Bringing you the world's best cafe racers, trackers, scramblers, bobbers & custom motorcycles.

2014 Harley-Davidson Street 500 by Speed Merchant

Posted on July 3, 2014 by Scott in Tracker. 30 comments


With Harley-Davidson recently unveiling two new models, the Street 750 and Street 500, we were wondering who would be the first to customise one. Well, we don’t have to wonder anymore. The guys from The Speed Merchant were approached by Mike Davis from Born Free on behalf of Harley to see if they were interested in customising one to be showcased at the Born Free show. Of course they said hell yeah. “Having never seen one in person, it was very intriguing” says Brandon from The Speed Merchant. “The new Harley-Davidson Street 500 is what showed up at my shop with about 3 months to get the job done.” They were given an open brief by Harley, but with all the choppers at Born Free, they wanted create something a little different that would stand out from the crowd.


Speed Merchant engineer and designer Brandon “Brawny Built” Holstein decided to build the bike with a nod to the Flat Track tradition. He started by removing most of the stock parts from the bike. Front end, wheels, bars, rear fender, battery, rear subframe, and exhaust – shedding 50lbs (22kg) from the stock bike. He replaced the stock wheels with some Sun Aluminum rims with SS spokes laced up to HD hubs. The front end was replaced with a set of Speed Merchant mid glide trees made for the HD 48 Sportster. Huntington Beach Harley Davidson donated the front end to the build. They topped off the front end with SM preload adjusters. To finish up the front, Brandon made a classic styled aluminum number plate that incorporate the overflow for the radiator and a LED driving light supplied by Lazerstar Lights.


Brandon used a Speed Merchant radial mount brake bracket up the front and mounted a Tokico caliper to it. The bars are a custom set made in house as well. The controls are off a GSXR 600, and 750, topped off with some Pazzo levers. The throttle is a 1/4 turn set up from Joker Machine – used mainly for speedway.


“Next I decided to mount the tank in a different position” says Brandon. “I raised the tank by about 4″ to provide a more traditional stance. To match the line of the tank I looked at the tail section next. After cutting off the stock subframe and pulling the wiring from under the seat, I started laying out the new subframe set-up. Part of the new subframe houses all of the stock wiring just under the seat. The new tail section was shaped out of aluminum. Once the tail section was finished, I fabricated a seat pan that was handed off to Bates Leather. They nailed it with this custom tuck and roll design.”


To change the stance of the bike, the guys at Speed Merchant used some tall rear shocks supplied by Ohlins USA. “They were kind enough to support this build.” The taller shocks provided extra ground clearance and helped to enhance the stance of the bike. To round off the rear section of the bike, Brandon decided to modify the rear swingarm by adding some extra bracing and hollowing out the square tubing. Then they made a battery box to mount the 8 cell Anitgravity Battery just above the swingarm.


Having such a new model created some challenges for Brandon and his crew. Like trying to find a front sprocket to convert this bike to a chain drive. “Luckily I was able to find one. I used a Super Sprox rear sprocket, with a black EK 530 chain. I made a custom aluminium front sprocket cover. Rounding out the rear end was a radial brake bracket with a Tokico caliper to match the front.”


The last thing that SM fabricated was the custom exhaust. Cone Engineering donated a 2″ core muffler for this build. Brandon used this and then recreated the front headers to fit the bike – a full stainless system is just what the doctor ordered.


The paint was done by John Edwards of Old Tyme Custom paint. SM wanted to keep it really clean and simple, but highlight the gold on the bike. Once the color was laid down the bike was handed over to Pacman Line & Letter Company to pinstripe and hand letter the Harley-Davidson. Then finally some pearl was laid over the top before clearing it.


The bike was unveiled at last weeks Born Free 6 and attracted an unprecedented amount of attention – with a constant crowd around the bike for the whole show. The guys from Speed Merchant sum it up best with this quote: “In a sea of choppers, it was for sure, the dark horse and a massive attention grabber.”


Photos by Mike Quinones from ourCaste

  • Perfect look !!

  • ccc40821

    Wish they had done something as unexpected as when H-D decided to market a midsized, watercooled bike.

    • Luke

      Could not agree more. I felt HD really missed the opportunity to do an intro bike with a callback to it’s smaller heritage. Now that they are trying to get flat tracking into the X-Games though, I don’t think it’s crazy to think they will offer up a flat-tracker-style option through their custom-shop in a year or two.

      • ccc40821

        Actually I wished the guys at The Speed Merchant would’ve tried somthing that hasn’t been done thousands of times before. The bike looks fine, of course, but does the world need yet another flattracker for the street?

        • The internet may not, but on the streets, sure why not?

          “PS Don’t hate so much, that is for fundamentalists….” 😉

          • ccc40821

            The point remains why didn’t they try doing something new? They clearly have the talent, they have a fully equipped workshop, and here they had a great chance to show some originality and ingenuity. I don’t hate street trackers – quite the contrary – but I do like it even more when people try to get out of their comfort zone.

            Out there in the ‘normal’ world of motorcycle manufacture, the big factories do well building compromises, i.e. motorcycles that appeal to the largest number of customers within their respective categories. Same thing with car manufacturers, for that matter, which is why every econobox and midsized sedan basically looks the same.

            To a lesser extent modified motorcycles are like that too, when one style becomes all the rage, and everybody uses it. In my youth it was choppers, currently it’s the cut down standards with clip-ons, Firestones and pipe wrap. I’m cool with that, it’s the style if this generation (and I actually like the style too).

