Ward Performance Sturgis Dragbike

This Harley-Davidson Dyna lives to drag race at the rally

This lean and mean machine was born to drag.

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This bike was built specifically for drag racing during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. I have been a drag racer all of my life, so for me this bike was a natural. My shop has been building record-setting, championship-winning cylinder heads and engines for almost 30 years. I started racing the local bracket racing series in the late 1970s and worked my way to professional NHRA Pro Stock Bike in the mid-’90s. The biggest win of my career was the NHRA US Nationals at Indianapolis in 1995.

My shop, Ward Performance, CNC ports cylinder heads for many of the top teams in drag racing, including NHRA Pro Stock Bike, Top Fuel, Funny Bike, Pro Street, and Land Speed Racing. We also CNC port heads used for racing and high-performance street applications for many big-name shops around the country.

The last few years we supplied cylinder heads to the quickest Pro Street Suzuki Hayabusa in the world. That bike holds the current Pro Street record with a 6.72-second ET in the quarter-mile. This is the style of bike I chose to pattern my bike after. The Busa Pro Street bike uses roughly the same wheelbase and DOT street tire as my bike, which you’re looking at right now. It also does not use a wheelie bar. Since I will be racing on a non-prepped street-style surface, I will be using a drag-racing slick rear tire in place of the DOT tire.

Rick Ward spared no effort building this killer dragger.

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At first glance, this bike appears stock, which is good but also bad. I strive to make any custom part on the bike perfect, like it would have come from the factory, and yet to someone giving it a quick look that’s exactly what it may look like—a factory bike.
I’m also not into loud colors and paint schemes and prefer a bike that looks like this is how it was always meant to be. Again, it could have come from the factory with the simple black paint I chose. But to me that’s what makes it a cool bike—that’s my taste, but it can be hard to compete with the crazy paint schemes of some of the other bikes. I guess it really comes down to taste. If someone takes a long, hard look at the bike and knows what they’re looking at, my bike is far from factory stock. In fact, apart from the tank and frame, there really isn’t much for factory parts on this bike.

For my design process, I started out measuring every inch of the bike, including sitting on the bike with my feet back to figure out where the pegs would have to be in order for me to get in a tuck position without coming into contact with the pipe. I then sat down with SurfCAM to design each piece. When I had a design I was happy with, I machined the prototype on my Mazak from aluminum. Now I had a piece to fit on the bike. From there I made some small tweaks to each part and would machine a new and better prototype piece. I actually made three or four versions of each piece from each side of the bike until I found one I was happy with and had the correct fit.

Hope to see you at the drags in Sturgis.

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In fact, that is how most of the parts we design and manufacture at Ward Performance are born. Through my years of drag racing, I would see a need for a modification on my dragbike or engine and design a part or modify a stock part. Those are the parts we would eventually manufacture and sell to our customers. While our specialty is cylinder heads and engine development, having the equipment we have makes it possible for us to fabricate just about any part on a motorcycle, and over the years we have manufactured a lot of those parts, including oil pans, top-end oiling kits, coil brackets, valve covers, bike weights, tether switches, exhaust spigots, oil filter covers, handlebar clamps, brake caliper mounts, billet cylinder heads, and custom pistons, to name a few.

Having the design programs as well as a flow bench and engine dyno, we don’t have to try to communicate our ideas to someone and hope they understood our vision. We are able to carry out the process in our shop from start to finish. That way when we don’t like how a part turns out, we can grab another piece of aluminum and start the process over. I think that is the advantage we have.

I would say the most challenging part of this build was building the rearset footpegs and controls. It was challenging to design footpegs that would allow the rider to get his feet in drag-race tuck position while fitting the megaphone so that it had ground clearance yet the rider wouldn’t burn his foot on the muffler.

Chassis-wise, the bike retains the stock frame. We removed the original cast pieces on the lower frame that protected the oil pan and held the original mid-mount footpegs and controls. It was then necessary to modify the oil pan to keep it from hanging below the frame rails. This gave the bike an extra inch of ground clearance, allowing it to be lowered even more. We welded in additional tubing for frame support. Ward Performance also designed and CNC machined our own rearset footpegs and controls to allow the rider to be in a natural tucked position for drag racing.

