Skip to main content

King of Kings

Harley-Davidson Black Power Is a Cheap Way to a Custom Motorcycle

By General Posts

by Daniel Patrascu from

This year’s King of Kings competition was one for the ages. A total of 15 bike builders from across the world, specialized in remaking Harleys, took the center stage with their incredible creations until one of them, the Apex Predator, was crowned ruler of them all.

Being essentially a competition intended for the bike maker’s international network of dealers, King of Kings (known in previous years as Battle of the Kings) lacks the glamour of other things American. Thus there’s a good chance you didn’t know that much about the bikes and their builders, whom we’ve covered extensively back in May.

This competition has been around for some time, though, and the shows of the past are equally as exciting in terms of projects as the one that just ended. Case in point the Harley-Davidson called Black Power we have in the gallery above.

The bike is the work of German Harley shop Thunderbike itself was not an entry in the competition, but was inspired by one: the 2017 Thunderbike entry known as the Custom King.

Black Power is based on a Harley-Davidson Iron 883, and has been designed in the usual Thunderbike way, with a wealth of custom parts making their way onto the two-wheeler, and then wrapped in a special paintwork which in this case is obviously black.

Following the tradition of the Harley competition, there are fewer custom parts featured on this build than usual, but the result is equally stunning. We have new toppers and new covers for the ignition, new handlebar and new speedometer, new exhaust system and of course a reworked fuel tank, just to name a few.

Thunderbike does not say how much the conversion of the Iron cost, but the parts listed by the shop do not cost more than $2,000 combined – paint job and man hours not included, of course.


Pack of Custom Harley-Davidsons Out Hunting, Apex Predator Leads the Way

By General Posts

by Daniel Patrascu from

In April 2020, Harley-Davidson concluded a custom build competition called King of Kings. Dedicated to its network of international dealers, the contest saw some incredible machines coming out the door of garages spread throughout the world.

King of Kings was the coronation of an older, similar Harley initiative called Battle of the Kings (BOTK). It brought together 15 shops that have won BOTK in the past, competing against each other to get the majority of the 50,000 public votes cast during the event.

Over the past month, we brought you each and every one of the 15 builds in detail, as a testimony of what a little imagination and some technical expertise can do to an otherwise stock Harley. We finished our run through the list on Saturday, and now it’s time to have a look at the entire pack of motorcycles that have wowed the crowds online.

As you already know by now, the winner and the holder of this year’s King of Kings title is the Mexican-made Apex Predator. Based on a Sportster XR1200 with the stock engine, it is supposed to be a “retro-futuristic XR-based track monster meets street fighter,” and managed to attract the majority of the 50,000 votes.

Built by a dealer in Mexico’s Queretaro, it features custom parts like front fork covers, dual air intakes, wave-style brake rotors, and a seat wrapped in Alcantara as a touch of class. The bike also received a TFT Bluetooth instrument panel, and a hand-built 2-1-2 exhaust system.

Runner-up was the Greek-made Gryps, a Sportster designed in such a way as to be a mix between a real-life two-wheeled machine and a creature from the ancient Greek mythology – it is shaped somewhat like the mythological griffin of millennia ago.

The Gryps is perhaps one of the most intricate builds of the competition. It sits a tad lower than the base model, the fuel tank is at a different angle on the frame, and it is wrapped in reworked, cold silver panels that are supposed to give the impression this is an actual living, breathing beast: the tank is the body, the front fairing the head, while the side fairings are both the wings and the legs of the monster.

The German Thunderbike Emperor was awarded a popularity award of sorts, and despite losing the popular vote competition to the Mexican build, it was hand-picked by Harley-Davidson’s styling team as the best looking of them all. And it is sure worth it, considering how extreme this makeover is compared to all the others.

Starting off from a 1995 Sporster, Thunderbike went the chopper way and gutted, replaced and improved pretty much all elements of the motorcycle to achieve this real custom look. Modifications can be seen all around: to the fork, handlebar, tank, oil tank, seat, fender, struts, exhaust and shifter.

