I’ll confess that I had a tough time determining how to dress the gas tank with graphics. Without graphics the tank looked like raw metal in need of paint. Phill Whetstone of Miracle Design helped me here. We toyed with several ideas, finally settling on graphics similar to what Rock & Roll applied, keeping them within side panels that mimicked those on British caf racer tanks of the ’60s. Phill created the XLRCR logo inside the panel-my only stipulation was that it not be overly custom in appearance because I wanted the bike to represent a production model.
But to help set XLRCR from mainstream Sportsters, I asked my friend and fabricator Tommy Leonardo Jr. to modify the side covers. The faux vents, made from stainless steel that he polished, give the bike a distinct appearance; another small yet interesting feature to gaze at.
I also dressed the engine with a few chrome fasteners that are part of Harley’s vast P&A inventory. This treatment highlights the wrinkle black engine cases, yet the elegant touch is interrupted by the masculine Vance & Hines Pro Series collector exhaust system. The pipe’s brushed stainless steel finish lends to the bad boy image of a caf racer, and you just can’t beat the sound that emanates from its triangulated muffler section.
Other subtle styling cues include H-D mirrors with integrated turn signals to reduce clutter up front, and the Nightster rear fender and license plate assembly to help emphasize the bike’s caf racer lines. Caf racer purists might scoff that there are no rear-set foot controls or Thruxton-style handlebars. Not my worry because this is a caf racer intended for the masses. And besides, 45 years of riding every kind of bike imaginable, including 13 years road racing Yamaha two-strokes, has taken its toll on my bones! I want a more sit-up riding position, thank you very much.
Speaking of riding, setting my butt on the custom-made Saddlemen seat and settling in behind the quarter fairing is a blast. Sure, that 883 engine begs for more beans, but I can’t help but grin every time I point XLRCR to the apex of a turn. The original XL883R on which this bike is based has decent, yet slow, initial turn-in for corners, but once I aim for the apex XLRCR feels right at home. The Patriot Suspension fork springs and Works Performance shocks soak up the bumps in the road so that the Avon Venom tires maintain maximum grip. Arcing that little bike through the turn becomes a real treat. It’s at that moment that I realize XLRCR is a success because not only does it reflect the spirit of the original XLCR’s styling, it boasts the snappy handling that you expect from a bike that carries the name Caf Racer. Okay, how far to the next caf? HB