COAL: Cycles Of A Lifetime — ’77 Harley-Davidson XLCR Part 2 — More Apologies to Willie G.

In the previous installment, I had done all these modifications on my ’77 XLCR to make the bike perfect for my third epic ride. A month long trip around the country. Now the bike was comfortable and the gas tank gave it a respectable range of approx. 130 miles.

It was now like my ’74 Honda 750, a bike that was ready to go anywhere at any time. The handling was quite good. It had three disc brakes on its Morris Mag wheels, with grippy Continental tires. The engine was pretty smooth, though nothing like a Honda Four. But it was comfortable enough for sustained riding at 70-75 mph. I would find it smoother than my 80 inch Big Twin.

Harley Sporsters are different from more modern machines. Once the mileage reached 5,000 miles, oil consumption dropped from over 700 miles per quart to what would be normal for most of its life; 500 miles per quart. My daily average while on my around the country trip was usually 600 miles per day. That meant that I had to add a quart of oil a day. Since I had enlarged the oil capacity I wasn’t worried that it might run low enough to damage the engine, but I had to keep an eye on it. By the time I returned from my trip oil consumption had dropped to 125 miles a quart!

There were plenty of Harley dealerships located across the country and I’d stop and pick up a couple of quarts of 60 weight oil every other day. If that wasn’t possible, I’d use automotive 60 weight racing oil, 40 weight regular oil, or whatever was available. It was the same with finding leaded premium fuel. In California it hadn’t been difficult, but once I left Nevada. finding leaded premium became a real problem. Sometimes I’d find unleaded premium, and sometimes all that I could find would be leaded regular. A lot of times all that I’d find would be unleaded regular. It didn’t matter. I filled up with whatever was available. This trip was made during the gas crisis of 1979. Lots of stations were closed, many were only open for a limited number of hours. There were quantity restrictions, but that didn’t affect my purchases.

Operating the engine on unleaded fuel for long hours at highway speeds and high temperatures probably accelerated the amount of wear. The engine was originally built with cast iron valve guides, and the recommended oils were straight 40, 50, or 60 grades. The engine survived this “abuse” during the trip and for some time afterward.

After I returned I rebuilt the top end of the engine with better quality parts. Manley stainless steel valves and copper bronze valve guides which were much better than OEM spec. components. I also switched over to the newly introduced 20-50 multi-weight HD oil. The rebuilt engine was doing fine as the odometer reeled up the 50,000 mark.

Typical of Harley owners I made many additional modifications and performed a couple more restyles over the twenty years that I owned it. These restylings were much more satisfactory than my initial attempt. Every change was made to make it even more useful as a road bike. I always kept every part that I  changed or removed. These would often find themselves being reinstalled in different configurations at a later date.

Here’s how it looked when I arrived in Whittier. Note the new tank and exhaust system.


Drag Specialties released another new custom tank for the Super Glide model bikes. It was a four gallon unit called the “Quick Bob”. It was a direct replacement for the FX series, but I modified the mounts to use on my XL. My buddy Rick also made the change. It was a classic looking design that fit in with the bike’s appearance. I painted the tank black so it would match the rest of the bike. I had worked my way through two of the XLS seats. The bottom pan was made of plastic and they would crack over time. Later I would switch over to the OEM ’79 model seat, which was wider.

The bigger tank made it perfect for my second running of the California 1000 Rally.

When I relocated to Southern California for my new job, my Sportster went along. An ’81 FLHS would be added to my fleet during my second year in So Cal.

The original ’57 model.


The ’65 touring model.


It was during this period that I embarked on my retro ’57 XL restyle. I added some vintage XLH parts that were designed for the “Touring model Sportster”. The nearby Laidlaw Harley-Davidson dealer had a huge stash of vintage parts available. A ’65 skirted front fender, repro skirted rear fender with a beehive tail lamp, ’65 Chrome headlight nacelle with speedo, rubber fork gaiters, a crash bar, and the HD compact saddlebags went back on. I had relocated the front turn signals to the crash bar. I painted it a very vintage looking red over white paint scheme that was similar to the ’57. I had become quite an expert at painting with spray cans. It came out as smooth as porcelain! I got a lot of compliments on the paint job.

The long rear fender and bee hive tail lamp are already in place.


I learned something about DIY paint jobs, especially those done with “rattle cans”. If someone was admiring the paint job and asked who painted it, I’d often respond that a buddy of mine with a body shop did it as a favor. Then the guy would continue checking out the bike, murmuring approval. Other times I’d tell them that I painted it myself in my garage with spray cans. Then their response would change. At first they were admiring, but now they became critical, looking for some hard to see defect. If they couldn’t find anything to criticize, they’d just say something like, “Yeah, it looks good now, but it probably won’t hold up.”

After moving back to San Jose, I repainted it again in a very dark metallic charcoal grey color. The design included the new HD wing style tank decal along with contrasting tape pinstripes on the fenders. I kept my mythical buddy pretty busy in the paint shop!

This was the inspiration. The Rifle fairing looked like the top half of this fairing. My bike also had genuine Krauser luggage.


My fourth restyle was to a BMW 1000Rs influenced design. It was a cross between the original Cafe Racer design and the Euro Sport Tourer look of the BMW. I reinstalled the Low Rider risers and the drag bar handlebars, along with the XLCR gauges. The XLS seat was exchanged for a ’79 model which was much wider. I removed the sissy bar and the skirted rear fender and made a set of mounts for the Krauser hard luggage, to give it a more distinctive look, I used a few parts that Rick had taken off of his XLS after he modified it. I installed the large “ham can” air cleaner, as well as the chromed Siamese dual exhaust system.

I would say that the bike looked very cool and much different from any Harley Sportster that I’d ever seen. If I should find any of the photos of these two restylings, I’ll post them in a future installment.

One problem with this setup was that the bigger fairing trapped and reflected the very mechanical aspects of the motor. This was even more noticeable because the exhaust was so quiet. Instead of a roar I heard and lot of clattering and thrashing. Though the motor was in good shape, it had really loosened up.

So I decided to go back to my roots.

This is a photo taken during my final years of ownership.


Off came the fairing and drag bar setup. I reinstalled the old gauge setup, front fender, and buckhorn bars. The luggage mounts came off and the earlier rear fender and sissy bar were reinstalled. The Siamese duals were replaced by an OEM ’77 two into one header pipe, with an aftermarket single large muffler. It was quieter than the staggered duals, but only a bit louder than the Siamese duals. The Krauser luggage was replaced by a set of Pony Express style leather saddle bags.

It looked like a Sportster once again. It stayed in this form until I sold it. Unfortunately I don’t think that I took any photos of the retro or Euro style design stages.

During the time that I was constantly modifying my Sportster, Rick decided to move up to a Big Twin of his own. He bought a new Road King full dresser. I was impressed and honestly,  a bit jealous.

Rick was a single guy, and I was a married family man. We had just traded up to a bigger house and I didn’t have any extra funds to buy an expensive new bike for myself. In fact, I had sold my own Big Twin to pay back my parents the money they had lent me to help me close the deal on the house.

Rick and I continued riding together but it was less and less often. Two more kids followed in the years after we settled into our house. I found that my focus was on taking care of and spending time with the family. I still rode to work and for local errands, but it didn’t seem right to take off and leave my wife home with the kids. Believe it or not, I actually came to that conclusion on my own.

The next phase of my life had started, and it would be quite a few years before I thought about taking trips on a motorcycle.

However, all was not lost. I really increased my involvement with hobby cars during this period.