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MX-Inspired Custom Harley Sportster 1200 Is All Geared Up for Serious Off-Road Action

Australia is one of those places where custom bike culture has really flourished over the years, so there’s no shortage of talented builders within its borders. Among the most prolific workshops down under is Purpose Built Moto (PBM) of Gold Coast, Queensland, a firm whose reputation and expertise few others can match.
Custom Harley Sportster 23 photos
Photo: Brandan Trudinger
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Tom Gilroy and his squad have been at the top of their game for several years now, and they gave us countless projects to drool over during this time. As a matter of fact, PBM’s work – old and new – is regularly featured on autoevolution, never failing to impress regardless of what genre it falls into. The rugged one-off shown above is no exception, but it doesn’t bow to one particular style.

Although Tom says that a motocross feel was the primary goal here, we also spot a bit of tracker and scrambler influence helping the project come full circle. Commissioned by a client named Scott, this machine had once been a stock Harley-Davidson XLH1200S Sportster from the model-year 1998. It all started when Scott walked into the Purpose Built headquarters some time ago and saw one of Tom’s ongoing exploits.

It was none other than the Harley Sportster later featured in the motorcycling film Wide of the Mark, a documentary following Tom Gilroy and five other riders on their Tasmanian adventure. Immediately stoked by what he saw, Scott knew he wanted something similar in his garage and PBM’s artisans were more than happy to help him get just that. As soon as Tom came back from Tasmania, the build got underway.

While the XLH1200S was coming apart, the lads ditched just about every factory component aside from the frame and V-twin engine. Then, the first thing they focused on was the suspension department, where you will now find piggyback Ohlins shock absorbers, an aluminum swingarm from Trac Dynamics, and the inverted WP forks of a KTM 1190 Adventure.

Custom Harley Sportster
Photo: Brandan Trudinger
To better suit their new host, all these new suspension components were tuned by Costanzo Racing before making their way onto the Sportster. Aside from the off-road-capable forks, the aforementioned KTM also donated its front Brembo brakes, but the wheel hub is from Haan and the 19-inch rim was supplied by Excel. The rear 17-inch hoop has the same origin, and it’s accompanied by an aftermarket brake and rear sprocket.

Dual-purpose rubber hugs the Excel rims at both ends, providing ample grip on whatever terrain Scott decides to ride on. The Purpose Built squad went to town with the powertrain upgrades, as well, installing fresh cams, a premium clutch, and a Lectron carburetor. They linked the new carb to a custom-made intake manifold, topping it off with a DNA air filter originally designed for the Ducati 1299.

On the exhaust side of things, we now see bespoke stainless-steel pipes running in a two-into-one layout toward a single MX-style silencer. Along with some porting work on the cylinder heads, all these upgrades raised the engine’s power output by around 50 percent, for a total of 75 ponies at the crank. The V-twin's underside and front exhaust header are kept out of harm’s way thanks to a handmade skid plate.

Custom Harley Sportster
Photo: Brandan Trudinger
Up top, there's the repurposed fuel tank of a 2018 Harley Street Bob, cleverly modified to sit on the Sportster like it was always meant to be there. The rest of the bodywork is a custom affair shaped out of aluminum, and it gets particularly interesting at the front. There you’ll notice a high-mounted fender fitted right beneath a flat, number plate-style fairing with motocross and tracker vibes.

This tailor-made fairing is outfitted with a multitude of LED lighting items, while the fork lowers are shielded by compact guards built from scratch. Down south, the scrambled Sportster bears a pointy tail section whose rearmost tip is home to a small, yet bright LED taillight. PBM installed aftermarket turn signals a bit further ahead on the flanks, and a replacement oil tank can be found right below the seat pan.

Above it lies a fresh saddle with plentiful padding to keep Scott comfortable when he goes off the pavement. In the cockpit, the bike carries five-inch (127 mm) risers that support a ProTaper handlebar and a digital Motogadget dial. Round rear-view mirrors, ISR control levers, and PBM’s proprietary off-the-shelf switches complete the equipment in that area. Look closely, and you’ll see discreet blinkers mounted beneath the levers.

Finishing off the specimen’s ergonomic package are billet off-roading foot pegs of unnamed origin. When it came time to handle the paint job, Josh of Ride Design Co. was summoned to lend a helping hand. He cloaked vast areas of the scrambled Sportster in a black base, subsequently applying red and grey accents along with white pinstripes. When all was said and done, the motorcycle’s dry weight dropped to a leaner 448 pounds (203 kg).
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About the author: Silvian Secara
Silvian Secara profile photo

A bit of an artist himself, Silvian sees two- and four-wheeled machines as a form of art, especially restomods and custom rides. Oh, and if you come across a cafe racer article on our website, it’s most likely his doing.
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