Of the 15 bikes that have lined up at the start of the competition, though, we would have chosen the French’n Cheap. The work of a Harley dealer in La Rochelle, France, is one of the cleanest, sharpest-looking motorcycles we’ve seen in a while.

The smooth appearance has been achieved on this lowered 2019 Sportster XL 1200T through a smart choice of paint, sleek tires, and ingenious solutions like hiding all the cables inside the handlebars.

These four are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what this year’s King of Kings competition was all about. Each of the dealers that took part (aside from the bikes above, there were entries from South Australia, Brazil, UK, Spain, Benelux, and Japan – you can see all these bikes in the gallery above) did its best to come up with some incredible machines.

For the most part they succeeded, and managed to prove there is talent in customizing motorcycles outside the U.S. as well.

Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight Gets Low Stance and High Exhaust

By General Posts

by Daniel Patrascu from

Two weeks after we started, we came to the end of our Harley-Davidson King of King’s coverage. Of the 15 bikes that took part in the competition, only one is left, the one its builders call the Harley-Davidson XL 1200 FT.

The creation of Harley’s dealer in Bordeaux, France, the build started life as a regular Forty-Eight, and received a number of changes meant to alter its appearance and performance and make it suitable for the Harley-designed contest.

As usual, the shop had to respect the budget limit imposed by Harley for the bike to be admitted into the competition, so the changes that have been done to the stock machine are not necessarily extensive, but they are effective.

To give the bike – officially called XL 1200 FT – a meaner appearance, the rear has been shortened and the exhaust has been raised to a higher position. At the front, the fork has been paired to high performance shock absorbers that also help give the motorcycle a lower appearance, and there’s also a special housing for the headlights.

Engine wise, not many modifications have been made to the stock engine. The shop did add new camshafts and a high-flow air filter, but that’s about it.

“Our XL 1200 FT brings together modern and historic elements of the brand to make it a somewhat timeless motorcycle,” said the French dealer about the build.

As did all other bikes that have been entered in the competition, this too needed public votes to win. In the end, it failed to do so, and the title went to a Mexican build named Apex Predator.

King of Kings was a competition dedicated to Harley’s international dealers. 15 bikes were featured on the roster from all around the world, all built following the same rules: changes to be made within a €6,000 ($6,500) budget on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, at least half of the parts used for the tuning to be taken from the Harley inventory, and the finished product be road legal.


Harley-Davidson Iron RR Is How an 883 Looks Like With Stage IV Tuning

By General Posts

by Daniel Patrascu from

Two weeks in, there are not that many bikes left to talk about in our coverage of the Harley-Davidson 2020 King of Kings competition. Only two are still to be admired, and one them is this Polish-born Iron RR.

The build-off event dedicated to Harley’s international dealers concluded in April, and it has already crowned its winner, the Mexican-made Apex Predator. But each of the builds that entered, 15 in all, had something special about them.

Most of the bikes we’ve seen so far have been all about crazy looks and only minor mechanical upgrades. In the case of the Iron RR, the ratio is somewhat inverted, as the Szczecin-based shop focused more on performance than extreme looks.

The build is based on an Iron 883, but one that got its tendons replaced and its heart pumped. The garage replaced both the front and rear suspension, added a new fork, and fitted the two-wheeler with sports brakes.

All these changes were required because the motorcycle’s 883cc engine got tweaked with the inclusion of the Harley-Davidson Stage IV tuning kit. The new hardware is backed by a new exhaust system.

The Poles did a bit of work on the bike’s appearance as well, just to make sure the build sends the right message. There’s a special paint scheme on the bike’s body, but also a new LED light system up front.

All the modifications made by the garage did not exceed €6,000 ($6,500), which was the budget limit imposed by Harley-Davidson for the participants.

The other rules of the competition stated that the base motorcycle needs to be a Harley-Davidson, at least half of the parts used for the tuning to be taken from the Harley inventory, and the finished product be road legal.

As is the case with all the other builds from King of Kings, this one too is a one-off.


