The Heritage Softail
Classic is the kind of bike most non-riders think of when they hear 'Harley'---oodles of chrome, saddlebags, riveted leather and massive fenders. At over 700 pounds wet, it's designed for long distance touring---and it isn't the sort of machine you expect to find in a teeming metropolis in tropical Southeast Asia.
So when Bangkok native Tuey Chuenprapar got the keys to a 2008 Heritage, it wasn't exactly love at first sight. "I used to think it was a very 'old' looking bike," he says.
"Bangkok is among the world's worst for traffic congestion---and compared to most motorcycles, the Softail is old-fashioned, big, and heavy. It would make it difficult to get around the city."
Tuey runs an advertising agency, so he grabbed his pencils and figured out how to make the Softail better. In particular, he wanted to make the FLSTC smaller and lighter, and therefore easier to weave in and out of his city's congested streets.
Inspiration struck when he happened across images of the Harley-Davidson WRTT , released in 1941 and designed for 'Class C' racing.
This stripped-down machine had a ramped up mechanical spec, including special cams and cam followers, different valves, and a racing carb. Factory options included frame-mounted oil tanks and a bigger gas tank for longer races.
Tuey kicked off by sketching his ideal bike, including the design of a new fuel tank. He took the sketches to Aoo Design Custom, a local workshop that had built custom Triumphs for Tuey in the past.
Aoo Design is run by a pair of talented builders called Karenaj and Lik. They started by tearing down the Heritage Softail until only the engine and frame were left, then they gradually put it back together---restoring only the essentials and in many cases using new components that are lighter or of higher quality.
They've hand-made a new gas tank to Tuey's design: it's smaller than the original, but sufficient for around-town use in Bangkok.
Drag-style bars are now hooked up to classic springer forks. Made by the Japanese company Neo Factory, they're a lovely replica of a 1940s design---right down to the casting number---and lower the front by two inches. The back is lowered slightly too, using a kit from Burly Brand.
A stock Heritage Softail has 16-inch rims front and back. For a more custom look, Aoo have changed the front to a 19-inch from a Sportster XL, and fitted a 4.00-section tire.
It balances out the beefy 5.00 rubber at the back, which is wrapped around the rim from a Softail Night Train. The brakes are upgraded with new discs and calipers from Performance Machine.
Performance Machine also supplied the hand and foot controls, which Aoo moved to a higher position than normal for more cornering clearance.
The Heritage Softail Classic comes with fuel injection from the factory, but Aoo have switched to an S\&S Super E carb. There are little mods too, such as a new carb cover, a custom breather tube, and CNC machined billet aluminum valve covers from Covingtons. The simple, symmetrical exhaust pipes were built by hand using stainless steel.
Tuey has redesigned the seat, choosing a sprung type for lighter weight on a new base. Right behind is an elegant little fender, a bobbed version of the stock part. The rear lighting comes from Kuryakyn and the front turn signals are discreetly concealed Motogadget units.
The ignition nestles between the cylinder heads, and is operated by a beautiful one-off key from Tokyo-based Yoshinori Komiyama .
Four months after starting his sketches, Tuey's revised FLSTC was ready---and it's barely recognizable as a Heritage Softail. We're seeing shades of classic Japanese custom work, and in particular Zero Engineering style.
But more importantly, Tuey now has a Softail that is lighter, smaller, and fun to ride in city traffic. Now he just needs to decide on and fit a headlight to make it street legal.
"I still haven't found a type I like," he says. "But Thailand is currently under curfew, and no-one can leave the house at night. So I still have time to choose!"
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