Editor’s Note: There are several custom motorcycle builders in the industry whose style is so distinct you could walk up to a row of motorcycles and immediately spot one of their bikes. Whether it’s one of Dave Perewitz’s signature flamed paintjobs, the wild metal melting of Ron Finch, or the smooth raked and stretched lines of Eddie Trotta, certain builders have developed a signature that can be applied to any style of bike. Russell Mitchell is absolutely one of those builders. Choppers, bobbers, trikes, it doesn’t matter. Russell can apply his blacked-out, chunky tire, minimalist Exile Cycles’ theme to any bike project and the result will be a badass and highly recognizable bike.
“This build gave us an opportunity to showcase some of our newer bolt-on parts for late-model Softails.”
Whereas the majority of his builds used to be complete ground-up customs, as of late Russell has been showcasing his shop’s signature style and, more importantly, line of bolt-on parts on stock Harleys. Exile’s HotRod, a beefy, clean, and simple bobber has been a hit since Russell introduced it as his entry in Discovery’s World Biker Build-Off, in 2004. While that bike was based on a custom rigid frame, as Russell explains, he was able to apply the HotRod look to a stock Cross Bones.
Our friend, Ron, from Clearwater Harley in Johannesburg, South Africa, is a good customer of ours and this is his third Exile purchase. Ron came to us with the idea and was hell-bent on converting a Harley-Davidson Cross Bones to look like one of our classic HotRod bobbers. We shopped around and found him a 2009 Cross Bones in great shape with hardly any miles.
We immediately got the bike up on a lift and started the transformation. Shortening the Springer frontend to get the required stance was one of our biggest challenges. We also had to make extensive mods to the front brake bracket to allow the 200mm tire to squeeze into the allotted space. Out back we used a Heartland wide swingarm, and by utilizing a chain final drive we were able to fit the 15x7-inch rear wheel with 230mm tire without having to offset the primary. We then welded and molded the rear fender to the swingarm to achieve the low-profile, tight-fit look.
The leaf-sprung solo seat is comprised of a LePera seat pan wrapped in custom leatherwork by Paul Cox. A cover below the seat hides the mini battery and electrical.
The leaf-sprung solo seat is comprised of a LePera seat pan wrapped in custom leatherwork
This build gave us an opportunity to showcase some of our newer bolt-on parts for late-model Softails. Our Chopper gas tank houses one of PM’s Gas-It fuel pumps and allowed us to retain the stock EFI system. A tiny but powerful battery from Anti-Gravity was used to create additional space, so that all the electrics could be hidden under the cover beneath the beautifully laced Paul Cox leather seat. This allowed the leaf-spring seat mechanism to look really clean. We complemented the seat area by installing one of our round, old-school oil tanks. The stock footboards were retained, but we shimmed them out ½ inch to clear the beefy pipes. As for the pipes we used a set of our Monster Shotgun pipes but modified them by adding upswept trumpet tips. The stock kickstand was removed, the bracket was reshaped as if it was never there, and our clamp-on kickstand now does the duty of keeping the bike properly propped up. To get the clean look we are known for, we finished off the bike with a hydraulic clutch with the line running inside the handlebars. And a Grip Ace Hidden Switch System is housed in the left grip resulting in a set of completely uncluttered apes.
If one of our customers was looking to completely duplicate this build at home, the parts list would run around $20,000. If a person were to drop a bike off at our shop, we could complete the transformation for about $30,000. However, for $40,000 we could supply the “donor” bike and deliver a turnkey beast just like this. HB