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MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. Mule Motorcycles’ Mean Harley Sportster Street Tracker

Posted on October 17, 2017 by Andrew in Racer, Tracker. 54 comments

As always at this time of year, Harley have just wheeled out their 2018 models to the world’s eager press. Sure they look cool but all we can see is the big, fat hole where there isn’t a street tracker. C’mon Milwaukee! Just slap a light and some indicators on the XG750R and be done with it. No? Well, that’s cool because Mule Motorcycles’ Richard Pollock, a.k.a. California’s king of trackers, has just delivered us a Harley Sportster XL1200 street tracker that should keep all but the most unhinged of HD tracker fans happy for a millennia or three.

Far from being a regular walk-in customer, Mel Cary, the bike’s new owner, used to work alongside Rich. “The bike was built by Mel and myself at Mule Motorcycles. Mel was my right hand man for a couple of years after a long career as a machinist and engine builder, working mainly on Top Fuel dragsters and drag boats”. Mel has owned several hot Ducatis and dirtbikes in the past, but after a few years of doing machine work for Mr. P, he was clearly bitten by the street tracker bug. Now it was time for him to build his own.

“Mel did all the work with only some suggestions, experience and spare parts coming from me,” says Richard. “After building more than 60 Sportster-based street trackers, I think it’s fair to say that I have a pretty good Idea of what works and what doesn’t”.

On the hunt for a sweet donor, Mel located the bike with a mere 240 miles on it in Phoenix, Arizona. A weekend road trip and some friendly haggling got the bike on the trailer and safely back to Ramona in California.

While the tracker inspiration for the bike was pretty clear, Richard says that a few touches were added from an unexpected source. “We decided that we wanted a street bike with some NASCAR touches. Something that said ‘all business’ to those in the know”.

The first item on the scrap cardboard checklist was setting up the chassis. 19″ Morris HD wheels were widened by Kosman Specialties and then powder coated in a dark bronze. Then the Ducati 996 forks were slid into the A&A dirttrack clamps and bolted onto the steering head with a 7075 alloy stem.

“The pair of Penske remote reservoir twin shocks you see are pretty rare on motorcycles. This set was sourced off a formula car from a customer in Switzerland about ten years ago. The wheels and shocks were in fact components I had been saving for years to use on my own build. Mel is a fanatic about details, so I knew his build would be worthy”.

Richard says that the tank and seat kit both came from Storz Performance Motorcycle Accessories. Other notable items include a custom stainless exhaust, a Joker Machine air cleaner attached to a HSR42 Mikuni carb, Berringer controls and front calipers, Mule stainless handlebars, a Sportster headlight, Brembo front rotors buttoned onto custom inner carriers and a Joker Machine headlight bracket. Rizoma provided the mirrors and LED turn signals.

“One of the neater details is the combo battery and breather box. Mel went with a Lithium battery, dropping a bunch of weight and leaving a big, empty space. He then made a trick box and relocated the head breathers from the carb mount bolts on the right to the left sides of the rocker boxes. It’s clean as a whistle”.

The rich, black paint on the tank and seat was applied by David Tovar at Superbike Paint in San Diego. And other than the exhaust, carb and some jetting, the super low mile motor remains pretty much stock.

“The breather box was hard. Well, maybe not hard, but just an interesting departure in concept from having the hoses dump into the mouth of the carb which is the Harley factory design. To be honest, no part of these builds are hard anymore; some parts are just more ‘interesting’ than others”.

“I like how the Harley looks like a proper street tracker and not just a random bike with the front fender removed and some aggressive tires installed. Experienced riders can tell the difference and they usually end up staring. But even better than that is hitting the starter button and blipping the throttle. The exhaust note is magic”.

[ Mule Motorcycles – Instagram | Photos by Olivier de Vaulx ]

  • Bultaco Metralla

    Wow, this really is the business. If i were the customer there are some details I might quibble about but by and large what a great bike.

    • I can’t think of a more desirable modern Harley. AT ALL.

    • Marek Kazmierski

      details – as in technical improvements or cosmetic changes?

