Forty-Eight to Phat – The Sportster Bagger

Most riders will tweak their bikes here and there, but this determined man took his to a whole other level.

Forty-Eight To Phat

Because friends asked me to help judge the local show ‘n’ shine I saw it as my duty to inform one particular gentleman and his lovely lady who were now vigorously scrubbing their Glide that they needed to move the bike out of the Sportster-Class section and into the spaces reserved for the Bagger class. That’s part of being a judge: making tough calls and delivering hard news.

Except, at closer quarters, there truly was a Sportster underneath the clean bodywork and custom Hot Citrus paint. Okay, I’ve seen faux Sportster baggers before but this was not that.

Here was a very special custom, a properly faired and hard-bagged touring Sportster that you could be excused for mistaking as a Street Glide of indeterminate generation. 

The custom he calls “Sportglide” is the work of Ron Vincent, a Victoria, BC man who does not know how to take “won’t work” for an answer. Ron doggedly chased a motorcycle into a direction that is now 180-degrees from its original factory assignment—the OEM 2015 Harley-Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight that lurks underneath was never meant to look or be how Ron has repurposed it, and the question practically begs itself: “Why Ron why?” Even his brother Greg, who helped with the final assembly, put it out there—“Why don’t you put it back to stock and just buy a Road Glide?”

Ron’s answer is hard to argue with: “That would take all the fun out of it.” The notion of “fun” is a personal thing, right? One man’s fun is another man’s severe pain in the butt. But Ron was inspired by a friend who observed that, “Sportsters are great little bikes; you can do anything with them.”

The comment may have been a casual one—there’s no way of knowing for sure—but for Ron it was an epiphany.

Though savvy parts men such as Mark Kerrison and Duncan Rourke—who was then with Barnes Harley-Davidson—tried to talk him down, some guys aren’t easy to scare off. And ultimately it was people like Duncan and Mark that Ron turned to for advice.

What happened is this. Ron Vincent, a rider with some 24 years of experience on mainly sportbikes, decided he had to take a break from motorcycles after an especially bad spill. With kids to look after, he was forced to look in the mirror and admit, “My riding style is not conducive to being a parent.”

That took guts … and class.

The rehab and recovery stage lasted a while, but time usually manages to have its way. One day a friend with an old Shovelhead came along and asked if Ron would maybe like to take the bike for a rip. That was it. Done deal. Maybe it wasn’t the very next day, but shortly after that re-introductory ride Ron marched over to the local H-D dealer and brought home a spanking new Sportster Forty-Eight—which, when you think about it, is about as far removed from the Touring/Bagger scene as it is possible to get. The Forty-Eight was basically invented for coffee bar runs. Period.

But Ron says he loved the Forty-Eight just as it came from the factory and maybe would have never changed a thing if he hadn’t gone on that first deal-breaking long ride from Victoria up-island to Campbell River. The Sportster’s classic peanut tank and full-on exposure to the elements highlighted the bike’s shortcomings.

“It’s not fun stopping for fuel all the time,” says Ron, “And there’s no wind protection.”

Thinking back to his friend’s comment about the flexibility of the platform, Ron made the first of many changes to come with the purchase of a Harley Sundowner seat and a used windshield, which he says “made the bike more enjoyable but ugly.” 

In the process though he found—as so many Harley owners do—that the customizing bug had bitten him.

“Once you start bolting things on you don’t want to stop,” says Ron, who then spent the next year cutting and fabricating mounting hardware, and fitting pieces such as the larger capacity Demon Cycle gas tank. It needs to be said here that he brought in no new parts, opting instead for found items such as the eBay hardshell bags, the 1984 FLH rear fender, the ’09 Street Glide front fender and the definitive Harley-Davidson batwing fairing. 

“The big challenge was making brackets,” says Ron. “The balance had to be perfect. Unique was kind of my goal.” 

The fairing mounts alone took a solid month of work with spacer tolerances in the thousandths of an inch. And that was before he ever moved over to the other end of the bike to fab bag brackets that would clear the exhaust, which had been rerouted for a look that was radically different from stock.

“I figured that to complete the look, it must have dual pipes,” says Ron, who turned to friends at a Midas Muffler shop for the ensuing expansion, bending, and extending of pipes. 

While the Sportster’s 1200cc Evo engine was left stock, except for the fitment of a Screamin’ Eagle Stage I kit, many weeks were spent getting the colour to match the OEM Hot Citrus paint. For this he turned to the talents of painters at Victoria Hydrographics who applied paint in four laborious stages of urethane, primer, mid-colour, and clear before they were satisfied.

With a base coat of gold, and a mid-colour of red, it was not until the third coat of colour had been sprayed on that the final hue popped out—this was a classic case of the Voodoo Science practiced by only the most gifted paint and body artists. 

And when both painter and client were ready to sign off on the project, a friend presented a final touch to Ron: the Sportglide scroll that adorns the tank. You might say that the unspoken message in the friend’s offering was, “Well, we couldn’t talk you out of this crazy idea of yours Ron, so we might as well help you celebrate it in style.”

By John Campbell, Canadian Biker #334

CUSTOM FEBRUARY #1: SOUL ASYLUM

CUSTOM FEBRUARY #2: MELLO YELLO GUZZI

CUSTOM FEBRUARY #3: HOT CHOCOLATE

CUSTOM FEBRUARY #4: GOLD RUSH GLIDE

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