Not your Typical Harley Softail

Discussion in 'Some Assembly Required' started by Bevelheadmhr, Dec 21, 2017.

  1. Bevelheadmhr

    Bevelheadmhr Been here awhile

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    Introduction

    Back in 2000, I bought a 131 Cubic inch(2150cc) high output 'Harley' Evo motor, fully polished, built by the Merch Performance workshop in Canada and shipped to the UK for me. It was the best Evo of its day, and I could've bought a new Harley big twin for the cost of that one engine.

    I still needed a gearbox, primary, frame, forks, wheels, bodywork and so on. When the German drop seat frame arrived from HPU, the engine was too tall to fit, so we had to cut and raise the top tube. Paintwork was done by the best in the country, Piers Dowell, who has painted all my Harleys along with a couple of helmets, which are far too nice to actually wear lol..

    Two years later when it was finally finished, within the first 100 miles, the expensive belt primary had broken, while the handling was pretty damn awful, due to the fashionable 'phat' wheels and tyres I'd fitted, a 160 x 16 front tyre is never a good idea. The primary was soon re engineered, while I spent another kings ransom on new Ricks 17 inch billet and titanium wheels which improved the handling no end, it actually wanted to go around corners now, though at the cost of even less ground clearance, and it didn't have much to begin with.

    I still have the Merch 131, its evolved over the years, different brakes, different seats, different exhaust, a hydraulic clutch conversion, and after snapping three belts, I switched to chain final drive, well, you get the picture.

    Its been on the dyno a few times, the last being when I made a new exhaust for it. It has a Mikuni HSR 42 carb, small for such a big engine, but that was the biggest available when I placed my order back in 2000. A HSR 48mm would no doubt give a bit more top end, but at the expense of low down torque. I prefer the motor as it is, making 145 lb/ft torque and 128 bhp at the rear wheel.

    The trad Harley folk hate it, ''looks too Japanese'', doesn't look right in their eyes... blah blah. I just smile and nod, and reply, I didn't build it for you...

    Mid Life Update

    Anyone whose built a ground up special will know they are never finished, there's always something that can be improved or updated. Now its time for some more updates of the Merch 131 which I'll detail in this thread..


    Merch131May 039.JPG
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  2. Bevelheadmhr

    Bevelheadmhr Been here awhile

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    Mid Life Update

    The updates I want to make break down into three areas...

    1) The riding position. Its never been the most comfortable bike in the world, but still things could be improved for me at least, by bringing the bars bag an inch or so and ditto the foot peg position.

    2) Improve the Ground Clearance. This is the trickiest change to make, as like all Softail Harleys the rear shocks live under the gearbox and work differently from most shocks. They don't compress when going over a bump, instead they extend. Coupled to the fact that the shocks on my bike are expensive Fournales gas shocks (No springs used) which I want to keep. But I have a plan !

    3) Electrics and Instruments
    The bike has basic functions only, with a speedo bolted to the rear cylinder.. not ideal. That said its all very neat with most of the wiring hidden inside the frame tubes. I want to replace the old speedo and idiots lights with a new up to date tacho/speedo with built in idiot lights, and completely replace the wiring, taking advantage of the latest tech from the German company Moto Gadget, which wasn't available when I built the bike all those years ago.



    Lets get started by making new mounting plates for the forward controls, which moved the pegs an inch or so closer and a little lower. Luckily I was able to re drill and cut down the original plates which saved a lot of time.

    Next the old one off risers were replaced with these new ones, they are as low as I could get them, while now moving the bars back an inch. The old risers and their mounting bolts were drilled to allow the wiring for the bar end indicators to pass unseen through the bars and down through the risers.

    I'll be losing the bar end indicators, as that'll made the bike six inches narrower at the bars. Handy when filtering through traffic.

    003.JPG 007.JPG
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  3. Bevelheadmhr

    Bevelheadmhr Been here awhile

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    Improving Ground Clearance

    This was the mod I was most concerned about, there's a chance it could all go wrong, which would be an expensive mistake to fix. My plan is to move the Swing arms shock mounts back 20mm, doing this means the swing arm will need to rotate further down before the shocks can be bolted to the swing arm. This change should (in theory) lift the back end of the bike up around 70mm. However, if I get it wrong, the swing arm could hit the frame at full extension or the shocks may not reach the changed mounts on the swing arm.

    Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained...

    My first problem was that I had no room to work on the bike at home, not enough to safely remove the back end anyway. Thankfully, my mate Tim owns the local bike shop and kindly allowed me to work on the bike in the corner of his storage unit.

    As usual things didn't go according to plan... they never do lol... but got there in the end, the photos below show the difference before and after.

    And since I went to the trouble of filming the process, you can see how it was done here..


    Merch131sarm1 007.JPG 005.JPG
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  4. Bevelheadmhr

    Bevelheadmhr Been here awhile

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    That brings things up to date. the bike will be at my mates workshop over the new year, as one of the modules from Moto Gadget is on back order. Not a problem as it'll not be ridden till the spring anyway.

    But that hasn't prevented me from making a start on another upgrade which is a mini-project in itself. One issue I have with all Harleys is their weight, a standard Evo Softail is getting on for 650lbs with fuel, something I've attempted to address on my bike. Cant do much about the mass of the engine / transmission (around 300lbs), while an OE frame and swingarm tips the scales at 100lbs (60/40), the aftermarket HPU frame is a bit lighter, but not much. Despite these hefty components, my 131 Merch is a lot lighter, having got the weight down to 515lb dry and around 540 lbs wet.

    When the swing arm was off the bike, I found it weighed 33lbs, not bad for a Harley, but that's heavier than the frame kit of my Norley, so surely I could lose some weight here, particularly since its unsprung weight.

    A few years ago I asked one of the UK's best frame makers how much they'd charge to make a replica of my swing arm in alloy... the answer.. £3000 ! I didn't ask them to justify that amount, as I suspect it was a job they didn't want.

    I forgot about it, until last month, when the swing arm was off the bike for a couple of weeks... when I had an idea... why not make a replica? Therefore we took careful measurements of the arm before it went back on the bike, and went through various options of how to actually make a lightweight replica in alloy. Much head scratching later, we had a plan, and I went ahead and ordered the billet alloy we'd need.

    Now this replica wont be made the way most alloy swing arms are made.. ie from square section alloy extrusions welded together with cast / machined sections added where required. Instead the whole swing arm will be constructed from several sections made solid billet alloy, which will be bolted, pegged and welded together where appropriate. Doing so would result in a swing arm even heavier than the original, except that each part of the jigsaw which will makeup the whole, will be milled extensively to lose a huge amount of weight. Fingers crossed we'll end up with a cool looking part much lighter and stronger than the steel original.

    Below you can see a start has been made on the 'jigsaw pieces', some having been line drilled to give a basic shape and marked, before going on the miller to be shaped accurately.

    006.JPG
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  5. MATTY

    MATTY BORDER RAIDER

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    Interesting thread. Any thread with talk on reducing bike weight is a winner for me, lighter creates faster and removing parts and replacing them with lighter ones, or better still omitting them where practical is always good.
    #5
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  6. Bevelheadmhr

    Bevelheadmhr Been here awhile

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    Here's the bike on the dyno a few years ago when the jetting needed to be changed to suite the exhaust I made...

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  7. JimVonBaden

    JimVonBaden "Cool" Aid! Supporter

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    You obviously do not cut corners. This should be interesting! :thumb
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  8. Bevelheadmhr

    Bevelheadmhr Been here awhile

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    I'm trying to get my Evo drag bike down below 400lbs, but without a chrome moly frame its not easy..
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  9. Bevelheadmhr

    Bevelheadmhr Been here awhile

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    Oh I do, but not with this bike, its my 'best bike' it gets whatever it needs...
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  10. MATTY

    MATTY BORDER RAIDER

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    :lol3 can imagine ! I think you will have to omit a lot and abbreviate a lot, and drill and mill a lot. But nobody loves a fatty, be it bike or person plus loosing weight is good for the soul.:lol3
    #10
  11. Bevelheadmhr

    Bevelheadmhr Been here awhile

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    My diet starts on Jan 1st lol.... The 'drag bike' started life as a hardtail chop with spoked wheels and 6 inch over frame, I was putting it together for an acquaintance.. Long story short he got divorced, changed jobs and couldn't go through with the build. It sat half finished, gathering dust in the corner for a couple of years until I decided to build a drag bike out of it (still had a few bits left over from the last one. The frame was cut in half and a new front half welded on.. lower, stretched and raked. Its a heavy frame at 60 lbs, but its cheap, it was built on a shoestring. Last time I counted there were parts from 17 different bikes, and one BMW car... pity I haven't managed to get it to running right yet.