For now the bike retains the stock fuel tank and rear fender. I have carbon-fiber replacements in the works. The bike does have carbon-fiber wheels. It also uses a lithium-ion battery, Suzuki GSX-R1000 inverted fork tubes, Brembo calipers, and lightweight brake discs, bringing the total weight down to 545 pounds. The bike required custom-made billet triple clamps with the correct offset to keep the front-end geometry correct, which is crucial for high-speed stability.

dyna, super-glide

Rick Ward’s Sturgis dragger.

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We put a lot of work into the motor, obviously. The heads are CNC ported heads that were designed in SurfCAM and machined on our five-axis Haas mill. We take the traditional method of hand porting using grinding tools, find the best possible port (through flow testing, as well as dyno testing) and then essentially copy that optimal port design. With our SurfCAM CAD/CAM software we can reproduce the port exactly the same for each cylinder on the head. The result is maximum power, consistency, and reliability. That traditional method of hand porting takes hours and is prone to errors, but with CNC porting you get a more consistent port.

When you build any sort of racebike, dialing it in well ahead of time is vital. I started to test early in 2017 at the track. The bike had full drag-race suspension that needed to be dialed in. I’ll also update the engine throughout the season before the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The bike sits at slightly over 160 hp now. There is a good chance you will see a nitrous bottle on the bike before Sturgis. I do believe a good working chassis will have an advantage over brute horsepower on a non-prepped racing surface. I have a few other high-tech tricks I hope to have on the bike before Sturgis that I’d rather not talk about—I need to keep a few secrets!

Bike Owner: Rick Ward
Shop Name: Ward Performance
Shop Phone: (763) 441-5535
Shop website: wardperformance.com
Year/Make/Model: 2009/H-D/FXD Dyna Super Glide
Fabrication: Ward Performance
Assembly: Ward Performance, Tyler Gerrick
Build Time: 6 months
Year/Manufacturer: 2009/H-D/Ward
Type/size: Twin Cam/124ci
Builder: Ward Performance
Cases: H-D
Cylinders: S&S
Heads: H-D/CNC Ported by Ward Performance
Rocker Boxes: H-D
EFI/Carb: 64mm Screamin’ Eagle EFI Throttle Body
Air Cleaner: Screamin’ Eagle Heavy Breather/Ward Performance
Exhaust: Custom Handmade Burns Stainless/Ward Performance
Special Features: 160+ hp
Year/Manufacturer/Type: 2009/H-D/6-speed
Case: H-D
Clutch: Bandit
Primary Drive: H-D final drive converted to chain drive to handle high-horsepower drag-race launches
Year/Manufacturer: 2009/H-D
Rake: 29° neck custom offset triple trees
Stretch: 6 in. over
Manufacturer Front: GSX-R/Showa Inverted
Length: 30 in.
Triple Trees: Brock’s Custom Offset
Manufacturer Rear: JRI Drag Shocks
Swingarm: Brock’s Performance +6 in. aluminum swingarm
Wheels, Tires, and Brakes
Manufacturer Front/Type: BST Carbon
Size Height/Width: 17 x 3.5 in.
Tire/Size: 120/70 ZR17
Caliper: Brembo
Rotor: Suzuki GSX-R
Manufacturer Rear: BST Carbon
Size Height/Width: 17 x 6 in.
Tire/Size: 190/50 ZR17
Caliper: Brembo
Rotor: Suzuki GSX-R
Color: Black Urethane
Painter: Finish Line Design, Brian Gall
Graphics: None
Front Fender: Suzuki GSX-R1000
Rear Fender: Modified OEM H-D Dyna
Fender Struts: Modified H-D
Gauges: Dakota Digital
Gas Tank & Cap: H-D
Oil Tank: Modified oil pan for extra ground clearance
Handlebars: Driven/Pro Taper Aluminum
Hand Controls: Modified Suzuki/Motion Pro
Foot Controls: Custom billet rearset pegs & controls by Ward Performance
Footpegs: Custom billet rearset pegs & controls by Ward Performance
Headlight: H-D/Drag Specialties
Taillight: Custom Dynamics LED
License Mount: Drag Specialties
Seat: Custom/Mark Milbrandt