There is not much I enjoy more in life than spending some quiet time in the garage wrenching on a project. Like many other mechanics out there, my shop is my place of solace. It is where I go to unwind and to stop the thoughts that are running through my head throughout the day.
Working on a bike is something I have always enjoyed even when things don’t go the way I want. It is also the place where I find myself coming up with ideas for unique products, some of which have been selling in the motorcycle industry for years.
Every year I like to go find a cheap bike and turn it into a project. I have been doing this for many years now and I have always enjoyed it. I like trying to find the bike and negotiating the best price as much as I like building it. I have always been a really frugal person, so I always try to find a bike that I can buy cheap.
For this reason I have always built metric bikes. You can find them all over the place, and usually the prices are great. Metric bikes don’t seem to hold their value like Harleys do, so buying one and building it is less stressful simply because you don’t have that much invested in the bike in the first place.
In recent years I have leaned toward buying Honda Shadows. They are really quite simple to find and bobbing them out is usually pretty fun. Last year I built a 1983 Honda Shadow 750 that I picked up for $350.00 bucks! There were some clutch issues I had to figure out along with some carb rebuilding, but mostly simple stuff. After some welding and some paint, I rode the bike for the summer and then easily sold it for $1500.00 bucks!
This year I went out and found a 1994 Honda Shadow 1100. Now I paid quite a bit more for this bike, but I wanted something over 1000cc. The seller had this bike listed for $2400.00 but after some hard negotiating, I bought the bike for $1800.00. The main thing I am looking for is determining what the mechanical problems are (if there are any) and deciding how much time and money it will cost for me to fix those issues.
Now, you can usually re-coop some of that money by selling some of the take-off parts on the bike. I personally sell most of the take-off parts on E-bay. There are always other people out there building bikes, so selling the items is fairly easy. By the time the build was over, I had re-cooped $400.00 of the $1800.00 spent. That paid for the parts I put into the build.
I usually use universal fit parts when building the bikes and I fabricate other pieces I can’t find. My first step was removing much of the chrome and then powder coating the majority of the parts black. I’m not a big fan of chrome and powder coating is really simple to do. I found an old stove a couple years back. I installed a 220 line in my garage and Whalla!, I have a powder coating station.
Next step was to find a rear fender for the bike. I had already removed the rear struts and made a mount for my new Biltwell seat. I managed to find an old Sportster rear fender at the shop and after spending an hour removing the rubber that remained from one of Patrick Garvin’s epic burnouts, I fabricated some mounts and cut the fender to size.
This took the most amount of time because I decided to mount the fender to the swingarm. I wanted the fender to ride just above the tire, and working on a shaft-driven bike, this can be a little difficult. After a little time I managed to find the solutions to the fitment problems and mounted the fender into place.
On the front of the bike I went with a new headlight and fabricated a mount. I installed the new Milwaukee Twins LED turn signals all around the bike along with an LED converter so the blinkers functioned properly. I also mounted a set of Milwaukee Twins Flat Track handlebars and a set of black Avon Grips. Next step was a set of black Kuryakyn Large Trident footpegs. I slapped on a set of Shinko white wall tires and made a few small adjustments to get the seating position correct and make sure everything was ready to ride…
Next step was to remove the tank and the rear fender a prep it for paint. Now, I hate painting simply because I don’t have a proper paint booth at home, and I really hate the prep work that has to go into a nice paint job. Besides, this is a bobber! It’s not supposed to have an expensive paint job on it! So this time I decided to sand everything down with 80 grit sandpaper.
I then used a new KBS clear coat product that is made for bare metal. After some experimentation, I managed to get the coating on fairly smooth right over to the 80 grit swirl marks from the sanding. Once that dried I reassembled the bike and installed the exhaust which I wrapped with Milwaukee Twins black exhaust wrap.
Overall, building bikes like this are fun and fairly simple. If you have never done anything like this I encourage you to give it a try. Basic mechanical skills are the majority of the work needed.
This isn’t rocket science and with all the information on the internet, there are very few things you can’t figure out yourself. You will learn a lot, and riding a bike you built is a really nice feeling! It’s even more enjoyable when you are parked next to a $30,000 bike and some guy comes up to ask you questions about your $2000 build! Always brings a smile to my face!