This is not a Sportster.

Remember, back in the day, when there were still motorcycle events, gatherings, and rallies happening? One of the last events to take place this season before the COVID-19 lockdown was the Mint 400 desert rally. It’s the oldest American desert raid—despite a 40-plus year hiatus for the motorcycle class. 

This year, the organizers added two Hooligan classes, Hooligan Enduro and Hooligan Open. One team entered the Hooligan Enduro category with a special custom bike, based on the most unlikely off-roader.  

Heat Wave Visual is a California-based sunglasses manufacturer and retailer that’s also involved on the American racing and rally scene. The team even opened its own HWV Race Shop. When the Mint 400 rally added the motorcycle class back to its lineup in 2019, the company entered the race with a heavily modified Harley-Davidson Sportster 

For the 2020 event, the team was back in action with a specially-prepped truck and, oh why not, an entirely new bike. As it says on the site: new rider, new bike. What base did they choose? Another Sportster, of course. A 1996 Harley-Davidson 883 to be specific.  

The bike wasn’t running when they first got it so along with making the bike rally-ready, they had to get it to run again. The Sportster was completely stripped down with only the frame left untouched. Even the 883 V-twin was converted into a 1,200 unit 

They fitted the bike with a set of early 2000’s Dyna wire poke wheels, new brakes, RWD shocks, a braced handlebar with handguards, a chain (replacing the belt), a modified 2-into-1 exhaust with upswept muffler, and even replaced the single headlight with a cluster of four LED pods called Quad LED Combo Beam System.  

They fitted the custom with a new set of dirt bike fendersa set of knobbiesa super-cushy-looking saddle—grafted from their previous Harley build because they were running out of time—and voilà. They had a bike ready to tackle the Mint 400. The most wicked thing about this build is that they only had three weeks to make it all happen and turn the cruiser into and off-roader before sending it over to Las Vegas for the rally.  

Heat Wave Visual CEO Justin Hertel who raced the bike ended the rally in fourth position with the custom Harley nicknamed Sporty #13. You can check out the list of all the mods the team did to the bike on the Heat Wave Visual blog that details their short journey. The result is a pretty bad-ass Sportster that looks and sounds really good.