The tracker build platform is a well tread territory when it comes to 90's Evo sportsters but there are times when a builder takes a different approach to that platform and it makes you question everything you thought was possible for that realm. We came to appreciate the work of Porterbilt's Ethan "Porter" Stiles over several years of seeing him involved in many projects locally in the midwest with his shop being based out of Indianapolis. It wasnt until Born Free show last year that his amazing sportster tracker build was complete and we truthfully in the whirlwind of the show were not able to photograph and appreciate it fully until were lucky enough to get a second chance at seeing it presented at this year's Mama Tried show in Milwaukee. In the wake of the shows cancellation Ethan set up a booth at the vendors market right on the docks and we had a second to get a little more info on what made him take a 90's sporty and turn it upside down into a performance racing hybrid that would turn the heads of just about anyone in its path.
Let's get started with who you are and some info on the shop.
My name is Ethan "Porter" Stiles and I started the shop in 2012 about 8 years ago, it's now full time. It's all I do, I go to work in here, walk inside go to sleep, come back out go back to work, then I go to shows, pretty much my whole life revolves around motorcycles and motorcycle events.
Well give us all the fun stuff about the bike then, make, model, year what did it start out as?
It began as a 1993 Harley Davidson Evo sportster which started as an 883, it's now a 1200. It has lots of not necessarily custom stuff but the best of every version of Evo and Buell parts inside, so if it blew up anywhere across the country it's an off the shelf part. It made 75 horse power which is pretty equivalent to a stock Buell.
So everything on the bike basically screams "race ready" but also street legal, what made you take that approach to the build?
Well every flat track bike I saw was kind of purpose built and thrown together it doesn't matter if it had a purple tank or a blue wheel, etc. or whatever. I figured why not just make a showcase of it and make it look nice and kind of like a show bike but can still handle business. It can still be able to ride down to the local county racetrack on any given day, win a race, ride it around town for the rest of the night, then ride it home and park it. Basically just have the best of all worlds.
Well in regards to that do you have any plans to race it in the coming year and if so where at?
I do plan on racing it this year, I don't know what class I would be able to other than like unlimited street because of the modified suspension point. I can't technically race hooligan or anything but I do plan to race here in Marion County whenever this virus stuff dies down and we see what's happening with their schedule for the year.
The mono shock set up that you just referenced is one of our favorite details of the bike, do you care to talk about that a little more and why you chose to modify it to that set up?
Well I was at Mama Tried show 2 years ago and I saw the back half of a bike ridden by Justin Bender racing this frame was later on outlawed. It was a tail section by "fast by fisk" and I realized at one point I had also seen a newer Kawasaki 600 that had a horizontal mounted mono shock rather than a traditional (stuffed between the tire) set up and I thought I could definitely make it work. Then it really became sort of an exercise just to see how I would do it.
Well what are some of the challenges you faced not even just in the mono shock phase but in the process of the whole build?
Trying to make it look as clean as possible without having a bunch of things going on and still looking understated and like with anything I try to build. I try and make it look like Harley did it, like in a sense where someone who knew what they were looking at might question what they know? While integrating as many things as factory Harley's together like how they would pull a part off the shelf then modify it for a race bike or something of that nature. That and integrating things out of that world that still look like they belong, like these switches on the handlebars for the kill switch and starter button. They are CRF250 dirt bike switches that were modified to work in the way they needed to. Another is the 7/8 handlebars on a Harley with a Magura throttle and just different things that would make people stop and go "wait, when did Harley do that?"
So did you choose 7/8 bars to potentially mate with other race inspired parts?
The 7/8 bars were mainly cause I wanted to use the Magura 3/4 turn throttle and also just for a smaller grip so you aren't trying to maneuver with this big giant grip in your hand.
I mean 7/8 bars are more prevalent in racing so that makes a lot of sense?
Exactly it was also lighter weight to and less material so it just worked.
Well where there any other parts of the build that were specifically challenging or a certain hurdle you had to overcome?
