- Motorcycles, Sports Bikes & Riding
My First Custom Motorcycle Build
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!