When you want to plan a custom motorbike build, it’s easy to get excited imagining all the cool possibilities, the custom paint job, and bodywork, the high powered engine and the rest. But the coolest looking bike in the world isn’t worth its beauty if it is built incorrectly. Safety is absolutely paramount when building a motorbike or motorcycle.
Before you get your tool kit out and your hands dirty, it helps to have a well thought out plan of action. You may not follow it to the letter, but at least you will have something in place to keep you organized. Make sure your plan is flexible and that you are too. Undoubtedly, things will come up that you didn’t foresee, that may push you ahead or set you back. Either way, think of your plan as more of a tool to help you complete your task.
Decide on what type of motorbike you want to build, and what you want to start with. It will be far easier to start with an existing or donor bike and customize it to suit your needs and taste. Sketch a drawing of what you want or print a picture of the bike you’re trying to recreate. You can also build a motorbike purely from scratch. Of course, this option is more labor intensive and may cost more money and it will definitely have a longer timeline depending on how many hands are working and how much outsourcing you do.
Part of your planning should include a budget, sources for parts, a timeline and any other things you think will be vital to the completion of your ride. While you’re in the planning phase, it’s a good idea to collect any necessary books and websites that can assist you with your custom build. You should also set a deadline to help keep you motivated. Make it a good one, like a show you want to attend or a ride you want to participate in.
Choosing Your Project Bike
Once you’ve created your plan and you know what you’re working towards specific, it’s time to choose your donor or project bike. Older bikes are generally easier to start with because the mechanics are simpler and less electrical. Using a more modern donor bike means getting yourself acquainted with the electrical components that run the engine’s management system. There’s also the anti-lock braking system, electronic suspension and more to consider. Learn more at CleanHarleys.com.
Another reason to choose an older bike is that if you choose a common model, there is more information and parts available to you for your build. Building something like a Harley-Davidson chopper means that you will have plenty of second hands or “will fit” custom parts at your disposal. This will be very helpful when those unexpected issues come up.
When you begin to disassemble your project bike, you want to do it in an orderly fashion. Because building your own motorbike can be a lengthy project, pulling things off haphazardly and placing them in a box will probably leave you scratching your head when you start to put things back together. Create a cataloging system to help you keep track of things. It doesn’t have to be super sophisticated. Putting parts in zip-top plastic bags keep them free from debris and allow you to write where it came from and what it is. Taking pictures of sections before you tear them down can also be helpful.
Having a factory service manual and a parts manual in your tool kit can make a world of a difference. When you sort out the parts that you plan on reusing from the ones that will be going to the scrap yard or in the trash in some cases, you will know just what parts will be necessary to complete your custom motorbike.
Part of the teardown involves the cleaning of the parts you intend on reusing. Greasy, dirt-ridden parts will significantly lower the visual effect of your finished project, not to mention that dirty parts just might gum up some of your bike’s operation. And that would not be good for you or your newly rebuilt motorbike. Degreasing fluid or kerosene are just two good options for cleaning your parts. If you use a flammable cleaning fluid like kerosene, make sure you keep it away from open flames sparks and anything else that can cause a fire to break out. You also want to keep your cleaning bucket covered when not in use, to keep extra debris and fire sources out.
Purchasing parts can be really fun. There are times when you will have to get parts as they become available, so it can be very helpful to create search engine alerts to let you know when certain parts are available from third-party sellers, private sellers or other parts dealers. Many parts you will need will be available in your local auto parts store or online parts retailers.
Most times, custom motorbike builds are a solo project. But if you are interested in some company, ask a friend or family member to join you in your project. This may make the experience go smoother, faster and it just might be a little more fun. A project like this with family just might strengthen your connection or bond, not to mention that it can create lasting memories.
Another form of outsourcing is the more traditional sense of the word. Let’s say there is a little more to rebuilding the engine than you are ready, prepared or able to do. Instead of trying to force it, you can send it to a specialist while you work on another part of your motorcycle. Or you may not have access to the tools or space that you need to handle the paint job or metal working. Here is another step of the process that you may want to consider outsourcing. Although this sort of outsourcing may increase the cost of your custom build, it will save you time and increase the quality of your build, so it’s a decision you will have to make.
In order to have a safe build, you will want to take proper precautions. This means use work gloves as needed, always use the right tool for the job and get help when you need it. It also helps to have some ventilation in your workspace so that fumes don’t become a problem. Think ahead and follow your plan, and you’ll soon be ready to ride your custom built motorbike.