A Sportster Transformation
Everyone enjoys a good comeback story. As modern-day Pittsburghers, some of us are not old enough or simply fail to remember the malaise era of our region especially through the 1970s and 1980s. The devastating deindustrialization that preceded Pittsburgh’s renaissance and rebirth as one of the country’s most remarkable cities is one we often take for granted. Not lifetime Beaver County resident Mark Weber, whose most recent build metaphorically and literally resembles the revival of a legend.
No stranger to garage-built motorcycles, Mark discovered this 30,000-mile Harley Davidson XL beat and broken in an abandoned home auctioned off in the borough of Millvale. While on the lookout for classic American heritage only an air-cooled Milwaukee V-Twin could provide, he had a different outcome in mind. Unlike the popular classic cruiser restoration, Weber would allow his affinity for high performance and engineering to guide his build. This is where Mark’s café racer Sportster began its own resurrection to modern relevance.
This XL1200 was rebuilt using the entire front fork, triple-tree, and brake assembly from a late model Suzuki GSX-R1000 sportbike for performance and feel unmatched by the aged factory Harley components. The Frankenstein transformation was made possible by numerous visits to Cycle Salvage, a Pittsburgh favorite in Rochester, Pennsylvania, where Mark was able to source much of the hardware as well. The original 1200 was freshened with a new cam, but the remainder of the internals remain untouched as a testament to their inherent reliability. A wider rear wheel sourced from a Dyna model Harley wearing a stronger chain drive, custom rear sets, and a set of sticky sportbike tires round out much of the mechanicals.
The cosmetic treatment is an elegant mix of simple café seat, clip on controls, and classic Sportster tank. Mark confesses the greatest challenge of the build was combining electrical components of both the Harley and Suzuki to achieve the seamless outcome on the final product.
While you are more likely to find Weber’s nimble XL ripping down his favorite backroads enjoying Pittsburgh’s incredible topography, he does attend the occasional bike night at Jergel’s or Quaker Steak in the North Hills. Within the sea of high-dollar chrome often found at these events, Mark’s unique build represents an unassuming resurrection of a modest motorcycle. A rebirth using blue-collar work ethic and garage-built ingenuity to join modern technology with a humble American icon, much like the city we all love to call home.