The Harley-Davidson Sportster
is an iconic model, first introduced in 1957 as The Motor Company’s answer to the invasion of British middleweight machines flooding America’s shores. Since then it’s been a staple of the H-D lineup and a consistent platform for customization. A quick Google search yields images of Sportsters geared for off-road duty or café-racing, Sportsters reimagined as choppers, bobbers, dirt trackers and rat-rods. One recent build that has caught our attention comes from our Portland, Oregon-based neighbors, Icon
The Iron Lung, as it’s called, is a 1991 Sportster 883 infused with a touch of nostalgia for endurance racers of the 1970s. It’s a beautiful and unruly addition to a line of bikes inspired by the company’s new 1000 Collection
of gear, which includes such beasts as the recon-ready 1986 Honda VF1000R “Magnificent Bastard” and the apocalypse-prepped 2011 Triumph Tiger 800XC “Dromedarii.”
) MotoUSA's Road Test Editor, Adam Waheed, visited the Icon shop in Portland back in early 2012 and caught a photo of the Iron Lung in progress. (Below
) The Iron Lung's oil tank sits in the cutout piece above the gas tank. The triple clamp was originally designed to handle straight bars, but they decided for clip-ons instead.
For fans of “The Big Lebowski,” the image of an iron lung is forever comingled with “a little show called Branded” and a certain Arthur Digby Sellers, whose writing was stalled by “health problems.” For Icon, the iron lung is an old school, out of date device invoking a sense of retro-seriousness that's not to be taken lightly.
The Iron Lung’s wild character starts at the engine, which is the stock 883 with a Weisco 1200 big-bore kit tacked on. Icon replaced the belt drive with a chain and mounted a massive PBI rear sprocket to make sure the front end lifts whenever you pull the throttle, in addition to making it much easier to slip the rear. They fitted a set of stock H-D Wide Glide forks to the machine, which were lowered somewhere between 1.5 and two inches and included a Performance Machine
front caliper that is mounted ahead of the slider, much like you’d see on Springers of old choppers.
The Icon folks then sourced a pair of solid, blue-tinted Fatboy wheels and wrapped them in beefy Avon tires. They also tried V-Rod and Gixxer wheels at one point, but in the end settled on the vintage-looking hoops. The triple-clamp is a one-off piece of billet aluminum that was fabricated in house (as was most of “Iron Lung”) and sits as a relic of previous plans to give the machine straight bars rather than the clip-ons it currently sports. It has an oil-and-gas tank-in-one design which seats the oil reservoir in the cutout portion above the gas tank. The eye-catching design caused a small fire the first time Kurt Walter, Icon’s Design Director, took the beast for a spin thanks to a small leak in the gas tank.
But for Icon, that’s all part of the game. These bikes are concepts, not fabbed for a customer but created to satisfy the insatiable and half-mad vision of the Icon crew. “We build them, we thrash them, and then we build them again,” is how Icon’s Marketing Specialist, Joe Gustafson, frames it.
The Airtech faring has been widened by two inches. It was originally built for a narrow sportbike, but Icon’s fab team decided to slice it down the middle, re-glass it and make it the Iron Lung’s instead. They also cut about two inches off the back end of the fairing to expose more of the internals.
) Rear mount, exposed battery is an homage to vintage endurance racers and practical preparation for the zombie apocalypse. (Below
) Dual SuperTrapp exhaust pipes were fitted to the Iron Lung.
Dual SuperTrapp exhaust pipes reach out from underneath the right side of the fairing, and recall the straight pipes seen on 70’s era XR750 racers. The exposed Ballistic battery on the back end serves a dual purpose, first as an homage to some of the old 7'0s endurance racers but also as a precaution against the zombie apocalypse, where a rider would obviously want to be able to make a quick battery change if necessary. The Iron Lung also sports a pair of Progressive 970 Shocks (the same that soak up bumps on MotoUSA Cruiser Editor Bryan Harley's Sportster Project
) which were mounted to customized shock mounts on the stock swingarm.
“The initial concept was a 1970s, late ‘60s endurance racer,” adds Gustafson. “The style popularized on both American and Japanese endurance racing circuits. We started with an XR750 but we never do a straight replication. We brought in a lot of different cultural aspects and what starts out as an endurance bike morphs into a portfolio of a lot different influences.”
Much of that has to do with the ever-evolving nature of Icon’s builds, which benefit from the fact that the company has plenty of spare parts lying around the garage to tinker with. What sounds a haphazard amalgam of parts is really the end product of an organic trial-and-error process.
Garage 31 handled the custom paintjob and New Church Moto fabricated the custom seat. Both firms are Portland-based outfits that Icon works with on a regular basis. The paint is an x-ray design that lends a cartoonish bend to the Iron Lung. Along with “I See London” and “I See France” etched over the headlights and the children’s book character “Lowly Worm” happily encouraging riders to “kick’er in the guts” where normal folks would expect an instrument panel, Icon also includes a touch of humor in the Iron Lung.
Icon recently tested the Iron Lung at a track in Roseburg, Oregon, spending three days shooting film and photos of the machine in action. Check out the footage in the video below. Also make sure to check out Icon’s Iron Lung and other wonders from the Icon garage at the 2014 One Motorcycle Show
ICON 1000 Iron Lung - A Harley Davidson Sportster Custom from ICON 1000 on Vimeo.