This Street-Legal XR750 Is A Beautiful Menace

Actor Michael Bowen's canyon-killing Harley

Harley-Davidson XR750
Michael Bowen and his street-legal Harley-Davidson XR750.Chris Cantle

There was one summer, man, where everybody got a Harley. I had my XR, and it was Mickey Rourke and Steve Jones and all these guys from the Clash—Paul Simonon and all these cats—and we used to go out every Saturday night, cruise around and make trouble. It's really easy to make trouble with that thing. It's dial-a-wheelie, man, you know?

Mert Lawwill built the motor 30 years ago, almost. I was probably working on Valley Girl. Or just after that, I don’t know. I bought it as a junior race bike and rode it around like that for a while. Then it started to make noise, so I took the motor out and brought it up to Mert in Tiburon. Same house he’s lived in, you know, since On Any Sunday. Still says “Lawwill” on the mailbox. I mean, there’s a million houses built up around him now, but it’s the same house. He rebuilt the motor, made it an expert motor, did his own headwork, his own cam profile. I put it on one of those Dynamax rear-wheel dynos—it’s not like Axtell’s chain dyno, but you get a pretty good reading—and it made 80 rear-wheel horsepower. Not bad when it weighs 330 pounds.

You know, it handles like an old Triumph—except the horsepower. Anyway, I like to go gather people up in the canyons. I was chasing some Aprilia up there, and I sucked a valve. So, I called Mert, and June said he's not doing bikes anymore. Mert said, "Give Jim Kelly a call." Jim let me come in there and do it myself, Jim watching over me with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Pretty cool, man. This is probably a year before he died. So, it's got some history. Those are Jim Kelly heads on there and titanium valves.

The best pipes ever had were a set of pipes off one of Evel Knievel’s bikes that I rebuilt here.

It’s still bump start only. I run castor bean oil because it goes toward the heat. I wouldn’t do it in a modern bike because the tolerances are just so tight, but something like this?

I want to put in a set of 19s and dirt-track tires on now. Probably lose another 20 pounds because those Avons are heavy. It's a factory 750 frame, and that's a Champion swing arm. The guy that raced it changed the pivot point. He was probably a short track guy. It just seems to hook up better. Works great on the street. That's a White Power front end off of a Buell. It's kind of the combination of modern and vintage, you know? And that's a police spotlight for the headlight. I shrunk the plate. You can't see unless you know. I took off the L on Cal. Nobody's ever given me a hard time. It's all legal. Semi.

It’s a never-ending process, man. The best pipes I ever had were a set of pipes off one of Evel Knievel’s bikes that I rebuilt here. Smaller diameter coming out of the head, and then the cone has a longer kickback on it and is a little more open. I’m going to marry a set of those to these.

Me & My Bike

Bike: Harley-Davidson XR750
Rider: Micahel Bowen
Age: 64
Home: Ojai, CA
Occupation: Actor (Kill Bill, Breaking Bad, Lost)