My First Custom Motorcycle Build

the frustrated builder!
the frustrated builder!
the beginings-a good base
the beginings-a good base
not in terrible condition to start with
not in terrible condition to start with
the tear-down
the tear-down
the mess which I have made and must now fix!
the mess which I have made and must now fix!

A Lesson In Humor And Humility

When I began my first custom motorcycle build, I quickly learned the three E’s: excitement, exhilaration, and exhaustion. There is absolutely no confusing me for a master builder, that is for sure! I have read up on the subject, subscribed to http://www.custom-choppers-guide.com , watched countless television episodes of several respectable builders, watched informative videos, and shadowed my husband for two years watching him work on motorcycles, dirt bikes, and ATVs doing everything from general maintenance to engine rebuilds to helping others customize their rides. In no way does this make me an expert-by any stretch of the imagination. At this point I am basically an apprentice. I am fully capable of turning a wrench but I lack the necessary skills to be able to trouble-shoot and diagnose the bikes that come into the service and retail accessories store we opened.

As the result of living too far away from any motorcycle repair training facility, of any caliber, I am not able to get the hands-on training a class room setting can afford me. Thankfully there are places like Penn Foster that will allow me to take long-distance courses that will enhance the natural knowledge I have acquired along my path of becoming a certified motorcycle mechanic. In the mean time I have already started on my first build, or rebuild to be more accurate.

What began as a completely stock, unadulterated 1977 Yamaha XS650 had been effectively stripped down to bare frame and had some non-essential body parts forcibly removed in order to make way for a modified café racer. My husband was kind enough to buy me my own impact driver for the bolts and screws that were too rusted to budge. Even then there were some parts that even his brute force had trouble convincing. Eventually the job was done and I set about to stripping the old faded black paint off and began the body modifications. I cut and ground down and sanded and cleaned and Bondo-ed and sanded and cussed and cleaned and tried again and cussed more and took a break.

The Learning Curve

While I knew the Bondo aspect of the job would not be easy, I felt I was perfectly capable of tackling the job. I still feel that I am capable but not without letting my husband help me this time. Stubborn pride kept me from accepting his help previously. Understanding how headstrong I can be when I am determined to do something on my own, he sat back, laughing and shaking his head as he, and others, watched me make messy mistakes. Sometimes one simply must learn the hard way. Or at least I do. I thought that I had a pretty good handle on how to do the work but I have learned that just because it sounds easy, the practical application is not always so.

One very important lesson that I learned is that you must be humble enough to accept the acknowledgement of your limitations. My bike sat idle for a while as I was frustrated and out of energy due to high Southern heat and an injury that left me sidelined for a short while. Several factors have lined up to relight the fire under me and I have begun the tedious task of undoing my previous undertaking in order to move forward once again. I have already rebuilt the transmission and will be reattaching it to the engine shortly. The new cables are waiting as are the other parts that are sitting by. The rear fender is new, the seat is coming off of a Kawasaki Vulcan, the gas tank was going to come out of the book but we may use one off of a salvaged Honda Nighthawk to save money and time. The light housings are custom made in-house, I am using new rearview mirrors, we have purchased a specialty horn and are fabricating a storage unit to go under the rear fender and seat as I do not want saddle bags. I know there are purists who do not believe in patchwork bikes and I appreciate that. My husband and I are not hung up on the confinements of convention and find it an enjoyable challenge to make things work with what we have on hand. Very little of my bike is new, most is used and repurposed.

Since the bike came with a kick start, I am eliminating the battery altogether and moving the sound box for the horn under the seat and fabricating side panels to hide everything but the engine/transmission. I had contemplated threading the wiring inside the frame but in the interest of time I may not do that. I like the idea of a clean, simplistic bike. I am excited about the theme I chose for it. Initially meant as a joke, I have decided that this is my bike and if other people do not appreciate it, that is just tough. Before anyone asks, it will not be pink. It will be unlike anything out there and it will get a lot of looks, some followed by laughter, some followed by sneers but I personally do not care. I am having a blast and am fully enjoying everything about my learning experience. Soon I will be taking on the paint, something I intend to do myself as well, and I must say I am nervous as I have not picked up a paint gun since high school. At my current rate I figure that I should reach conclusion in approximately two months. At that point I intend to unveil my long-awaited master point to the amusement, and probably horror, of many!

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Comments 9 comments

carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

what an interesting project !!!


Chaotic Chica profile image

Chaotic Chica 6 years ago Author

Thank you, Carolina! I plan on writing about how the paint job goes and more as I work on putting it back together and getting it on the road. It has been a labor of love and in no way do I regret starting it but that doesn't mean I haven't had my share of knuckle-busting, cuss filled, late nights getting thoroughly frustrated with it! LOL That's just part of the process!


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

It sounds like it's gonna be well worth the effort.. I'll be looking forward to hearing about the results!


Chaotic Chica profile image

Chaotic Chica 6 years ago Author

Me too!!!! LOL


Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

Gosh, a chick with a motor bike building hub - am I seeing things? Quick - get a camera! This is a first for Hubs! You clearly love bikes! What's better is - this is a very interesting bike article. A wee question, can you actually remove the battery from the bike and rely on the kick-start entirely? I know there are coils and a "solenoid" (showing off my knowledge of engines here!) and parts that can generate current, - but for lights and indicators for turning, would it survive without the battery? I am madly curious! Cheers!


Chaotic Chica profile image

Chaotic Chica 6 years ago Author

Oh, absolutely! There is a battery eliminator but it can survive solo. Once the power has been established via kick starting, the power runs off the coil like a generator. Trust me, I did check on this because I wanted to go it solo but needed to make sure I could first.


muddysgarage profile image

muddysgarage 5 years ago

Good work, keep it up, there's plenty of room for female custom bike builders. Sounds like you know something about iron. LATER..


Chaotic Chica profile image

Chaotic Chica 5 years ago Author

Thank you, muddysgarage, and I must say I love your handle (name choice). My love affair with bikes started as a tyke riding on the back of my mom's strapped to the sissy bar by those rainbow colored elastic belts so popular in the late 70's/early 80's. She was forced to take a 15 yr hiatus but picked up again when she left the enforcer. By then I started a family and life happened, yada yada yada. The next thing I know I'm graduating w/ a 4.0 from the technical college for welding and I met my husband, a well respected bike mechanic where he's from and in this area now. That relit that interest & I have dived head first into catching up on lost time. I now have my motorcycle repair technician certificate though I still feel like a rookie compared to my husband. I got sick so I had to put the project off for a while but I'm out of surgery, cleared for life as normal and the temperatures are ideal for getting back out to my garage (we have separated the garage into two because we have different ideas on how one should be set up). I hope to get this done soon so I can finish the story, especially since there have been some changes including a custom built springer seat, custom light-housings, etc all done in-house.


TycoonSam profile image

TycoonSam 4 years ago from Washington, MI

I'm excited for you and can't wait to see pictures of the finished ride!

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