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Build Your Own Motorcycle!

Updated on February 11, 2014

The Build - Pure Satisfaction and Pride

Building your own motorcycle can be lots of fun and very rewarding, whether you building a custom chopper or old-school bobber. There's nothing like riding out on the bike you carefully put together yourself.

There are several ways to go about building your own motorcycle. You could buy a "bike in a box" and get all the parts needed in a single delivery; all you have to do is assemble the motorcycle. For the purposes of this article, we will address building a custom motorcycle from scratch.

Alternatives To Building A Motorcycle From Scratch... - Bike Building Alternative #1 - Build Your Own Motorcycle Kit First?

1941 Knucklehead Bobber Bike Kit
1941 Knucklehead Bobber Bike Kit

I have three alternatives for you to consider when building a motorcycle. Here's the first one:

If you are a novice bike building a kit bike is a great way to get your hands dirty, get experience, and understand what it takes to build a bike.

A kit motorcycle is what is known as a bike-in-a-box. In other words you will order your kit, and the entire motorcycle will be in pieces, in a box, ready to be put together.

It sounds easy to do, but it never is. And that is where you get the experience. It's something you'll enjoy, and you'll never forget it.

The bike bike pictured here is a 1941 replica knucklehead. It's one of the very few bobber kits available on the market. The price is just under $24K.

Video Bike Building Guides:

Build A Motorcycle From A Rolling Chassis - Bike Building Alternative #2 - My Favorite Method

Evolution Rolling Chassis Kit
Evolution Rolling Chassis Kit

Another suggestion, which is probably my favorite method, because it's a faster build, and it's fun to do, is to buy a rolling chopper chassis.

A rolling chassis is a partially built motorcycle. Basically what you have to do is set up the electrical systems, install the motor, and get it painted.

The rolling chassis pictured here is a Evolution Rolling Chassis Kit built by Vtwin Manufacturing. The cost of this killer rolling chassis is just $5400.

The type of engine that will fit on this chassis is an FXST Evo. You can do this!

Honda CB550 Chopper Bobber
Honda CB550 Chopper Bobber

How To Build Motorcycle by Chopping or Bobbing A Bike:

Bike Building Alternative #3

Another excellent alternative to building a motorcycle from the ground up is to buy a used motorcycle, and chop it up to what you want.

The motorcycle pictured here is pretty killer isn't it? You wouldn't recognize the original bike because the frame has been modified, and it's been bobbed. Click the image to find out what kind of bike it was. I really like this chopped bobbed look!

Anyway, you can buy any number or used bikes for several hundred to a few thousand, and then customize it to what you want, bob the fender, ad ape hangers or drag bars, get a hard tail or softail weld on kit, get a new gas tank, and put some cool pegs, grips, and maybe even mirrors on there to make it look bad ass. Those are just a few suggestions. Sounds fun doesn't it?

You don't have to modify the frame. You can buy a used bike that already has good lines and all you have to do to make it look cool is bob the fender (I like bobbers if you can't tell), get new drag bars or maybe ape hangers, remove unnecessary factory issued items and replace them with cooler accessories, or eliminate them altogether. Get a springer seat, new tires, and get it painted.

One of the best bikes to bob like this is an XS650 or XS400. There are many other bikes you can customize as well, but these are really good places to start. Some builders have made an entire business out of building or customizing XS650's...

7 Steps To Building A Motorcycle

Here Are Seven Basic Steps It Takes To Build A Motorcycle.

custom sportster
custom sportster

How To Build A Motorcycle Part 1

Your Frame:

First, you need to determine what frame you desire. If you are building a custom chopper, it is quite likely you will want a hardtail frame. The frame is the "spine" of the motorcycle and your selection will make a big difference in the finished bike.

You can choose a low, stretched hard tail frame or a softer-riding 'softail frame'. You'll need to paint the frame or have it painted. Once it is out of the paint booth, you'll be able to begin assembling your bike.

This is a great time to select the gas tank you want. This way paint it or send it out for painting along with the frame. Once it is painted, store it in a safe place where it will not get scratched until you are ready to put it on the motorcycle you are building. Also, if you are planning to have one or two fenders on the bike, they can go out to be painted at the same time.

Rigid Frame:

Rigid Frame:
Rigid Frame:

Softial Frame:

Softial Frame:
Softial Frame:

How To Build A Motorcycle Part 2

Suspension:

The front suspension of your motorcycle is built into the front forks. The length of forks can range from stock to as much as 21-inches over stock, but you want to make sure that the front forks are suited for the neck rake present in the frame.

Fork types include girder forks, springers, and hydraulic forks. Girder forks have cross-pieces which the springs attach to, but these are not very popular these days.

Springer forks have one or two big coil springs on the neck end of the forks. Hydraulic forks are the most common type and are single closed units with no visible spring. The fork length will be determined by the overall design of your bike, but you must make certain that the rake angle and fork length work properly with the size wheel and tire you plan to put on the front of the completed motorcycle.

Springer Forks:

Springer Forks:
Springer Forks:

Girder Forks:

Girder Forks:
Girder Forks:

How To Build A Motorcycle Part 3 - Nuts and Bolts:

Grade 5 Bolt
Grade 5 Bolt

You are going to need lots of nuts and bolts to put the motorcycle you are building together. You want to select quality hardware when you purchase cap screws, nuts, bolts and washers; grade 5 or better is preferable. Never select grade 2 for a custom motorcycle because they are simply not strong enough.

