Photography by Jeff Hacke...
Photography by Jeff Hackett
It all started when Alfonse Moretti began dating a woman who wanted to move from the passenger seat to the controls. Intent on piloting her own bike, she signed up for a few private riding lessons, and Alfonse (yes, he prefers that to the diminutive) decided to tag along. The school-supplied learner bikes looked fun, so Alfonse, a one-time off-road rider who'd been out of the saddle for nearly 20 years, wangled his way on to one for a short spin around the parking lot. Apparently, the fire had been banked, but not extinguished. Before the week was out, Alfonse had scored himself a brand-new Victory V92SC.
The Victory was nice, but a bit too pedestrian for its owner's tastes; consequently, he began to do a little judicious customizing. The bike turned out nicely, but Alfonse, a type A personality if ever there was one, wanted something more than nice. As so often happens, the custom bug had bitten and bitten hard. The itch needed scratching, so he sold the Victory and started looking for a suitable replacement.
The Honda VTX and Kawasaki Vulcan made his short list, but both carried a little too much plastic. He also considered doing a traditional Harley custom, but shelved that idea because he's not really a traditional type of guy, and let's be honest, these days, traditional Harley customs are as common as dirt.
However, there was something about the Harley V-Rod that struck his fancy. It was fast, it had some unique styling cues, and while it was made in Milwaukee, it was somewhat removed from the mainstream, which added to the appeal. Besides, Alfonse, who makes his living as a personal trainer and sometimes competes in (and wins) amateur body building contests, wanted a bike to reflect himself, both in the physical and philosophical sense. The look he had in mind was low, lean and chiseled, without an ounce of flab. Since the stock V-Rod was already bent in that direction, creating the vision meant accentuating what was already there, as opposed to a total redesign.
After deciding on the V-Rod, he added a few caveats. "I wanted it to look like a [custom] V-Rod, not a custom bike using a V-Rod engine, so I needed to keep the four styling elements that made it a V-Rod: the frame [which remained bone stock right down to the factory-applied powdercoating], the headlight, airbox and gauges."
Now that he had a bike and a plan, there was only one small hurdle to clearhow to actually accomplish the build. See, making your living as a personal trainer doesn't equip you with a lot of specialized mechanical skills. Alfonse can't weld or machine, and at the time he owned barely enough tools to assemble a back-yard swing set.
Realizing the job might be compromised by personal and equipment limitations, he was faced with three options. The first was to simply build a catalog custom using over-the-counter bolt-on parts. This idea was dismissed out of hand because, as Alfonse succinctly put it, "Catalogs don't make customs."
Option two was to farm out all the fabrication and simply assemble the bike on his own. This had some appeal but was discarded primarily because it didn't seem like it'd be a very satisfying way to build a bike.
Plan C seemed to make the most sense. First he'd try to find as many parts as he could, both already on the bike and available through the aftermarket, that could be massaged, coerced and manipulated into what he needed with little more than some willpower and a 4-inch grinder. What he absolutely couldn't do at home he'd have done by the best fabricators he could find. This may seem like a long row to hoe, but as Alfonse says, "I'm very resourceful."
He began by disassembling his new V-Rod into two big piles. Parts that might have some future value went in one pile, parts that didn't went directly to eBay. Once the piles were sorted, he got busy replacing the ones that hadn't made the cut.
Feeling solid wheels belong on military ordnance, not motorcycles, he ordered up a set of Performance Machine Wrath rims, an 18 x 8.5 rear with a matching drive pulley and a 21 x 3.5 front. Unfortunately, there was a hitch. PM wasn't yet building Wraths for the V-Rod. It'd be happy to custom-turn a set for Alfonse, but only if he provided the specifications and made them fit, a daunting task, no matter how resourceful you are. Fortunately, PM suggested someone who might be able to helpCary Faas of Cary Faas Racing.
First, Faas had PM whittle up the rims with the offset adjusted to his measurements. Then came the tricky partshoehorning the oversized rear wheel and its peripheral bits into the stock and somewhat narrow swingarm. He began by notching the left side of the swingarm to clear the drive pulley and then recessed the right side so the caliper slider wouldn't foul the tire. But that wasn't the end of it. Normally, the lower eyes of the V-Rod's shocks are secured by a nut and bolt. Due to the hub's width, the nuts no longer fit. Faas solved that headache by installing stainless steel Helicoils into the lower mounts and eliminating the nuts.
Because the wide hub relocated the rear pulley, it no longer lined up with the stock countershaft pulley. Faas rectified the situation by turning up an offset countershaft pulley to match the rear pulley's new location.
The front wheel also required a little fiddling before it could be installed. PM had supplied the 21-inch hoop mounted to a stock V-Rod hub machined to accept dual brake rotors. Since the plans called for a single front disc brake mounted on the left, Faas spun up a new right-side hub, which cleaned up the appearance by eliminating the disc mounting points. While his lathe was still warm he also removed the caliper mount from the right-side lower fork leg.
Alfonse is quick to thank the guys at PM and Cary Faas for their help. "Cary was particularly helpful. He must have answered a million stupid questions, most of the time during late-night, panicky phone calls."