Readers and their Rides

Mike Roush and His 1989 Sportster Chopper

Written by  May 31, 2008

During our recent trip to the Hog Wild Rodeo near Conesville, Iowa, Mike Schweder and I took up temporary residence at the Washington, Iowa, home of our friend Mark “Zick” Zickefoose. During our stay, we had the pleasure of meeting one of Zick’s buddies, Mike Roush, who has been helping him with a custom bike build. Mike arrived on a very cool bike of his own. I told him I couldn’t resist giving Cycle Connections readers a look at his unique chopper.

CC: Where do you live, Mike?

Mike: I live in Ainsworth.

CC: How long have you owned your Sportster?

Mike: I’ve had it for five years. Other than the tank and exhaust, it was pretty much a stock 883 when I got it.

CC: Obviously, you decided to make some changes.

Mike: Three years ago, I decided I wanted to do something different to make it more my own, so I tore it down to the bare frame. I cut the frame and added 2 inches stretch in the front and an inch and three quarters in the lower legs to get about 38 degrees rake. Then I added four-inch-over fork tubes to it and stretched the swing-arm three inches. I also chopped out the rear frame rails and added bullets to the ends. The rear fender is mounted so that it pivots with the swing-arm. The rear tire is a 160. To provide clearance, I cut the center out of the drive sprocket and modified it with an offset bushing. We went through the top end of the motor and punched it out to a 1,200. I installed a set of cams and good carburetor.

CC: Your oil tank is one of a kind.

Mike: I wanted an oil tank different from a stock Sportster, so tried to fit a round oil tank up in there. It just wasn’t going to fit, so I decided to hand-make my own oil tank for it.. I thought it turned out pretty well. It fits right and holds plenty of oil.

CC: What about the fuel tank?

Mike: I wanted a different tank, so I went with a Porkster tank. I reworked the tank mounts, with a single mount in the rear and heightened the front two mounts to raise it a little bit. I finally got some paint on the tank and fender. I did all the sheet metal work and paint myself. I used to work in an auto body shop for a few years on and off after high school. I also fabricated my own coil mount for it. It’s attached to the center motor mount. Lots of little odds and ends were custom fabricated. The seat is for a rigid frame. We kind of chopped it up a little bit and mounted it using hand-made front and rear mounts. I did lots of aluminum polishing myself. I built the headlight bracket and the risers for the handlebars

CC: Talk about the footrests.

Mike: That’s one of the first things I did. I drew out a cardboard coffin-shaped design and got some flat steel to use. I knocked them out in a couple of hours at the body shop where I used to work. They’re just a fun little oddity thing. It’s kind of neat because it was simple to do, and everybody notices.

CC: Are they comfortable?

Mike: They really are--amazingly enough.

CC: What about the electrical wiring?

Mike: Last winter Zick was kind enough to let me use his shop to do some finishing up work on the bike. I cleaned up all the wiring and made it really simple. It’s a lot easier to work on and is cleaner looking.

CC: Zick told me you had an unusual work place when you started on your project.

Mike: I have a small garage, but there’s not much room to work. I just tore the bike down in the garage one fall and carried it into my basement piece by piece. That’s where all of the fabrication was done over the winter. It took about a year and a half to do. I got everything mocked up the way I wanted it and waited for spring to come so I could get out there. I just hung the frame up in the garage, painted it and started putting her back together, carrying everything back up, piece by piece. It’s been quite a lot of work, but a lot of fun, too.

CC: Do you have any idea how many hours you put into the build?

Mike: I don’t have a clue--lots of hours and lots of beer.

CC: Where are you employed, Mike?

Mike: I work in a wireform company setting up c.n.c. wireform machines.

CC: You probably have some tools, then.

Mike: Yeah, a few, and my brother brought his welder up. It came in handy to do all the modifications on the frame, do the oil tank, and make all the brackets. I bought a lathe and milling machine to use. I sort of taught myself to do the machine work to make things for the bike. I really want to thank my brother Tracy who often drove 60 miles from Ottumwa to help. It’s been a really good experience.

CC: I know you take pride in doing your own work.

Mike: That’s what really makes a bike yours. I don’t mean to belittle anyone who buys chrome and bolts it on to personalize a bike, but you have to love a bike that you have invested blood, sweat, and tears in. When you do it the way you want it, it may not appeal to everybody. But it’s what I wanted to do, and it’s my bike. That’s the beauty of it.

CC: Do you have more changes in mind?

Mike: The seat’s the big thing. Obviously, it needs some upholstery work. That’s one thing I haven’t tackled and probably won’t. There are a few more little things I want to make for it--just trinkets. Next winter I may try some kind of graphics on the fuel tank.

CC: What do you do with your time when you’re not riding or working on your bike?

Mike: I really like working on cars and spending time with my daughter, Kaitlin.

CC: I’m sure Kaitlin is going to enjoy lots of motorcycle rides with her dad. She’ll be riding in style on this machine.

Interview and photos by Stripe