After the last couple of articles about Ken Fontenot’s Honda CB160 and Suzuki GT500, I was thinking about how much money it takes to build a bike that looks really good. A comment on Ken’s Honda build represents one point of view, downplaying the results a bit because he figured there must have been a lot of money thrown at the bike. While I’m sure that bike wasn’t cheap, a lot of what went into it was time, labor and attention to detail, something anyone can afford, but few are willing to pay.
On the heels of that comment, I was reading through the latest Motorcyclist magazine and came across an article on the Dirtbag Challenge (Geez guys, you couldn’t come up with a better name?), an annual affair in San Francisco where builders must construct a bike for under $1000 in one month, no Harleys allowed. The bike needs to be safe, and last year, a 120 mile ride was a necessary hurdle for all contestants.
As you might expect, beauty is not a primary focus, but scrounging for parts and mechanical innovation are highly prized. The competitors are getting much better and some builders, like Julian Farnam, have been turning out high quality bikes for years.
Farnam’s bike for the Dirtbag Challenge was a 1977 Yamaha RD400 which, including everything, came in at the princely sum of $937. Craigslist, a 2 stroke forum and his own leftover parts bin contributed what he needed, his design studio was the BART where he sketched out the details during his commute to work and the welding was done in his driveway which doubled as a fabrication shop.
Yes, money makes it easier, but builds like this one show you don’t need as much cash as some might think, what you really need to do is reach deep into your pocket and pull out a lot of the right attitude and just get to work. I call that affordable.
Link: Motorcyclist magazine