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Backyard Builders

February 5, 2020

Even though you may make a few mistakes, all you really need is a desire to dig in, learn as you go and then ride away on something you’ve built yourself.

Story by David G. Williams

There are special people out there who are doers – they have a vision and make things happen. They experiment, they learn, maybe make mistakes, but they accomplish what they set out to do. This is a story of such people. These are riders who are not mechanics or pro builders, but who challenge themselves to take on complex personal projects that are close to their hearts.

Skylar Albrecht is one of those people. He’s a commercial diver who works all over the world. You know, one of those guys that wear the big helmet and lead boots to weld and run cable hundreds of metres below the ocean’s surface.

Got Salt?

Originally, Albrecht raced bicycles at a velodrome, but he was afraid he was going to kill himself, so he switched to the much safer pastimes of riding and building motorcycles. First, he acquired a partially disassembled dual-sport and put it back together, then he hacked together a chopper/bobber. Later, he rode an ’80 Harley FLH to the Bonneville Salt Flats and got the bug. He needed to race on the salt.

Albrecht found an insurance writeoff that had been ridden off a dock and was found on a log boom – a 1972 Shovelhead Harley-Davidson. He rented a garage across the alley from where he lives in East Vancouver and got to work. He enlarged the original
74 cubic inch engine to 80 inches, changed the oiling system and added a few other goodies for additional horsepower. (He’s a bit cagey about all the mods he’s made.) The bike now has a Gixxer front end and Buell wheels. He bumped up the compression to 14:1 and ran the bike on aviation fuel. After 35 dyno pulls, he was ready for his 17 runs down the flats. After those runs, the cylinders were so corroded, they looked like he’d found them on the bottom of the ocean where he usually works.

And when Albrecht was finished his runs, he had set a new record in the Modified class at more than 202 km/h. Two years later, he’s in the process of rebuilding so he can head back to Utah to do it again.

The “New” FXRT

Kenson Ng took the notion of “backyard builder” literally. Although some of the work he did on his 2017 Harley Road King Special was done in a friend’s garage, a lot of it was done in Ng’s backyard beneath his deck. And that’s where I met the 37-year-old financial advisor to look over his bike and talk about the build.

At first sight, the bike doesn’t look like a Road King Special; it looks like a “new” FXRT. 

“After some time with the Special, I wanted to upgrade to a [Harley] CVO to get more wind protection and electronics. But after talking it over with my wife, I realized that wasn’t an option,” Ng says. “But I always liked the look of the FXRT [in production from 1983 to 1992], so I started to do some research.” 

Maybe Ng couldn’t get a CVO, but his very supportive wife surprised him with a Russ Wernimont Designs FXRT replica fairing the following Christmas. It wasn’t an exact fit, and the fairing took a fair bit of work to fit it on the Special. The fairing not only changed the look of his bike completely; it also sent him in a whole new direction.

“I’d experimented with different lighting, and added a Stage 1 kit and new handlebars, but [the fairing] totally changed the bike. It made me want to take it to another level.” Ng says.

The additions and modifications now number in the dozens. Ng’s “FXRT” now sports such things as front and rear cameras with a controller/viewer on the left handlebar, a plethora of Harley accessories, turn signals in the rear view mirrors, hand guards, lowers, a chopped Tour Pak, CVO saddlebag speakers and a full 600 watt sound system controlled by an iPad, mounted behind the fairing, that also handles maps, music selection and a number of other motorcycle-related apps while on the move. The bike now can easily be mistaken for a CVO FXRT.

The bike looks spectacular in its satin grey finish. “It’s the first Road King I’ve…

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