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Monday, May 16, 2011

Nightster, Part II - Coil and Parking Light Relocation, etc.

After that first flurry of accessory orders, the tracking numbers quickly turned into boxes with real hardware made by Joker Machine, DK Customs, plus a few other manufacturers. As I said in my blog post about the Pitbull Lift, I'll repeat that I have no connection to any parts or equipment vendors.

That said, I'm a journeyman machinist, became a manufacturing engineer, and for a while I owned a machine shop making aircraft components, so I know well-made parts when I see 'em. Everything (so far, anyway) that I've seen from Joker Machine is high-quality and something I'd have bragged about if it had come from my own shop. So there's the free, but well-earned, plug for Joker. DK also gets a nod for having quality-made stuff.

Hot Tip: I got the Joker parts through Phat Performance Parts at about a 10% discount, and their prices were about the best I could find, on eBay or elsewhere, for Joker components. And for an order of over 99 bucks, shipping was free. And if you don't find the Joker P/N on their website, just call them and they'll get it for you...Anything in the Joker catalog is available, at a discount, from PPP.

After an inventory, I discovered that my black 2" Joker risers had been back-ordered, but the speedometer relocation kit, a nice black-anodized machined aluminum gas cap, and a timing cover had arrived from Joker/PPP. I also received a 2" gas tank riser kit from JP Cycles, a coil relocation kit and Screaming Eagle black plug wires from DK Custom Products (from eBay), and a Motherwell Luggage Rack from Eastern Performance Cycles, also found on eBay. And last in this bunch of deliveries, I got my front turn signal relocation kit from Grand Rapids Harley Davidson
A rack? WTF?

It's like this: It just might come in handy to keep a cutie's butt off my pin striping. Or better yet, I could bungee a 12-pack to it! And it's small, flat black, and very low profile. Pretty cool, and doesn't take away from the lines of the back fender. I should add that there really wasn't much to choose from in the Nightster "Rack Dept.", and I was glad to find one that would do the job, and in black no less!

So all this stuff was lying there on the dining room table (Yeah, I live alone), and I was itchin' to get to work. I wouldn't be able to relocate the speedometer until the backordered risers showed up, but I there was plenty of stuff there to get me started.

The fender rack, gas cap, and timing cover were painless additions, and in about an hour, the bike had gone beyond the pin stripe phase, into actual hardware changes...

There is one small footnote. The mounting screw that came with the rack extended well beyond the threaded area under the fender, so I found a shorter chrome button-head screw at Home Depot that was perfect. With the longer screw, I could see a groove getting cut in my tire if I bottomed out on a bump.

Beyond that, things got a little more serious. Bolt-ons are one thing, but when the cutters and hacksaw came out, I took a deep breath. After all, this is a 2008 bike that I just bought and it runs just fine! It ain't an old beater with a million miles, but what the fuck, that's never stopped me before.

Before - Note that there's not much space above the front rocker cover

So the idea was to raise the gas tank, create some space to hide the mass of wiring between the front rocker cover and the gas tank, and move the coil to the left side of the engine, between the cylinders. Daylight barely passes through that area above the rocker cover in stock configuration (see pix above), and I was trying for the look of an old-school stretched-frame scoot.

I loosened the front of the tank, supporting it with a foam block, while adding the 2" tank risers. I didn't put the cross bolt in until I rerouted the wiring into the tunnel created when the tank is lifted. And before doing anything else, I disconnected the battery.

That tank lift kit comes in a couple heights, 2" and 3" as I recall, and comes with extra fuel hoses and some other bits you might need for your application. For the 2" lift, I didn't use any of that stuff. Just the two risers and the 2 mounting bolts. Be on the safe side and use Blue Loctite on ALL the fasteners that you replace/remove for this or any mods.

I first removed the two plastic shrouds from either side that hide all those damn wires. Removing them involved getting out the dikes and snipping a lot of black wire ties on both sides of the shrouds. Just start at one end and work your way to the other...Cut 'em all. I also had to pry a couple small round connector plugs from here and there to get the shrouds off. Cutting those bits out of the way caused a little "pucker" moment, but in for a penny, in for a pound, right? Ain't no turning back once the cutting starts. Now everything is exposed and you can get to work.

Then I used the DK Custom kit to move the coil, which was a piece of cake. I bought some 3/8 black corrugated wire loom material to keep the wires nice and neat, and to add a little protection. You have to reroute the coil plug wire, running it down between the cylinders. This new coil setup really looks nice, and there are no issues with heat. And like I said earlier, I'm a machinist by trade, and I know quality when I see it. This mount is made well, so quit shopping around, buy the DK setup, and get it over with.

Coil is moved and new Screaming Eagle wires installed.

For the rest of that bundle of wires, I basically unplugged each connector, routed the wires over the frame rail and under the tank, and reconnected them, just one harness at a time. I'm no electrician, and electrical stuff ain't my strong point. It's a fucking mystery to me.

You'll find that almost all the wiring will fit in the tunnel between the frame rail and the tank. I didn't have to do any cutting or splicing of these harnesses, by the way, though I'm sure someone with a little more savvy with wiring could have cleaned this bundle of wiring up a bit more.

Right about here is where the hacksaw came in. I left the ignition up near the neck, and after the coil is gone, there's a lot of useless bracket hanging under the ignition switch. I chopped it off, just below the switch, and touched up the bare metal with some flat black paint. I'll buy a new replacement part when I can, just in case I ever want to put things back the way it was. I figure if I don't buy one now, I might not be able to get one in a few years. (And for the record, a 2007 or earlier bracket won't work. 2008 or newer I think, and I haven't found a single one on eBay.***)

*** Feb 2012 Update: I found out that the same coil/ignition bracket was used on a 2007 Harley Roadster, so if you need a spare and your dealer can't find the part number for your Nightster (he won't be able to), tell him to check on that Roadster P/N.

