Fame is a like a strange virus that devours and consumes a good portion of the US population. Often it is achieved by accident as the spotlight of attention is refocused on something new, that in actuality has been in existence for some time. Keino Cycles has been making some of the baddest, sickest, most authentic ’60s/’70s-era choppers for some time and become, for lack of a better word, famous for them. Looking at these pictures, this 1997 Sporty is the furthest thing from a traditional chopper, with its dual swingarm-mounted shocks and short stubby café racer-ish seat. So what gives? Keino Sasaki explains.
The tank says Keino, but the bike says something else than what we are used to. Can you explain what’s going on?
KS: Some people didn’t recognize that it was mine until they saw my logo on the gas tank. It’s totally a different approach than my other custom bike builds. It ended up making a statement that I love doing these types of bikes too. I don’t like being labeled as a chopper builder. I prefer to be called a bike builder. I love all kinds of custom bikes.
Where did the idea for a Sportster build come from?
KS: I had this Sporty sitting in my shop for a while. I was going to get it running and use it as my daily rider, nothing custom, just push a start button and go run errands and stuff. As a small business owner, my mind is always everywhere else everyday. Finding time to work on my personal bike wasn’t at the top of the list. One day, I was doing sketches and drawings like I usually do when I get a chance and had an idea for a custom bike. I I was drawing and a light bulb went off in my head to do a Sporty that was a tight, compact, skinny, crouching racer-looking bike. It was a departure from what I’ve been building. Since that day, every chance I got, I worked on it — an hour or two, little by little.
What makes this bike different from the rest?
KS: I took an earlier-style Sporty tank, narrowed and sectioned it, and added a top piece to make it as tight as I could. The rear section I cut off the strut, made a seat pan and had an idea for an oil tank that holds the battery in the middle. But I wanted to have easy access to the battery and oil cap, so I added a hinge and stainless lock pin device on the rear. I formed a rear section inspired by Japanese racer replicas. I love the stock narrow 39mm Showa frontend. It’s simple and the perfect size — not too fat, not too skinny. Since I wanted to run clip-on bars, I machined the piece that goes in the riser bushing hole and welded it up, blended it, and sent them out to the polisher.
As for the motor, it started out as an 883. That just didn’t cut it for me, so I called the local H-D dealer and acquired a 1200 kit with dished pistons along with a Screamin’ Eagle bolt-in cam to give it little punch. I installed a Zippers adjustable pushrod kit for easier adjustment and a Dyna S with mechanical advancer. I like that little erratic exhaust rhythm that combination gives, plus it’s still reliable and affordable. Finally I added an S&S E with BCM air cleaner and point cover. I like the minimal look of their parts.
We noticed the paint was kept simple too …
KS: When it came down to paint, I called up Custom Auto Design in Connecticut for the job. Even though he is known for being a master in metalflake paintjob, I wanted a simple plain black paintjob. I have been leaning towards more simple plain paint schemes the past few years. I just felt a simple paint would complement and blend in this bike, rather than being the only thing you see.
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Year/Make/Model 1997 XL Sportster
Fabrication Keino Cycles
Build Time Six months
Builder Keino Sasaki
Rocker Boxes EMD
Cams Screamin’ Eagle
Carburetor S&S E
Air Cleaner BCM
Exhaust Keino Cycles
Primary Drive H-D
Year/Type 1997/H-D modified
Triple Trees Stock modified
Rear Shocks Progressive
Wheels, Tires, and Brakes
Front H-D/cast gold paint
Tire/Size Dunlop +90/90/19
Rear H-D/cast gold paint
Builder/Size 16-inch to 130/16
Pulley Drag Specialties
Colors Gloss black
Paint/Graphics Custom Auto Design
Powdercoating Action Powder Coating
Rear Fender Keino Cycles
Gas Tank Sporty modified
Hand Controls Magura/Grimeca
Foot Controls Stortz
Headlight Drag Specialties