A Custom 1998 Harley-Davidson With A Hidden Theme

Hint: Good things come in threes

Todd Matteson

Todd Matteson's calling card. Good things come in threes.

Jeff Allen

This article was originally published in the 1999 October-November issue of Cycle World's Big Twin magazine.

Every time Todd Matteson builds a custom, it has a theme. That theme could be hidden like the coy elements in a da Vinci painting or a Frank Lloyd Wright structure, or it could be screamingly manifest. But there’s always an element of surprise lurking for the discerning observer.

To find the theme on the latest creature to spring from Matteson’s fertile mind, you’ll have to be really observant, able to detect small similarities or design eccentricities. Give up? Well, if you look closely, you’ll see some groups of three: three-blade wheels, swingarm-pivot covers with three holes instead of the usual four or two, three-hole front-axle covers, even a three-pointed star airbrushed on the gas tank. And if you could remove the rear axle-adjuster covers, you’d see that the adjusters themselves have three holes. So, the theme is three.

custom engine

More of a true custom than most, Matteson’s Softail is rife with cool components he designed and fabricated himself. Among them are the wheels, the rear brake rotor, the rear pulley, the billet swingarm, the left-side rear brake and all the bodywork.

Jeff Allen

No big deal, you say? Way too subtle for your tastes? Perhaps. But to Matteson, subtlety is a virtue. “For each bike, I try to do something a little bit different,” says Matteson, whose shop sits beneath the eastern shadows of the Rocky Mountains in Longmont, Colorado. “I won’t duplicate a bike. They are similar yet not identical. I like every bike to be its own. Even if the owner of one of my motorcycles would paint the bike another color after buying it from me, I would know which bike it was. Like the wheels: I only make wheels for the bikes I build. My wheels before these were a two-blade wheel, and now I’ve gone on to a three-blade wheel. I’ve built six sets and that’s it. Just real limited numbers, and everything is clean and simple.”

And that, in case you didn’t already know, is the essence of a true custom motorcycle.

Although Matteson builds bikes to order for customers, he created this one just to show off his considerable fabricating skills. Once a year, he puts together a custom that showcases all the pieces and ideas he’s come up with since the previous year. “Not many people would pay me to do all the stuff I’ve done on this bike,” he says, “but it’s my own. This is to show people what I can do. I consider it my calling card."

There is a long and impressive list of parts on this calling card that Matteson has hammered and milled in his workshop. The spectacular swingarm: That’s his. Left-side rear-brake: his. Belt pulley: his. Triple-trees: his. Handlebar risers: his. Brake rotors: his. Belt drive: his. Transmission top cover: his. Not to mention the usual shaped and molded sheetmetal parts like the gas tank and fenders.

One exception is the frame, which is a Daytec, but it was specially made to Matteson’s specs. Most specifically, it has no forward control mounts. “There is nothing on the downtubes,” he says. “I got rid of the forward control mounts there because on the shifter side, all of the control hardware is built onto a modified inner primary. On the brake side, the forward controls are all built onto the cam cover.”

Harley-Davidson Wheels

"I only make wheels for the bike build."

Jeff Allen

No only does Matteson develop a theme for every bike he builds, he also works to exacting standards. If a part he has fabricated doesn’t fit perfectly or have precisely the visual effect he had imagined, it’s immediately discarded. “I’ve scrapped a lot of the parts that I’ve made, even entire bikes,” he says. “I’ll make something, then stand back and look at it after putting everything all together. If I don’t like it, I take it off and throw it in the dumpster because it doesn’t have the look I thought it would. I built a real cool set of pullback risers for this custom, but they didn’t flow with the rest of the bike, so I tossed them and made the radiused ones you see here. And even these are the third set of radiused risers I made because I just couldn’t get the right contour, the right look, with the first two. I knew what I wanted and it looked great on paper, but it didn’t look right on the bike. That’s why this bike took over a year to complete.”

That’s quite a bit of work for a calling card. But unlike other calling cards, this one won’t be given away for free or tossed in a drawer and forgotten.

Owner: Todd Matteson, Wesminster, CO
Designer/Fabricator/Builder: Todd Matteson, Billet 4-U
Paint and Chrome
Molding: Soncy Road Body Shop
Painter: Soncy Road Body Shop
Graphic Artist: Soncy Road Body Shop
Chroming: None
Polishing: Billet 4-U
Year: 1998
Make: Custom Billet Evo
Builder: Billet 4-U
Displacement: 105 cu. in.
Cases: Custom by Rocky Mountain Billet
Lower end: S&S
Rods: S&S
Pistons: JE
Heads: Patrick Billet
Cam: S&S
Pushrods: Crane
Lifters: S&S
Primary cover: Custom Billet 4-U
Ignition: Crane
Plug wires: Nology
Carb: Carl’s Typhoon
Air cleaner: Carl’s Typhoon
Pipes: Custom by Fritz Race Cars
Year: 1999
Make: Jims
Type: 5-speed
Primary drive: Belt by Billet 4-U
Clutch: Rivera Pro
Year: 1998
Make: Daytec
Type: Softail
Builder: Reworked by Billet 4-U
Modifications: 2-in. stretch; 38-degree r
Front ForK
Type: Mid Glide
Modifications: Billet 4-U custom triple-trees
Rear Suspension
Make: Legend Air Ride
Swingarm: Billet 4-U Wide Drive
Modifications: On-board suspension air pump
Front Wheel/Tire
Wheel: Custom Billet 4-U three-blade
Tire: Metzeler
Tire Size: 90/90-21
Tire Size: 90/90-21
Brake: Performance Machine
Rear Wheel/Tire
Wheel: Custom Billet 4-U three-blade
Tire: Metzeler
Tire Size: 180/55-18
Rim width: 6”
Brake: Custom left-side by Billet 4-U; PM caliper
Handlebar: Flanders
Risers: Billet 4-U
Grips: Billet 4-U
Mirrors: Billet 4-U
Gas tank: Battastinis
Oil tank: Daytec
Front fender: Jesse James
Rear fender: Jesse James
Headlight: Headwinds
Taillight: LED flush mount
Electrics: Billet 4-U
Electrics: Billet 4-U
Other modifications: All wiring & switches hidden; all oil & brake lines stainless steel