Matt Walksler’s 1916 Harley-Davidson Cut-Down | ME & MY BIKE

The “cut-down” is a modified version of a teens-era motorcycle.

Before choppers, you had bobbers; before bobbers, you had cut-downs.©Motorcyclist
  • NAME: Matt Walksler
  • AGE: 32
  • HOME: Waynesville, North Carolina
  • OCCUPATION: Early American Motorcycle Restorer

Before choppers, you had bobbers; before bobbers, you had cut-downs. Teens-era bikes were tall, with a high center of gravity and a long wheelbase. The cut-down is exactly what it sounds like: The neck and axle clips are both raised, which drops the center of gravity. The seat post is dropped too, so instead of sitting on the bike, you're sitting in it. The tanks are shortened, and the wheelbase is shortened, all to make the bike lower, faster, lighter, and more agile.

I built this Harley-Davidson in 2009, from leftover parts too beat up to use on restorations. I'd never sacrifice a good survivor! It was important to me to stay in the period with this build—not only in terms of parts but in the way I built it too. I wasn't TIG welding. I wasn't using super-light materials. It was really an attempt to do exactly what they would have done back in the mid-'20s.

I ride it everywhere; it’s my cruise-around-town vehicle. I live in a small, one-road town, so legality isn’t really an issue. I’m thinking about running it in the 2016 Motorcycle Cannonball. I know the chassis is good and solid, and the motor is up to par. It’s comfortable, it’s low, it’s light, and it gets down the road at 60 mph with relative ease.

I’ve known the organizer of Milwaukee’s Mama Tried motorcycle show for a long time. He invited me to bring a bike this year, and when I saw the photos of guys ice racing after last year’s show, I knew I had to try it on the cut-down. I bought some screws, watched a YouTube video, and built some tires. That’s not as easy as it looks! The last few laps it was getting pretty loose—half the screws were missing from the front tire. I’ll be back on the same bike next year, with better tires!