TJ Cycle’s Sportster Custom: Old Parts for a New Motorcycle

Oh, Behave! Builder uses parts at hand to construct Miss Behavin’ – a sportster custom bike.

Creating something from nothing is what Mark Blundell does best. Well, not literally nothing, but from spare parts belonging to a variety of different machines that might otherwise go to waste. Blundell owns and operates Calgary’s TJ’s Cycle, a well-known motorcycle used parts emporium, and his overflowing yard chock-full of exhaust systems, wheels, front ends and controls is his playground.

Over the years Blundell has built many different custom motorcycles – some for himself and others for clients. 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 to the mountains in 1989. In 1998 he purchased TJ’s Cycle, and is celebrating his tenth year in the trade.

Blundell is currently building a 1930 Ford Model A coupe street rod in a 1950s-era style, and he wanted a bike to show alongside the car. He’s been working on the car for more than eight years – however the motorcycle was completed first. As the car will be fenderless, so too is the bike. But Blundell says his original inspiration was taken from a Performance Machine custom Sportster. He wanted to build a similar, yet more economical version to match his hotrod.

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The entire project began when Blundell slotted a 1994 1,200cc Harley-Davidson Sportster motor into a standard Paughco rigid frame. Blundell had purchased the motor years ago, and had kept it waiting on the shelf. He ordered his Paughco frame with no extra rake or stretch.

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Next came the Honda Comstar wheels, stripped and painstakingly polished by Wesley McRadu. Squared off 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. For the Honda’s metric lower tree to fit the Paughco Imperial headstock Blundell replaced the steering stem with one from a Harley-Davidson, making it a 1” item. And to give the bike a lower stance new 4” under tubes by Forking by Frank were installed, together with shortened springs. The two hoops over the front wheel do serve a purpose – the rear is solid bar, and it acts as a fork brace while the front one is hollow and carries the wire to the opposite side signal light.

With the wheels and forks and engine in the frame Blundell set about putting together several more one-off custom touches, including mounting the solo saddle in a very unusual manner. Blundell didn’t want any exposed seat springs, so he devised a leaf spring suspension system. From his brother-in-law David Wright, who works at local spring and suspension specialist Standens in Calgary, he sourced a 2” wide by 18” long single leaf. The spring is welded to the frame’s backbone underneath the single-cap Mustang gas tank. “The spring works well, it’s got good tension, and it’s not uncomfortable,” Blundell says of the ride. In order to clear the leaf spring Blundell built brackets to raise the Mustang tank above the frame.

sportster custom

Cardboard templates were used as patterns for the sheet steel oil tank/partial rear fender/battery tray unit. The vessel holds three litres of oil and is neatly shaped to mirror the line of the rear wheel. One of Blundell’s goals was to keep the 7/8” handlebars as clean as possible. Aiding this endeavour is an internal throttle originally intended to fit 1” bars machined down to fit the smaller diameter tillers. With the throttle hidden, Blundell got rid of the front brake lever by proportioning the front and rear Honda disc brakes through the right foot brake pedal.

But with both brakes on one foot control, how was Blundell ever going to manage getting underway when stopped on a hill? A unique hand shift lever on the left side of the bike pivots just under the gas tank, and takes care of the clutch and gearbox. That means Blundell can keep his left foot on the ground while pulling in the clutch and shifting into first gear, while his right foot has the binders firmly clamped. Also mounted on the shifter are the electric controls for the starter button, lights and signal lights. “That captures a lot of people’s attention,” Blundell says of the novel hand shifter. Honda’s original idiot lights, in the polished housing and mounted atop the forks, are all wired up and do function.

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The motor didn’t receive too much attention. It was cleaned and freshened, and Blundell created a two-into-one exhaust system that dumps out the left side of the bike just behind the rider’s leg. The pipe from the rear cylinder actually comes forward and wraps around the front cylinder, where on the left side of the motor both pipes collect into a single turnout.

To put the finishing touches on the bike Blundell had the frame, gas tank, oil tank and fork lowers sprayed a robin’s egg blue. This is the same colour he plans on painting his Ford hotrod. Ryan Veness from Blood Shot Airbrushing in Calgary painted the two pin-up girls, joined by the telephone wire between their two receivers. Blundell nicknamed 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 didn’t want the bling of chrome – nickel is yellower and mellower,” he says.

sportster custom

Of his custom bike building philosophy, Blundell concludes, “I believe in always creating, and using what’s on hand.” He adds; “A good 80 per cent of the pleasure in the hobby is in building. Get something in the vise, cut it up, and make it work – there’s more satisfaction in that than bolting pieces on that were ordered from a catalog.”

sportster custom

Greg Williams
After graduating from the Journalism program at Mount Royal College in 1995, Greg Williams set out to write about powered vehicles, and more specifically motorcycles – and has been doing so ever since. This isn’t a part time gig for him. Williams has written for every major Canadian motorcycle magazine, and spent ten years with Inside Motorcycles where he penned the Western Perspectives column. He now contributes the New Old Stock column to Cycle Canada, the Pulp Non-Fiction column six times a year to the Antique Motorcycle magazine, and feature articles appear regularly in American Iron Magazine and Motorcycle Classics. His On the Road column runs weekly in the Calgary Herald Driving section and also republished Modern Motorcycle Mechanics — the motorcyclist’s bible. Greg is also the recipient of the Julie Wilkinson Motorsport Journalism Award.