Back To Basics | 1990 Harley Davidson Softail Custom

Low Budget and Good Looks

Rocky says the seat pan might look uncomfortable, but after logging many out-of-state trips, it’s actually a good fit.

Rocky made a custom bracket and had brass sportbike pegs cut down so he could have some mid pegs for long rides.

Grab a little too low on the jockey shifter and it’s slice ’n’ dice time.

You know how as people get older they say, "Things get better with age."? Well it holds true for custom motorcycles as well. Rocky Santos purchased this ’90 Softail slightly used back in 1991 after he got out of the Marine Corps. After 20 years of riding, wrenching, and modifying, the old Softail is still running strong and looking good.

While he never intended this to be a trailer queen show bike, he did want it to stand out and get noticed. The problem was, like most of us, he planned on doing it without spending a ton of cash. "Everything done to the bike has been managed on a shoestring budget over the past 18 or 19 years, Rocky tells us. Mods were done in the garage using Harbor Freight tools including a low-budget paint gun."

While some parts and modifications have come and gone over the years, one of the earliest customizations Rocky made to the bike that still exists today is the raked-out neck. About 15 years ago, Rocky hauled the bike down to San Diego where Psycho Cycles kicked the neck out to about 44 degrees. The bike acquired a whole new look and attitude with the addition of a set of 2-inch-over-stock Forking By Frank tubes. Out back the bike was lowered with a Ride One lowering kit, giving it an even look front to back.

In keeping with the tight budget, many of the parts for Rocky’s bike were scored either on eBay or at the Long Beach Swap Meet, then modified or reworked to fit. For example, the rear wheel is a front wheel off an ’08 Fat Boy. To get the wheel to fit right, Rocky had his buddy, Gary Peacemaker owner of High Desert Performance, machine the hub to accept a new pulley. The pulley was narrowed as well and a new lip was added to help keep the belt from a Buell Firebolt in place. Actually Gary had his hands on more than the rear wheel on this bike, having rebuilt the 80ci Evo twice, one almost 17 years ago, and once again just last year.

Looking over Rocky’s bike, it’s the minor details that really stand out like the custom mid pegs that he fabbed up from a set of sportbike pegs. The right side is mounted off the front of the trans and the left is bolted to the inspection cover on the primary. He also gutted a pair of BMX pedals and incorporated them into his forward controls. Another unique detail is the raw metal seat pan, which started out as a Le Pera seat that Rocky stripped and reshaped to fit. After riding his neighbor’s bike that had a jockey shift, Rocky decided to adapt a hand shifter onto his bike and cut down the blade of a Trench Knife his son gave him for Christmas and mounted it up to the bike along with his custom-fabbed foot clutch. Keeping the sheetmetal simple, Rocky ditched the front fender, mounted a Sporty tank on the backbone, cut the rear fender horns down to nubs, and mounted a heavily chopped fender. And rather than going with a solid basecoat, Rocky hit the sheetmetal with a grinder so that the swirls would show up through the Kandy Tangerine.

Laying color to the raw sheetmetal entailed Rocky setting up a makeshift spray area in his front yard and going to town. I learned how to paint after purchasing some DVDs on paint and graphics, Rocky says. The paint was done in the front driveway and has some insects in the clear after landing in it when it was still wet. For the graphics, I used some gold leaf from a hobby shop and outlined it with a paint marker.

Between good friends and good bargains, I feel I have a low-budget bike that looks good, states Rocky. Special thanks to my neighbor/mechanic Gary Peacemaker of High Desert Performance.

Keeping to his low-buck budget and with two decades worth of modifying, Rocky has created a clean and simple Softail that definitely gets attention. It also proves that you don’t have to be some fancy fabricator or rob a bank to create a badass bike. HB

The paint was done in the front driveway and has some insects in the clear after landing in it when it was still wet.

Bike Owner Rocky Santos
Year/Make/Model ’90/Softail/Custom
Fabrication Rocky Santos
Assembly Rocky Santos
Build Time Past 18 Years
Year/Manufacturer ’90/H-D
Type/Size 80ci/Evo
Builder Gary Peacemaker-High Desert Performance
Cases H-D
Cylinders H-D
Heads High Desert Performance
Rocker Boxes H-D
Carb H-D
Air Cleaner Force Winder
Exhaust Mgs Customs
Year/Manufacturer/Type ’90/H-D/Five-Speed
Case H-D
Clutch H-D
PriMary Drive H-D
Year/Manufacturer 90/H-D
Rake 44 Degrees
Stretch Stock
Manufacturer Front Forking By Frank
Length 2 Inches Over
Triple Trees H-D
Manufacturer Rear Ride One
Swingarm H-D
Wheels, Tires, And Brakes
Manufacturer Front/Type Swap Meet/80-Spoke
Size-Height/Width 21x2.15
Tire/Size Pirelli/80/90-21
Caliper Nissin
Rotor Russell
Manufacturer Rear/Type H-D/Fat Boy
Size-Height/Width 17x3.5
Tire/Size Avon/160-17
Caliper H-D
Rotor Russell
Color Kandy Tangerine
Painter Rocky Santos
Graphics Rocky Santos
Rear Fender Swap Meet
Fender Struts Cut Down
Gas Tank And Cap Sportster
Oil Tank H-D
Handlebars Custom Bend D&D Mufflers
Hand Controls H-D/Swap Meet
Risers Ebay
Foot Controls Owner
Footpeg Bmx
Headlight H-D
Taillight Led
License Mount Rocky Santos
Seat Rocky Santos