So you want to be a custom bike builder? Well friend, before you rush out and buy that motorcycle kit, the one that will set you on the road to riches and fame, stop and think about the level of expertise and artistry the top builders have attained. More importantly think about how long it has taken them to attain it! Let's look at a few key issues…
You'd be surprised how well educated a lot of today's top bike builders are. Several of them have degrees (some more than one!) ranging from mechanical engineering to business and marketing management. Billy Lane, the founder of Chopper Inc, has several patents relating to motorcycle technology in his name for example. What about someone a little more “old school” like Dave Perewitz? Dave has accumulated close to forty years of mechanical, metalworking and painting experience. Not theoretical, but genuine hands on, early morning late night kind of experience. Could you put that kind of time in? Matt Hotch is still only young, but has gained an incredible amount of practical experience customizing first bicycles, then VW's before moving on to custom bike building.
These guys are building choppers and custom bikes that are state of the art. They don't get thrown together in the yard; the motorcycle shops have all the tools and equipment required to produce almost anything out of metal, not just bikes. Just as important are the other services these builders use; the local chrome platers, machinists, painters and so on. These guys have just as important a part to play in the construction of these one off bikes as the designer builders themselves.
All the top custom bike builders live for one thing; building the best bikes they can. They literally live eat even dream about custom bikes (and looking at some of the more way out creations you can totally believe this from the designs they produce!) They are constantly striving to build bikes better. Its not about money for the top guys, I am convinced of that.
So where does that leave Average Joes like you and me? Actually, I don't think we are too badly off; in fact if you want to build a custom bike, it has probably never been easier. Here's my take on it….
There is an unbelievable amount of information for the guys who want to start down the road to custom bike building. Videos, books websites, all of them help to flatten the learning curve for a novice. Most of the material out there relates to motorcycle kits, and for the beginner, building a motorcycle kit is definitely the best way to go if you want to get real hands on experience. After that there are motorcycle maintenance courses, which again will allow you to get up to speed as fast as possible in your quest to become the next Arlen Ness!
To put together a shop like the ones you see on television costs thousands of dollars. But you don't need all that stuff if you start with a motorcycle kit. Motorcycle kits can be put together with some pretty basic tools, providing they are of good quality. Two things that are an absolute must in my opinion though are a torque wrench and a basic lift. With these two tools, you can tighten the motorcycle kits fittings correctly, and not break your back while you are doing it!
Well this is one area where you can match the pros, no question. If you really want to be a custom bike builder, start doing it for fun and put your motorcycle kit together.
We can't all be Billy Lane, Eddie Trotta or Russell Mitchell, but we can have a lot of fun trying!
Michael Holmes is a enthusiast for all thing motorcycle. His website, http://www.motorcycleparts-accessories-andmore.com, is a great resource of articles aimed at motorcyclists of all levels, including a page specifically about the motorcycle kits resources available online.