Just about everything's tucked away or relocated at this point. 
See all that daylight over the front rocker cover!

Right about here, I tried to remember if I'd done any good deeds lately or maybe helped a Damsel in Distress. See, I had to try to start the bike, and as stated, wiring ain't my forte'. After a short prayer to the Motorcycle God, I hit the starter and it fired right up! Now this might not be a big deal to you, but believe me, it was a HUGE deal to me.

I was very happy with the look, and now there's a LOT of daylight between the front rocker cover and bottom of the tank. With the tank sitting higher, it almost makes it look like the frame was stretched. The cables and the few remaining wires have to stay....moving them requires extending the wiring harness and I don't want more daylight that damn bad. I think the modifications make the bike look like an older Harley, with a simpler, cleaner appearance, and it wasn't that hard or expensive to do it.

As for the parts, I liked the JP Cycles tank risers a lot more than some I saw, and though they cost a bit more, I liked that they were one piece stampings with a nice finish as opposed to some cheaper ones that appeared to be round rod welded to a couple ends that bolt up to the tank and frame. The risers are out there for all to see, so why try to save a couple bucks here, right? Save it at the grocery store instead.

The coil relocation bracket from DK was a nice black welded steel component that is substantial and isn't going to fall apart with vibration. No issues with fit either. It just works. There's other versions out there, but nothing wrong with this DK unit, and the price was surprisingly low for what I got. Like about 60 bucks INCLUDING the Screaming Eagle plug wires. PS Be sure to tell them what color wires you want. Black and Red are the choices.

Did you know (I didn't.) there's NOTHING under that timing cover? Just a cavity, and a carry over from the old design!

Next up was moving the turn signal lights off the handlebars. I'm trying to get the flat-tracker look up top on the bars, and everything's gotta go! Harley actually sells a kit for relocating the lights, and I think the signal brackets come in either chrome or black. The part number for the black kit is: 68643-09, and it comes with the mounts, hardware, wire, wire ties, splicers, and mounting hardware. Literally everything you need and more. When I saw all that stuff, I was freaking out! WTF? (Maybe it was the extra wire and splicers that scared me?)

There's a couple set screws that you loosen and the turn signals come loose from their mounts. At first, I took one of the lights apart until I figured out how they really came off. Duh. 

Then I loosened the headlight mounting bracket so I could reroute the existing turn signal wires. Take the two bolts all the way out. I pushed both signal wires into the center of the neck area and tied them off. With a little careful pulling and tugging to get the slack out, the existing wires were just long enough to route to the new location which was a relief. I didn't need to cut and extend them, so the extra wire and splicers went back in the bag. Whew! 

I think the only hiccup was aiming the lights. Once the bracket is on, you can't get at the light mounting bolts, so you gotta get 'em pretty close, torque 'em down, and do the final adjustment with a twist of your hand, hoping like hell you don't accidentally loosen the bolt. Ask me how I know.


So now the handlebars are almost cleaned up. Once the speedometer is relocated and the new risers installed, it should be bare bones up top, exactly what I wanted. Clean, lean and mean...and no chrome. Stay tuned for the speedometer relocation....That one has me a little worried, but again, it's involves electrical stuff.

In other news.......

After I finished up that stuff, I wanted to take a crack at re-mapping the engine. This damn thing vibrates like mad at low RPMs, due mostly to the Vance & Hines Staggered ShortShots. Or so I was told. At high RPMs, it smoothes right out. And since it has a Vance & Hines FuelPak, I can change the mapping myself. Pretty cool. 

I called the V&H FuelPak support number and they confirmed the tendency of Sportsters to lug or vibrate more with the ShortShots. They recommended changing mapping parameters 5 and 6 to 18 and 15, respectively, down from 23 and 20. (For all settings refer to V&H Value Reference FP-0861 on this website:

To make adjustments, on mine anyway, I needed to take off the seat, getting access to the FuelPak. Remove the 4 screws holding the cover on, turn on the ignition, and cycle through the parameters until hitting those you want to change. Make the changes, shut off the bike, and they're saved.

Do yourself a favor and call V&H before experimenting and know your values BEFORE you call. These folks are totally cool, and really worked with me to improve lower RPM performance. It's much, much better now, but as the man said, if you don't want a vibrating motorcycle, what the hell did you buy a Sportster for, and THEN put those fucking pipes on it? You CREATED the problem. 

And that's about it. More as it happens, maybe this weekend.


PS The bike has taken on far more of a Joker theme, so I guess that's its name....Joker. My GF, Deb, even came through with a Hellanbach Joker t-shirt for me! And yeah, I also got a vanity tag for it that says JOKRR!


  1. Awesome !!! Great Work!! You're right about the rack looks really sleek, can't wait to see it in person

  2. Thanks! I'll ride it up that way one of these days soon. Got a couple small things to do first, like get some smoked lenses for the front signals, and I'd like to get the speedo moved so I can get that damn bracket off the bars. And glad you liked that rack! Not much available for a Nightster, so that was a lucky find.

  3. That's a great customization provided to us. Even we at adair provide Argo XTI (Titan) fuel cap relocator, which Improves ease of refilling fuel with direct fits and no modification.