Old parts, new bike: Sportster Custom by TJ Cycle
Creating something from nothing is what Mark Blundell does best. Well, not literally nothing, but aftermarket parts belonging to a variety of different machines that might otherwise go to waste (like his Honda XR500 Speedway replica). Blundell owns and operates Calgary’s TJ’s Cycle, a well-known used motorcycle parts store, and its overflowing yard full of exhaust systems, wheels, front blocks and controls is its playground.
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Over the years Blundell has built many different custom motorcycles, some for himself and some for customers. First and foremost a machinist and custom motorcycle builder, Blundell has also washed windows, sold cemetery plots, and worked with a chiropractor as a massage therapist. Born and raised in Coventry, England, he moved to Canada in 1988, stopping first in Windsor, Ontario, before heading west into the mountains in 1989. In 1998, he purchased TJ’s Cycle and celebrate ten years in the business.
Blundell is currently building a 1930 Ford Model A Coupe in a 1950s style, and he wanted a bike on display next to the car. He has been working on the car for over eight years, but the bike was completed first. As the car will be without a mudguard, so will the bicycle. But Blundell says his original inspiration was taken from a custom Sportster Performance Machine. He wanted to build a similar, but more economical, version to match his hotrod.
The whole project started when Blundell inserted a 1994 1200cc Harley-Davidson Sportster engine in a standard Paughco rigid frame. Blundell had bought the motor years ago and kept it waiting on the shelf. He ordered his Paughco frame with no rake or extra stretch.
Next are the Honda Comstar wheels, stripped down and carefully polished by Wesley McRadu. Square Avon Speedmaster Mk II TT tires – 4.00-18 “rear and 4.00-19” front wrap the rims. To anchor the front end, Blundell found a set of forks from a 1980 Honda CB750. In order for the Honda’s metric lower shaft to fit the Paughco Imperial tailstock, Blundell replaced the steering rod with the one from the Honda. ‘a Harley-Davidson, making it a 1 “item. And to give the bike a lower stance, new 4-inch tubes from Forking by Frank were fitted, along with shortened springs. Both roll bars above the front wheel serve a purpose – the rear is a solid bar and it acts as a fork brace while the front is hollow and carries the wire to the traffic light on the opposite side.
The whole project started when Blundell inserted a 1994 1200cc Harley-Davidson Sportster engine in a standard Paughco rigid frame.
With the wheels, forks and motor in the frame, Blundell implemented several other unique custom touches, including mounting the solo seat in a very unusual way. Blundell didn’t want exposed seat springs, so he designed a leaf spring suspension system. From his brother-in-law David Wright, who works at local springs and suspension specialist Standens in Calgary, he purchased a single sheet 2 “wide by 18” long. The spring is welded to the spine of the frame under the Mustang single cap gas tank. “The spring is working well, it has good tension and it’s not uncomfortable,” Blundell said of the race. In order to clear the leaf spring, Blundell built brackets to elevate the Mustang tank above the frame.
Cardboard jigs were used as templates for the sheet steel oil tank / partial rear fender / battery pan unit. The vessel holds three liters of oil and is neatly shaped to reflect the line of the rear wheel. One of Blundell’s goals was to keep the 7/8 “handlebars as clean as possible. An internal throttle originally intended to fit 1” bars machined to fit smaller diameter tillers. contributes to this effort. With the throttle hidden, Blundell got rid of the front brake lever by proportioning the front and rear Honda disc brakes using the right brake pedal.
But with both brakes on one pedal, how was Blundell going to manage to start when he was stopped on a hill? A single shift lever on the left side of the bike pivots just below the gas tank and takes care of the clutch and gearbox. This means Blundell can keep his left foot on the ground while pulling the clutch and shifting into first gear, while his right foot has the tethers firmly on. Electrical controls for the start button, lights and signal lights are also mounted on the gear lever. “It captures the attention of a lot of people,” Blundell says of the new manual shifter. Honda’s original silly lights, in the polished housing and mounted on the forks, are all wired and working.
The engine hasn’t received too much attention. It’s been cleaned and refreshed, and Blundell created a two-in-one exhaust system that drains the left side of the bike just behind the rider’s leg. The rear cylinder hose comes forward and wraps around the front cylinder, where, on the left side of the engine, the two hoses come together in a single hookup.
To put the finishing touches on the bike, Blundell had the frame, gas tank, oil tank and lower fork painted a robin egg blue. It’s the same color he plans to paint on his Ford hotrod. Ryan Veness of Blood Shot Airbrushing in Calgary painted the two pin-up girls, connected by the telephone wire between their two receivers. Blundell has dubbed the bike Miss Behavin, while the car, when completed, will be called Miss Chievous. As for the shiny bits, there is no chrome on the bike, everything was either nickel plated or polished. “I wanted an older, tarnished look, and I didn’t want the chrome bling – nickel is yellower and softer,” he says.
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On his philosophy of building custom bikes, Blundell concludes, “I believe in always creating and using what is at hand. ” He adds; “A good 80 percent of the fun in the hobby is in the building. Put something in the vise, cut it, and run it – there’s more satisfaction to that than bolting parts ordered from a catalog.
TJ Cycle Sportster Custom Gallery
Pictures: Amee Reehal