Rick’s Gentleman’s Express Blog

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Archive for March, 2017

Flat Track-Style Street Bikes

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Not long ago I shared a story on Facebook about the new Indian flat track racer that is hoping to dethrone the Harley XR750 – the perennial favourite on the big dirt ovals in the US.

Indian FTR750

In the ensuing conversation someone remarked on what a sweet-looking bike the new Indian is. I admitted to a long-standing attraction to the look of flat track bikes – an attraction formed during my misspent adulthood attending races at Welland County Motorcycle Club’s track back in the 1980’s. I liked the lean, stripped-down look: small tank, beefy suspension, over-sized tires and abbreviated seat/tail section. Bars were low and wide, aerodynamics unnecessary. On the faster one mile tracks, riders simply crouched down onto the tank on the straights, often holding onto the left fork leg to briefly punch a smaller hole in the wind.

I also mentioned that I had seen a few track bikes mysteriously made street legal…

Harley XR750 “streetified”

Harley has tried to sell a couple of different flat track style variations on the Sportster with lukewarm success. The XR1000 came out in the early 1980’s and featured twin carbs sticking out into the space normally occupied by the rider’s right knee.

Harley XR1000

Harley tried again in 2009 with the XR1200 and came closer, but the bike was hailed more as a very good standard style bike rather than a true flat tracker. Concessions had to be made to accommodate a passenger.

Harley XR1200

Ironically, it has been enthusiasts who have made their own flat track style bikes and done a better job than Harley, at least in the looks department.

Harley 883

These creations have the look right with abbreviated or no fenders and a strictly solo seat (with painfully thin padding).

Before they shook themselves into history, British parallel twins also had some measure of success on the flat tracks and a number of replicas have been built using a Triumph twin as a starting point.





Flat track isn’t all about the big 750 twins. The most common bike on the short tracks is a big single. Even Harley raced a re-badged Rotax single with some success. Street specials based on the sweet-sounding big thumpers are much lighter and suit the solo rider better.

Yamaha 500 Single

With age my priorities in a bike have become range, comfort and carrying capacity but I still have a soft spot for flat trackers.

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March 19th, 2017 at 6:30 pm

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