Regular readers of The Kneeslider have probably noticed how many custom bikes I’ve been highlighting recently from many different categories, the street trackers based on old Yamaha XS650s, sport touring bikes based on Honda GL1000s, cafe racers from old Kawasaki or Hondas, BMW based flat trackers and even road race bikes built from dirt bikes. What’s the common thread among them? It’s the idea of finding a motorcycle designed or built for one purpose and redesigning, rebuilding or optimizing it for your own use. This is certainly not a new idea but with a little time and creativity you can make a pretty nice machine, something you can’t easily buy new.
The really nice thing about re-purposed motorcycles is the bike you start with can be pretty inexpensive. Some of those old Yamahas can be scooped up for little money, same for many old Hondas and Kawasakis unless they’re in perfect condition and the owner is selling it as a collector’s item. The more work one of these requires to make it right for your purpose, the less you need a perfect start and that collectible isn’t what you want.
Your perfect custom motorcycle is always on sale, it’s just rarely for sale all in one place. First you need the donor bike, the raw material for the project. Even if the current owner did some really ghastly customizing, just make sure the basics are there, the engine or frame or whatever crucial pieces form the basis for your bike, and try to ignore the rest. If it looks really ugly, ride it home at night so no one sees you 🙂 then hide it in the garage until you can disassemble it. An enclosed trailer works, too. Then begin the work of making this bike something you’ll be proud of, something that will bring you fun and enjoyment for many years.
Another nice benefit of building your perfect bike is model years no longer matter. If you always have to have the latest thing, be prepared to spend huge dollars chasing it. Build a custom like we’re talking about here and no model year applies. It will still get plenty of attention years from now because it will be your special bike. Even if the base model year is recognizable, the work you do will be the key to having the bike that meets your needs like no showroom bike ever will.
Want more benefits? Think about how much you’ll learn. Fitting just the right aftermarket pieces and tweaking them to perfection for your height and weight and riding style will teach you a lot about how they work. Modern bikes have enough adjustments that almost anyone can turn an OK bike into an evil handling, uncomfortable monster in five minutes of mindless tampering. Learn first, experiment and make it perfect.
If the model you choose is at least a little popular, there may be some very nice examples of others who have gone this way before, giving you some good ideas. There may be aftermarket parts developed to improve on the stock pieces or you may have to put on the thinking cap and come up with something on your own. Just keep your goal in mind of the perfect bike and keep at it until you get there.
Over time, your bike will look better, handle better, fit your needs better and get more attention than anything you could have walked into your local showroom and written a check for. It just takes more time and effort and that’s why your bike will always be special and uncommon.
Remember, when you look at motorcycles for sale, think raw material. Perfection will come later.