Road Less Traveled: Sportster from Archives

Burly takes their show off the road

Harley-Sportster

Road Less Traveled

Burly takes its show off the road.

Photos: John Zamora

Harley Sportster

Road Less Traveled

Burly takes their show off the road

Photos: John Zamora

Harley Sportster

Road Less Traveled

Burly takes their show off the road

Photos: John Zamora

Harley Sportster

Road Less Traveled

Burly takes their show off the road

Photos: John Zamora

Harley Sportster

Road Less Traveled

Burly takes their show off the road

Photos: John Zamora

Harley Sportster

Road Less Traveled

Burly takes their show off the road

Photos: John Zamora

Harley Sportster

Road Less Traveled

Burly takes their show off the road

Photos: John Zamora

Harley Sportster

Road Less Traveled

Burly takes their show off the road

Photos: John Zamora

Harley Sportster

Road Less Traveled

Burly takes their show off the road

Photos: John Zamora

Harley Sportster

Road Less Traveled

Burly takes their show off the road

Photos: John Zamora

What is about the road less traveled that seems so appealing? Is it the sense of something new, the fear of the unknown, or the thrill of going where no one has gone before? Well Dave Zemla of Burly Brand and Progressive Suspension is not a self-proclaimed bike builder. Through his passion and years of work in the motorcycle industries, he has developed a diverse style of bike knowledge.

So what is the next big thing in custom motorcycles? If Zemla has anything to say about it, all you big-wheel baggers will be trading them in for custom Sportsters very soon. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but Zemla does love his Sporties, and when it came time to build a shop/personal bike, this 2006 Scrambler was the result. Zemla explains, “I love the XL platform, but I hoped to take it a new direction. I’ve seen a few dirt Sporties, but most seem to mimic an MX bike. I wanted to something more like the vintage Honda and current Triumph Scramblers. It had to be street-worthy but still tolerate a fire road bombing and get me home when I was done.”

Building a Scrambler is another challenge. Some might think adding a set motocross forks, dirt bike bars, and jacking up the rear is all it takes to make a decent off-roader. Au contraire. It’s not that easy. “All the fab was done with basic tools and in my garage. Sportsters have an ass-low chassis, and leveling it out to achieve the right look was a real challenge. It took four inches of lift in the rear and a two-inch drop in the front to make it happen. The fender struts saw the business end of a grinder, and a Dime City hoop came out of the box and welded right on. Then we rattle caned some glossy black heat paint, and it looks about as factory as possible. Fenders are Monster Craftsman that I bought off of eBay along with an NOS ATC six-pack rack. A local skateboard shop supplied a used wheel that became the foundation of the tensioner, and my R&D guys fabbed up a skid plate to complete the package. The cost to build this bike was nominal, and I’ve already seen a half dozen similar versions—some done even better!”

Once finished, Zemla was ready for his Supercross debut at the local stadium. Well, maybe not quite. “The maiden voyage was in Cleveland National Forest where I hooked up with a group of very confused KTM dual-sport guys. They dragged me through a few dirt roads and a bit of single track, and other than a little dragging (really happy about that skid plate!) the bike handled it really well. It’s definitely not a dirt bike, and I’ll never air it out over a double, but it’ll rip up a fire road and take me pretty far off the beaten path all the while knowing my ride home is sorted. Man, I love the Sporty platform.”

If you’re interested in tackling the dirt with your little 883, check out the Burly website for a few of the pieces you need. Don’t expect to find a bike builders section—at least not yet. Could there be a DZD shop opening soon?

We've got plenty more Sportsters for you in our Bikes department.