            Custom builders face the same situation; their customers usually want something they have seen somewhere already, or a slight variation of it. It just gets to a point where I feel I have seen the same bikes over and over and over again, I wish for something different. This was one of the chances The Speed Merchant had.

          • claystorage

            Thank you for your opinion. I’ll second it on any day. I browse blogs all day and a beautiful bike can be a miserable clone, sadly too often.

          • Nic

            Well, maybe you should be building bikes all day, instead.

            Increase the peace indeed

          • The fact is, no one has ever done this to a Street 500. So I think that makes it ‘new’. Sometimes the classics are the best. I think they’ve turned a boring looking Harley into a much more desirable machine that would be so much more fun to ride.

          • Mike

            Everything’s been done before. You think you’re going to reinvent the wheel by building this bike into a what? Chopper? Cafe? Road Race? Brat? It’s all been done my man. Unless you’re Shinya Kimura and building pieces of art, the point of building a purposeful bike should ALWAYS be functional first. Why not customize for speed and function? Which, this bike is clearly built around. If you want a “new custom” bike that handles like a bag of dicks on the road, is constantly unreliable, but looks super rad parked at your local bar or on the back of your truck as you drive to Sturgis, then go back to the 90’s and buy a fat tire bike. Otherwise, I suggest you take a second and realize that for some people, customizing for the purpose of function is more important than customizing for a really “edgy” looking paper weight. I wonder if you took a second to look at the bikes Brawny has built in the past? The dude has been building street tracker style bikes for YEARS, longer than you’ve probably been wearing you 3/4 face helmet on a Puch scooter blasting down PCH. Whether it’s developing completely new sub-frames for mono-shock sportsters, or simply removing the clutter and parts that are bound to fail for the sake of reliability, the builder is pioneer at FUNCTION. Have you seen what a stock Street looks like? For the most part, a smaller version of a Jax Teller wanna-be sized for a child. The customization of this bike from what it started it’s life as is VAST. Just as you say, in your generation it was choppers, but all you saw at that time was choppers. Didn’t make them any less original, because they were customized from what the stock bike was. This bike didn’t began as a tracker and get a few bolt on parts added to it, it’s been completely modified…just as your beloved choppers. Lastly, you got to look at your bike’s bones to begin with, and let that influence the build to an extent as well. This is a 2014, water cooled, Harley Davidson, bike meant to be ridden hard on the streets. So…throw a raked out set of trees, 4 foot springer, and hard tail it…right? That would for sure be different, and absolutely ridiculous…not to mention pointless. Build for function and speed when you can, not for something that’s going to sit in your garage for you and friends to stare at while drinking a Molson. Increase the peace my man.

          • ccc40821

            You’re on decaf from now on….

        • arnold

          Perhaps ‘Trikes’ or hacks are ripe. They have been left unmolested for thirty years or so.

        • There’s plenty of “flat trackers for the street’ on the internet, but I don’t see many on the street here in California. A H.-D.750 in this livery could potentially change all that. In the same way that the newer “hipster-friendly” Sportsters seem to be selling well here.

      • Don’t hold your breath!

  • Junior Burrell

    Hell yeah!!! I dig it!!!

  • Benjamin Evan Walker

    Great article, but needs a heap of proofreading.

  • dirtyrottenscramblers

    Good effort. Unfortunately the guys who built it obviously don’t have any experience actually flat track racing. Also the tank looks huge. Still glad it got built. I love scramblers and trackers.

  • Gentile Sodomite

    I don’t love it, but I think it is a balanced looking bike, with good style and lines. The part that bothers me the most and can’t ignore is that the fat stripe is on the left side on the tank, but on the fender and number plate, it’s on the right. Nit picky, I know, but it’s drawing my focus.

    • duh

      That’s not nit picky…..hat’s a mistake.

  • It’s a beaut! What’s up with the peg/foot control position? Seems a little….off. Wish we had a shot of this being t h r a s h ed !

  • LK

    Reminded me of the ’80’s Honda Ascot 500 twin right away. Just sayin…

  • Foiled Again

    I do copy editing- I’ll volunteer my services to Pipeburn purely on the basis of avoiding going into a seething rage over the “they’re/their/there”, “its/it’s” and “discreet/discrete” issues. I’m serious, you guys.

    Proper grammar is among other things a sign of respect for the reader.

    Oh, by the way- neat bike.

    • arnold

      Tx wi dont spel gud ether.

    • Thanks for the feedback. I’ve just checked the whole story and I can’t see any of the words you mentioned ( they’re/their/there”, “its/it’s” and “discreet/discrete). Are you talking about this post?

  • knumbnutz

    get rid of the shroud around the radiator – its horrible. Otherwise nice job

  • arnold

    500, 750 and electric bikes. Sounds like something is up in the marketing department, all to the good. Many of us in the current demographic are aging to be cagers. Personally it is a struggle for me to pick up a heavy bike anymore.

    A three month custom, on a new model, at a new displacement, and have it look pretty good is a pat on the back to The Speed Merchant, well deserved.

    If it were mine I would like the pegs farther back to get my legs under me instead of in front of me on this type of bike. Harleys seem to have the design to have your legs at 90 degrees or greater and puts all your torso weight on yer butt and spine.

  • Sendil Kumar Murugaiah

    Is it new Street 500 just got launched or ?

  • jeff fearnow

    So: Will someone make a real XR1200 type kit that puts the pegs someplace normal?