Harley-Davidson Emperor Is a “Chopperized” 1995 Sportster

By General Posts

by Daniel Patrascu from

Harley-Davidson called the custom bike build competition for its international dealers King of Kings, but one shop from Germany wanted to top that, so they named their project Emperor.

Chosen at the end of April, the King of Kings winner was crowned a Sportster-based Mexican creation by the name of Apex Predator. Over the past two weeks, we’ve talked at length about some of the other participants as well, because each had its own something unique to bring to the table.

The Emperor we’re talking about today is of German origin, and has been designed by a Harley dealer called Thunderbike. It boasts, perhaps, the most radical changes compared to the base bike, which is a 1995 H-D Sportster.

We’ve talked about Thunderbike before, and we know these guys are not messing around when it comes to customizing motorcycles or building their own frames. The same happened here.

The Emperor probably boasts the most changes from all the 15 entries in the competition. It has been gutted and had some of the parts removed, some of them replaced, and the whole thing gifted with a very long list of custom parts, ranging from the wheels to the exhaust.

The fork, handlebar, tank, oil tank, seat, fender, struts, exhaust and shifter, all have been added to the bike in custom form to give it this distinctive look, a more chopper-like appearance than Harley originally had in mind for the Sportster.

Thunderbike went a little further than its competitors did, and even revised the stock engine of the motorcycle a bit, fitting it with an automatic clutch.

In the end, the German Emperor, even in this extreme, chopperized form, did not manage to win the King Kings competition. Yet, given the budget limits imposed by Harley for each build (€6,000/$6,500) creating something like this must not have been easy.

Harley-Davidson French’n Cheap Is the Sharpest, Cleanest Build in King of Kings

By General Posts

by Daniel Patrascu from

The Harley-Davidson King of Kings competition revealed once more just how talented the people working for the bike maker’s dealers are. 15 incredible entries have been judged and voted back in April, and at the end just one emerged victorious: the Mexican Apex Predator.

But each of the builds that took part in the competition had something unique to bring to the table. In the case of this French-made machine, that something is the sharpness of it all.

The base model for the build, which is called French’n Cheap, was a 2019 Sportster XL 1200T that was lowered front and rear by means of an extended swingarm and a lowering kit on the fork. The 18-inch wheels on the bike are actually both front wheels, taken from an FLHX Street Glide, and modified in the case of the one fitted at the rear to be better suited for its new purpose.

The people behind the project, Harley’s dealer in La Rochelle, France, also tampered with the engine of the base motorcycle, something that was not all that common for the entries in the King of Kings competition: the powerplant was given Stage 2 Screamin’ Eagle camshafts, harder valve springs, and a new air filter.

The choice of paint and the way in which it was sprayed on the body, the sleek tires on the wheels, and the fact that all the cables are hidden inside the handlebars make the French’n Cheap look anything but cheap.

King of Kings was the culmination of the years-long Battle of the Kings. The rules of the competition called for the base motorcycle to be a Harley-Davidson, the modifications to be in the €6,000 ($6,500) budget, and the end result be street legal.

Just like the other bikes we talked about over the past week, the French and Cheap checks all those boxes too.


Harley-Davidson El Ganador Is How the Brits Build Club Style Motorcycles

By General Posts

by Daniel Patrascu from

Harley-Davidson’s King of Kings competition may have concluded last month, but it will probably be some time before all of the builds that were entered fade into history.

A souped-up version of Battle of the Kings, King of Kings was dedicated to the bike maker’s international dealers, which in their spare time find enough resources to modify existing Harleys. In fact, that is what the entire thing was about: take an existing Harley, make it unique within a €6,000 ($6,500) budget, and keep it street legal.

For a British Harley dealer that meant modifying a Roadster until it became El Ganador, a club style bike the likes of which are becoming increasingly popular in Europe.

“Club Style can be a blend of many things: paintwork that is very in your face – we’ve used a lot of hard candies, the metal flake in the paint, and serious patterns on El Ganador. “ says the dealer about the chosen motif.

