The beautiful thing about custom motorcycles is that as divisive as building bikes can be, it can also bring people together. This is the case with Chris Edwards, a friend of mine. Had it not been for custom motorcycles, I probably wouldn’t have met him. What’s shocking is that we’ve known each other since elementary school, but I would have never known the guy if not for meeting him a few years back at a local ice cream joint. Back then, Chris was riding a bobbed-out Suzuki 650. In our area, it can be difficult to come by anyone on a custom motorcycle, so you’ll have to pay extra attention and say “howdy” if you get the chance, which is exactly what I did when we saw this bike!
Since meeting him, Chris has owned two Sportsters, rebuilt his old truck, and even picked up a sweet little Ford Maverick. His latest Sportster was bee themed (which highlights another one of Chris’s hobbies: beekeeping). I think that bike gave him the chopper bug because not long after he finished modifying that bike, he sold it and picked up the bike he has now. Chris’s 1998 Harley-Davidson Sportster is the epitome of a classic 60s-style chopper. The name is “turtle” in Spanish, but the bike isn’t a slouch; Chris happened to build the bike for style first, but the performance ain’t bad, either! A coral-colored frame and tins are accented with an ocean-blue set of flames and a transfer of Neptune in the middle of the tank. Chris even went as far as adding sand and seashells into the resin in his oil cap. This tropical chopper has parts from some of the community’s biggest names, but the list of off-the-shelf parts is slim. Chris is a machinist by day, which has proved beneficial in making his parts and creating a real one-of-a-kind machine. Things like the air cleaner cover points cover and even pushrod tubes were machined by Chris and assembled in his home garage. The hours of labor put into this bike don’t stop there. Chris also picked up TIG welding and painting (and probably half a dozen other skills) to bring his vision to life.
For the few things he couldn’t do or make himself, Chris reached out to local folks for help. He has shaved lower fork tubes and custom axle spacers - he even sleeved and rethreaded the shift knob on my bike in all of his spare time! What I love so much about Chris’s bike is that it has the beauty of a mountain, or a beach scene, meaning that it is always astonishing, but if you don’t see it too often, parts and pieces may change because Chris is always coming up with new ideas. I wanted to photograph Tortuga in a setting close to home and to showcase the community where we were raised, and this sweet chopper was designed.
The mountains and the woods of North Carolina are also an excellent backdrop to highlight something so different and out of its element. This isn’t your average black Sportster. This isn’t a NOS shovelhead, either. Though it is neither of those things, it’s undeniable that this bike lives up to the definition of the word chopper. Thanks to Lisa, ChopCult, and Chris for letting me put his bike out in the world for everyone to enjoy! - Josh
Owner name, location: Chris Edwards, Mount Airy, NC
Chop Cult Member profile: Tortuga
Engine, year and make, model, modifications: 1200cc Evo, 1988 Harley Davidson Sportster, chopper built from the ground up.
Frame: 1998 Sportster with weld-on Lowbrow hardtail
Fork: Stock 39mm narrow glide with shaved lowers
Chassis mods: Lowbrow rigid hardtail
Tire/wheel size and style: 21”/16” spoke wheels with Avon Speedmaster tires.
My favorite thing about this bike: I machined a pocket in the oil tank cap so that I could epoxy sand and seashells from my Mom's favorite beach inside of it. I even had her pick out what shells were to be molded inside. Just a special touch that is personally dear to me.
The next modification will be: I've recently had time this year to throw some miles on it since 2022 has been the bike's first real shakedown on the road, and I’ve since changed the bars to some mild pullbacks and also made a new seat pan that tucks inside the frame rails better along with a little thicker foam for added comfort. During the new seat build, I switched the color from black to white to match my grips.
Other mods, accessories, cool parts, etc: Being a full-time machinist, I love making my parts to customize where I see fit. I made quite a few parts, my favorite being the pushrod tubes I machined from brass. I figured it would be a cool touch because you don’t normally see people with brass pushrod tubes. I put a picture of Neptune holding his trident on the tank, with his hand on top of a sea turtle, which is actually a real statue at Virginia Beach, Virginia. This is when I properly gave the bike the name Tortuga, which is Spanish for “turtle.” My wife even found me a gremlin bell with a turtle cast into the bell.
Any building or riding story or info you'd like to include: As far as building the bike goes, I wanted to do everything myself. I did, too, minus the tapework for the tank flames and the upholstery for the seat. I learned to TIG weld and paint, which I had never tried before this bike. I love learning new skills and trades to be as self-sufficient as possible.
One of the first things new people always notice right off the bat is my sissy bar. I get more compliments on that than anything. I built it from wrought iron, which is essentially a cemetery gate. I got the idea from watching the ‘60s hit TV show The Munsters, which I am a huge fan of. I built it using 14 separate pieces that are twisted and curved and also threw in some bird cages to set it apart from most Trident sissy bars I’ve personally seen. It was the first thing I had thought of before I started building the bike.
Thanks to Lowbrow Customs, TC Bros, and Daniel Beemer. - Chris
Photos and article by Josh Hawks / Instagram