Remember the early 2000s, when everyone wanted a chopper? It didn’t matter that super-stretched front ends and hardtail frames meant these bikes were uncomfortable, and handled like crap. Everyone with money wanted one, so they could be as cool as Jesse James and Indian Larry and all those other guys on TV.

For years, if you wanted a big-money custom, you had a chopper, or maybe a bagger. But just as boomers are aging out of the motorcycle scene, so are the customs they loved. Want evidence? How about this: A cafe racer custom has won Harley-Davidson’s official King of Kings custom build-off. Not too long ago, that would have been unthinkable, as the custom scene typically followed the money. But now, the money’s changing.

The winning bike was Mexican-built, Sportster-based Apex Predator. It beat out 17 other competitors from 12 different countries. It was built by Oscar Peralta of Harley-Davidson Queretaro, with help from a team of workers.

While the bike is built with go-fast looks, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of performance upgrades listed on Harley-Davidson’s website. There’s a handmade undertail exhaust, wave rotors, and new suspension, but it doesn’t appear the motor itself has been tuned up. The rest of the extensive list of mods (new leather seat, minimalist controls, fancy-pants paint, TFT instrument panel) all change the look dramatically, but don’t make it faster. See the H-D write-up here.

More than 50,000 votes were cast in the 2020 King of Kings custom build-off. While those were votes from the public, no doubt Harley-Davidson was not heartbroken to see a cafe racer win, as this comes just as the MoCo is trying to change its image. After decades of pretty much just building cruisers, Harley-Davidson is moving into electric motorcycles, adventure bikes and sporty naked bikes. Having a cafe racer win its custom build-off shows the company’s customer base is on board for those changes.

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