bit of useful hop-up work along with a lot of cosmetic changes until he had exactly the look and feel he was after. Most of the power adders involved breathing and exhaling improvements like the substitution of the stock H-D 44mm mixer of fuel with an S&S 58mm throttle body getting its air via an S&S Tuned Induction twin filter setup. With more spent fuel mixture to discharge, Francisco swapped out the bulky DOT/EPA stock exhaust for Vance & Hines’ ShortShots Staggered exhaust in an attractively-butch black ceramic finish. While both of these items could be classified as show-and-go items, the uber-attractive Roland Sands Design RSD Clarity covers are striking stop-and-show pieces.
New and improved rolling stock comes courtesy of DNA with 19” front and 18” rear spoked wheels wearing sticky Metzeler rubber. AS far as braking goes, DNA rotors front-and-rear combine with stock H-D calipers to scrub off speed. Improved handling is part and parcel of any true café build and Red Baron is no different. The stock forks have been dropped three-inches to quicken steering along with better quality and longer rear shocks to load up the front wheel even more. But that’s not all the improvements as Francisco fabbed the discreet, yet beefy fork brace to keep things together up front when the going gets fun since you really don’t want your fork tubes to be working independently of each other.
Body work is simple and smart, but an extremely effective example of adaptation and total fabrication. The bikini fairing is a modified Harley piece and so is the Sportster XL1200C (Custom) fuel tank that looks like it’s been comfortably (and attractively) sitting on that frame since day one. Obviously it was never that easy and Francisco did a bunch of serious fitting until it fit like a proverbial glove. The seat/tail section is a total one-off made from a flat sheet of metal and tweaked until it ended it looking perfect. I gotta add that I’m glad Francisco didn’t take the now-accepted easy way out and just slap a stupid, uncomfortably-thin foam pad for a make-believe seat and call it a day. There’s actually a good bit of padding that not only looks great, but is much kinder than the bad excuses for seats being passed off today. Maybe I’m just weird or something, but my butt has always enjoyed being comfortable regardless of age and it loves to spend time on the seat without the extreme pain the stupid tough guy seats of today provide in limitless amounts. Good for you Francisco, you must actually spend time riding bikes and not just yapping and looking at ‘em.
All of the all-important paint, powedercoat, and graphics finish work for this bike was done in-house by Francisco and it’s as clean a design as you could ever some up with. I wouldn’t be surprised if this paint scheme showed up on a new Harley it’s so professionally attractive. All in all, that’s the whole design feel of this bike. If I was told this was a new Motor Company model, I’d be busy rustling up a down payment and making sure my FICO score was ready to be hit. Red Baron is a lean, clean, and mean café machine that I’d love to share with my inner hooligan child in a totally irresponsible way.
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