Regatta Garage's Modern Sportster
WORDS Gregory George Moore IMAGES Jon Glover
In 1965, Life Magazine sent photographer Bill Ray and writer Joe Bride to live and ride with the Hell’s Angels. It was a roller coaster of a month with the most fearsome outlaws that the American blacktop had ever seen, and the photos they produced are a fantastic documentation of these mid-century gunslingers. Though Ray and Bride risked life and limb embedding themselves with the lawless outcasts, the story was never published. However, the photos have been floating in and out of the motorcycling community’s collective consciousness since surfacing and have cast their spell on Greg Hebard of Regatta Garage in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Inspired by Bill Ray's photos, Greg wanted to create a modern version of an early club-style motorcycle. Many of the bikes from that era depicted in movies like Easy Rider tend to be high-quality show bikes, and they don't represent what people were actually riding. Which is not to say that Hell's Angels bikes of the time weren't nice; Greg wanted a bike that could handle the day-in and day-out punishment of life on the road — the kind of bike fit for the transient outlaw life of the '60s.
After picking up a stock 1992 Sportster 1200 in 2009, Greg began to tinker, customizing parts here and there, never lending it too much attention. It was meant to be a daily runner, and there were other projects in the queue. With that lack of focus came a lack of satisfaction, and eventually the Sportster found its way onto the operating table. With the bike apart, Greg started to slowly piece it together with more intention. His goal: “To create a bike that nods to the past, without pretending to be an old bike.” That meant the patina would come from actually riding and that the fundamental functionality of the bike — braking, accelerating, and handling — would be improved rather than compromised.
To get that classic early Ironhead stance, the rear wheel was re-laced with an 18” H-D rim and fitted with Dunlop K70s. The rear fender struts were then tossed and a rear hoop was fabricated to simplify the rear end. Aiming for that '60s vibe, Greg modified a Wassell (a British motorcycle accessories manufacturer) repop tank, which he then fitted with Harley-Davidson badges that were reshaped to fit the Wassel tank’s profile. To run the stainless exhaust as tight and tucked as possible, the stock oil tank was reshaped slightly, helping to reinforce its svelte appearance.
The bike was then fitted with disc brakes bow and stern to get a little more stopping power. In an effort to get the best ride possible, Greg employed the expertise of Race Tech Suspension, who outfitted the Sporty with gold-valve cartridge emulators and G3-S rear shocks.
Greg de-tabbed the frame, triple trees, and anything else extraneous, then coated them and other parts in a textured flat black. The seat was upholstered by Ginger of New Church Moto, making the saddle look near-factory. Then came time to paint the crown jewel of any motorcycle: the gas tank. Originally, it was slated for a slick slather of the black-on-black treatment, but Greg changed his mind last minute, instead opting for a glossy metallic maroon. And a good last-minute decision it was, lending class to the overall aesthetic.
Once the bike was complete, it was time for the shakedown. In the spirit of the bike’s road-born rebel inspiration, Greg saddled up on his contemporary club cycle and rode south to the most appropriate destination he could imagine: the city of sin, Las Vegas, Nevada. We assume some good ol’ raucous hell was raised, but Vegas being Vegas, we’ll just have to speculate…
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Originally published in Issue 025 of Iron & Air Magazine