Yeah mainly trying to get the bike to sit and look right and have enough tail section to tire gap in the rear. Also integrating the Ducati single piston Brembo brake caliper into the rear and in a floating caliper design as what would be something on a race bike. Also machining the cases for flywheels that weren't meant for them from a newer Buell motor. Also just trying to get everything to work in unison without causing any big issues and keeping everything meant like it was looking to go there. One weird thing was the double shear mount for the upper part of the mono shock, that is actually a part that I pulled out of Dixie when they went out of business. It's a factory horse shoe oil tank support bracket that I put a slight curve in and it worked perfect. Like if you had this weird crazy Harley warehouse full of stuff and you can pull something down and make it work you know it would be something like that.
Well what is one of your favorite parts of the build? I know that's always a hard one for builders to answer.
I think the over all aesthetic of it, kids see it or women see it or maybe just people who aren't super mechanically inclined even see it and it instantly looks good to them and it catches their eye. Then at the same time guys who really know what they are looking at see it and get the mechanics of it and people who understand how things integrate to each other can look at it and appreciate it as well. So I think my favorite thing is that overall it kind of appeals to the masses.
If I had to really pick one hard part though I would say the tank the over all work that went into it to make it work. Being narrowed itself 2 1/4 inches from a stock iron head tank then flat siding the bottom, cutting an inch off of that and rounding it out to get that kind of XR750 kind of look but without having a fiberglass or plastic tank. I also like the moto gadget panel recessed down into the top with the wires coming out of the bottom with everything being hidden.
I know that is one thing when our whole team got to see the bike in Milwaukee that we all appreciated equally was how well you fit everything in very seamless and integrated all those different parts as well as the moto gadget parts. We also really loved the oil tank built into the tail section, that was such a neat detail that could easily go unnoticed unless you knew what you were looking for. Well in regards to the tanks and tins who did all that great paint work?
Andrew Babish of "Paint by Bondo" out of California. I actually sent it to him about a month before I finished the bike. I sent him a picture of the purple anodized fork tubes and I said "I have never had a bike with flames on it and I like purple surprise me." I showed up in California 2 days before Born Free and assembled the bike with these tins using Saddlemen's shop then fired it up for the 1st time without a bleeder bottle before leaving town to roll into the show and that was that.
So you pulled this all together just in time to take it to born free then? That awesome.
I started the bike about 6 hours before we left for the show. I ran it through some heat cycles, put the tank and fender and tail section on it, rode it around a little bit then after we left born free I came home ran it on the dyno and I've been running the hell out of it ever since.
So what was the award you were actually presented with at Born Free?
It was Rusty butcher's favorite pick and then I won the San Diego customs best in show for the FXR Dyna show as well. It was pretty cool you know having FXR and Dyna guys (looking at a sportster and going) "this thing is actually pretty sweet."
What is some of the music that got you through this build or some of your favorite tunes to get inspiration from making it through the build process?
My spotify playlist is pretty eclectic, and really pretty all over the place but when I'm jamming, welding, or trying to be creative I actually listen to a lot of 90's grunge. Mad Season, Soundgarden, Nirvana, you name it.
Is there anyone you want to note for help on fabrication or parts or anything of that sort?
Diamond lane cycles for constantly talking me through things, the guys at Tracker Die always supporting me in parts and keeping me motivated, friends here around Indy and @Danpie on Instagram has helped me out in the shop a lot. Also just all of my friends and anyone who stops by and has made a comment about what they see or what I was in the process of, even if they aren't peers in the industry, just people you respect the opinion of that helps a lot. Jay Hart always telling me great ideas on stuff and really anyone who has come by the shop and saw any of the things I do in the process of doing them, they are definitely my support system.
So is there anyone else involved in the build and were you teamed up with anyone or was this mainly you at the helm?
The bike got built over a year's time roughly. You know I didn't really force it, I kind of believe when building a bike you gotta let it flow into what it needs to be. There were days I would walk by it and think you know what, "no, just not to day." You can't force creativity sometimes and a lot of people don't understand that. They think you can just turn your brain on, lay down some magnificent welds and then be fantastic at wiring the next day and the fact of the matter is some days you just have something like, ohh the weather is off and you just aren't into it. Aside from that though you know everything was done on this build right here in the shop except for powder coat and paint. I built the motor, I did all of the machining work to everything, I did all the welding, it was all me but definitely had a lot of support in thoughts from people though. Over all I just took my time on it.
Well it definitely shows that it was a labor of love. Thank you so much for letting us take a deeper look and we cant wait to see this ripping the local race track.
Photos and words by Mike Vandegriff