Automotive fanatics should be familiar with the term “sleeper car,” which refers to a car that performs better than its beat up or ordinary look on the outside would suggest. Sleeper cars are essentially the automotive equivalent of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” But, are there sleeper bikes in the motorcycle world? The answer may seem like no, since motorcycles naturally display most of their upgrades and additions front and center without a hood to raise any inquiry.
Regardless of that, looks can always be deceiving. Even the most beat-up and tattered motorcycles can put on a show and turn heads. Case in point, we visited a race event called Flat Out Friday in Milwaukee during the Mama Tried Show where one flat track bike stood out to us. The 1974 Harley-Davidson SX175 didn’t look like much, but it turned out to be an absolute crusher on the track. We spoke to Andy Pickett, who owns the bike and Rustoration Cycles, to learn more about it.
“I was originally buying another bike and I asked the guy if he had anything else,” Pickett says. “We went and looked at one he had in the shed. He wanted $100 for it… we eventually settled on $60.”
Sixty dollars might be one of the greatest steals on a bike we’ve ever heard – even if it wasn’t in the best condition upon purchase. Pickett told us it didn’t take much to get it started, but the Harley was missing a bunch of parts to begin with.
“The good part about having a cheap, crappy bike is that people give you stuff,” Pickett says. “I ended up getting another parts bike and raced it in vintage once it was put together. After a win at last year’s Barber Vintage Festival, I decided to turn it into a flat tracker.”
Since then, it’s been performing well… except for the week before Flat Out Friday when the motor blew up. No problem for Pickett though, he was given a new piston and promptly hand sanded and honed it to fit in the cylinder.
To beef up the bike a little more, he added a carburetor from a Suzuki RM125, a clutch and an extra plate from a Honda CB350, a front end from a Kawasaki KZ250 with eight washers to slam it down, half of a Yamaha RD350 pipe setup, Harley-Davidson SX650 shocks, and a Screaming Eagle air filter.
All of these additions were finished and added to the motorcycle only one night before the Flat Out Friday race. How did Pickett do on the track?
“I pulled up to the line and I was leaking fuel and I was told to come off the track, but I turned my petcock off and took the hose and just wrapped it around until it stopped. The race started and I came off the line fourth, but the two dudes in front went wide and I cut in on them and then held second for most for the race. I realized, when I had started the bike again, I didn’t turn the petcock on all the way and it sprung close, so on the last lap everyone passed me.”
It definitely wasn’t the result Pickett wanted, but it was an impressive sight to see his $60 build keep up with the $8,000 motorcycle in first place. It just goes to show that sleeper bikes do exist, and Pickett’s SX175 is a prime example of one!
If you have a motorcycle, ATV, UTV, snowmobile or jet ski you’d like to feature in MPN’s Ride of the Week series, please email MPN Content Director Greg Jones at [email protected].