    Before and after.. ELB1273 004.JPG 023.JPG
    #11
  12. MATTY

    MATTY BORDER RAIDER

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    Good post ! I prefer the after.:-) A nice looking bike, is it a keeper for your use or will it be sold.
    #12
  13. Bevelheadmhr

    Bevelheadmhr Been here awhile

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    Its a keeper for me to race. Its not road legal or practical, so probably worth more in parts than as a complete bike if sold. Though all my local events have noise limits these days, I suspect this one will break them at idle..
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  14. MATTY

    MATTY BORDER RAIDER

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  15. Bevelheadmhr

    Bevelheadmhr Been here awhile

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    I've done the weight saving routine before, weighing everything on the bike and trying to find lighter alternatives. Harleys are a 'target rich environment', with almost every part being much heavier than easily available Jap/Italian parts. I got my Ironhead engined Norley down to 395 lbs dry / 415 lbs wet... over 100lbs less than the original bike. My last Evo big twin drag bike with a Merch 120 engine and NOS (which ended up as a road bike) weighed in at 440 lbs, using ZXR12 forks/wheels and an aftermarket softail frame. Some parts from the old bike were kept and reused on the new one (Tank, Air shifter etc).

    I was hoping to get the new one down closer to 400, but the rigid chop frame that was raked and lowered is a sturdy old thing weighing in at 65lbs. A chrome Moly one off frame should be less than 40 lbs. While the homemade billet wheels are as light as we could manage, but still not as light as modern super sports wheels. I'm thinking of chopping off the heavy cast axle adjusters at the back of the drag frame and replacing them with a pair of billet bolt ons, that's a lot of work to save a pound or two... I may one day get around to making / having made a new frame from scratch.

    Old 120 Evo Bike
    Merch124c.JPG IMG_4099.JPG
    #15
  16. MATTY

    MATTY BORDER RAIDER

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    You are clearly well versed in the task in hand, and have experience.
    Making another frame to save 20lbs though achievable,and it will improve the power to weight ratio a little. Is it a wise investment in time and money for the practical gain?.
    20lb is20lb i accept that, but the bike is up and running as it is right now and changing a frame will effect any development you have all ready put into the bike, admitted this will probably be slight, but could you be better investing in other aspects of the bike that could yield more performance than the 20lb or so weight loss.
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  17. Bevelheadmhr

    Bevelheadmhr Been here awhile

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    It can always be made better, faster, lighter but I try not to get sucked into the mind set of constantly improving a bike to the point of it never getting to the point to actually ride. I know a couple of projects like that, I doubt they'll ever make it out of the workshop.
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  18. MATTY

    MATTY BORDER RAIDER

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    Exactly ! Better to be using a reasonably competitive bike learning and developing it in use, than investing a great deal of time and money on whats effectively a show bike that never actually put in a run.
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  19. Salsa

    Salsa Long timer

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    Don't confuse me with facts,

    I like building frames !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Don
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  20. Bevelheadmhr

    Bevelheadmhr Been here awhile

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    The electronic parts we were waiting for have finally arrived from Germany, so I was asked to pop into my mates workshop to discuss options as to where various components were to go, and which buttons I wanted doing what.. The Moto Gadget stuff is clever, you can program it so one button does more than one task.

    It was odd seeing my old bike on the lift, with its entrails hanging out, as I'm the only person whose ridden it or touched it with a spanner since it was built. I had to resist the urge to grab a cloth and start cleaning it lol. Fingers crossed the next time I visit, it'll be back together and running as good as ever..
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