This hardware will have to stand up to long, hard wear and tear, so don't scrimp or use hardware that you have lying around. Chrome hardware is normally marketed with the proper grades for use on your bike. Self-locking nuts prevent bolts from backing out during vibration on the road.

Build A Motorcycle Guides:

Billy Lane's How to Build Old School Choppers, Bobbers and Customs (Motorbooks Workshop)
Billy Lane's How to Build Old School Choppers, Bobbers and Customs (Motorbooks Workshop)

This is a very good guide. It's not the only thing you'll need, but you'll find the tips and steps very helpful.

 
How to Build a Bobber on a Budget (Motorbooks Workshop)
How to Build a Bobber on a Budget (Motorbooks Workshop)

If you want to build a bobber, and I know you do, this low cost guide has many low costs tips.

 
motorcycle assembly
motorcycle assembly

How To Build A Motorcycle Part 4

Assembly:

Assuming you have chosen and procured the drivetrain, seat, handlebars, and other parts, we can go right to assembling the custom motorcycle.

Place the frame onto a stand so that it will not fall over on you. Attach the front forks and front wheel, making sure the wheel is centered. You'll need to position the front brake rotor and use spacers to get the wheel aligned.

Next, you'll want to install the rear tire and wheel. You want to be sure the tire sits exactly in the middle of the frame so that it will run straight and wear properly. This can be challenging since the brake rotor is on one side and the pulley and belt or chain are on the other side. If you have planned well and designed the bike properly, you will be able to position the wheel properly.

fat tire
fat tire

How To Build A Motorcycle Part 5

Rear Wheel:

Position the rear wheel, fitting the belt to the pulleys which are on the left side of the tire. The belt or chain should clear the outer edge of the tire but be very close to it. The axle spacer is then positioned on the right side of the rear wheel and any gap should be filled with a spacer.

Another spacer should be fitted between the caliper and axel spacer making the order as follows: wheel, rotor, spacer, caliper, spacer, axle spare, frame, and nut.

Tighten the assembly so that the belt is tightened to operating tightness and you can check whether the wheel is centered with a long ruler or straight edge that can be position from the center of the neck to the center of the wheel. If out of line, adjust spacers and snugness as required to ensure the wheel and tire are centered.

custom built motorcycle
custom built motorcycle

How To Build A Motorcycle Part 6

The Engine:

Now it's time to put the engine in place. You may have chosen to rebuild a V-Twin engine you already owned, but most bike enthusiasts buy a brand new engine. To put the engine into the frame, you'll need to get a friend to help because the engine is heavy. Position it into the frame carefully and position it so that the engine mounts are in position. Bolt your engine in place.

The transmission can then be positioned and bolted to its mounts. Place the chain or belt before adding the inner primary, align the tranny and engine and ensure the offset for tire clearance is just right and the chain or belt can reach the rear wheel. Be sure there is room for the drive chain or belt to move without rubbing on anything.

You'll see two shafts sticking out, one from the engine and the other from the tranny. There will also be an easy to spot hold on the top right when looking down at the inner primary. This is where you install the starter. Install the starter and lubricate and slide the jackshaft into place. This is the part sticking through the inner primary. The drive cogwheel can be screwed into place with a long bolt.

The primary drive wheel will be connected and the chain or belt positioned properly. Be sure to remember that main shaft has a left thread to prevent it coming undone when everything is turning. Adjust the chain tension. Go ahead and install the exhaust system.

How To Build A Motorcycle Part 7

Missing Parts:

At this point, it's beginning to look like a custom motorcycle but there are still some parts missing. You can go ahead and bolt on the fender(s) if you chose to use fenders. The gas tank can be installed by drilling a mounting hole into the frame. Install the carburetor.

You can now install the handbars, making sure they will not bang into the gas if the front end is turned sharply in either direction. While doing so, consider how you plan to route the electrical system.

Remaining Items:

Assemble and install the remaining items such as headlight, tail light, electric starter switch, oil tank, foot pegs, battery case, controls, shifter, and seat. Also, the brake lines should be installed at this time. Brake, oil, brake system, and fuel lines that you choose also need to be strong because the fluids they carry are crucial to riding safety and motor durability. Choose brake lines that can handle pressures near 1,000 pounds per square inch. Choose steel clamps to connect the lines.

Run the electric wiring and check that each connection is secure. Route the wiring so that it is hidden so much as possible. Also be sure no wiring will touch the exhaust pipes or motor to prevent melting when these parts get hot.

Once you have finished building your own motorcycle, you'll need to fill the fluids to recommended levels. Then it's time to crank your bike and hear it run for the first time. You'll find you have a sense of true satisfaction when your custom built motorcycle is ready to ride down the road.

These High School Kids Built a 'Best In Show' Motorcycle!

Best In Show
Best In Show

If these kids can build a killer custom motorcycle starting from scratch then so can you!

Recommended Bike Building DVD Guides

Building a Chopper Chassis
Building a Chopper Chassis

The is the best DVD guide on building a chopper chassis. Highly recommended!

 
Motorcycle Metal Fabrication: from Sheet to Street (DVD)
Motorcycle Metal Fabrication: from Sheet to Street (DVD)

My favorite fabrication DVD set by a master metalworker. A must have!

 
B.Y.O.B. Build Your Own Bike Instructional DVD
B.Y.O.B. Build Your Own Bike Instructional DVD

This is the most comprehensive guide to building a motorcycle (in this case a bobber) on the market. Get all three of these guides (this one and the two above), and you'll be happy camper.

 

What Kind Of Motorcycle Do You Want To Build?

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