Bagger 2.0

Story by Glenn Roberts// Photos by Glenn Roberts
September 1 2013

A few years ago, Brad Watson rode away from Barrie Harley-Davidson early on a Friday afternoon on his brand-new 2009 Street Glide. By 6:00 p.m., he had it stripped to the frame. The end result was a pretty mild makeover that consisted of new orange and black paint, a rattle-can paint job to the engine with VHT high-heat exhaust paint picked up at his local Canadian Tire (the finished product Brad claims to be very similar to Harley-Davidson’s CVO engine treatment), and a few bolt-on and laser-cut parts. It was still a Harley bagger, although “jazzed up,” according to Brad.
Thoughts and customizing ideas change over time, so after putting 35,000 km on his first jazzed-up version, he decided to take another stab at the redesign.
Brad thinks certain areas of the Harley touring bikes should be changed; after all, many elements on the FLH models haven’t been changed for decades. His redesign included modifying the fairing, installing modern, high-intensity LED lighting, eliminating the large gap between the bags and the rear fender, building the seat into the bike, making the side covers flow better, and amongst all of these components, maintaining a consistent quarter-inch inch gap between all body panels – and that’s just for starters.

Bagger 2.0 To get that stretched bagger look, he cut the steering neck from the frame, extended it and re-welded it to the frame. To maintain the proper trail, Brad calculated a combination of frame rake and triple tree angle so he was able to keep that all-important part of the steering geometry. He made his own triple trees to ensure that he had the trail specification he was aiming for. In order to maintain the stock front suspension, he limited the front wheel size to 23 inches; any larger, and the front wheel wouldn’t have enough room to move properly.

Brad is no stranger to banging out his own metal panels, but thought he’d try his hand at fibreglass this time around. He began this build in the fall, meaning that over the winter, his garage door would be closed and the forced-air gas furnace hanging in the corner of his garage would be on full. It wasn’t the fumes from fibreglass that were the trouble, it was when he began grinding and sanding the glass panels, depositing fibreglass dust in every nook and cranny, including tracking it into his house.

Another goal was to hide all of the mounting hardware for the panels. Brad sourced a remote-control key fob with actuators as a starting point to open the top covers on the hard bags and to operate the hidden licence plate. Knowing that a simple hinge wouldn’t do the trick, he designed and made a two-stage articulating hinge, much like the blind, multi-stage hinge on some kitchen cabinets. This hinge would lift the bags’ lid up, and the second stage would angle the lid in order to gain access inside. The same principle was used for the licence plate, which, when hidden, resides inside the bottom of the rear fender.

September Feature BikeAmongst all the elaborate, detailed bodywork that he created, one of the hardest jobs he encountered in the build was frenching the taillight and turn signals into the rear fender until everything was perfectly smooth and contoured.

Brad finished the bodywork by painting and clear-coating the job himself.

To put the final touches on the rear end, Brad created his own exhaust end-caps to perfectly align with the rear contours of the bags, and added a pair of hidden air shocks in the rear with an on-board compressor to raise and lower the bike depending on load and road surface.

After only a few short months over the winter, he rolled his new creation out of the garage in spring for its inaugural ride. Bagger 2.0 is finished for now, and we’ll have to wait and see if there is a Bagger 3.0 in Brad’s future.

Owner: Brad Watson
Make: Harley-Davidson
Model: Street Glide
Builder: Brad Watson
Time: 4 months
Year: 2009
Builder: Harley-Davidson
Displacement: 96 cu. in. stock
Air Cleaner: Arlen Ness
Exhaust: Custom Brad Watson
Year: 2009
Builder: Harley-Davidson
Type: 6-speed
Clutch: Harley-Davidson
Primary Drive: Harley-Davidson
Year: 2009
Builder: Modified Brad Watson
Shocks: Arnott Air
Modifications: raked and stretched, lowered
Front End  
Year: 2009
Builder: Harley-Davidson
Triple Trees: Custom Brad Watson
Modifications: Tubes lengthened
Painting: Brad Watson
Chroming: Plating House
Front Size: 23 x 3.5
Builder/Manufacturer: Ness
Tire Make and size: 130 x 23 Avon
Rear Size: 18 x 5.5
Builder/Manufacturer: Harley-Davidson
Tire Make and size: 180 x 18 Dunlop
Bodywork: Custom Brad Watson
Seat: Custom Brad Watson
Handlebars: Arlen Ness
Headlight: Custom Brad Watson
Taillight: Custom Brad Watson
Special hardware: Custom remote-controlled hideaway licence; power bag lids with hidden hinges

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