May. 01, 2006 By ORC STAFF
One-Of-A-Kind Superbike

My quest for the perfect adventure bike started in 1993 when I saw an old article in Cycle World about a group of guys that built a sportster based desert sled to run the in the Baja 1000. The bike simply looked fantastic in its Baja trim with its long travel suspension and powerful V-twin motor. I really liked the simplicity of the air-cooled push rod motor. I heard it was easy motor to work on and very reliable if you didn't try to squeeze every last ounce of horsepower out of it. I decided than and there I would have to build one of my own.

Looking much like a factory effort, Jim's bikes is a standout

I thought it would be a good idea to contact the gents that built this bike and find out how well it actually worked in the real world. I wrote Cycle World and made contact with one of the guys involved the project. As it turns out, this was a group of Hollywood stunt men that wanted to run Baja on something unusual. The guy said the bike performed well, finishing the race with only minor problems, placing 4th (if I remember correctly) in its class. This was enough to convince me that a Sportster-based desert sled was a workable idea and so I set about researching the best way to build my own.

The Hollywood boys had a custom frame made by C&J Racing frames, a name I was familiar with from my amateur days of dirt track racing. As luck would have it, a sister frame was made as a spare, but was never used. I called C&J, and lo and behold, 10 years after the fact , they found the dusty old frame in the attic, and after a little wrangling , I made the purchase.


Wheelies are no problem on the big bike

The next step was to find an engine. After looking for a good used one, I decided to spring for a brand new (1994) mill to eliminate all worries about the motor end of things. I went with the 883 because I was told it was cheaper to convert the 883 to a 1200 than to buy a 1200 outright. Although I had lots of people trying to talk me into max hp tuning, my idea was to get 65 to 70 hp... with zero problems. I like the idea of an under stressed motor in an adventure bike.

Next on the agenda was the suspension. I went with a used set of a YZ 400 forks and an old Works Performance rear shock off an ATK. The rear shock has since been replaced with a new state of the art Works Performance unit. The seat, front fender and side panels are all ATK. A custom four gallon aluminum tank was fabbed by a local ATC customizing shop. The wheels and brakes are off a 90's something KTM.

As all the parts were being accumulated, I discovered that I had a later model engine than what the frame was originally designed for. This caused major delays in the project which resulted in several years passing before the bike was finally ready to ride.

Unfortunately, the bike handled very badly. The head angle was too steep making for a very twitchy ride, down right scary on the freeway. The other problem was that under full compression, the front wheel would contact the front down tubes. I was really blind sided by these problems because this was supposed to be a sister frame to the Baja bike. I have a feeling that my frame was actually a first prototype. The bike was stripped down and the frame sent back to C&J where the frame was stretched 1 in and 2 degrees added to the rake. These mods transformed the bike and I have no complaints about the handling now.


Jim and his Baja Harley

I am 50 years old and have had many bikes in my day including 3 BMW GSs. I have to say that this bike is turning out to be my all time favorite. I will have it for the rest of my life. At 454 lb (wet with ½ tank of fuel), it's 100 lbs lighter than my 1150 Adventurer. Its easy to work on, needs no valve adjustments, parts are cheap and everywhere.

Although I haven't yet piled up the miles, I am pretty sure it will be way more reliable than my last BMW or KTM. I let a friend (former KTM 640 Adventurer rider) ride it and he was pretty much blown away by how well the bike works. I think he will be building one for himself in the future.

Editor's note: Jim Stanton has a website that sells guards for heads on Beemers at: Newsletter
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