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Sportsters Forever: A custom Harley Evo Sporty from Australia

Custom Harley Sportster Seventy-Two by Zen Motorcycles
On November 18, 2022, Harley-Davidson rolls the last air-cooled bike sports athlete ever built off their assembly line in York, Pennsylvania. The announcement marks the end of an era in the world of motorcycling; an end to everyone’s iconic V-twin engine that has been in continuous production since 1957.

While the total number of Sportsters in existence is now officially capped at somewhere in the tens of millions, the death of the Evo comes with a silver lining: obsolescence comes with street prestige.

Custom Harley Sportster Seventy-Two by Zen Motorcycles
Few people understand this as well as Zen Motorcycles in Sydney, Australia. They’ve turned this 2015 Harley-Davidson Sportster Seventy-Two into a dependable everyday drive with all the classic beauty of a vintage car. iron head. All that’s missing is a kickstarter (if you know where to look, of course).

This build started when a customer approached Zen asking for 70s style chopper, with state-of-the-art performance and reliability. The richness of chrome is also on the priority list, but everything else largely depends on the Zen team. A new Sportster Seventy-Two is the ideal starting point.

Custom Harley Sportster Seventy-Two by Zen Motorcycles
Work smart, not hard, as they say. Harley first introduced the Seventy-Two in 2012, both the name and the styling intended to rekindle the chopper craze of the 70s at the time. Included in the factory package is the classic 2.1-gallon peanut fuel tank that still lives on the bike today, as well as a full set of factory chrome options, including engine, wheels and shock absorbers.

This laundry list of OEM chrome bits shortened the to-do list considerably, but converting the original Sporty into the clean custom you see here was no easy task. The team decided early on that the springy UI was just what Seventy-Two needed to really capture that ’70s appeal. Sourcing the forks was easy enough—but getting them to work with modern frames takes a bit of creativity.

Custom Harley Sportster Seventy-Two by Zen Motorcycles
The shiny stock-length springs you see here are sourced directly from Lowbrow Customs in the USA—but unfortunately, they don’t exactly plug and play with the customer’s needs. The main hurdle was maintaining Seventy-Two’s factory ABS brakes, which required some serious fabrication to accommodate the springs.

So Zen gave the bike to their friend Edi Buffon at Machine 1867—a one-man craft shop a few miles down the street. Edi worked his magic on the fork and when the bike returned to the shop, Zen was able to finish setting up the front end. Chrome calipers were supplied from Performance Machine, the factory rotors were swapped with drilled stainless parts from Russell, and custom spacers were added to make it all align.

Custom Harley Sportster Seventy-Two by Zen Motorcycles
At the rear, the Zen largely leaves the Sportster unobstructed, keeping the factory swingarm, shock absorbers and brake components intact. The factory belt drive has been swapped out for a chain shifter for a bit more iron head style, and the rear sprocket gets a chrome treatment to match the rest of the Sporty’s luminance. .

With the chassis sorted, it’s time to add some color to the Seventy-Two. Zen says the client’s only stipulation is that gold has to be included in the theme to some extent, allowing them the freedom to choose their own muse from a ’70s influence catalog.

Custom Harley Sportster Seventy-Two by Zen Motorcycles
The result is truly something special. From a distance, it’s easy to mistake this for your typical ‘vivid black’ Sporty with the added Ohio fire job. Up close, however, it’s an entirely different story.

That’s because Zen used the darkest purple paint we’ve ever seen, with metal flakes buried under more layers of transparent paint than we’d like to count. The flame itself is done in the traditional way, with handmade gilding of leaves bordered by small purple stripes.

Custom Harley Sportster Seventy-Two by Zen Motorcycles
Zen continued the gold theme throughout the bike, but opted for polished bronze details over 24 karat bling, for reasons we don’t need to explain here. The lift rod, grips and gas cap are all made of brass, while the spark plug leads have an extra layer of gold glitter front and center.

The final piece is finding a way to stash all the bulky modern electronics, which Zen deftly disassembles. The stock lighting system has been replaced from top to bottom with minimalist Kellermann LED hardware; The coin-sized turn signals on the front of the springs are a particularly nice touch. The OEM gauge cluster is still retained, but Zen has moved it below the front cylinder for an unobstructed cockpit.

Custom Harley Sportster Seventy-Two by Zen Motorcycles
As for the controls themselves, Zen has integrated one-touch buttons that mount flush into a custom set of handlebars, giving it the look of a mere machine. They can connect all the new components without losing any of the CAN bus functionality—for the integrated ECU, the Sportster is still fully available.

Final touches include Mustang leather seats, a chrome sissy bar from Lowbrow Customs, a full set of chrome bolts and nuts, and the addition of braided clutch and brake cables. The Zen even adds a little extra performance for good measure, with an S&S teardrop hole and a set of Vance & Hines ShortShot tubes, to help the Seventy-Two’s bite match its bark.

Custom Harley Sportster Seventy-Two by Zen Motorcycles
The Sportster as we know it may be relegated to the pages of history, but bikes like the Zen’s Sporty Seventy-Two will continue to carry the torch for generations to come.

It’s disturbing to think that all new Harleys could be powered by something other than an internal combustion engine fifteen years from now. But we take comfort in knowing that we won’t have to go looking for old iron head parts to have a timeless classic in the garage when the time comes.

Zen motorcycle | Facebook | Instagram | Photo of Andrew Jones

Custom Harley Sportster Seventy-Two by Zen Motorcycles


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