In Praise of XLence


Merriam-Webster defines "ubiquitous" as "existing or being everywhere at the same time." A fitting description of The MoCo's venerable but oft-maligned XL, but should this machine's commonplace nature be construed as negative? Fussy mustaches, ironic belt buckles and superfluous headgear prevail at many biker hoedowns, too. Does this fact make them worthy of contempt?

This no-frills XL was built for a happy customer by none other than Caleb Owens. The identity of its owner will be revealed later. For now, let's consider its builder.

Cro you may know is the man whose peers bestowed "builder's choice" honors on his Siksika at Born Free 3. Why would a craftsman of such esteemed pedigree get his hands dirty on a lowly Sportster? Why not? Caleb prides himself on building bikes whose prime mission is to be ridden, and no Harley model manufactured in the last half decade has pounded pavement in greater numbers than the Sportster. When you look at it from that perspective, it's easy to see why Caleb, Kim Boyle, Dan Collins, Scott Alvarez, Tim Park, Rouser Rob and a half-million others are so fond of H-D's dominutive Big Twin.



ChopCult readers and the Quad Cam Bastards who came before them are some of the most vocal Sporty supporters in the world… much more so than nearly any salesman you'll meet at a Harley dealership. The Sportster gallery in the ChopCult PhotoDump is one of the most popular pages on this site, and Sportster bike features like this one continue to generate high traffic on this humble online news forum.

Why then so much drumbeating for that which seems obvious? Recently a ChopCult supporter asked me, "Why is the vibe and attitude on ChopCult so positive compared to other websites?" My answer may be wrong, but it's what I believe in:

Today's builders and bikeriders are cut from more open-minded cloth than many of the cynical chopper hooligans that came before them.

When Caleb shared the identity of the Cro customer who commissioned this bike, I was shocked. When it comes to motorcycles, hunky Hollywood types aren't known for their sense of understatement. Nevertheless, Alex O'Loughlin of the cop drama Hawaii 5-0 paid Caleb to execute the mild tweaks and rigid re-frame seen here, and the finished bike strikes me as the kind of machine any ChopCult reader would be happy to have in his garage. I don't know what's more refreshing: that there's a guy in Hollywood who doesn't parade his ego on an 80-grand theme bike, or that builders like Caleb are comfortable enough in their own skin to massage nondescript XL's for friends and happy customers. Frankly, both facts say much about the positive direction modern motorcycling is headed, and for that I am grateful.

Here's the specs and back story on Steve McGarrett's XL as told by its builder, Caleb Owens:

Owner: Alex O'Loughlin

Shop: Cro Customs

Year make model of donor bike: '99 1200 Sportster

Fork mods, if any: lowered a bit

Suspension/frame mods, if any: Paughco rigid frame, stock

List of hand-fabbed parts: Narrowed and Friscoed Sporty tank, shaped rear fender, spun brass foot pegs, fender struts, chopped window bars, modified early shovelhead oil tank. Custom seat pan and leatherwork, exhaust pipes, coil mount, rear brake mount, tag mount

Front wheel size and tire specs: 21" H-D

Rear wheel size and tire specs: 16" H-D Dunlop

Seat: custom spring seat by JD of Flying Monkey Fabrication

Backstory: I got a random call from some dude with a thick Australian accent. "Hey mate, I fookin' love your bikes." So that chatter went on for a few weeks. He said he scored this Sportster from a mate that owed him cash or something. He asked if I would take a look and see if we could put together a simple runner out of his pile of parts. I don't build a lot of Sportsters, and this was the first one I messed with. Add the fact that this Evo was owned by an actor and you can see why I wasn't jumping through hoops on this one. After several phone calls and feeling this Aussie out, he sounded like he was into two wheels for all the right reasons and that made me feel a lot better, so I said, "Why not?"

We cut a deal to just build a runner: no frills, nothing crazy; just a solid runner with a few nice custom bits to get it on the road. I recruited my good buddy and collaborator JD of Flying Monkey Fab to help out on this build. The initial pile of parts included an ugly stretched Paughco frame and DNA springer with ape hangers. That got sold off in exchange for a stock rigid frame, early Sporty front forks, and a nice set of wheels pulled from the pile of parts scrapped from the BS1 project. The rest of the parts were basically things laying around the shop.

