It’s the hot look, a bigger front wheel than stock. But the modification presents two obstacles for many bike owners: cost, of course, and the likely change in handling characteristics. Chin up, kids; Battistinis Custom Cycles has developed a solution to both.
It’s a commitment: taking apart a perfectly good motorcycle and cutting the frame at the neck so you can have a larger front wheel. It’s expensive, too, considering not only parts but labor, as well. But Battistinis’ Leading Axle™ fork legs turn the job into a bolt-on operation that leaves the frame perfectly intact. That’s because these lower fork legs feature an axle that’s offset over 1 1/2” forward and about 1/2” lower so when it comes to fitting a 23” front wheel onto a touring Harley the correct trail is built in – and no frame mods are necessary.
Leading Axle lower legs put the rake the bottom end of the forks instead of in the trees. According to Rikki Battistini, the usual mod, developed in the chopper heyday, was to swap out 6-degree trees. The net effect is a 2-degree difference, which is not the right number to provide proper trail for a 23” wheel. But Battistini calculated the correct trail and rake for optimal handling and determined it needed to be nearly 3 degrees. That’s what Leading Axle lower legs have resulting in straight-line stability, slow speed rideability, and no flop.
Additionally, explains Battistini, “No changes are needed at the top, with the headlight or handlebar positions. None of that is altered so there are no negative effects on travel. You don’t even have to remove the fairing.”
Another plus: by moving the axle forward, the high point of the wheel is placed correctly for full travel. The stock fender can be retained.
A person could spend $5000-$6000 to do this the other way, including labor and parts. But using Leading Axle fork legs, a shop or dealership can handle the modification with fewer parts and in just a few hours. That definitely affects cost!
“I’ve always thought that 23s should have been more popular than they are but if putting on a 26 costs as much as a 23, most people jump to the 26,” said Battistini. This new component changes all that. “No one in the industry has anything like it.”
American-made, modular construction allows for black, chrome and a mix of the two. In terms of style, as Battistini explains, Leading Axle lower legs take their inspiration from 1970’s motocross cues. “We did it on all our bikes back in the day,” said Rikki Battistini. “We’ve known the value of it for a long time.”