Power Trip: XTR Pepo takes on the Harley Sportster

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There are not many builders with a strike rate like Pepo Rosell. Since the early days of his Radical Ducati store, he has produced several stylish and light café racers every year.

Pepo is no Harley specialist, however: his preferred platforms are more compact and sporty. But his Dyna from a few years ago made waves and led to the command of this blazingly fast Sportster.

Cafe racer Harley Sportster 883 with 1200 conversion kit by XTR Pepo
“The call came from a foreign customer,” Pepo tells us, “after seeing my ‘Gabrielle’ Harley Dyna on Bike EXIF.” (Gabrielle did our Top Ten 2016).

“This time the idea was to create a sportier and more ‘European’ Harley. With better brakes, less weight, more power and a “normal” riding position.

Cafe racer Harley Sportster 883 with 1200 conversion kit by XTR Pepo
Although he is French by birth, Pepo’s studio is in Madrid. He locally sourced a clean Sportster – a 1992 five-speed XL883 model – and started working on the suspension.

Rather than modifying the existing forks, Pepo opted for the nuclear option and installed a set of suspenders from a 1992 Suzuki GSX-R750, with its dual disc brake setup.

Cafe racer Harley Sportster 883 with 1200 conversion kit by XTR Pepo
The all new rotors come from the Spanish specialist NG, and Pepo installed a Discacciati radial master cylinder to maintain the pressure in the best possible way. He also modified the hub to make everything compatible with an 18 inch front wheel.

The rear brakes have been upgraded to match, with a mix of Brembo and NG parts. The lines are a mixture of steel braid and Kevlar supplied by Fren Tubo.

Cafe racer Harley Sportster 883 with 1200 conversion kit by XTR Pepo
The reason for all these improvements? Pepo woke up the Sportster’s 883 engine and turned it into a powerhouse.

Most Sportster owners are familiar with the 883 to 1200 conversions, which are popular for two reasons – they are often cheaper than buying a new 1200 model, and you keep the 883’s shorter gear ratios, which amplifies even more acceleration.

Cafe racer Harley Sportster 883 with 1200 conversion kit by XTR Pepo
For even more oomph, Pepo wore the stock heads and installed higher compression pistons. An Andrews cam with more duration and lift increases horsepower throughout the rev range.

There is a Mikuni carburetor (with Pepo’s air filter design) for ultra-precise response and a fully customized 2-into-1 exhaust system on the other end, built by Pepo’s in-house maker “Supermario” . A Domino quick release throttle ensures that no time is wasted when the rider turns the throttle.

Cafe racer Harley Sportster 883 with 1200 conversion kit by XTR Pepo
Power is likely to be comfortably on the right side of 80 horsepower, and it hits the rear wheel via a chain conversion (with a Tsubaki gold chain). The tires are Bridgestone Battlax BT45, the perfect compound for older sport bikes.

A Screaming Eagle programmable motor control module, with sparks from a high performance coil, keeps everything running smoothly. There is new wiring all around, connected to a lithium polymer battery and controlled by by Motogadget ubiquitous m.unit box.

Cafe racer Harley Sportster 883 with 1200 conversion kit by XTR Pepo
Pepo is a fan of custom metalwork, and he didn’t hold back on this Sportster.

The rearward motor frame is new, and it’s more than your standard cut and loop job: it’s part of a single-shock conversion, with a custom-made Hagon damper for the damping functions.

Cafe racer Harley Sportster 883 with 1200 conversion kit by XTR Pepo
If the tank looks familiar to you, it’s because it is a Yamaha SR500 item modified to fit. (The fuel filler cap and fuel filler assembly are from a Laverda.)

Underneath the custom seat unit are side panels originally from a Triumph Legend TT, again modified to fit and on the right side, concealing a modified Sportster oil tank.

Cafe racer Harley Sportster 883 with 1200 conversion kit by XTR Pepo
The fenders, footrests, and brake lever are all made in-house from aluminum, along with the license plate and headlight brackets. There’s a lamp on the front of a Mash 125, a Lucas-style taillight, and a custom dashboard housing a Motogadget instrument. Rizoma bars are capped at each end with natural rubber handles from Gonelli.

The painting is pretty much the only part of this build that Pepo hasn’t handled himself. His client chose a warm gray-blue to match the color of a favorite Ateliers Ruby helmet, and it was applied by Madrid motorcycle paint specialist Artenruta.

Cafe racer Harley Sportster 883 with 1200 conversion kit by XTR Pepo

It has to be one of the fastest Sportsters we’ve ever featured on these pages, and it should be handy around the corners, too. There’s a new Sportster from the Milwaukee factory soon, and if Harley thinks along with Pepo, they should be a winner.

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Cafe racer Harley Sportster 883 with 1200 conversion kit by XTR Pepo



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