Believe it or not, we are an international publication. No I don’t mean international in the sense that we feature metric/import bikes. I mean international in the fact that HOT BIKE is shipped all over the world. With our international distribution we’ve gotten reader letters and bike submissions from the Middle East, Japan, the UK, and Italy. Our most recent international submission comes from George Ziri in Australia. Once a former sportbike enthusiast, George was converted to the Harley side by his wife’s cousin, and immediately immersed himself into the customized Harley scene with his first bike, this once stock ’09 Softail Custom. Here is George’s story.
My long history on two wheels was never short of reaching 200 kph (124 mph) at any spurt of the throttle. And during most of these times the adrenaline at 80 kph (50 mph) was piqued by a flick of the clutch and pointing the front wheel as high in the air as possible. For those of you who have been hiding under a rock for the past 40 years and don’t quite understand my style, I’m referring to the fast and sleek Jap bikes.
One summer night I was at my wife’s cousin Jay’s place, and the group was passing around the shisha pipe smoking apple tobacco. Jay thought he’d tempt me to jump ship and buy a real bike, a Harley-Davidson. To cement the deal, one afternoon Jay decided to borrow his brother’s bike and loan me his Softail to go for a ride to meet up with a bunch of H-D riders down at 1900’s pub in Sydney. I jumped on and the first thing that sprung to mind was, “I hope I don’t drop this tank.”
As I eventually got comfortable I felt bigger than the Hulk even though I weighed 75 kg (154 pounds). The vibration and thunder it produced had me startled. As we rode down the street, shortly before the pub, I noticed a crowd of people looking toward us who obviously heard us coming. It looked as though they were watching Schumacher come down the last stretch before the checkered flag. Drawing close to the pub I saw a line of at least 30 H-Ds parked side by side outside the pub. From my generally clean cut and reserved personality, I thought to myself, “What the hell am I getting into?”
Never did I think I would be riding with a crew of bikies; these guys looked as if they had been deserted on an island for quite some time. Soon enough we parked the bikes and got to chatting. I couldn’t believe how personable and easy going these rugged non-shaved blokes were who had more tattoos than skin over their bodies. They were the friendliest guys I had ever met and didn’t compare to the conservative bunch I normally associated with. The moment that captured me was when we all took off after drinks. These middle-aged blokes started their bikes, and after a few flicks of the throttle, they took off one by one as if they were synchronized swimmers. As all of you know, the pose on each H-D rider’s face is mean and lean with lips pouted, and here I was with a grin from ear to ear all the way down Lower Fort Street with Jay in front of me. From there on, I entered a new world of appreciation. The minute I handed Jay’s bike back I was on cloud nine and it was as if I had met my first love. That night I spent my time on Google in search of customizing Harleys and came across more hits than Elvis. I was on the phone with Jay every day with new ideas and designs. I spent more time designing the bike than running the facility management company I’m paid too.
I have to say that I qualify in having the most thoughtful and best wife any man could have. A couple of months after my newfound obsession with Harley, on the day of my 35th birthday, my beautiful wife got in on the action and took me to Frasers Motorcycles and said to me in the same emotion as a man asking his girlfriend to marry him, “Sweetheart, take a look at your new bike.” Behind me was a brand-new ’09 Softail custom. What a surprise. I was so shocked that after half an hour, and while the sales lady was completing the paperwork, my wife asked me how I felt. All I could say was, “I’m hungry.” That very night I had already pictured what modifications I was going to make on this brand-new bike.
Soon enough Jay had happily told his loved ones and mates about my new project, and more importantly, how insane I was for thinking of spending that amount of money. Not long after this we experienced tragedy, Jay was killed in a work accident. He was young and healthy and left behind a beautiful wife who was seven months pregnant with their first child. From that day forward, the H-D meant absolutely nothing to me, but as time went on and I realized how many people Jay had told about my bike-to-be and how excited he was, I decided to create the bike he would have been proud of. I continued on with my journey to customize my H-D. $40k later, my ugly duckling Softtail custom was transformed into a piece of art and now sits proud with more superficial work done to it that Joan Rivers’ face.
There are so many customizing pieces one can add to his/her bike without making the redesign look like Liberace on a bad day. I wanted a perfect smooth contour, and the most challenging part was intergrading different products to fit the puzzle. I changed the color three times which really upset my painter, Mark Walker of Queensland Motorcycle Paint and Panel. I eventually settled with pitch black with a subtle 25-karat white gold leaf running though. Each customized part was changed at least twice, which I’m sure pissed off Nathan who works for Geoff Richardson at Chopperworks.
I wanted a fast but classic looking Harley, so I went with a set of Mammoth 52-spoke wheels from DNA. The Legend Air Ride system allows me to raise the suspension for riding and drop to the mounts when parked. The clean look of the custom tank is influenced by the absence of the speedometer and dash. I had the Custom Cycle Control Systems mirrors installed with the digital blinker, tachometer, speedometer, and high beam readings in the mirrors. I changed the Vance & Hines pipes twice. I originally had the Side Shots and later installed the Staggered Short Shots. The meanest looking part is the Avalon frontend from Mean Street Products. The frontend was probably the most expensive part, but in my opinion, it’s also the part that inishes the clean and smooth look of the bike.
I love everything about this bike and will conclude with this: “Jay, my time building and riding this H-D is and always will be in your memory.”