Every bike we feature has a story behind its purchase, but it’s the first time I’ve heard a lack of parking as the cause. “I’m in sales and two of the towns I go to, I can never find a parking spot. I told Charlie I wanted to get a moped or a scooter, but I couldn’t touch the ground on a Vespa,” said Kelly. “He laughed and said, ‘Go for a motorcycle’ and I fit a Sportster just fine.” Charlie picked up a 2009 XL883 Iron as much for himself as his lovely wife. “I made a mistake buying the Iron as she wasn’t overly pleased with it. I have a 2008 Softail Deluxe and she liked that nostalgic look so I asked her what kind of mods she wanted and we came up with the idea of an old Sportster, a retro-looking bike.” And so it began.
“I didn’t know what we were going to be able to find for this model and I knew there was going to be a lot of modifying needed to capture the old look. I got a good amount of parts from the V-Twin catalogue,” said Charlie. Luckily there was a 4.5 gallon retro-style tank exactly like they wanted and set up for fuel injection which saved a good amount of work. The reproduction ’57-style front fender went on as is, but did require Charlie to make up axle spacers for the struts to clear the caliper and the right-side fork pinch bolts necessitated Charlie to turn back the struts on the bottom ending in the rear to work around those pieces. “It does have a little bit of an arch in the center, but I don’t think it looks hideous and Kelly was okay with it,” he said. The ’57 Sporty had a rear tire which looks like a bicycle tire in comparison to the ’09 Iron and the repro ’57 fender was sized to match the original. After splitting it down the middle and widening it appropriately, Charlie had a bolt-on unit that fit the bike and the style they were looking for.
Filling those retro fenders are a set of Landmark Fat 40 spoked wheels replacing the Iron’s stock mags. “We were trying to pinch pennies and looked at different options. There was a Landmark wheel we saw at a dealer that we both liked. Kelly made the decision to go with the white powdercoated rims with the whitewalls,” said Charlie. “We got the Fat 40 round spokes instead of something crazier like twisted spokes or 80 spokes as that would have been too much.” The end result with Avon Venom whitewalls looks just peachy to me.
Another nice touch was the discontinued H-D chrome nacelle that Charlie picked up from a dealership that was cleaning out old inventory saving him from his initial plan to extensively modify an original ’57 unit. He replaced the rear shocks with a set of Progressive 812 Vintage chromed-covered shock and said, “According to Progressive, they’re made for a Dyna and don’t fit the Sportster, but I just put a couple of spacers in that came with the kit and they fit fine.” And look fine too I might add. The handlebars were takeoffs from Charlie’s Deluxe and make the reach from the V-Twin sprung seat perfect for Kelly. The crash bars disappear in black and look era-correct. “Since Kelly was a new rider, I thought it would be a good idea to have them and they blend in with the bike,” said Charlie.
Paint is a make-or-break proposition and Kelly hit it on the head with her choice of H-D Blue Suede and Vivid Black that Dusty Pine of Dawg’s Chop Shop in Terra Haute, Indiana, expertly applied. Reproduction ’57 tank badges were a no-brainer as Charlie said, “I can’t recall any tank decals or script that I liked.”
The 883 was enlarged to 1200cc with Screamin’ Eagle heads and a set of Roadhouse two-into-one pipes with serrated heat shields look the biz. “I wanted the 1200 motor just in case she didn’t get to ride it a lot,” said Charlie with a laugh. Well the laugh’s on him as Kelly rides the bejeezus out of it and plans to for years to come.
Up close: Motogadget MST Speedster
Getting little details on a custom like having a speedometer to satisfy your local DMV or possibly keep you from having a roadside chat with The Man is not often high on a builder’s to-do list. There are lots of informative digital units out there, but sometimes their look is not what you’re going for. Charlie O’Dell stumbled on a pretty nice little unit that has a traditional sweeping dial backed by a digital readout for other very useful info if you actually plan to use your motorcycle as a motorcycle. The Motogadget MST Speedster he used is a tiny, quite-good-looking instrument with a face in a classy streamlined design and a pointer in brushed stainless steel. It measures the speed digitally and indicates it precisely with a stepper motor and a pointer. With a diameter of 49 mm (under 2”) and a depth of only 24 mm (under 1”) the Speedster provides new possibilities for seamless custom integration. I’ve seen fancy lad watches on Mark Barnett’s wrist that appear to be about the same size, maybe even bigger.
The billet aluminum housing is totally waterproof and vibration resistant. Besides the analog function where a speed higher than 125mph ends up displayed numerically in the LED readout, the Speedster also features an odometer, trip odometer, maximum speed, volt meter, and a clock all bathed in white LED lighting for night use. It also includes four LED indicator lights you can use for neutral, high beam, turn signals, or whatever. Oh, it can also read either in MPH or KPH depending on your preferences and handy if you’re living in or moving where the metric system rules.
More info at www.motogadgetshop.com.
Builder: Charlie O'Dell
Professional custom building may be on the skids at the moment, but it sure hasn’t stopped regular people from building innovative and useful bikes in garages, car ports, sheds, cellars, kitchens, living rooms, and even bedrooms all across America. I’m not exactly sure where Charlie and Kelly O’Dell have their whimsical “Dad’s Full Throttle Garage,” but from the responses I’ve gotten from a lot of individual home builders, it wouldn’t surprise me if they said, ”Our attic.” All I know is that Charlie is addicted to the XL Forum (www.xlforum.com) for info, entertainment, and Sportster camaraderie. “To me the XL Forum has become kind of an extended family with people I barely know. They’re all out to help each other and share experience and knowledge,” said Charlie. “The last time I looked, there were over 34,000 members from around the world. I really enjoy the time I spend on there.”
The only bad part about working out of your house is that the garage never closes and when Charlie isn’t physically working on their bikes, he’s thinking (some might call it scheming) about what he wants to do. For instance, Charlie said, “I just picked up a set of Rinehart Eagle Beak slip-ons that may go on my Softail Deluxe. My wife is going to kill me, but I’m looking for a Heritage Springer that these pipes are made for. I’ve got the pipes, now I only need the bike.” I hope that wasn’t supposed to be confidential info Charlie, if so, I apologize in advance.
Regarding his work on Kelly’s Sporty, Charlie said, “I’m probably my worst critic. I can point out things that I’m not happy with, but I won’t get into it right now. It seems like everybody likes it. If they don’t, they haven’t voiced it which is nice of them. It’s not for everybody.”