Melanie Inglessis has owned steeds ranging from a 1954 BSA to a GSX 1100 Suzuki chopper to an H-D hardtail, with a sweet Honda 550/4 cafe racer in the mix for good measure. She started when she was 19 and hasn’t looked back since.
Melanie’s homestead list is almost as impressive as her bike-owning record. She’s called London, Paris, and New York all home but her latest dwelling is in Los Angeles, where she met Brandon Holstein who operates Brawny Built in Long Beach. It’s a shop he started unofficially out of his garage in 2005. Business grew and now Brawny Built occupies a small shop space in Signal Hill.
The two friends met through mutual buddies while Brawny was in its raw, garage-band phase. At the time she was looking to buy a bike or have one built. They started talking about big bikes and Sportsters, cafe racers, streetfighters, ideas, and so on.
Melanie, who’s never owned a stock bike in her life, summed it up like this: “Obviously the look of the bike is important, but after many, many years of riding, I wanted to go back to having a tight, fast, light, reliable bike. I always had a soft spot for the classics and had owned a cafe before but this time I wanted a SoCal feel to it too. The California roads are notorious for being really bad and I wanted a bike that I would enjoy riding regardless of the road conditions. Now that I’m living in Southern California where the brighter, most chromed and colorful bikes are seen everywhere, I really wanted to make a statement. I wanted to ride the anti-theme bike, the anti-Orange County bike.” Brandon says, “I could tell she was a woman who knew what she wanted—a pissed-off, eff-you street bike.” Of all the bikes she’s owned, he continued, she favored her cafe’d-out Honda over the others. For three years prior, he’d simmered the concept of putting the “sport” back into Sportster in his noggin. This was the perfect opportunity to make them real. Brandon ran his ideas passed Melanie. That’s when this mono-shock Sporty project started.
“This bike was built to ride the streets of Long Beach, and L.A.,” Brandon told us. “It’s not a touring bike or a cruiser or a ...
Ideas pinballed back and forth between the two friends throughout the project’s genesis. In the custom bike world, “sport” is often a politically-correct term for “angry” just like the scoot you’re looking at now. Sport also means aggressive handling, too. The Buell frontend, wheels, and brakes that Brandon adapted to the Sportster chassis were great upgrades in both senses of the word. “This bike was built to ride the streets of Long Beach, and L.A.,” Brandon told us. “It’s not a touring bike or a cruiser or a race bike. It’s a street bike!”
Syncing the mono-shock to the frame and arm was the real challenge here. The mono-shock was a bit of a prima donna about working with a Sportster—all of its co-workers changed to work with it. Brandon went through two swingarms and two tail sections before getting to the final setup to work just right. The frame, sub frame, and swingarm all needed adaptation to work with the shock. Brandon lengthened, widened, and reinforced the arm. Moreover, he relocated the new, smaller battery into an aluminum box under the swingarm. Having cut into the sub frame already, Brandon Holstein took the opportunity to change over to a lighter aluminum oil tank that he placed on the rear of the new sub frame, just behind the seat. As if that wasn’t funky enough, he even frenched the taillight into the oil tank to boot.
With as much one-off crafting as Brandon brought to this project, he did a wonderful job of choosing what to make and what to toss out. The clip-on style bars, drilled and cut cam cover cut, and handmade stepped exhaust are among the parts he made specifically for the bike, giving it a more aggressive style and feel.
Between the new aluminum parts and tossing out the stock fenders, Melanie’s Sportster shed a fair amount of weight to free up some ponies. Brandon didn’t stop there, however. You can’t very well call your shop Brawny Built without adding some muscle to the motor, now can you? In this bike’s case, the mill started off with the 1200cc upgrade that’s industry standard to any Sportster hop-up, but he also changed over to Screamin’ Eagle cams, a Mikuni 42mm throttle body, Arlen Ness Big Sucker, and the aforementioned in-house exhaust to optimize breathing.
This bike was a successful exercise in skill and craftsmanship showcasing Brandon’s many skills and being one hell of a two-wheeled mono-shocked business card for Brawny Built. We can’t wait to see what he has brewing up next. HB