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Harley Davidson Sportster Scrambler: Backyard Rider Dishes The Dirt

There may be a recent trend for ‘dirting-up’ your roadster and thanks to the likes of the Darren bike on The Walking Dead, we’re probably going to see a lot more, but street bikes converted for off- road use are nothing new.

WW1 was the catalyst for the metamorphosis of the off-road bike and saw manufacturers like Triumph, Indian, Harley and Excelsior all converting bikes for military use. Having proved their usefulness, the trend continued into WWII and motorcycles like the BMW R71 Harley’s WLA, and BSA M20 became synonymous with the war effort.

The introduction of dirt-track racing was also a major factor which spawned such iconic bikes as the Harley XR75 and although Harley concentrate 100% on bikes for the Cruiser market these days, it should come as no surprise that builders around the world have looked back at the XR and given it a modern spin.

A trawl of the web brings up a whole host of purposeful looking beauties with knobbly tires and wide bars, but there appears to be 2 schools of thought on contemporary Harley Davidson Sportster scramblers. Namely, those whose alterations are merely cosmetic and those who have genuine off-road ability.

Anyway, in an attempt to show both sides of the coin, here are two fine examples, both of which are great in their own right.


Shaw Speed and Custom are the customizing arm of UK Harley dealers Shaw HD. They built this smart looking Sporty from a brand new XL883R and used mostly genuine HD parts to complete the transformation.

They left the stock frame virtually untouched but the engine received a host of Screaming Eagle 1200cc internals and Roland Sands covers. Wheel rims are from a Dyna, rear suspension by Ohlins and to give it that real off road look, a high-level exhaust with Akrapovic silencers. The obligatory knobblies are Continental Twinduros. My personal favorite touch, is the V- Rod headlamp which suits the bike far better than did its donor.

And now for the flipside. Once again using an 883, this bike christened the Jackrabbit, was built by Burly Brand marketing manager Sean Delshadi. As with the previous bike, its primary objective was to showcase the company’s range of accessories, but he stresses, ‘was built to be ridden and ridden hard.’

Delshadi wanted to make it a real dual purpose bike, so the mods have been specifically designed to handle everything from highway to hilltop. To get some much-needed ground clearance, the bike now has 19’’ front and 18’’ rear wheels, on 15’’ Burly shocks and Showa forks with Burly internals.

The Jackrabbit also features some custom made, but imminently sensible, mods such as a bash plate, headlamp stone-guard and particularly useful, six-pack wrack at the rear.

So, what’s it going to be, all show or all go? There’s no wrong answer really.

Photos by: Shaw HD/Burly Brand

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