En route to Austin, Texas, for some good ol’ fashioned ROT Rally carnage, I had one task to achieve in Albuquerque, New Mexico: photograph La Vida Customs ’87 Heritage Softail. There was just one problem: Arizona and New Mexico were on fire.
As the smoke billowed from the hills raining down ash and soot for miles, I started to wonder if shooting this bike was worth risking my respiratory health. Being that I’m a pack-a-day kinda guy, I figured a few more carcinogens couldn’t hurt. I pushed on, racing the clock as the sun was setting. Constantly wiping the visor of my Schuberth full-face, it felt like riding in the middle of a snowstorm, but it was 95 degrees outside.
I was to meet up with the La Vida Customs crew around dusk, shoot the bike, and then get some much needed R&R, get up early the next day, and continue on my merry way en route to Austin. When I rolled into my downtown hotel, a pack of bikers awaited my arrival, with a few black-and-whites harassing them for the simple fact that they were riding Harley-Davidsons. It was like a scene from an outlaw biker movie. I calmly walked up to the blue suits and told them I was a photographer and one of their motorcycles were going to be featured in the pages of HOT BIKE magazine. The officers finally scrammed and the La Vida Customs crew and I could get down to brass tacks.
You have to realize that the sun was setting, the state was literally on fire, and I’d never been to New Mexico—let alone Albuquerque—in my life, so photographing a motorcycle in these conditions with no pre-determined location presented a real challenge. Such is life. The La Vida boys were up for it. So was I. After exchanging a few pleasantries, handshakes and the like, the crew led me to a park that overlooks the city, which, had it been a clear day, would have made for an incredibly picturesque landscape. However, it looked like a typical day in downtown Los Angeles, mimicking the everyday brown-yellow hue. It was difficult to make anything out but the silhouette of a city skyline.
“My brother owned it before me, and while it was nice, I had to make it my own.”
At least I could focus on what was in front of me: La Vida Customs’ candy-coated Heritage Softail. With the bike parked, I got a chance to really look over how La Vida Customs had well, customized it. I couldn’t help but notice how timeless it looked. I’ve always been a fan of lowrider, gangster-style bikes. Being from SoCal, there’s no shortage of Deluxe and Heritage Softails dragging fishtails, blinding passers by in all their chrome-blinging glory. And although an ’87 Harley isn’t considered an antique by today’s standards, it’s no young pup. La Vida Customs did an incredible job of making me forget that. “The most challenging part of this build was dealing with the age of the bike. Every time we put something on it, it was a total modification. We had an extremely difficult time getting all of the new parts to mount on a 1987 simply because everything today is built for newer bikes,” explains the bike’s owner, Jonathan Lujan.
The bike featured a slammed, stretched, and molded chassis, with custom parts draped throughout. Jonathan had a nice canvas to start with since his brother already stretched the tank and added West Coast Choppers front and rear fenders. Its low stance, thanks to the Progressive Suspension lowered guts inside the stock front fork tubes, had the bike nearly sitting on the ground. And the 21x3.5-inch Ride Wright Fat Daddy spoke wheel combined with its 16x3.5-inch Fat Daddy counterpart gave the Heritage a nice, aggressive stance. While shooting the bike, I asked Jonathan how it came to be: “It was my first bike! My brother owned it before me, and while it was nice, I had to make it my own. It started off as a simple transformation from a clean black pinstriped bike to a candy-painted lowered bike. After a year of this it took on a whole new look. I was seeking out that low, stretched, old-school look with paint that talked to you. I had a couple things in mind but I knew that I wanted candy tangerine and major flake,” Jonathan explains.
Major flake is definitely what Jonathan received, along with some pretty badass murals on the tank, and front/rear fenders. Drenched in Tangerine over silver kandy laid by Daniel Almendarez and Mark Lujan from La Vida, the bike popped with whatever light peaked through the smoke.
To keep with the lowrider style, a set of super-long Samson true-dual straight pipes were added to the Evolution mill, which scrape the ground when turns get tight. Speaking of the Evo, the stock cases were retained but the jugs were bored out to 88 ci and the cylinder heads were ported and polished. Now the Evo performs like a bat outta hell and sounds like it’s being revved like it should. The S&S Velocity Stack looks pretty sick performing the breathing duties.
Jonathan added a few extra touches like the Yaffe footboards and pedals, along with the Demons hand controls attached to the La Vida Customs handlebar. Finding the seat was a little bit more of a challenge, and a Le Pera saddle was almost there but needed some sprucing from Jonathan’s buddies at Innovations Auto Interior. They added the right amount of flair he wanted. Once the saddle was mounted to the bike, Jonathan was more than satisfied.
When the shoot ended, I talked for a bit with the crew, then we said our peace and parted ways into the smoke-filled night, and called it a night. Just another day at the office. HB
|Bike Owner||Jonathon Lujan|
|Shop Name||La Vida Customs|
|Shop Phone||(505) 730-0617, (505) 270-0601|
|Fabrication||La Vida Customs|
|Assembly||La Vida Customs|
|Build time||Six months|
|Builder||La Vida Customs|
|Air Cleaner||Velocity Stack|
|Manufacturer Front||H-D/Progressive Suspension|
|Triple Trees||H-D Fat Boy|
|Wheels, Tires, and Brakes|
|Manufacturer Front/Type||Ride Wright/Fat Daddy|
|Manufacturer Rear/Type||Ride Wright/Fat Daddy|
|Color||House of Kolor Tangerine over silver flake|
|Painter||Daniel Almendarez/Mark Lujan|
|Rear Fender||Stretched by La Vida Customs|
|Fender Struts||H-D altered by La Vida Customs|
|Gas Tank & Cap||Stretched Custom fiberglass dash|
|Oil Tank||H-D Horseshoe (pinstriped)|
|Handlebars||La Vida Customs|
|Foot Controls||Paul Yaffe|
|Headlight||Adjure Spotlights/Headlamp, chrome nacelle|
|License Mount||Custom modification|