Building a Custom Chopper, where do you start?
So you want to build a custom chopper? I do too, so the first question I asked myself, is where do I start. Should I make a business plan, a schedule, a financial statement, or should I just buy my wife some flowers and blindly proceed? I guess I should do all of the above but not necessarily in that order.
I will start by trying to justify this purchase and or endeavor, to do this I will make a list of my reasons? 1) I want to ride a custom chopper, a totally cool stretched out, fire breathing, gas eating, pavement pounding, old lady scaring, 2 wheel monster. 2) I want to be able to say "I built that" when someone asks me where I got that totally sick bike. 3) I want to be able to customize the bike beyond the standard add on parts I can get for my current bike a Harley Davidson Fatboy. 4) I want to be able to make this dream come true, meaning I need to be able to pay for it. A $35,000 chopper is out of my current budget. 5) I have been talking about this for 5 years so why don't I get to it and stop doing all the talking and start doing some building.
Now I have a few reasons on paper a will look at my options, then make a plan, a schedule, and find some extra money.
Let's start with a my build options, and plan on a slow and steady approach. I realize I will need to do a lot of research before I start. I have 4 basic options, a kit bike, a rolling chassis, a start from zero build, or an extreme makeover of a current motorcycle.
Option 1) If I start with a motorcycle kit I maybe the farthest ahead from a mechanical perspective, and farthest behind from a financial point of view. What do I mean by this, well a kit bike has all the parts it just needs paint, labor, gas, oil and some love. The problem a complete kit bike will cost me $12,000 dollars right up front. This is a bit out of my spend a ton of money now then not be able to ride a bike for a year or two thinking. If I get a kit, I maybe able to get it together faster, as I will be motivated and have all the parts ready to go. As a first bike I think this is a very good option, when you consider all the expensive mistakes I may make along that way. One drawback to this option is the amount of customization I can do to the bike as it is put together. Because all the parts are in the kit, I may resist the urge to get new bars or different sheet metal, or other parts.
Option 2) Start with a Rolling chassis, this is the middle of the road option, spend a lump sum of money, about 1/2 of what the overall bike will cost and get a basic setup that all works together.
A Rolling chassis kit consists of a Frame, 2 wheels, the forks, and triple clamps and bars, all build and configured to work together. Add a motor and a transmission and all the major workings of the bike are in place. This setup helps avoid some of the major work needed to mix match and fit these items together. This option also allows for a ton of customization in the parts that people see and the parts that give a bike it's personality. For me this is a very serious option to consider. I would only have 1/2 the cost and 1/2 the parts sitting around and gathering dust until I get time to get it together.
Option 3) Find each and every part one at a time and build a completely custom motorcycle. I know I could do this, but I also know I will encounter more unexpected and possibly expensive issues with this type of build. This option would give me a bike that no one would ever duplicate. This could be very good or this could be very bad. What if some possible combination of frame, motor, forks, or wheels didn't work together? It would not be discovered until the motorcycle was all together. I think this option is better left to the serious professional who build bike all night long, as the are working on other peoples bikes, and running businesses during the day. I may consider this for my second custom chopper.
Option 4) Take an existing bike and start cutting and changing it. This is maybe as involved as chopping and re-welding the frame to create a new rake and angles. Or it could mean just getting a new frame and using the engine, transmission, and various other part to build a new machine. I like this idea, and I think it would be a lower cost alternative to all new custom parts. With this option you are also able to keep the current registration and title if the frame is not replaced. This is also a lower cost option because a lot of the miscellaneous parts can be reused.
I know that in one page all the possible combinations of Custom Chopper build can't be completely explained, I just hope this information give you something to start with and build on. It has help steer me in the direction of a rolling chassis, so I better get shopping.
Ian Parish is an avid motorcyclists and Jeeper and has been for the past 20 years. He has jumped into building a custom chopper full force and is assembling that parts and the plan, on his website MyChopperBlog.com. Check out the website as I need all the help I can get. He is the owner of RedJeepClub.com and MyChopperBlog.com