The Diamond Die

There are still a lot of refinements and work to be done, but the Diamond Die project is far enough along to share it with the world. I'll add or replace pictures as improvements are made.

That's a real fox tail. I removed the stock tail/brake/
license-plate light assembly. Turned Eveready flashlights
into tail/brake lights, and bought a chrome auto-style
license plate light.

The Diamond Die began as a yellow - yes, I said yellow - what were they thinking? - a yellow, 2001, Harley-Davidson, 883 Sportster. The first thing I did was to remove the tank and fenders, which I powder-coated the only truly "correct" color for a Harley: black. But not just any black - I went with an ultra-flat textured black. The result is a luscious black with a velvety sheen and feel.

Next, I needed to spice the bike up with a little color. At the very beginning, it occurred to me that I could get a nice retro feel with ready-made, bright red, dice valve cap stems for the tires. That little detail became the genesis of the entire theme of the bike.

My mission then became locating and creating carefully chosen red accents. The bike got red grips, a red solo seat, red fork boots, and a red front fender mud flap, all of which add to the retro look.

I knew that I wanted to replace the mid foot controls with forward controls, and that I wanted to lower the rear, so that instead of riding upright like a geek, I'd be riding laid-back and low. From Licks Cycles, I got the lowest rear shocks made, at a mere ten inches. I had them powder-coat the end caps red at the factory for me.

Groovy chrome grooved air cleaner.
I spray painted the heat shields on the
pipes with red high-temp Hot Rod Paint.

One of the most important features of the new look is the exhaust pipes, which I got from Pipe Dreamz. They are short, loud, and unfettered, coming straight back from the heads, without bothering to drop down below the tranny. I used high temperature red hot rod paint to make the heat shields on the pipes red.

Another cool feature is the red flashlight taillights that I made from scratch. I removed and trashed the stock taillight. I gutted two one-dollar Eveready flashlights, put $15 red LED lights into $5 "2057" lamp bases, and used two black tie wraps to attach it all to the frame. I also trashed the chrome turn signal lights, front and rear, along with some additional, extraneous chrome in order to clean things up. This is a hand turn-signals only bike.

The stock, hunched-over-position handlebars were replaced with comfortable, pull-back buckhorn bars. The amazingly ugly stock racetrack-oval Harley air cleaner was replaced with an ultra-cool, grooved teardrop design.

Cool solo bag and super-low shocks.
Both from Licks Cycles.

I needed some red accents on the left side of the bike, and I found dual red air horns, red spark plug wires, and a really nice Licks Cycle leather solo bag with red piping.

Continuing the dice theme, I got some oversized red ones on the Internet. One became the choke pullout knob, and one became the fuel petcock handle. I used two more to cover the factory seat mounting holes on the top of the rear fender.

I wanted to do something interesting with the passenger foot pegs, and I knew that this would be another good opportunity to add some red to the bike. I spent a long time pondering before I came up with the perfect solution: red vibrators. I bought a couple on the Internet, which I drilled holes into and gutted. I cut the rubbers off the stock passenger pegs, inserted the shanks into the vibrators, and filled them up with resin.

All that was left were the "DIE" tank decals, which tie the whole bike together visually and thematically. I had them made by You just might be wondering about them.

The lower left die is the choke pull-
out knob. The upper right die is the
fuel petcock handle.

Everyone has heard of the Pop Art movement of the 60's and of Andy Warhol. A slightly lesser-known, but also hugely successful friend and collaborator of Warhol, was and is fellow Popist Robert Indiana. Although you may have never heard of his name, you have doubtlessly seen a version of his most famous work, his slightly kitschy, cash-cow known as "LOVE" (1962). As you can tell, I'm not crazy about "LOVE," but there are a lot of other Robert Indiana works that I do think highly of, a few of which I have reproduced here. Indiana's "Red Diamond Die" became the emblem of my Diamond Die.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, "DIE" is a double-entendre. Yes, I am telling the world to die, which jibes with the whole Harley eff-off attitude thing, but without resorting to the hackneyed skull emblems that a lot of "customizers" use. And, of course, a single dice is a die, which was the genesis of my bike's theme.

Works by Robert Indiana.

One more thing about that decal: the lettering adds the only bit of non red, black, or chrome color to the bike. I think of it as a remnant of the bike's original color: yellow, remember?

Retro red diamond-tuck seat, nice turn-
outs on the Pipe Dreamz exhaust, and
vibrator passenger pegs.

It took about six weeks to get the bike to this point. That's not six weeks of evening and weekend work - that's six weeks, full time. A lot of learning went on during that time, and a lot of things were done two and three times. I could probably do it all now in just two or three weeks.

For example, it took about a day and a half just to move the license plate bracket, which I put as low on the rear fender as I could. Working with my primitive metal-working tools in my stone-age shop, I spent a whole day making a bracket which turned out to be impossible to mount.

Another case was the air horn mounting bracket. I spent at least a day carefully fabricating a bracket that I later decided was too complicated and ugly to use.

Another time-killer was the research that I did finding just the right parts. There were probably at least two or three entire days spent doing nothing but looking in catalogs and on websites, and ordering parts. Not to mention all of the countless trips that I made to The Home Depot and Austin Bolt Co. looking for just the right fasteners. It wasn't unusual for me to make three or four trips a day looking for fasteners. Fortunately, The Home Depot is very close to where I live, and fortunately I have another Sportster that I used to zip back and forth there. I ended up with a huge pile of leftover bolts, screws and whatnots when it all was done.

What's left? I am in the process of moving or removing as much of the handlebar crap as possible. I have already removed the left-side handlebar control cluster, and I am about to do the same to the right side. I am going to rig up a jockey shifter (also known as a hand-shifter or suicide shift), and the clutch lever will then go on the shifter. Once I do these things, I will add new detail photos of the cleaned-up handlebars, so CHECK BACK!

This is what I started with (right). It wasn't so much that it was ugly -- It was just that it looked like every other 883
Sportster that's been built during the last 20 years. Guys "chrome them out," or "skull 'em out," but they still all
look the same. I make my living as an artist, and I wanted an "Art Bike."
On the left is my long-hauler, also a Sportster 883, circa 1990.

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Happy Trails,

Did I mention that this bike screams?