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Black & Gold Chopper

  • Motorcycles
  •  | 
Humility on Two Wheels
Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio
I often get asked questions from folks wanting to get into motorcycles. They’re mostly just basic inquiries about which starter bike might be right for them or simply tips on riding in the city. You know what nobody ever tells them though? Motorcycles will absolutely humiliate you. Motorcycles will cause you great stress. If you want to get into bikes, especially vintage stuff, then you better have thick skin and the ability to laugh at yourself. Things will happen that put you in ridiculous scenarios, often very aggravating, and sometimes surrounded by crowds of people who don’t understand bikes. My 1987 Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper shown here is a great example. To help avoid embarrassment, here’s a few obvious tips that I’ve apparently spent my entire life ignoring.
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
TIP NUMBER ONE
Spend a little more cash to get something that’s in good shape. I’ve made this mistake many times in the past but never learned my lesson. This chopper was another “good deal” that ended up being a massive pain in my ass. Tasks like replacing the charging system, installing a new clutch, and fixing an oil leak escalating far beyond expectations. There’s very little time throughout the week for me to spend in the garage, so it took over a year to get it running semi-properly before I even got to the fun stuff. With the help of my father, Paul, we were able to finally get all of the issues figured out.
TIP NUMBER TWO
Never get too confident, and expect the worst. I was kidding in the previous paragraph about getting all of the issues figured out. The day we finished the chopper, I rode it to the grocery store around 10pm in the dark to pick up whatever would fit into my small backpack. It ran great on the way there, but wouldn’t start when I tried to leave. Anyone that rides a chopper knows that this isn’t anything new, so I began checking over the bike for what felt like a hundred times. It was closing time at this point, and nothing seemed to do the trick. The employees and intoxicated customers were coming out of the store making comments and asking irritating questions, so I pushed the bike to the side of the building and sat there like an idiot for an hour until help arrived with a trailer. In the end, it was luckily just a loose wire behind a cover that I couldn’t access without tools.
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
TIP NUMBER THREE
Carry some tools. You don’t need much for short rides, even just a few wrenches and some tape is helpful. I once had the springer front end of this bike explode apart on a highway during a long, two-day ride. The nuts and springs went in all directions, so I slid off the road and waited for openings in traffic to anxiously gather the pieces and put it back together with a single crescent wrench and a bunch of zip ties. It was a temporary fix that worked in the moment. I thought I really lucked out until a blanket of rain dropped on me shortly after.
TIP NUMBER FOUR
Always be prepared for volatile weather. It’s Pittsburgh. It will randomly rain or hail out of nowhere, then be completely clear a couple hundred yards down the road. That’s a big downside to living in this region, but you already know this. So, the quicker you’re able to mentally accept the misery of being drenched, the easier it becomes to power through it. Besides, there’s no greater feeling than dumping a river out of your boots after a long ride. I’ve been stuck far from home many times in the rain on this unpredictable machine and even endured a nasty thunderstorm that lasted from 2am to 7am during a camping trip. Luckily, I had a couple garbage bags to cover my bike up with, and the only things that were ruined was everything else.
Hopefully these tips help you out. At worst, the awkward moments of owning a bike might help you overcome any insecurities you may have. This little chopper has taught me a lot about patience and preparation. It was great to get my father involved, mostly because it brought back our old motocross memories and allowed us to make some cool shit together like the sissy bar and other small pieces. Painting the tank was refreshing and something I hope to do more of. Other than powder coating, the only thing we didn’t do in our shop was the seat foam and cover, which was the work of Counter Balance Cycles in Rhode Island. There’s still more that needs to be fixed or replaced on this bike, like a couple of broken welds and a new carburetor, but I’m looking forward to another year of both excitement and humiliation.
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
Harley-Davidson Sportster Chopper Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh Kurt Diserio
  • Featured in Issue 005
  • 1987 HARLEY-DAVIDSON XL1200 CHOPPER
  • Built by KURT & PAUL DISERIO
  • instagram.com/kurtdiserio
  • Words by KURT DISERIO
  • Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
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