“Club Style is based on performance and that’s why we went with æhlins suspension, chain and sprocket conversion, 2-1 exhaust system, upside-down forks and more.”

The changes to the Roadster were not limited to the things stated above. The bike also received the wheels from a 2009 883R for an old-school look, while the tank comes from a King Sportster simply because it’s bigger than what the base bike had.

The look of the El Ganador seems closer to that of the FXR because of the way in which the side panels have been shaped. Custom fenders, a new seat, and new chains complete the list of modifications made.

In the end, the El Ganador did not win the competition, but a Mexican build by the name Apex Predator did. However, this does not make the British build any less special, and you can enjoy all of it in the gallery above or in the video below.


Harley-Davidson Daytona’s Red Has a Transparent Fuel Tank

By General Posts

by Daniel Patrascu from

There have been 15 entries in all in Harley-Davidson’s King of Kings custom bike building competition, and the winner was crowned the Mexican-made Apex Predator. The bike is, of course, a great build, but that doesn’t mean the ones who lost are anything less.

King of Kings was the culmination of a years-old custom bike challenge called Battle of the Kings (BOTK). All the entries for the final, bikes customized by the bike maker’s international dealers, were previous winners of BOTK.

Among the most exciting projects was that of the Harley-Davidson Barcelona shop. The bike, called Daytona’s Red, was initially a Harley-Davidson Roadster, and even if the custom work done to it didn’t make it something else entirely, this two-wheeled machine sure does look different than any other roadsters out there.

The thing that stands out the most is the crazy fuel tank the bike is fitted with. At its origins a stock Harley tank, it has been modified by hand to include a transparent section through which the gasoline and even the fuel pump in operation can be seen.

The garage chose the Roadster for its project because “it is the most racing bike in the Harley-Davidson range.”

“We have been inspired by the history of Harley-Davidson racing looking for a more racing style of motorcycle, differentiating ourselves from the most common styles in customization contests,” the garage says.

The bike has been modified with more than just the exclusive tank. Several other parts were added, most of them built in house, including the exhaust, grips, and headlights. As a touch of class, the turn signals were integrated in the brake lever, it too built by hand.

Even with all those remade parts, the Barcelona crew stayed true to the rules of the competition. They state that the base motorcycle needs to be a Harley-Davidson, the customization be worth at most €6,000 ($6,500), and the bike be road legal.


Apex Predator Is One Sportster Harley-Davidson Should Start Making

By General Posts

by Daniel Patrascu from

At the beginning of April, Harley-Davidson announced the winner of this year’s King of Kings competition, a mashup of the best 15 previous winners of the Battle of the Kings. Its name is Apex Predator, and with it we’re kicking off a series that will bring to light over the following days all the participants.

Known in the industry as BOTK, Battle of the Kings kicked off in 2015 as a custom build competition for Harley dealers worldwide. It is, if you like, a competition of ideas Harley itself was incapable of having, but recognized by the bike maker as possibly game changing for the custom industry.

The rules of the competition are simple: the base motorcycle needs to be a Harley-Davidson bike, the customization must not cost over €6,000 ($6,500) and must have at least half of the parts used taken from the Harley inventory, and the final bike must be road legal.

Over the years many competed in the Battle of Kings, but in April 2020 Harley crowned one of them ruler of the pack. And as fate would have it, that King of Kings is the Apex Predator.

Built by a dealer in Mexico called Harley-Davidson Queretaro, the Apex is based on the Sportster XR1200 with the stock engine, and it is supposed to be a “retro-futuristic XR-based track monster meets street fighter.”

Featuring custom parts like front fork covers, dual air intakes, and wave-style brake rotors, the bike does not shy away from making use of materials not often used in the motorcycle industry, like the Alcantara on the seat.

Aside from the visual upgrades made to it, the Sportster also got a full color TFT Bluetooth instrument panel, and a hand built 2-1-2 exhaust system.

As for the Sportster line, it was introduced by Harley back in 1957 and has been produced continuously ever since. The XR1200 has been around globally since 2006. We reckon not many would mind if it were to sell in the Apex Predator configuration.