Sunday, February 27, 2011

Part 1 - Roller

So how do you get started? In my case, watched too much TV over a 10 year period, read some books, browsed custom bike catalogs, web sites etc. You get the idea. You are going to have to engage your brain. There is a lot to know. There are many ways to get started:

1. If you are not a welder and have no access to a welder, your only option is to buy a frame. There are tons of frames out there. Research, research and more research. ebay is a good place to see the variety of options available in one place. Bike catalogues (Custom Chrome, JP Cycles, Jireh cycles) will also give you a good idea of what is available. The more time you spend researching, the more you will learn about pricing and what you should pay for what. There are horror stories about frames that are poorly welded, not properly aligned, made from inferior materials etc. You don't want to learn to weld by building a frame either. Any bad welds that let go at speed will have fatal consequences.
Unless you happen to be within driving distance of a vendor, you will be buying what you see on a web site or in a catalog. Some frames/distributors:

2. If you are not sure what goes with what, it is best to start with a roller. At least that way you can be sure that the major parts have a chance of going together and you can learn a lot about the bike just by assembling the roller. Even though you may get all the sheet metal with your roller, it does not mean it will be mounted so there is still a lot of work to do figuring out the mounting of things. This may well require some welding, drilling, grinding, cutting etc. Some rollers:

Occasionally a basket case will pop up on ebay.  You might score a good deal here but there are a lot of knowledgeable builders out there also trolling ebay for good deals.

3. A Kit Bike makes a lot of sense in terms of value for money and you can be reasonably sure that all the parts go together in a cohesive way. You know what your bike is going to look like (except for paint and some other accessories you may need) before you start. You will also cut out a lot of time researching parts which is a very time consuming process. But a Kit Bike may not quite suite your style.

If you go with options 1 or 2, it will be cheaper and more instructional buying a donor Harley that you can scavenge for parts. You'll learn a lot just by pulling it apart. When you buy new parts for your bike, you are paying full retail for each part which results in an expensive motorcycle. There are a lot of parts and the prices for each part are all over the map so you need to make sure you check the price for each part from multiple sources - unless of course saving hundreds of dollars over the course of the build doesn't matter to you.

This build started with a rolling chassis from Malibu Motorcycle Works out of California after months of research. This is the core of the project and needs to be right.  The frame is very well made and dealing with Mike Sims at MMW was a great experience all the way from answering questions about the ebay listing to final configuration and delivery. Post sale support has been exceptional.
Everything you see in the picture above (picture is from the Ebay listing) was supplied as part of the roller package. The frame style is a pro-street chopper with a 18" 300mm rear Avon tire, 21" front, 5" stretch and 40 degree rake.

Frame: War Eagle drop seat, pro-street
Wheels: Rear 18X10.5, Front 21x2.5, Chromed RC Components Rims - Regal Style
Tank: Custom Chrome stretched
Rear Fender: Kustomwerks with hidden struts
Front Fender: Not sure
Front End: Something that MMW puts together
Triple Trees: HHI
Handlebars: MMW custom
Chrome Kickstand with hidden spring
Chrome Hidden Rear Shocks

The frame is designed to mount a Harley Evolution style motor.

The rear hub is machined for right side mounting only. To get a brake and a pulley mounted, a pulley-brake combination is required. A DNA drive side pulley brake was added to the order from MMW. The bike arrives as a collection of parts. The front fender, rear fender and gas tank mounting is fully customizable and requires welding, grinding, drilling and bracket fabrication. This is one of the key differences between buying a complete kit and buying a roller. With a kit, the sheet metal mountings are already done for you so assembly is much easier and will save you time, but you'll learn less. MMW will mount the sheet metal for an additional charge and can turn the roller into a full kit if that is what you want. I took everything as basic sheet metal with the plan to figure out the mountings and assembly later.

Initial assembly of the frame, wheels, front end and handlebars was painless and everything fit properly. The rear wheel is huge and takes some getting used to. I went back and forth between 250mm and 300mm wide tire at the back and eventually settled on the 300mm. Handling may be a future issue but it looks cool.

Parts received from Malibu Motorcycle Works

Basic roller assembled

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