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Ride of the Week

Michael Lange’s Custom 1948 Harley-Davidson Chopper

A motorcycle is often more than just a hunk of steel, rubber and moving parts. Many times, it turns into a piece of the owner, one that’s not easily parted with. We got to see that firsthand when we talked to Michael Lange about his custom chopper at Mama Tried earlier this year.

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MPN’s Jacqui Van Ham met with Michael Lange at Mama Tried to talk about his Harley-Davidson.

Lange has owned this particular motorcycle for the majority of his life, making it an important period piece and item of sentimental value. He got the bike, a 1948 Harley-Davidson UL Flathead, in stock form when he was only 15 years old.

“I took it to high school and chopped it, and I actually needed a note from my mom that said if I got hurt on it she wouldn’t sue the school,” Lange says. “I built it, fabricated it and raked the frame all by myself.”

The bike has gone through several different iterations before it ended up how it looks now, including a candy-apple blue paint job over the course of the first summer Lange owned the bike, and a then a purple and blue paint job over updated moldings in the second year. During the second iteration, he added a windshield and extended the front end even more. The final rendition would include the amber gold paint job the bike features today.

After the second version was completed, Lange took the bike on a cross-country ride to California and back again at only 17 years old. The bike was also featured in Easyriders magazine. In 1978, he hit a car and bent the front end of the bike. Even though it didn’t cause serious damage, Lange took the bike apart and put it boxes in storage, where it sat in a time capsule for around 43 years.

When the bike was reassembled over COVID, the labor Lange put into the project was a top to bottom cleaning and the replacement of a few nuts and bolts that were lost over the years. Aside from that, the bike is essentially as it was when it was shot for Easyriders back in the mid ‘70s.

The 1948 model was the final year Harley-Davidson produced the UL, which was the company’s 74 and 80 cubic inch models designed for police departments, over the road touring and sidecar duty in the military. Like most of the Harley-Davidson motorcycles of the era, the bike featured a 45-degree V-Twin engine later known as the “flathead.”

For Lange, his life can be summed up with “Flatheads Forever,” which he has proudly tattooed on his shoulder. This bike is just another reflection of that passion, and we’re glad he shared it with us.

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]

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