      • Bultaco Metralla

        A mix of both. They would be personal choices on colour – I don’t like black, tyres – I believe tyre is pronounced Michelin, black blade mudguards (fenders) – I hate cleaning, perhaps a different seat – i like my comfort and Fournales shocks. I once fitted a set of Fournales to a Vespa.

  • bill smith

    Again perfection!

  • guvnor67

    Apart from the fact that it’s a Mule, so therefore it was always gonna be nothing less than perfect, that paint is so deep, not only can you drown in it, you’re likely to run into Jules Verne on the way down!

    • martin hodgson

      I had the exact same thought, as soon as I saw the word Mule I knew it would be a killer bike! and you’re right, how good is the paint.The depth is just incredible and I’m sure one you really need to see in person to truly appreciate. The front end is killer and those triples are damn cool. I can honestly say there is nothing in either the 2017 or new 18 Harley line up that interests me, not one bike! Clearly I’m not alone, yet this is the shit…. I really can’t understand why the bosses at HD won’t build a Tracker for the street, especially given how well all the other brands are doing with their Scrambler bikes. I know the company still sells plenty of bikes, but there is a huge sector of the market not at all interested in slow and fat road barges.

      • guvnor67

        I’m with you 100% there. Even Polaris are guilty to some degree. The Octane (I have one) is a cracking bike and it’s sibling the scout, but a factory Tracker would be the ducks nuts using those engines. Didn’t The Mo Co have a concept Tracker based on the Street 750? I think HD are trying harder with the Sportster, but it’s like they’re afraid to start a new page in case the old school won’t buy the book?!

        • Facing that fear and conquering it makes the difference between dying a slow death and remaining relevant. There will come a day when all of HD’s traditional customers are too old to ride. If they don’t appeal to a younger market at some point, they will disappear…

          • guvnor67

            And it’s quite sad. As I’ve often stated, I feel even bikes that I could take a shine to like the CVO Breakout seem crazy expensive. Harley’s racing history since the board track days it pretty impressive, yet. . .

      • Re: the 2018 line-up, my original opening gambit said just that, but I softened it a little so as to not bee too controversial. Meanwhile HD scratch their head as to why they can’t sell to millennials…

        • Sadly, HD seems to be the only one attached to the Harley membership craze that doesn’t get it. Mind boggling. That said, I would hate to see them release a 700 lb, XR1200 style streettracker that totally misses the point. If there was/is somebody at Harley you could actually talk to about this kinda stuff…..if only. I think the Millenial ship has set sail and there are no Harleys on board.

          • guvnor67

            So true sir. And feel free to enlighten me, but with the modern materials available, is there any real reason that their bikes need to way the same as an Abrahams?

          • Greybeard1

            Fuck it…nothing lasts forever, right?

          • The annoying part is, I SO want to like their bikes. AND trackers are right at the bloody CENTRE of their brand. What do we have to do!? Hold their hands?

  • aweds1

    Put a small front fender on it and sign me up!

  • Dave Coetzee

    Absolutely beautiful, right down to the perfectly positioned headlight angle.

    • Agreed. The headlight is perfection.

      • Flying W

        Yeah, Mule’s indisputably the Man, but a couple of his other builds have headlights that look a bit oversized to me, at least in the pix. This one’s bang-on.

  • Greybeard1

    Hope this doesn’t spoil any of the thoughts and wishes here but NO WAY could Harley come up with a machine so elemental and spot on.
    Rather like a parent with no interest in their child’s potential.
    Mule gets it.
    HD doesn’t.

    • guvnor67

      I like the way you put that, and so true.

      • Let’s just hop that when they do get it, the customisers who lead the way are included and not excluded. Greg Hageman, eat your heart out…

  • Another run of the mill Sportster turned into a fun to ride thing of beauty my the Mule shop. Love the traditional black paint and Harley script, reminds me of a late 70’s FXS.
    The breather box solution is very trick…….just another unique detail that seems to show up on every Mule bike. I would really like to install the same throttle on my own Sportster, who makes that one?

    • @mule59:disqus? Can you help TS out?