Once the bare bones version was together I had Kiyo work his zen magic and do the electrics for me. JD got on the bike and that damn thing almost pulled him off. This scoot has some major balls. Super FAST! Right then and there we were sold on the concept of a bare bones chopper out of a Sporty. Apparently Alex O'Loughlin new something I didn't. He wanted a hard runner and no flashy shit—not a common request from a Hollywood celebrity. When all was said and done JD did a ton of work on the bike and T. Markus came through on the back end for a stellar paint job.

Alex spent a bulk of his time last year thrashing around Hollywood on this bike before landing the leading roll in CBS's Hawaii 5.0. Alex hasn't taken his LA bike to Hawaii yet, so it sits in my shop until he decides what kind of motorcycle is right for the Big Island.


Somebody call the reptile veterinarian—this guy has sick pythons!

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Comment with Chopcult (24)

Commented on 7-18-2011 At 07:15 am

Tough...clean lines, sits perfect, simple. Dig it.

Commented on 7-18-2011 At 07:49 am

Saw it in person, REALLY nice.
Viva Los Bastardos, Por Vida (QCBF)!

Commented on 7-18-2011 At 08:09 am

Sportster`s Rule!

Commented on 7-18-2011 At 09:16 am

wow and the bike aint bad either

Commented on 7-18-2011 At 11:12 am

caleb really puts together some really sick bikes. good job man!

Commented on 7-18-2011 At 11:53 am

Superior power to weight ratio, speed and handling. If you don't know just how good the Evo Sportster is by now, you don't know shit.

4 Cams 4 Ever

Commented on 7-18-2011 At 11:53 am

Superior power to weight ratio, speed and handling. If you don't know just how good the Evo Sportster is by now, you don't know shit.

4 Cams 4 Ever

Commented on 7-18-2011 At 01:41 pm

That guy is HAWT!

Commented on 7-18-2011 At 02:30 pm

Nice bike, I like the lunchbox oil tank and taillight mount. Where is the license plate going to go?

Commented on 7-18-2011 At 02:33 pm

No 'edit' button...license plate mount discovered. I really like the use of ironhead sporty stuff on it.

Commented on 7-18-2011 At 04:06 pm


Commented on 7-18-2011 At 05:08 pm

dope.. Clean and simple

Commented on 7-18-2011 At 07:25 pm

So hot! ... I mean the sporty of course... ;)

Commented on 7-19-2011 At 12:08 am

Cro is way "HAWT"-er!

Love ya,

Commented on 7-19-2011 At 12:53 am

love my sporty. Hands down a great choice for a chop.

Commented on 7-19-2011 At 03:35 am

Simple is good, both in design and function.

Commented on 7-19-2011 At 05:06 am

Simple and SUPER clean, just how a Sporty should be! Does Flying Monkey have a webpage up yet, I couldn't seem to find one?

Commented on 7-19-2011 At 07:17 am

great looking bike...especially love the coil mount and the shovle oil tank...they look supurb! couldn't agree more with the vibe on here in the "sceen" and I too love it!

the wet man pic is major gay hahahaha

Commented on 7-19-2011 At 08:09 am

Diggin' it...all business

Commented on 7-19-2011 At 09:43 am

the old big twins were 'ubiquitous' (and cheap!); that's why so many hooligans
had them and made them their own. the evo sporty fills the bill now.

Commented on 7-19-2011 At 03:10 pm

I've never really understood the bad rap Sportsters have received over the decades, and this bike puts any remaining doubters down and out!!!

Commented on 7-20-2011 At 05:01 pm

There is nothing wrong with this one
I had to come back to take a second look. It's a perferct lane split-er

Commented on 7-21-2011 At 03:00 pm

Inquiriing minds (at least one) would like to know..can you drop a Sportster mill
into a Kawisaki Vulcan 800 chassis? Not just to F'with all the haters ('tho that is a good thing) Much cleaner,lighter, lower cost chassis than the H.D. softails...

Commented on 7-30-2011 At 04:04 pm

so fresh and so clean, nice work

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