      • Good to go… a note from Richard, Joker Machine, thanks!

  • Herminio Caesar Mercado

    As always…….Mule = super sick!!!!!

  • Jim In Solvang

    This Mule certainly kicks ass. Just curious what the gas tank capacity is – and as always would love a video so we can see it/hear it in action.

  • Barry Van Dyke

    Harley should take a good hard look. As always with Richard Pollock, functional perfection.

    • Exactly!

    • guvnor67

      They could, but they’d have to remove their rose tinted bad-ass wrap ’round sunnies first!!

  • The best of the best.

  • JayJay

    Sweet jezus what a looker.

  • Please note that Mel did All the work on this one! The throttle came from Joker Machine.

    • guvnor67

      And a great job too.

    • Duly noted, Richard. And thanks again to you and Mel for the honour of posting this bike. It’s truly a beautiful build.

  • Soapy Loofah

    I can’t believe I’m going to type these words – I would position the the cut ends of the zipties below the brake line so they were out of sight.

    Other than that, all I can say is “typical Mule” – absolutely beautiful…

    • When you get down to spotting details like that, you know the bike has been well thought through. 🙂

    • The dilemma on the zip ties always is, and I actually think about this, should the view from the front be clean…..or the riders’s view. Inconclusive.

      • Soapy Loofah

        I’m 100% certain those details get thought about – hence my somewhat facetious comment. There really is nothing to critique, your builds are the gold-standard.

      • guvnor67

        It’s funny, ‘cos only a week or so ago I had reason to work on the electrics on my old rigid Honda, and after AN HOUR pondering the zip tie question, I was I decided, no better off and went inside for a large coke and a peanut butter and ham sandwich!!

      • Eric

        God is in the details, my friend! Keep up the great work!

      • One of the great philosophical dilemmas of our time. Zen and the Art of Zip Tie placement. 😉

  • Len Farquharson

    Sweeeeet HD tracker! It is definitely the year of top paint jobs too!

    • It’s amazing how something so simple can work so well…

  • the watcher

    Fit, finish, detail work; gorgeous, as ever. For me (steady “lovers”, don’t have a meltdown) the styling/stance lacks Mule’s usual light touch. Just type “street tracker” into Google, go to “images”, and you’ll find a couple of Mule Sporties that look somehow nimbler, more “just so”. Hey, I’m a heretic, so burn me.

    • Perfect observation. As noted, Mel built this with some guidance. In the end, the styling choices were his. Many small, and I mean very small, details can totally change the balance and proportions of a build. It takes a million hours of staring at bikes (profile shots mainly), to begin to pick up where “right” comes from. How you get it and how you lose it. I have another bike we shot at the same time as these photos that feature a bit of contrast along the lines of which you speak. See picture.

      • the watcher

        I admit I suspected as much styling-wise. And yup, your link is exactly what I was referring to. Both quality, but I know which I prefer. Mules for courses, eh?

        • Soapy Loofah

          Excellent point – compared back-to-back it appears as though the chrome adds visual weight to the bike that the blacked-out version doesn’t have. This is not a criticism, but more of an observation as to how it strikes me. Thanks for posting the second bike…

          • Here’s a batch of clues. The shock mounts on the second bike are moved forward on the swingarm 6″. And 7″ or so on the frame. The battery is smaller without the breather box, plus the oil tank gets its volume by going side to side instead of lengthwise. The sidestand is thinner/lighter(and lighter looking) than the huge chrome stocker. The rear disc is at least 2″ smaller diameter and overall the bike sits higher, giving just a hair more of a spindly impression to the eye. Add that all together and it makes quite a difference.

          • Soapy Loofah

            Thanks for that! Lots to be learned here…

          • bigmosickle

            Richard, this bike really works for me. All business and black make it look like it just raced Springfield, but I’d opt for the same old HD graphics on the tank of the first bike, just to add a little more interest and break up the black.

  • zipper

    What no S&S carb? I like the brake light/Tag setup, one of the finishing touches often overlooked in the build and just slapped on the bike to finish.

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